The Spanish tourists come armed with wallets and make away with volumes of towels and linens from the high stacks that line the cobbled streets. The good news is that on even the busiest days (which tend to be Wednesdays and weekends), you can sidestep the towel touts and discover that Valença's two interconnected forts also contain a fully functioning village where locals shop, eat, drink and gossip among pretty squares and narrow, medieval lanes. And when, in the evening, the weary troops retreat to Spain with their loot, the empty watchtowers return to silent contemplation of their ancient enemy – the glowering Spanish fortress of Tui just across the river.
Visitors can easily see the sights of the town as a day trip, but there are two atmospheric places to sleep within the fortress walls that allow you to see and feel peaceful Valença when it empties at sunset. That’s when you can hear the footsteps of kittens in the laneways while birdsong echoes off ancient stone walls.