Report on Caldas da Rainha
Portugal is a soft, warm embrace…
I was sitting at the coffee kiosk in Dom Carlos Parque in Caldas with, get this, two couples from my neighborhood back in Texas, and we were discussing how welcoming Portugal is. What rolled out of my mouth was, “Portugal is a soft, warm embrace”. It surprised even me. Bill thought for a moment and said, “yep, that’s pretty much it”. One couple had already moved a few months ago and just bought a home outside Caldas, the other couple came to “just check out Portugal” and after being in the country three weeks made an offer on a home, also just outside Caldas. If Portugal is an embrace, Caldas da Rainha may be downright seductive. I almost took the first apartment I looked at…in Caldas.
There’s a lot to love about Caldas. What drew me was the robust expat community and the proximity to the coast. Caldas was the hub to explore Obidos, Nazarre, Sao Martinho do Porto and Foz do Arelho. All of these towns are accessible to/from Caldas by bus and/or train.
Caldas is served by a municipal bus service, TOMA (
The link will take you to the English version of the web page and links to schedules and maps. The maps are virtually useless to me because it’s just lines drawn on a satellite view. I checked at the TOMA office and no other maps exist.
Caldas has a very walkable (mostly flat) city center packed with restaurants, coffee shops and all manner of shopping. Every restaurant I tried was excellent. Everything you need you will likely find right in Caldas. There’s a Continente, Leroy Merlin, Lidl and all manner of furniture and housewares shops along with the requisite Chinese stores. A visit to the tourist office in a courtyard at the top of the fruit market will reward you with a lovely and useful map in English.
One of the highlights of Caldas, in my humble opinion, is Parque Dom Carlos. There’s a charming coffee shop in the park that became a destination of its own for me (and has what may be the best toasty sandwich I have ever eaten). I was in the park almost daily meeting someone.
Another highlight is the Praca da Fruta (fruit market) which runs every day except for certain holidays. There’s much more than fruit! (I swear I have never seen bigger tomatoes in my life!) Saturday seems to be the big day but there’s plenty on offer every day.
Fun fact about Caldas: there are no traffic lights in the city, only roundabouts. If you are going to have a car and plan on Caldas, brush up on those roundabout skills…
And let’s talk about car-less in Caldas. It’s doable, but I can see already that I would likely want a car rather than be at the mercy of the bus and train system. Having a car also opens up the possibility of living in one of the extremely charming beach towns that are truly just minutes from Caldas. Know that Uber is all but non-existent in Caldas and a taxi starts at €3.90. I did not try Bolt when I was there.
A word about the trains: Note that the trains servicing Caldas are the regional and interregional. I found it extremely difficult to get on and off these trains with luggage. (Granted, I am tiny, under 5’ and depending on the day, under 100#) The steps are narrow and the gaps are wide. There is little signage or markings. Also of note: there are no facilities on regional or interregional trains (at least on the one I took from Caldas). The Urban, Intercity and the high-speed trains are all what you would expect in the European train system.
My takeaways: Caldas da Rainha is a warm, welcoming place and I felt very much at home there. Housing, both rentals and for purchase, I felt was reasonable. It would be doable without a car but a car would likely make life easier and more enjoyable.
Next up: Porto