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Vila Franca de Xira

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Vila Franca de Xira
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At about half an hour from Lisbon, Vila Franca de Xira is a busy agricultural and industrial centre, traditionally associated to bull and horse rearing.

Bathed by the river Tagus, the town combines the urban aspect of its industrial units and inevitable blocks of flats imposed by its proximity to the capital with a strong rural character, dominated by the image of the campino (herdsman) and the lezíria (the vast, fertile plain of Ribatejo).

It is worth visiting the picturesque tile-covered Municipal Market; the Praça Afonso de Albuquerque square, with 19th-century buildings, the Town Hall (1893) and a 16th-century pillory; the Miserichord Church, lined with 18th-century tiles; the Mother Church (1677) and the Galache House, also exhibiting 18th-century tiles at the courtyard.

The Ethnographic Museum, displaying typical objects and costumes, and a Religious Art Nucleus at the Holy Martyr Church are other sites of interest.

Nearby, the religious patrimony also includes the ancient Sanctuary of the Lord of Good Death, rising on a hill with a wonderful view over the town and the Tagus estuary, and the Chapel of Our Lady of Alcamé, in the neoclassical style, at the heart of the Ribatejo plain.

Vila Franca de Xira is proud of its specific character traditionally associated to bullfights and horsemanship, celebrated each July with the animated festival of Colete Encarnado (the red waistcoat worn by the herdsmen), which attracts thousands of visitors with bull-running through the streets, folk dancing and lively events.

Local restaurants are also popular and offer typical dishes such as cod soup, açorda de sável (a bread dish with fried shad), a variety of recipes with eels, roast kid and rabbit and galinha de cabidela (stewed giblets of chicken).

Another of the county's attractions is the Lezíria Grande Equestrian Centre, situated at Povos (three kilometres south of Vila Franca de Xira), where visitors can watch displays of dressage and admire thoroughbred Lusitanian horses.

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