It is a city today, around the castle built in 1170 by King Afonso Henriques. The Minho river runs past it. It is the chief town of the county. It still has the narrow Medieval streets with cobblestones. The walls and roofs and castle have a patina of age. The modern town has grown outside the walls; it has wide streets, avenues and a large square.
The Spa, 4 kilometres away, is also part of Melgaço. It is located in a green valley with a brook running down the middle of a wooded park. The visitor should also taste the famous smoked ham - Bife à Melgaço.
The small and tranquil town of Melgaço grew around a fortress built by order of Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal (1139-85). The castle, now a national monument, has an impressive keep and dominates the labyrinth of ancient streets and alleys that cross each other within the walls. Recently inaugurated, the open-air Museum Nucleus of Melgaço, at the town´s center, includes a medieval moat and a small part of the fortified walls. The entire region is characterized by its close relationship with the river Minho and with neighbouring Galiza (Spain), and by a rigorous climate, specially the harsh winter, which determines the architecture of the small villages. Castro Laboreiro, on the county´s limits, is mostly known for the breed of sheepdog to which it gives its name, also considered an excellent watchdog and traditonally used to protect the flocks from the attacks of wolves. The ruins of a medieval castle can also be seen at this village, rising at 950 metres (3135 ft.) and proud of its curious traditions and customs. The entire zone evokes a remote past, an example of which can be confirmed at the plateau bordering Spain where there is the largest collection of megalithic monuments known in Portugal. The town of Melgaço also provides a convenient gateway to the dramatic scenery of the Peneda-Gerês National Park, with its rich fauna, wild peaks and beautiful wooded valleys.
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