If you love horses, you are going to love Golegã
Golegã is the horse capital in Portugal. It is set in the heart of the Ribatejo region – which is horse country, about 90 minutes east of Lisbon. You will never miss the fact that this is where horses are part of the past, present and future. It is also an enchanting town, with a great boutique hotel, www.hotellusitano.com/ - and some great places to eat, like in the famous Café Central https://www.facebook.com/CafeCentralGolega.
First, this charming town calls itself the considered the capital of the horse (Capital do Cavalo), and it is here that the top Portuguese horse breeders have had their fairs since the 18th century. Each fall the town hosts the Feira National do Cavalo (National Horse Fair) and the Feira Internacional do Cavalo Lusitano, which celebrates the Lusitano breed.
Golegã is set between 2 rivers, the Tejo River Tejo and its tributary, the Almonda. And, rich soil means that farming had always been a part of life here. Even the Knights Templar came here to farm in the 12th century. The town still has a few towers and walls from this period, when it was a main stop on the road connecting Tomar to Santarém. It was first called Venda da Galega, then Pavia da Galega and then Vila da Galega. Over the centuries, the name just became Golegã. By 1534 it was a big town, and it flourished in the 16th century as several churches can attest to. But, it was the rich farming that made the town grow, and that meant big fairs and markets.
Farmers and cattle breeders came to exhibit their produce and animals around 1571. By the 18th century, special celebrations were held in honor of St. Martin, on November 11, which a draw for horse breeders who saw an opportunity for displaying their thoroughbreds. Soon horse-riding events and related competitions began to be offered. The fair itself gradually grew to become the National Horse Fair, which is kind of a big deal in a nation with such a strong equestrian tradition. The Golegã Horse Fair takes place annually each fall to this day.
But the town has a tradition of arts too, José Saramago was born nearby, and there are two museums dedicated to artistic sons, former studio of Carlos Relvas, a famous 19th-century photographer, and the Martins Correia Museum, devoted to the work of a contemporary sculptor.
Close to Golegã there is the Paúl do Boquilobo Nature Reserve, which stands at the junction of the two rivers, the Tejo and the Almonda.