Vilafranca de Xira is a town located on the right bank of the Tagus, famous for its cultivated fields, called "lezirias" and for its horse and bull ranches. It is also a city with a long and intense history, founded in the 13th century. In the 19th century it was one of the key pieces in the defense against the French invasions by being part of the Torres Lines and, still in the same century, it was the scene of an attempted coup d'état.
It is now part of the Lisbon metropolitan area. This makes it very easily accessible by private vehicle and public transport. Therefore, although it is not a spectacular city, it is worth a visit to see its stately homes and religious buildings, such as the churches of Matriz, Misericórdia and the convent of Santo Antônio.
A TOWN DEDICATED TO BULLFIGHTING
Vilafranca de Xira is a city dedicated body and soul to bullfighting, as attested by the various monuments that have this animal as the protagonist, such as the Monument to the Campino and the Monument to the Bullfighter.
It is not strange, then, that one of the main things to see in Vilafranca de Xira is its Bullring. Although it is not a very large bullring (it has a capacity of 4,126), it is an interesting one, which has been in operation for 120 years. In its facilities there is an ethnographic museum focused on the world of bullfighting.
You can also visit several cattle ranches and equestrian centers in the fields on the outskirts of the city.
If you go in August, you should know that at that time the festival of the Incarnate Vest is celebrated, with bullfights as one of its main attractions.
THE ESTUARY OF THE TAGUS
Another great attraction of Vilafranca de Xira is the Tagus Estuary Nature Reserve, one of the most important wetlands in Europe. It is such a large area that the locals call it the "Sea of Straw", and up to 120,000 birds are concentrated there, 20% of all birds on the continent, making it especially interesting for birdwatchers. There are also vestiges of traditional activities such as salt extraction in various ethnographic museums.
The reserve can be visited on foot or by bicycle, but the most original and beautiful way to get to know it is on a "varino", a traditional fishing boat. The municipality of Vilafranca itself offers routes along the Tagus in a varino called Liberdade.