A region of fertile and fruit producing land has transformed this area over the centuries into the most important region of the country.
The history of the city of Alcobaça and its contemporary life are strongly linked to the presence of the Order of Cister for more than 600 years, which, by donation of the first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques, builds at the confluence of the Alcoa and Baça rivers, ( from which derives its name), one of the largest Cistercian monasteries in the world. In spite of this, the origin of Alcobaça as a village goes back to the Roman period, but the presence of the Arabs was more noticeable, and its influence is still visible throughout the national territory.
During the Middle Ages, its monastery even rivaled other great Cistercian abbeys of Europe; its defense constituted one of the largest private domains within the kingdom of Portugal. But in addition to its function linked to the religious life of the Order, or even its military importance, it is also in this monastery that you will find buried D. Pedro and D. Inês de Castro, who tells the story of a forbidden love whose finale had an tragic end.
Tradition says that the Alcobaça Castle was built by the Visigoths, although some evidence confirms a Roman occupation. Its construction was vital for the defense of the settlements and the population, but above all with the remaining castles to the north and south, this fortification was part of a north / south line of defense that accompanied and strengthened the process of conquest, by Christians of muslim territories. Nowadays, the castle is a privileged place of observation of the monastery and the region.
At present, the urban center is a harmonious set of streets and houses next to the great monumental complex, constituted by the Monastery and old dependencies.
Almeida, is part of the list of the historical villages of Portugal, having originated in the migration of the inhabitants of a Lusitanian castro, people closer to the Portuguese origin. Since always we have found records of various peoples who passed through here, was occupied in 61 BCE by the Romans, and then by the barbarian peoples, civilizations from the north of Europe that where they passed left only a trail of destruction. Due to their situation in plateau, the Arabs called it Al-Mêda (the Table), Talmeyda or Almeydan, having constructed a castle there, between century VIII or beginnings of century IX.
Almeida is a fortified town that, when seen from the air, has all the appearance of a 12-pointed star, and it´s one of the finest examples of a ramparted fortification still standing in Portugal, that made it difficult for invaders to enter, due it´s strategically placed.
Later, with the French invasions, in the year 1810, which destroyed much of the village, it also ended up destroying the Parish Church that existed inside the castle, eventually being transferred to the Convent of Our Lady of Loreto. Popular religiosity is also marked in the footsteps of the via-sacra.
Its quality of stronghold also marked the urbanism itself and expansion of the urban center, with blocks destined to accommodate the military, as the case of the old barracks of Cavalry.
Important not to miss in your visit, the village of Castelo Mendo, a small parish of the county of Almeida, with about 80 inhabitants (2011). Not to be missed is the Castle of Castelo Bom, rebuilt by King Dinis, as well as the fortress of Praça de Almeida, from the XII / XIII century. It´s a must stop to visit the Church of the Misericordia, from the beginning of the 13th century, as well as the Palace of the Vidoria. But Almeida is not only about Castles and fortresses, but also its festivals and pilgrimages, such as the Commemoration of the Battle of Bussaco, which was considered one of the hardest battles between the Portuguese army and Napoleon’s troops. The pilgrimage in honor of Senhor da Barca, or Nossa Senhora das Neves, which takes place on the last weekend of August.
Typic is also its handicraft, the famous chairs and the galritos are typical of the county. Worthy of mention is the vast gastronomy, rich with sausages and pork products, Dom-Abade’s roasted goat and ears, and the ginja liqueur, as well as the famous Sierra cheese.
A small town amidst the hills of the Leiria area, Batalha only became a place of any significance upon the building of its magnificent monastery, now honoured with UNESCO World Heritage status. Located in the High Estremadura region is an attractive town with plenty of excellent shops and restaurants.
The town was founded by King João I, together with the Monastery of Santa Maria da Vitoria, to thank the supposed divine assistance granted in the victory of the battle of Aljubarrota (1385 ). This amazing pearl of Gothic architecture occupied Portugal’s most accomplished tradesmen under Royal command for the best past of two centuries.
Part of the monastery is also set up as a museum dedicated to the memory of fallen soldiers, and here two tombs belonging to unknown Portuguese soldiers of World War One continue to link this grand memorial to a now distant conflict to present times.
Birth place of Pedro Álvares Cabral ( who discover Brasil ), located in Cova da Beira region and with wide view on the eastern slope of the mountain “Serra da Estrela”, the village of Belmonte fully justifies the characteristics that have given it its name. Tradition says that the name Belmonte comes from the place where the village stands (beautiful hill). However, there are those who attribute to Belmonte the origin of “belli monte” – mount of war.
