Barcelos (Portugal) : interview with the Barcelos Creative City Team on Creative & Accessible Tourism


The City of Barcelos is a clear reference of innovation within the new paradigm of tourism. Already known as a land of crafts and arts, it is part of the prestigious UNESCO Creative Cities Network, it obtained the label CreativeFriendlyDestination, by the Creative Tourism Network®, and received the Destination of Sustainable Cultural Tourism Award by ECTN in 2019.

This creative approach also relies on strong bases and good practices in terms of accessibility. As being considered creative tourism and accessible tourism two essential pillars aimed o create synergies in pro of more inclusive tourism, we have interviewed the representatives of the Municipality of Barcelos, to know further about these projects. 


CTN  – Why bet on segments such as accessible tourism and creative tourism in Barcelos?

Accessibility and creativity are two structural realities for the quality of life of locals and those visiting the city, on which Barcelos has been betting for over 20 years.

The Municipality believes that accessibility should not be neglected in its social and urban policies, this is a premise that the present and the future require from societies and as such the Municipality believes that it should be at the forefront in implementing measures that lead to the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities. Priorities defined at the local level, in line with the guidelines issued at the international level, as per the Convention adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 2006, in which all Member States have committed to take measures to ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to the same physical environment throughout the country, the rest of the community, as well as educational and socio-cultural activities and facilities. This is therefore an institutional responsibility towards society.

In this sense, and recognizing that accessible public social spaces are engines of urban quality, both for residents and visitors, from the 90s onwards, the Municipality started implementing measures to qualify public spaces in the city centre, adapting it to today’s pressing needs for greater functionality and sustainability with the guarantee of universal accessibility.

In this perspective, one of the most evident aspects of the renovation of the historic centre of Barcelos leads us to the process of pedestrianization of the central core in the area between Largo do Bom Jesus da Cruz, Largo Dr Martins Lima, Largo do Apoio, Largo of the City Hall, Pontevedra Square and Francisco Sá Carneiro Square, Riverside area, extension of the pedestrian area from Avenida de Liberdade to Campo 5 de Outubro and circulation in Campo da Feira on weekly fair days, as well as in the constitution of several areas of socialization in those places, making them easily accessible for disabled people. This situation has been an evolving reality since the end of 1999.
A continuous process, of which, as an example, mention can be made, in more recent years, of the installation throughout the centre of walkways adjusted to the needs of blind users, installation in all visitable monuments of access ramps, the works that since 2020 take place in the historic centre within the scope of PEDU – Barcelos (Strategic Urban Development Plan), where the work on the conversion of Largo Dr Novais is evident – a key point for local tourism due to its proximity to the Medieval Tower and Tourism Office, as well as the Municipal market, among other public spaces.

In this process, in addition to adequate public space, there is also the need to have accessible visitable spaces and in this context, all spaces under the authority of the Municipality are adapted to the needs of accessibility where there is a growing elimination of architectural barriers. Among the various tourist spaces that have already taken place, we can mention by way of example: the Municipal Art Gallery, the Ceramics Museum, the Gil Vicente Theatre and the Medieval Tower which even led the Municipality to receive the “Concelho” Award in 2014. More Accessible, of the National Institute for Rehabilitation (INR), IP in the category Leisure / Heritage / Tourism “. It is also worth mentioning the Tourist Office, as it is a space designed in 2005 and which includes an adapted bathroom, flat and large visiting spaces of extreme accessibility. The highlights of this space are that it has tourist information in Braille and a technical staff able to accompany visits with visitors with special needs.

“Finally, should also be noted, the recent establishment of anchorages on the Cávado River, which are intended to contribute to the dynamism of nautical tourism in the municipality, having been designed in such a way as to allow universal access to the places where they are installed.”

Regarding Creative Tourism:

In Barcelos this type of tourism is a bet with almost two decades, it can be said that it was built around traditional arts and crafts where work in clay, embroidery, weaving, wood, iron, leather, wicker and others boost tourism experiences where the visitor can take part in the creative activity that handicrafts end.

On this topic stand out:

The Rooster Painting Workshop the activity promoted by a local artisan, where the creative dimension is developed based on a cultural icon, the symbol of the city and the country, Galo de Barcelos, being one of the most successful workshops.

The Craft Workshops Tailor-made workshops with active participation in productions as diverse as pottery, figurines, basketry, wood, iron, sieve embroidery, weaving or even contemporary arts.

“These are the most differentiated aspects of creative tourism in Barcelos, not only because of the diversity of offer but also because of the potential and dynamism of tourism that wants to be sustainable and safeguard the cultural identity of the territory.”

