Industrial Tourism in São João da Madeira
São João da Madeira provides the opportunity for a different kind of itinerary to see how Portugal’s traditional industries are still preserved.
The points of interest on this visit are the region’s old industries that still exist and are now part of local history. There are predefined industrial heritage routes but you can create your own route if you prefer.
Don’t miss the Hat Museum, unique in the Iberian Peninsula, which pays tribute to all those who made hats one of the most important manufacturing activities in the region. The journey back to the days when it was fashionable to wear a hat takes you to Fepsa. This company was dedicated to the manufacture of felt for hats, and had a strong connection to the world's best brands, the theatre and the cinema. Many hats used in Hollywood films came from here.
The preparation of the raw material, from rabbit, hare and beaver skins, was done in the Cortadoria Nacional de Pelo, where you can watch the entire process. In turn, Heliotextil demonstrates the art of manufacturing textile accessories, such as labels, ribbons and other items that are part of everyday wear. It is a major supplier of the teams’ kits for the big football clubs.
Also unique, but working with another material, is Viarco, an historic pencil factory, which is worth seeing. This Portuguese company opened in 1907, and still preserves the handmade manufacturing process, and a visit lets you in on all the secrets connected with the production of graphite and coloured pencils.
São João da Madeira has always occupied a prominent place on the Portuguese business map, and goods manufactured here are exported all over the world. The shoe industry is particularly important, and at Evereste, top brands such as Cohibas, Miguel Vieira, Fugato, Evereste and Cribs are produced. Another company, Helsar, is an up-market brand of women's footwear, with 36 years of existence. Here, you can witness the whole manufacturing process from the concept for the shoe, the design and up to the packaging phase. In its Museum, it displays the best designs from each era and offers a surprise for the visitor: next season’s trends!
Finally, you can see the craft tools and machines used in days gone by in the Footwear Industry Professional Centre, or watch a test laboratory in action at the Portuguese Footwear Technology Centre.
But to get the most out of a visit to São João da Madeira, we suggest starting at the Welcome Centre in the Torre Oliva. The old Oliva sewing machine factory is currently one of the most iconic and historic buildings in the city. Here you can book a visit to the factories and customise your route with the assistance of a specialised industrial tour guide.