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Once an outpost for the Romans and the Visigoths, Santarem became an important pitstop on the Portuguese Way and other religious caminos through Iberia, slowly building the great churches, shrines, and regal mansions that can still be seen gilding the streets today.
Be ready to be enthralled by them all; the Gothic-Mudejar face of the gorgeous Igreja da Graça, where the interior tombs house figures like Pedro Álvares Cabral, the man who discovered Brazil; the Cathedral of Santarém, a 17th-century construction that sits on the site of the erstwhile royal palace; the Igreja de Santa Maria de Marvila whose tiled walls and legends of miracles make it a must visit-the list is large!
Santarem tour guides can also whisk you away to a handsome old town area that buzzes with life and atmosphere. Take time to sip strong coffees and eat Portuguese tarts on the plazas, to wander the house-lined lanes in search of fountains and monuments.
Perched on a plateau above the sand-dashed Tagus River, Santarem promises amazing countryside views as well, across green fields of tomatoes and wheat that have spread through the Portuguese Centro for centuries. In June, a 10-day Agricultural fair sees fresh produce being sold amidst folk dances, bullfights and live music, though the bigger draw for visitors may just be the Festival Nacional de Gastronomia, celebrating the food and drink of the Ribatejo region with gusto!