An open city to the world since medieval times, with well-established international and national trading routes. A safe haven for travellers, close to the Douro river mouth, a commercial depot with a customs house, it became an important crossing point in the medieval trail of the Portuguese Way for pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. The Roman roads were replaced by medieval routes used by wayfarers on their way to the lands of the north. From among the various pilgrim trails, two main trails stand out, often described in travel diaries: the Braga trail which connects to Ponte de Lima, Valença and Tui; and the Póvoa trail, travelling through Ponte do Ave, Rates, Barcelos, Ponte de Lima, Valença and Tui.

Pilgrims who arrived at the riverfront (Ribeira) would have to follow the roman-medieval road on Mecadores and Bainharia Roads with pauses to pray and rest in the Santa Maria cathedral. They would then walk towards Olival, and choose the route that met their religious needs.