Caldas da Rainha means “Queen’s Spa”, and was named for Dona Leonor, wife of Dom João II. She was sufficiently taken by the therapeutic powers of the bubbling waters here that she founded a hospital in 1484, around which the town gradually grew up to service the growing popularity of the spa. Its heyday was probably in the nineteenth century, although Caldas today shows little of its regal past: once through the drab modern outskirts, however, there’s a pleasant centre focused on the modern spa buildings. Pretty much everything of interest lies in, or just outside, the tranquil Parque Dom Carlos I, a lovely, extensive landscaped park with two diverting museums, a small lake and a garden café.
Caldas is also not a bad place for souvenir hunting: its embroidery has a national reputation, though it’s best known as a ceramics centre. There’s a lively outdoor fruit, vegetable and flower market every morning in the central Praça da República – Monday sees the addition of clothes, shoes and household goods.