The human presence has been proven from the earliest times, and “Anta” and “Castros de Caria” certify the longevity of fixation in pre and protohistory. The Romans were attracted by the mineral and agricultural wealth of this region, and they soon became aware of the strategic and economic importance of this territory. The Roman presence is also evident from the testimonies of Torre Centum Cellas or Villa da Quinta da Fórnea.
But the history of this amazing village dates back to the 12th century, when received the foral from king Sancho I in 1199. Although situated in the interior of Portugal , its known as few Portuguese regions connected with the Portuguese Maritime Discoveries. Belmonte arises, associated with the family of Pedro Álvares Cabral and the Jews. It was where this great navigator was born, who in 1500 commanded the second armada to India, during which Brazil was officially discovered. Also worth to be visited is the Castle, that served the line of defense fortresses protecting Portugal from eastern invaders.
In the 13th century, Belmonte was already a village very populated by Christians and Jews, justifying the existence of two main churches (St. James and St. Mary) and a synagogue, which now serves as a museum, although it is still in operation. The Jews settled in Belmonte, assisting in the commercial development of the city all while hiding their beliefs from the Spanish Inquisition. The heritage of these Crypto-Jews survives today, making the village a popular destination for those interested.
A sunny place, with good people, endless views and centuries of history.
CALDAS DA RAINHA
In the summer of 1484, when Lisbon suffered from the plague and other epidemics, our Queen Leonor went to Obidos (90 kms north from Lisbon) with her personal maids, knights, and other servants, and on August 28 of that same year, decided to join the King in Batalha, where they both attended the masses for the soul of D. Afonso. Along the way, the Queen will have seen the sad sight of the poor sick people bathe in muddy, hot water in such inhuman conditions that soon sensibilized her. She told her knights to stop the Royal carriage and wanted to know what that meant. It were treatments, answered the poors. Those waters were prodigious: they calmed pains, they healed wounds, they even told the Queen about the cases of paralytics that returned to walk like a miracle. The Queen in the same place made the vow that if the Lord God gave her life, “the poor of Jesus Christ, His son, will have better comfort in their healings.” Immediately ordered there to build a hospital so that all could be treated there with some comfort.
The village was thus born around the hospital, although the lands there were not fertile, but the climate is one of great sweetness and, above all, there was abundance of everything: vegetables in the small villages and small places of the surrounding villages, fresh fish brought every day by the fishermen of Nazaré and Peniche, even chickens, eggs, and many other resources.
The Caldas da Rainha foundation was due to a deeply cultural act of the Queen, who chose this region as the stage for the development of her projects, thus protecting the arts and artists, creating a source of wealth that has crossed the centuries and which remains intact these days. Caldas da Rainha is also famous for its artistic ceramics, known since the late 15th century. In the 19th century these production intensified through the “Fábrica Maria dos Cacos”, with naïf-style pieces and intense colors. In 1853, Manuel Gomes Mafra creates a great variety of pieces of glazed clay of popular taste, with animal and vegetal motives. Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro founded the Factory of Artistic Faience in 1884, reflecting in the production of the pieces the creative spirit and caricature of the author, such as “Zé Povinho”, who became a symbol of the Portuguese people. Nowadays, the factories continue to produce this traditional dish, in addition to the erotic ceramic characteristics, known as “malandrices”.
In Praça da República ( popularly known as “Praça da Fruta” ), the country’s only daily horticultural market is open every day in the morning, practically unchanged since the end of the 19th century.
The Capital of Beira Baixa is a very well kept secret. But for a little time. There are more and more Portuguese and foreigners who discover and are surprised with this city located between the mountains and the plain, which invites for a quiet discovery. With a characteristic odor that varies between the warm aroma of the stems, the citrus of the orange flower and the sweet smell of the lime tree, Castelo Branco has an appreciable heritage of historical, cultural and landscape interest that, associated to the requalification of the public center of the city, the offer of cultural, sports and leisure facilities, have made the Municipality a place of strong tourist attraction.
Unlike other cities in the region, which grew notably due to the textile industry, Castelo Branco has always had a geostrategic and political importance in Portugal.
The city will have had its origin in the place of a pre-Roman castro. At the beginning of the 12th century there was a village, named Moncarche, on the top of the Cardosa Hill, on the slope of which the settlement of the village unfolded. It is thought that Moncarche was a small Christian community that established itself after the fall of the Western Roman Empire and resisted Arab rule.
This beautiful city is an authentic open-air museum filled with magnificent vestiges of Portugal’s past and home to some of the oldest traditions that characterize the country today. Castelo Branco is internationally known for hand-embroidered bedspreads, regional cheese and olive oil and wine. Resting among the countryside of the center of the country, this beautiful city also exhibits typical architecture, secular monuments and medieval churches – a very attractive destination for the most curious travelers.
