Industry is very important in S. Joao da Madeira. And, more recently, industrial history as well. This combination makes the city and its surroundings an exciting destination for fans of industrial heritage. The visitor center in the tower of the former sewing machine plant Oliva offers information about locations and guided tours. In the factory next door, visitors can experience a museum of contemporary art, as well as an exhibition on the history of the Oliva company and its outstanding architectural appearance. The most attractive thing about the various thematically focused trails through the city is that they combine manufacturing and interactive multimedia presentations of industrial history. The shoe production, for instance, is represented by a museum, an academy for shoe design and two successfully working enterprises. The hat museum is accompanied by a fur processing plant and the current world market leader in the felt sector. A major manufacturer of mattresses, companies specialized in paper and textile labels, as well as the only pencil factory in Portugal, are further highlights of the varied tour program.
In 1925, Antonio Jose Pinto de Oliveira chose S. Joao da Madeira to lay the foundation for a factory specialized in metalwork and mechanical engineering, which was to write industrial history in Portugal. Agricultural implements, equipment for the headwear industry, Oliva sewing machines, pipes for plumbing, worktop lathes, radiators, and many other products went from here to the whole country and the former Portuguese colonies. Nowadays, the factory building with its classical industrial architecture that has now been reused, is a representative of the success story of a diverse industrial region.
The tourist development of this industrial panorama is still young and makes S. Joao da Madeira a pioneer of industrial culture in Portugal. In 2012, the city council launched a tourism project centered around a series of trails that focus on the region’s industrial legacy. These trails aim to preserve the city’s industrial heritage and make it accessible to visitors. The combination of museums and manufacturing companies underline how traditional industries such as the shoe, hat and textile industries have evolved and thus laid the groundwork for new products and business models. One example of this is FEPSA, a company in which six felt producers joined together in 1969, revolutionizing the headware production by innovative technologies and now dominating the world market for felt products. Another successful player is Heliotextil, a manufacturer of labels, ribbons and rubber bands, which globally supplies customers from the shoe and textile industries, the trade and the advertising sector.
All these companies are open to visitors and offer exciting insights into modern industrial production. Wide-ranging exhibitions illustrate the historical background. The visitor center in the Oliva Tower provides all the necessary information for tailor-made tours through the rich industrial history of S. Joao da Madeira.
|Recommended duration of visit:
|Duration of a guided tour:
|Access for persons with disabilities:
|Infrastructure for children:
|Visitor centre on site:
|Gift and book shop on site:
Monday - Friday 9am–12.30pm, 2-6pm
Saturday 10am-1pm, 2-6pm
Sunday 10.30am-12.30pm, 2.30-6pm