Visiting Marinha Grande – The Glass capital
Till some years ago Marinha Grande was the ugliest town on earth (well… almost). In the last years things have changed, and the town holds now some interesting attractions. History and tradition concentrate in glass manufacturing. For decades that was the biggest attraction, but now only a few factories show live production.
Town Hall joins the buildings that once were part of the first glass factory, built in the XVIII century.
Across the street, the museum uses the old palace. A new library and a school complete the actual use of the factory of Stephens brothers. Glass has lost most of its significance in local life. However, the tradition remains, and glass is still the great cultural reference of town.
Centrally located, it’s very interesting for two reasons: An excellent collection of glass artifacts, and the palace, built immediately after Lisbon’s earthquake.
The fear of the owner, who lost almost all his possessions in Lisbon, forced an anti-seismic structure, well displayed in the 2nd floor.
Not to be missed.
Join the controversy
Right in the historical complex in the center of town, a new building was built to install the library, causing some controversy: some people say it is well conceived and integrated in the style of the whole, some other claim that it is a mistake, sacrificing old construction, and chocking visually.
I’m not an expert, can’t take position, but the building, surely, can’t be unnoticed, and I don’t dislike it.
Trying to embellish the town, a large area of land belonging to the former glass factory, was transformed in a wide and cool park.
Still waiting for the shades of the growing trees, it is already a place for a relaxing rest, and I know some more projects for the area, that I will not say, so you must check it locally.
PS – I retired and the “secret” projects are gone
Marinha Grande challenges Barreiro as the Portuguese historic capital of working strikes.
In January 18th 1934, a general strike failed everywhere, except in Marinha Grande, where the glass workers hold the control of town for many hours.
The government sent the army that defeated the rebellion.
Since then, the 18th January is a local holiday for glass manufacturers, with political demonstrations honoring the rebels against the dictatorship, near the allusive statue in central square.
Rotary Association statue
In the Portuguese capital of glass, the common sense demanded a glass monument, and it came, recently.
Celebrating the Rotary Association, a glass column 7 meters high and weighing almost 4 tons, is one of the biggest glass monuments in the world.
It can be seen close to the center of town.
From the large buildings of a former glass factory, the local authorities made a wide and versatile exhibition hall, where everything can happen, since rally park and control to sport training.
Exhibitions, convivial dinners, Christmas celebrations, fashion events, whatever you think, that’s the place, in Marinha Grande.
In my last visit art was the subject, but lots of the city’s life is concentrated here.
Marinha Grande is proud of working traditions, where glass blowing leads local references.
Most recent monuments celebrate this hard profession. In a southern square, a new statue is inspired in the traditional window glass manufacturing.
Opened in September 2005, Crisform was a glass school, where you could, not only watch the teachers and students demonstrate all the techniques of glass manufacturing, but even try them by yourself
In the main lobby there’s a permanent exhibition, with interactive experiments.
In a comfortable auditorium, you could see a film explaining the techniques of glass production, with images from all the local factories.
Crisform no longer exists, extinguished by the government due to the crisis and included in IEFP structure. However, with luck, Cencal that now leads the technical part of the school, may allow the visit.
Marinha Grande is not exactly the best place in the area to eat, but:
If you are in a hurry;
or in a budget;
or wanting Portuguese food, but not knowing where and what to choose, the restaurant of Cristal hotel, open to public, has a good buffet at fixed price
Address: Embra, Marinha Grande
Cristal Marinha Grande – hotel
I never slept in this hotel, but know it well because it is the location where we usually installed everybody connected to our events in Crisform.
Several foreigners of all conditions and status have been there, and none presented us a single complaint.
We had an agreement with them for a regular price (it could be better, I presume…). We also used their convention room, but in that case we generally preferred their other hotel, in the beach of Vieira, with identical service and quality, but facing the sea.
Address: Rua De Leiria 112 114
Website: Hotel Cristal
Glass is married to Marinha Grande. To celebrate the marriage, each even year the expose the best artistic works they can gather. It’s an interesting cultural event, always growing in quality and dimension, that runs from September to the end of October.
In 2006, the featured artist was Olinda Colaço, a local painter with a long and remarkable career in glass painting.
in 2008 the featured artist was Guilherme Correia (and Olinda Colaço shined with a composition of pâte-de-verre made in Crisform).
PS – I retired in 2011 and I think that they stopped in 2010.
Address: Parque Municipal de Exposições, Marinha Grande.