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.