History and Heritage

Póvoa de Varzim has fishing, farmworkers, bourgeois and multicultural roots.

The first settlements date back to 800 to 900 B.C. as a home for people who lived in hillforts, who spread out over the northwest of Portugal and Galicia for centuries, and who were defeated by the Romans around the year 19 B.C. Cividade de Terroso is testimony of the hillfort culture and subsequent Roman occupation. It has been classified as a building of public interest by the Portuguese State since 1961.
Póvoa de Varzim was established as a village 711 years ago, in 1514. However, it was a place people passed through and where they traded long before this, through the route of maritime trade and the Route of Santiago de Compostela. The testimony of the São Pedro de Rates Church, founded between the 12th and 13th centuries by the monks of Cluny, proves the importance and richness of this flat and fertile location set by the sea.
In 1308, King Dinis granted the location a Charter, which led to the formation of a fishing settlement, attributed to 54 couples. However, soon after, in 1312, the King donated Póvoa to his bastard son, Afonso Sanches de Albuquerque. He, in turn, integrated it into the assets of Santa Clara de Vila do Conde Monastery, and it remained under the control of the ecclesiastical landlord for two hundred years. Only in 1514, did the then King, Manuel, grant the town a new charter. Póvoa, then, became a town, with a Council House, Public Square and Pillory for its inhabitants, who did not number more than 500.

At the time of the Portuguese discoveries, after the feudal disputes for its fertile territory and fishing activity had been settled, its qualified labour contributed to the navigation and shipbuilding. The town did not stop growing and, in the following century, Póvoa de Varzim became the largest fish market in the north of the country.

The intensification of trade, the circulation of goods in the inland regions of the country and the increase in tax collection meant a real period of economic prosperity in the 18th century. This was reflected in the transformation of the structure of the city, the installation of buildings and public infrastructure, such as the aqueduct of free-flowing water, and the construction of important monuments.

In the 19th century, its urban vigour and its fast connections with Porto (the railway connection was established in 1875) and with Vila do Conde (an American line established in 1874) meant that Póvoa de Varzim was recognised as one of the main seaside resorts. Two worlds coexisted at that time: the noblemen, political figures, artists and "travelling Brazilians" (Portuguese emigrants in Brazil) and the people of Póvoa, fishermen and farmers. The seaside resort nature created an atmosphere conducive to social life, with evening events and conferences, the practice of gambling - established at the monumental Casino - resulting in intensive artistic, musical and literary production. Notable writers such as Eça de Queirós, translated into about 20 languages, are among Póvoa's reputed sons.
The fishing activity in the 20th century fostered the canning industry, which is now almost extinct. The city, which maintains fishing as one of the economic mainstays, has diversified the economy favouring the installation of textile, rope, cable (aluminium electric conductors) and dairy industries. 

The vocation for culture and leisure continues: Póvoa de Varzim has established itself as the capital point of the tourist region of "Costa Verde"; the bathing beach is now equipped with modern and attractive structures; gambling, now regulated and official, continues to be the focus of the Casino, which is also the stage for lively, constant, complex and multiform artistic creation. Lastly, the literary environment, cultivated at a time of the presence of major figures of national literature, such as Eça de Queirós, feeds current creative production and the affirmation of Póvoa as a cultural and creative city. Proof of this is the Correntes d'Escritas Literary Festival, the country's most relevant literary festival, which has been bringing together the Iberian-language literary sector of Portugal, Spain, Africa and South America for the last 20 years.
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