In the same context, the creative tourism program in Barcelos is also strongly committed to:

• In the dynamization of folkloric activities with programs that take into account the conservation of traditional dances, songs and dresses, even in tailor-made presentations;

• In a culinary arts program that privilege workshops based on gastronomy and traditional sweets;

• In promoting the local wine tradition with diversified proposals that range from the interaction with the activity of the vineyard and its annual cycle, through the harvest and the different types of wines;

• In the promotion of the arts of chocolate, at the Fabrica de Chocolates Aviananese;

• In the visit to the traditional Olive Oil Mill where the visitor learns about the olive cycle until it is transformed into olive oil;
Touring performing in nature with paths of interpretation;

• In events adapted as an example, the following can be mentioned: the Medieval Market – an event that has acquired an accessible format since 2016; The National Exhibition of Handicrafts and Ceramics – which has more than 36 editions and is also today an event whose concept, both in terms of structural physical space and the events that occur in it, adapts to different audiences with special needs;

Equestrian and horseback riding experiences adapted to different audiences with special needs, at the Equestrian Center Irmão Pedro Coelho;

• Investment in senior tourism and special needs through a partnership between the Municipality of Barcelos and INATEL, which has been underway for over 15 years.

“These actions are a reality and are only possible through the involvement of different partners, whose effort is a motivating sign for the future of tourism based on experience and creativity, being, therefore, more sustainable and an incentive to new less dynamic and more resilient tourist dynamics.”

CTN –  What synergies do you perceive between the two, at the market level? What benefits do they generate for the territory in terms of the value chain?

First of all, mentioning that the municipal perception of the importance of traditional arts and crafts as a form of integration, begins with education, as everything else begins, and the sense of community is evident in multiple actions carried out by the Municipality, which can be mentioned by way of example, actions such as:

Sons do Barro Project, by Banda Musical de Oliveira – educational and recreational project, consisting of and for young musicians that use only musical instruments made of clay and that aims to promote tolerance and respect for difference, but also to encourage the recognition of the community’s identity local music.

Galo Artis Project and Canecas Project – two inclusive projects by nature, as well as promoting accessibility that end the purpose of, through artistic production, fighting absenteeism and school dropout and promoting employment and supporting young people with special needs, through artistic and handicraft, in the municipality of Barcelos.

“Thus, accessible tourism and creative tourism could not fail to constitute instruments of municipal work that include the inclusion of various interventions with the most diverse entities, namely travel agents, tour operators, tourism lodgings and dozens of other local economic agents.

“Creative tourism and accessible tourism, despite being more recent concepts in the world panorama, are nonetheless related.”

Barcelos is a municipality that has dedicated great efforts in order to plan its tourist offer, making it suitable on the one hand, to the more identifying characteristics of its community and which give it authenticity and differentiation while recognizing its necessary evolution and the consequent respect to create conditions that allow accessible tourism and under the most diverse prisms for all, and in this way build the foundations for the response to new and different types of tourists.

Therefore, the bet on creative tourism and on experiences where accessibility is naturally aggregated, where the tourist is a disciple and co-creator, gives the territory a unique character and which translates into a kind of tourism where emotions prevail among tourists and local communities.

Although the market share of creative and experience tourism is still small, being to some extent an innovative concept, it is a kind of tourism that is actively growing, proof of this is the emergence of a solid offer of experience tourism is the testimony of the contact with local craftsmanship and the world of wines that has experienced rapid growth from 2015 to the end of 2019.

In Portugal, the creative tourism cluster currently amounts to just over 600 thousand tourists, who are looking for unique and authentic experiences, a fact that reveals the existence of a cluster that is still very little explored in the country and with high potential for growth in the coming decades.

CTN –  Could you provide us with examples of accessible and creative tourism developed in Barcelos?

“As for accessible tourism, it includes a wide range of people with special needs in the most diverse neighbourhoods, while creative tourism, in itself, invokes difference and has as its fundamental pillar the search for authenticity, both factors are difficult to massify.

Consequently, the Municipality of Barcelos today has an increasingly universal tourist offer, since we understand that our mission is to have the ability to adjust the existing offer to the special needs of different groups.

This factor is still a highly positive and differentiating element in a cluster that is still little explored in the country and therefore synonymous with unique business opportunities.

“As such, it does not seem utopian to suggest that creative tourism and accessible tourism, as tourist products, intersect and respond to the promotion of differentiated experiences, have a sense of exclusivity and constitute new approaches to the sector and to supply management of destiny. ”

In this perspective, below we present some examples of creative and accessible tourism that are already a reality in Barcelos:

Creative tourism and accessible generalist:

• Visits to the historic centre and the municipality;
• Itinerary of the Wonderful World of Figurado;
• Visit artisan workshops in Barcelos;
• Wine tasting and visits to the estates;
• Workshops on rooster painting; experiments with clay and other handicrafts;
• Gastronomic and culinary experiences;
• Riding and equestrian experiences;
• Camino de Santiago is accessible.

Accessible creative tourism, oriented to blind audiences, but not limiting, since it is suitable for other audiences:

• Sensory experiences with clay and other handicrafts;
• Aromas of Vinho Verde;
• Aroma kitchen;
• Experience with 7 teas;
• Adapted walking routes.

Naturally, in parallel to all of this, and integrating and mobilizing policy of the agents of the territory is promoted, with a focus on accessible tourism, on the adaptation and constitution of structures that constitute the offer of products that can respond to the specificities that result from the existence accessible and universal tourist offer.

Note: Responses to the interview are the responsibility of Barcelos Creative City Team in the Municipality of Barcelos.

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