Portugal Hidaways: Miranda do Douro

This very ancient city, Miranda do Douro, was once a Roman settlement and later on, in the eighth century, was occupied by the Arabs, who gave it the name of “Mir Andul”, which later gave rise to Miranda.

Its location by the border gave it great importance as a strategic point of defence and, in the twelfth century, the first king of Portugal, D. Afonso Henriques, ordered a castle to be built there together with the town walls, which transformed the settlement into a genuine stronghold. In the sixteenth century, the town was raised to the status of a city and made the episcopal seat of Trás-os-Montes, whereupon it embarked upon a period of great prosperity with the erection of such grandiose buildings as the church of Santa Maria Maior, which for more than two centuries enjoyed the status of a cathedral.

In the seventeenth century, with the wars fought to restore Portuguese independence from Spain, and later during the French invasions, the city suffered a number of major reverses and lost much of its former importance.

Miranda do Douro is well known for its lively and colourful folklore – the Pauliteiros de Miranda, dressed in their traditional white flannel kilts, perform their famous stick dance to the sound of bagpipes. The origin of this dance dates back to the time of the region´s Celtic occupation in the Iron Age. Listen out for people speaking “mirandês“. This is one of the official languages in Portugal and is spoken in this region. And when it’s time to eat, watch out, too, for “Posta mirandesa“, made with the excellent beef produced in the area.

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