This weekend’s adventure was a Saturday day trip to Ourense, a small city of about 105,000 and known primarily for its hot springs and medicinal baths. Although this is its claim to fame and what attracts visitors, it also has some other popular sites and great historical significance. It was developed by the Romans, and one of the first baths (Burgas) can still be seen today. After the Romans, it was part of the Suebi kingdom and then destroyed by the Moors in the early 8th century. It was resettled in the 11th century and became a more urban center in the next century.
One of my friends, Corinne, and I hopped on the 9 AM bus to Ourense, about two hours directly east of us. One of the first places we landed at, which is a major site, was the Ponte Romana de Ourense. This Roman footbridge was built in the first century AD and rebuilt in the 13th century and helped Ourense develop by allowing traffic over the river. It has undergone repairs over later centuries but still has the key markings of a Roman-era bridge. Standing on the bridge, we had some beautiful views of parks as well as the Puente del Milenio off in the distance.
I don’t have any photos of the bridge from afar, so this is from the Ourense tourism website:
Next, we started walking up towards another area of the city where some historical sites were. We had a beautiful view of the city after about 20 flights of stairs. I also enjoyed some of the traditional architecture and streets as well as quite a few spaces dedicated to graffiti.
Our next stop was the Claustro de San Francisco. We were attempting to find the archaelogy museum, and we walked in quite a few large circles trying to find it. Then, we stumbled upon the entrance to the Claustro and decided to go here first. The architecture design here is Galician Gothic, and the staff there spent a long time educating us on the old convent and its unique history. There are 63 arches and every one has its own unique designs, and while it appears square, each side has a different number of arches. It was built in the 14th century and remains almost entirely in-tact. Between 1843-1984, it was infantry barracks but now stands as a historical site for visitors to enjoy.
Our next stop was the Museo Arqueolóxico Provincial de Ourense which we had been desperately trying to find. To our surprise, it was connected to the claustro and was to the right (and we had turned left). This was a small archaelogy museum but worth stopping in. One odd part was it was just the two of us and the two staff there followed us around and watched our every move. Most of the artifacts were large stones meaning it was not a room full of easy-to-steal items.
After this, we stopped to have a coffee at a cafeteria we walked past and escaped the sun for a little bit. Next, we headed to As Burgas, one of the top sites of Ourense. This is a base point of the thermal fountains that flow throughout the cities. The water is at least 60° C (140° F). As Burgas is broken up into three areas. The upper area has old architectural remains, including the site of a medicinal bath from the first century. Then, there’s the fountain and the gardens (the site of the first public gardens in the city). We also saw some of the seashells that mark the way for the pilgrims walking El Camino de Santiago, as a couple of the routes pass through Ourense.
I had originally wanted to stay the day and come back to go to the thermal baths along the river, but after feeling how hot the water is, there was no way I could see myself soaking in that! Another interesting thing we didn’t know at the time was that people drink this water and believe it has medicinal properties. We saw a few people come with containers and collect the water.
After this, we had a couple hours until the 5 PM train, so we decided to walk towards the river and see if we could see any of the thermal baths of other interesting sites. We got a little bit lost walking around but kept trying to find our way to the main river. After quite a bit of walking and sweating, we found ourselves at the Puente del Milenio or the Millennium Bridge. It was built in the early 2000s and represents the modern era of the city. An intriguing part of this bridge is that there is a spiraling staircase of a hundred steps that brings you up 22 meters above the bridge. Of course, this was a bit too far out of reach for me – not necessarily because of the heights but because of the 20,000 steps and many stairs we had already walked that day! We were able to enjoy some more views, and you can see the Roman bridge in the distance.
Here is a couple additional photos from the tourism office:
After crossing this bridge, we were close to the bus station but still had an hour to go. We stopped at another cafeteria and having a soda waiting for the train. Then, we took the bus to Vigo and then connected to a train to finish the journey in Pontevedra (the things we do to save four euros).