Fatima Travel Guide

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Fatima Travel Guide

Fatima Local History

Fatima (Fátima) is Portugal's answer to Lourdes and it is an important destination for pilgrimages. Over four million pilgrims visit Fatima every year to see the place where, the three village's children saw a vision of the Virgin Mary on May 13 1917. The three shepherd children, Lúcia, Francisco and Jacinta, then saw five further visions on the 13th of every month and an increasingly large number of people came with them. Only the children could see the visions, and only Lúcia heard the message to return every month, so the miracle was understandably greeted with muted enthusiasm at first.

The government and the Church couldn't decide whether the children told the truth or not. The children were even arrested and interrogated but they did not alter their version of the story. The small, inconsequential town of Fatima is now home to a gigantic Basilica, capable of holding a million worshippers inside and on the esplanade, which is larger than the piazza at St Peter's in Rome. It was completed in 1953 and contains the tombs of Francisco and Jacinta, who died in the 1919 flu epidemic.

The original oak tree where the Virgin appeared was decimated by greedy souvenir seekers and was replaced with a new tree and the Chapel of the Apparitions. The atmosphere in Fatima during the May and October pilgrimages, when 100,000 people gather here, is phenomenal.

Fatima Attractions

Fatima Shopping

Many of the souvenirs you'll find in Fátima are religious in nature. If you're interested in a mixture of religious and secular objects, head for the town's biggest gift shop, Centro Comercial Fatima, Estrada de Leira (tel (24) 953 2375).

If you're looking for devotional statues or a less controversial example of regional porcelain, you'll find it here, 450m (1,476 ft.) from the town's main religious sanctuary. There's another well-stocked gift shop in the Pax Hotel, Rua Francisco Marto (tel (24) 953 9400).

Fatima Restaurants and Bars

Fatima Restaurants

Tía Alice - Rua do Adro, Fatima Tel (24) 953 1737. This simple, rustic restaurant offers huge portions of food inspired by rural Estremadura . It's the finest dining choice in an area which doesn't offer much in the way of spectacular dining experiences. Specialties include broad-bean soups, roast lamb with rosemary and garlic, fried hake with green sauce, chicken, Portuguese sausages, and grilled lamb or pork chops. Hours Tuesday to Sun noon to 3pm; Tuesday to Sat 7.30 to 10pm. Main courses 145€ -18€ ; fixed-price menu 25€.

Grelha - Rua Jacinta Marto 78, Fatima Tel (24) 953 1633. If you don't want to eat at a hotel, try Grelha, one of the best of a meager selection. It's closeto the sanctuary at Fátima. Grelha offers regional specialties but is known for its grills, especially steaks and fish. Grilled codfish is an especially good choice. During the cooler months, the fireplace is an attraction, and the bar is busy year-round. Hours Friday to Wednesday noon to 3pm and 7pm to 10.30pm. Main courses 6.75€ -12€.

Fatima Bars & Clubs

As you might expect of a destination for religious pilgrimages, Fátima is early to rise (in many cases, for morning mass) and early to bed. Cafes in town tend to be locked tight after around 10pm, so religion-weary residents who want to escape drive 2km (1 1/4 mile) south of town along Estrada de Minde.

Here you'll find two music bars that are much more attuned to human frailties than the ecclesiastical monuments in the core. They are Teles, Estrada de Minde (no phone), and its neighbor, Bar Truao, Estrada de Minde (tel. 24/952-15-42). Both are open Friday and Saturday night from midnight to 4am. The 5€ to 8€ ($5.75-$9.20) cover charge at either place includes the first drink.

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