Of immense beauty and example of originality in the scope of national manufacture, Embroidery of Castelo Branco presents two dominant factors: one, of artistic origin; Other, of economical significance, and it´s only natural that it was fixed precisely in a region where the flax culture was traditional and where the mulberry was so good that it allowed the silkworm to be reared in large numbers. Its characteristics that make it unique and distinct among Portuguese embroidery: the motifs have an aesthetic that corresponds to a visual grammar of their own.
Of the many interesting places to visit, do not miss a walk through the Garden of Paço; this splendid garden was founded in 1725 at the request of the Bishop, where lakes, fountains and elaborate staircases that fuse harmoniously with the beautiful scenery, making the place a splendid destination to walk around. The most popular place in the garden is the Staircase of the Kings, with statues of the Portuguese monarchs. In the statuary of the garden are also represented other themes, such as the signs of the Zodiac, the four parts of the world known then, the four seasons, the Evangelists, the Apostles and the Doctors of the Church, among others.
Still to visit is also the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mércoles, which curiously, the origin of this chapel and the date of its construction are unknown. However, according to tradition, it is believed to have been built by the Knights Templar. The tiles that decorate the interior date back to the 18th century. An original detail of this chapel is its lowered floor, which is why five steps were integrated in the entrance.
Castelo Mendo is a historic village surrounded by medieval walls, later rebuilt in the 13th century by order of the King of Portugal, D. Sancho I. But, only later during the reign of the King Sancho II was granted the first charter, in the year of 1229, being also this one in charge for the works of extension of the primitive Castle which had existed since the beginning of the Christian Reconquest, since it served as an important defensive support for the battles fought there against the Muslim, who occupied the region. Inserted in the rugged landscape surrounding the Côa River, the village of Castelo Mendo was an important urban center during the Middle Ages.
In the reign of D. Dinis, the second belt of walls was built, which surrounds the medieval nucleus of the village and reinforced the defense of the territory. Later, when the Treaty of Alcanizes definitively established the boundaries of the kingdom, the village became less important. Nowadays, Castelo Mendo still preserves its old moth, where the walls keep a set of historical memories, with houses of Manueline windows and balconies porches. Visit this cozy medieval village, which is ready to welcome you.
From the top of a hill, the historical walled village of Castelo Rodrigo dominates the plateau that extends to Spain to the east, to the deep valley of the Douro to the north. Its history is rooted in the pages of time, retreating up to 500 years B.C, and later occupied by the Romans. But even before the beginning of the Christian reconquest we find references to the presence of the Moors (Muslims). But we can get back a good few thousand years, and find some vestiges of occupation even more primitive. The territory of Riba-Côa has been occupied since always, and there are some paleolithic, megalithic, and castroes.
The concern with the settlement of these lands during the Christian Reconquest is visible in the donations to the Salamantine friars, also the founders of the Order of S. Julião do Pereiro, and to the friars of the Monastery of Santa Maria de Aguiar, a Cistercian foundation of the 12th century.
Castelo Rodrigo preserves the marks of some episodes of territorial dispute, receiving its former charter in 1209, granted by the king of Portugal D. Sancho I, although it only passed definitely to the Portuguese hands in 1297.
Passage of the pilgrims who went to Santiago de Compostela, tell the legends that the same St. Francis of Assisi here would have stayed overnight in his pilgrimage to the tomb of the Saint.
Being part of the program of Historical Villages, its monumentality is evident throughout the village. Not to be missed during your visit, the pillory, the palace, the cistern, the Church and Convent of St. Maria de Aguiar, monuments that makes this place unforgettable.
At various times in national history, its inhabitants stood out for their courage and loyalty to the crown.
Coimbra, once the medieval capital of Portugal for more than a hundred years, and site of the country´s greatest University for the past five centuries, one of the largest of Portugal, which was founded in 1290 by King Dinis. And there is no other Portuguese city like Coimbra in what comes to academic tradition which is present in the students’ everyday life. Coimbra wears its weighty importance in Portuguese history with dignity and its atmospheric, beautiful historical stairways and alleys down a hillside in a lovely setting on the east bank of the Mondego river.
A city of narrow streets, courtyards and medieval arches, Coimbra was the birthplace of six Portuguese kings, the First Dynasty.
Here is the grave of Kings Afonso Henriques and Sancho I, the first Portuguese Kings and, all over the city, you will discover landmarks left by those who built the nation, whether they are the buildings of the University, or the monuments you should mandatorily visit, like the magnificent Joanine Library to the symbolism of the Santa Cruz convent, the old Cathedral or even the roman ruins, the famous Conimbriga. Another key point to visit are the museums of Coimbra par excellence, as for example the National Museum of Machado de Castro next to the New Cathedral, considered one of the most important museums of the country, it has important collections of painting, sculpture, goldsmithery, ceramics and textiles.
