São João da Madeira, Aveiro District, Norte Region, Portugal

🇵🇹 São João da Madeira, is a city and a municipality in north-western region of the Portuguese Norte region. It's part of the larger Porto Metropolitan Area, located 30 km from central Porto. With an area of 7.94 km², it is the smallest municipality in Portugal. In 2010, the city was distinguished in Portuguese Quality of Life studies as the "Best Municipality to Live In".

São João da Madeira stood out also recently by introducing in 2011 the Industrial Tourism in Portugal and, in 2012, becoming the first Portuguese municipality to offer almost integral wireless coverage in its municipal area.

The municipality of São João da Madeira is situated in the extreme north of the district of Aveiro, in the historical region of Beira Litoral, occupying a position central in the subregion of Entre Douro e Vouga. It is approximately 18 km from the Portuguese Atlantic coast, 32 km from the regional capital of Porto, 40 km from Aveiro and 275 km from the national capital. It straddles the a hilltop portion of the geomorphological massif that extends from 50 to 400 metres above sea level. It is crossed at its farthest limit by the River Ul, which runs north to south.

Economy Its economy is based on services and industry, employing 62% in secondary and 38% in tertiary sectors. In 2007, there were 3660 registered companies dominated by micro and small businesses and employing 74% of the workers. São João da Madeira's motto, translated as "Labor, City of Work", appeals to its industrial history.

In 2007, there were 3660 companies in São João da Madeira: despite being the smallest municipality in size in Portugal, it is the twentieth in economic turnover. It is the head of shoe industry in Portugal, an important industrial activity in Portugal, having the seat of the Shoe Technological Centre. Beyond that, the city is developing a Science Park and main Centro Empresarial e Tecnológico (Business and Technology Centre), as well as important commercial, financial and service centre of the region, having its largest Shopping Mall and largest concentration of banks. Inaugurated in 2008 by President Aníbal Cavaco Silva the Centre is a modern project by architect Filipe Oliveira Dias, that services as an incubator for high technology businesses in order to diversify the local market. It is actually the first of ten buildings in the zone, of a planned 80,000 square metre technological park, including the Núcleo de Investigação e Desenvolvimento (Investigation and Development Nucleus). In 2009, a series of protocols of understanding were signed to establish a regional network of "Innovation and Competitivity" between business and education, in order to foster technological innovation.

Shoe manufacturing has been one of the city's main economic industries, and regularly, the city has been referred to as "a Capital do Calçado" (the Capital of Footwear); many of Portugal's shoe manufacturers and ancillary businesses, including the Centro Tecnológico do Calçado (Footwear Technology Centre) and Centro de Formação Profissional da Indústria do Calçado (Footwear Industry Centre for Professional Learning) are based in São João da Madeira. Similarly, regional industries have been responsible for the production of 20% the world's felt hats and continues to be the major national producer. The quality of São João da Madeira's head apparel has, at one time, been recognised internationally, and incorporated in fashion house (such as Hermès). In addition, the movie industry was responsible for supporting this industry, with headwear produced for films such as Public Enemies,Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Indiana Jones' hat, for example) and the Mad Hatter's famous hat in Alice in Wonderland. Other secondary industries in the economy include automobile components, industrial textiles, mattresses, glues and tubing manufacturing, which are concentrated in four industrial zones: Travessas, Orreiro, Devesa-Velha e Oliva.

Its central place within the urban hierarchy has slowly consolidated many of the main services of the Entre Douro e Vouga subregion; along with Santa Maria da Feira it has contributed to the policentralizism of Greater Porto basin. São João da Madeira is an important banking and financial centre; in 2007, there were 1288 employed in the banking sector, equivalent to the same number in Aveiro.

Tourist Industry Industrial tourism has increased, and S. João da Madeira was the first city in the country to introduce this tourism.

The routes include the only pencil factory in operation in Portugal, the shoe and headwear industry. A Vocational Training Centre of the Footwear Industry and the Portuguese Technological Footwear Centre are part of this industrial tourism route, as well as the Hat Museum, one symbol of the city and unique in the Iberian Peninsula.

Moliceiro boats mooring alongside the central channel at Aveiro, Portugal 
Moliceiro boats mooring alongside the central channel at Aveiro, Portugal
Image: Adobe Stock dudlajzov #307577284

São João da Madeira has a population of over 21,710 people. São João da Madeira also forms part of the wider Porto Metropolitan Area which has a population of over 2,400,000 people.

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