Ourense was born as Aquis Auriensis, the city of gold and water. So it was called by the Romans, who two thousand years ago founded a primitive settlement at the foot of As Burgas, the thermal sources that still keep pouring water over 60° C. From its origin, the city is closely linked to its hot springs, which abound here in quantity and flow, one of the largest in Europe. Any time of the day is good to enjoy an open-air thermal bath in its many facilities, whether summer or winter.
The city is a natural crossroads where River Minho (and the bridges that cross it) has shaped the landscape. Halfway between coastal Galicia and inland Spain, the city has always had a vocation to show itself to the outside, which certainly has given it the sense of hospitality that captivates visitors.
This friendly nature can be notice at the squares and streets of the historic centre, with its lively terraces in the shadow of monuments such as St. Martin’s Cathedral. Its busy cultural programme, its diverse commercial offer and its magnificent cuisine outline a city, Ourense, noted for its quality of life.
Ourense is known for its hot springs, enjoyed here in an unique way. Either on the banks of River Minho, outdoors and surrounded by nature, or in facilities inspired by the Japanese onsen, the thermal areas of Outariz, A Chavasqueira or Muíño da Veiga are places designed to break out of the routine with a bath. Not surprisingly, the Romans, who were big fans of these waters, chose to settle here two thousand years ago, nearby the sources of As Burgas. These hot springs keep gushing hot water nowadays, which you can enjoy at an outdoor pool in the city centre, just a few metres from the Main Square.
Along with water, stone is also a good excuse to visit Ourense, whose Historic Centre deserves a calm walk, stopping at its many corners: narrow streets and lively squares with arcades, stone crosses and beautiful fountains from the Romanesque monasteries of the province. You should not miss St. Martin’s Cathedral, to admire the colours of its Gate of Paradise.
HOW TO GET HERE
Doorway to Northwestern Atlantic from the Iberian Peninsula, Ourense is a communications junction well connected to Spain, especially by train. It is the first city in Galicia to join the High Speed Railway, which places it at just 4 ½ hours from Madrid, 40 minutes from Santiago de Compostela and 1 hour from A Coruña. From the train station, a beautiful 20-minute path crossing the Main Bridge connects to the city centre.
By car, there are good roads connecting to all Spain and Portugal, a country with which Ourense has a close relationship as the border is just 60 km away.
The nearest airports are located at Santiago (150 km) and Vigo (100 km). In Portugal, the Porto International Airport (just 200 km away) has interesting connections to major cities in Europe.
The city, with little pronounced slopes and a longitudinal layout, has short distances which you can walking unhurriedly.
A UNIQUE ENVIRONMENT
The city is the perfect starting point to discover the rest of the province, with amazing history and landscapes.
The highlight is the Ribeira Sacra and the River Sil’s canyons, an authentic spectacle of nature and viticulture with many Romanesque gems such as the Monastery of St. Stephen. Also interesting are the towns of Allariz, Celanova and Ribadavia or the wine regions of O Ribeiro, Monterrei and Valdeorras, all of them with their protected designation of origin.
Ourense’s cuisine combines the best of inland Galicia and coastal Galicia, from where we have adopted our taste for the octopus: boiled in a copper pot and seasoned with olive oil and paprika, it is perhaps its most representative dish.
The cuisine here is honest, with simple recipes in which the excellence of the local raw materials is the main star: the garden products, pork and game meats, mushrooms, chestnuts … The region has also one of the few designations of origin for bread (Cea), and four for wine: Ribeiro, Monterrei, Valdeorras and Ribeira Sacra.
A good way to discover this gastronomic panorama is strolling the bars and taverns of Os Viños, the area around the Cathedral, where you can enjoy snacks and tapas at a good price and in good company, especially when the city celebrates its contest of tapas. Among its restaurants, you can appreciate the local cuisine’s harmony between tradition and vanguard, which has received 4 Repsol Suns and 1 Michelin Star, for the Restaurant Nova, run by young chefs Daniel Guzman and Julio Sotomayor, who defend their traditional cuisine.
BEFORE YOU LEAVE IT
Birthplace of renowned fashion designers such as Adolfo Dominguez, Roberto Verino and Purificación García, Ourense is a city of great textile tradition that surprises with its boutiques, offering leading brands in fashion and accessories. Alongside these large firms there are also young local artists with original and daring designs you will fall in love with. Style and trend reign and in the windows of downtown pedestrian streets as Santo Domingo, Paz, Lamas Carvajal or Paseo; all essential references for an a shopping afternoon and the example of the good health of local trade. Crafts lovers can’t miss Colón street, with curious proposals as handmade jewelry, toys, decorations, cosmetics …
In the gourmet section, one should not leave without visiting Ourense’s traditional market in the city centre. There you will see the rianxo, outdoor stalls selling fresh vegetables from the nearby orchards. A bottle of wine from any of the 4 designation of origin in the province, or even liqueur (coffee, herbal or marc) are good choices to take as a souvenir, as well as marron glacé, loaves from Cea, almond cakes or pork cold meats.
Perhaps because it is located at a natural crossroads, Ourense is a dynamic and bustling city that lives on the street. Throughout the whole year there is a busy schedule of arts and culture programmes for all audiences. Events such as its International Film Festival (OUFF), the oldest in Galicia, the seasons of classical music Enclave de Cámara and Pórtico do Paraíso (which organizes concerts in exceptional settings like the Cathedral) or different programmes of children, university and international theatre are scheduled throughout the year.
Special mention should go to its very popular traditional festivals, which evoke the agricultural calendar: the Magostos in autumn (when tasting the new wine and the first chestnuts) and the Maios in spring, with its flower and moss sculptures and its satirical couplets on current issues. The Entroido (Carnival) is a festival of masks, music, subversion and humour. You must always attend in disguise.