The medieval market town of Góis is an unspoilt delight, and has to be one of the loveliest places in central Portugal. Dating back 800 years, Góis is situated 40km east of Coimbra in the beautiful Ceira valley, at the point where the river begins to broaden out and settle down, flowing to join the Rio Mondego, 30km west.
A museum is currently being built in the centre of Góis, on the site of an old hospital founded in 1559. The excavation of this hospital has been an exciting archaeological project in Góis, and the museum should prove to be of great interest when it is finished.
Góis is a town with narrow streets that converge on an attractive central square where the weekly market is held. Apart from the market - where you can buy locally produced fruit and vegetables, plants, flowers, cheese, fish, shoes and clothes etc. - there is a small supermarket, various shops selling all manner of goods, and two banks.
Cafes can be found round every corner, and the local inhabitants are courteous and welcoming to visitors, cheerfully ready to help out the tourist stumbling over phrase-book Portuguese! Góis has a tourist office with very helpful staff, and over the road the local ‘Camara’ (council), are only too happy to help with enquiries about the locality.
Most of the buildings of the town date back several centuries and are quirky and attractive. There is a fine church, and the court house is famous for its splendid ceiling. But the jewel of the town lies at the bottom of the street, where the three graceful arches of the Manuelina Bridge span the River Ceira.
Mere words cannot convey the pleasure of slipping into the crystal clear waters of the river on a hot summer’s day. To facilitate this, Góis council provides swimming areas at regular intervals along the river, in an unobtrusive but practical fashion. Beaches are created with imported sand, and simple changing facilities provided. Young and old come to sit by the river and play in it. At some swimming areas there are rowing boats for hire and lifeguards in attendance for part of the day, but at the more remote spots you are likely to have the place pretty much to yourself apart from the fish nibbling your toes and the dragonflies darting about your head. When you need refreshments, the summer-months café and bar down by the bridge is one of the friendliest you will ever frequent, and is open all day and every day until well past midnight.
Góis is a great place for children, who are warmly welcomed. Beside the river is the park, with a play area, and plenty of space to ride a bike under the huge trees that line the river bank. For the more adventurous, canoes can be hired to take up-river, and the terrain up the valley is exciting for hiking and mountain-biking.
Throughout the summer there is a programme of events in the town, including open- air concerts and shows, and in August the motorbike festival comes to town with an attendant exhibition. And all through the summer the flags and decorations go up in the local villages as they each hold their ‘festa’ – a religious festival that lasts several days and involves much music, dancing and eating of sardines!