Ourense city centre
The centre of the so-called ‘thermal capital’ stretches from the Puente Romano [Roman Bridge] southwards to the Jardín del Posío [Posio Gardens]. Ourense is an urban development of Roman origins that flourished in the Middle Ages and continued to grow throughout the 19th century as the road leading to Castile, known today as Calle Progreso, was first laid. That is why the city centre has an elongated shape running from north-to-south, contained between Calle Progreso and Calle Pena Trevinca.
The Ourense city centre houses three main landmarks: the Plaza Mayor, the cathedral and the Burgas hot springs. These three elements marked the path of Ourense’s history and simply must be included on any trip to the city.
If Ourense is Spain’s most thermal province, the city of the same name is probably Spain’s most thermal city. In fact, both Ourense and its wider province are part of the European Route of Historic Thermal Towns, along with several other renowned spa locations.
The thermal waters flow through Ourense’s subsoil, with the source of As Burgas being the best example of this. This is the birthplace of Aquis Aurienses (meaning ‘golden waters’): the Roman settlement developed above underground waters that gush at more than 60 degrees centigrade.
The Plaza Mayor is another must-visit destination in the centre of Ourense. While today it is occupied by 18th and 19th century houses, this was the location of the legionary garrison that defended, around the 1st century AD, the then-new and strategic bridge that crossed the River Miño. The growth of the city in the Middle Ages would see the Plaza Mayor eventually become the city’s primary meeting point.
The Cathedral of San Martiño stands just a few metres from the Plaza Mayor. The cathedral’s construction coincides with the city’s consolidation in the Middle Ages in the 12th and 13th centuries. Several of the streets in the city’s historic centre weave their way around this place of worship.
One of the main streets is Calle del Paseo, which connects the Parque de San Lázaro [San Lázaro Park], almost at the gates of the Puente Romano, with the heart of the historic centre. True to its name, the Calle del Paseo (meaning ‘Walking Street’) is one of the main streets to go shopping or strolling through the city centre.
Running parallel to this street is Calle Progreso —the old road that connected the Galician coastline to Castile— on which the city expanded. Various public spaces and services are found here, including the Ourense provincial government, the post office, the market square and Parque Alameda [Alameda Park]. This street also served as a boundary, as it is on the edge of the small watercourse formed by Ourense’s other river, the River Barbaña.