Orense information

Introduction to the Province of Orense
The province of Orense (also known by its Galician name of Ourense) is in Galicia in the north west of Spain. It is a land locked province and is bordered by Portugal to the south. Its relative isolation means that it remains a very unspoilt and under-visited province yet it is a beautiful area and is also in fact one of Spain’s least well known skiing destinations.

Orense City
The name Orense, that of the province’s capital city, means “water and gold”, coming from the name the Romans gave to the area which was Aquae Aurente. It was founded by the Romans on the banks of the River Miño, tempted there no doubt by the presence of Orense’s thermal springs, Las Burgas. You can visit what remains of the Roman Baths and test for yourself the temperature of the water. Be warned that it’s hot!

The compact, mediaeval centre of Orense can easily be explored on foot. The arcaded main square of the city, the Plaza Mayor is a good place to start. The square is dominated by the beautiful building of the city’s Ayuntamiento (Town Hall). Beside the Town Hall is the Episcopal Palace, which is a 12th Century building that now houses the city’s provincial archaeological museum. The Cathedral of San Martiño was originally founded in the 6th Century but was rebuilt in the 12th to13th Centuries. Inside, the 16th Century Chapel of Christ, or Capilla del Cristo, houses a Gothic crucifix that is revered throughout Galicia.

Take some time to explore Orense’s hidden away squares and streets and you will begin to get a feel for the historic atmosphere of this city. Don’t miss the 16th Century Palace of Oca-Valladares and the Church of Santa Euphemia.

The River Miño, on which the city of Orense was built, is spanned by several bridges, the most remarkable of which is the Ponte Vella or Old Bridge. Originally of Roman build it was subsequently rebuilt in the 13th Century and is now closed to all but foot traffic.

Around Orense City and Beyond
The scenery of Orense province is stunning, mountainous and unspoilt. The Rivers Miño and Sil irrigate the lands and as a result the fertile valleys and meadows of Orense produce plenty of agricultural products such as maize and grapes. The province has a long history of wine-making traditions that date back to Roman times. The rivers have been dammed in placed to harness hydroelectric power and as a result not all are navigable, apart from some of the deep canyons of the River Sil, but a beneficial side-effect of this has been the creation of several reservoirs that are very popular as fishing destinations.

In the south of the province are the Baixa Limia-Serra do Xures and the O Invernadeiro Natural Parks. The main town of and access point for the Baixa Limia-Serra do Xures park is Lobios, which is a thermal spa town. The park is home to wolves, mountain goats and the native Galician wild ponies and has diverse landscapes. The O Invernadeiro Natural Park can only be accessed on foot and with permission. It is at the heart of a massive mountain system, pretty much totally unpopulated. The virtually unknown (outside of Galicia) winter ski station of Manzaneda can be reached from the village of A Pobra de Trives.

Other fair sized towns of note in the province of Orense include Allariz and Ribadavia. The historic, picturesque mediaeval town of Allariz is about 15km from Ourense city. Ribadavia is situated on the banks of the River Miño, in the heart of the wine making area of Ribeiro.

The Gastronomy of Orense
Orense is without a coastline and so its cuisine relies more heavily on the produce of its lands and rivers than do other Galician provinces. Typical dishes you may come across include Ternera o Caldiero, which is beef cooked with garlic and paprika and Empanada de Anguillas or eel pie. Orense is Spain’s biggest producers of edible chestnuts (Castañas) and the dessert of Marron Glace (crystallized chestnuts) is a traditional sweet of the region.

The fine wines of the Ribeiro area, along the River Miño and the Riberia Sacra regions of Orense are renowned throughout Spain and beyond.

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