The centre of Barcelos is dominated by the enormous main square, Campo da Feira, site of the weekly market, the Feira de Barcelos, the pick of Minho’s many markets. The region is made up of hundreds of tiny, walled smallholdings, rarely more than allotments, and many people here are just selling a few vegetables, some fruit, eggs, or cheese from the family cow. In addition to rows of village women squatting behind baskets of their own produce, there are stalls selling a mind-boggling array of goods – fresh bread, clothes, kitchen and farm equipment plus less traditional lines in counterfeit sportswear and CDs.
The feira’s other big feature is local pottery and handicrafts, for Barcelos is at the centre of Portugal’s most active artesanato region. The pottery ware – louça de Barcelos – is characteristically brown with distinctive yellow dots and has been highly acclaimed since the 1950s when the earthenware figurines of Rosa Ramalho (marked RR) began to be collected throughout Europe. Though some of the handicrafts are Far Eastern imports, there are some good items to be found, sold at around half the price of outlets elsewhere, including items by Rosa’s granddaughter, Júlia Ramalho, marked JR. For more on ceramics, see the Museu de Olaria above. Other crafts, too, are impressive, especially the basketwork, traditionally carved yokes (cangas) and wooden toys.