If “Coimbra is a lesson”, as the popular fado song says, Coimbra is firstly a lesson of Portuguese History.
Its world-wide fame is due to the stories of apparitions of the Virgin Mary reported by three little shepherds from 13 of May until 13 of October of 1917, making it as a pilgrimage site that made this town one of the most popular destinations in Portugal, attracting thousands of devoted pilgrims and curious travellers year after year.
Fatima is a wonderful spot not only for religious people, but also for everyone who is looking for a peaceful place to relax, meditate, get closer to the nature or rest. However, it is surrounded by holy places that you can’t miss for historical purposes.
Visit the amazing neoclassical Basilic that stands in the heart of Fatima’s sanctuary and the tombs of the three children that lie within. The small Chapel of Apparitions is also noteworthy as this marks the site where Our Lady of Fatima made her appearances.
Not to be missed also, is the large block of the Berlin Wall situated near the chapel (a symbol of the end of communism, as revealed in one of Fatima’s secrets) and visit the houses of the three children in the small village Valinhos. Walking the Stations of the Cross is one of Fatima’s most popular processions, leading faithful pilgrims to the 14 chapels that represents different stages of the Passion of Christ.
Guarda is overlooking the Mondego Valley, and is inserted in the northern limit of Serra da Estrela, being the highest city of Portugal, as far as the altitude of the urban area with 1,056 meters. The result of this altitude is also the curious fact that this region belongs to three hydrographic basins – Mondego, Douro and Tejo, thus contributing to the water resources of the regions of Lisbon, Porto and Coimbra. The Tower is the highest peak in the mountain (1993 meters), as well as the highest in mainland Portugal, and hosts the famous ski resort of Serra da Estrela Natural Park.
Here you breathe clean, light and healthy air. The climate is of the mountain and the fertility of the valleys guarantee divine flavors. Heir of a rich and unique cultural heritage, it has more than 800 years of history in its walls. At the highest point of the city stands the “Menagem Tower”, a symbol of the whole defensive structure, and a visit to this place will help to better understand the importance of Guarda in consolidating the borders with Spain. Occupied since ever, it was after the Roman period followed periods of occupation by the Visigoths, and later the Islamic civilization.
Only after the beginning of the Christian reconquest is the foral awarded, definitively reconfirming the importance of the city and the region. It was also here that King D. Dinis and D. Isabel spent a month and a half after marrying. Known for its important role during the Middle Ages, Guarda still retains many of its colossal castles that once fortified the country. These can be visited in the small villages in the surroundings, such as Figueira do Castelo, Pinhel and Almeida. More than eight centuries of history underpin a cultural and religious duality between Catholics and Jews, leaving in the city a valuable inheritance.
Popularly known as the “city of 5 F”, which mean “Forte, Farta, Fria, Fiel and Formosa”. Forte ( Strong ) as the Forthress; Farta ( rich ) for its wealth of the Mondego valley; Fria (Cold) because of its proximity to the mountain “Serra da Estrela”; Fiel (Faithful) because Álvaro Gil Cabral refused to hand over the keys of the city to the King of Castile during the crisis of 1383-85; Formosa (Beautiful) for its natural beauty.
LINHARES DA BEIRA
Linhares da Beira, an historical village of the Council of Celorico, and an authentic open-air museum with its streets lined with granite houses, is situated next to the Serra da Estrela (the highest mountain in Continental Portugal), which offers to its visitors magnificent mountainous landscapes, fresh air and fresh water. This medieval village boasts its imposing Castle with essentially military architecture, but also with characteristics of Gothic and Romanesque, and strategically well positioned to defend the region, that once belonged to the Knights Templar Order.
It´s believed that their occupation dates back to the time of the Romans, but it was the Muslims who later seized these lands, probably from the beginning of the VIII century, for they knew well that from there they could watch over the whole horizon.
A walk through the village reveals a harmonious urban complex full of charm, where simple houses built in granite coexist with some of the grounds that preserve signs of an old nobility place. Be sure to visit also the main Romanesque church. Inside are three valuable paintings attributed to the great Portuguese Master Vasco Fernandes (Grão Vasco). Next to it stands the 16th century granite pillory, topped by the armillary sphere. Visit also the old House of the House, a historical building, at the moment is the seat of the Town Council. It was, however, once also used as a chain, and within it are still some decorative pieces of historical interest.
But Linhares is also about art and culture, where its inhabitants holds with conviction to their origins, and the local craft is proof of this. It is in the tradicional fairs, that we can find the art of sculpture, works in wood, clay, basketry and tinwork.
The relief and climate of this region are the main factors to make this historic village the ideal site for the great Paragliding Open, which takes place every year in August.
Marialva, located in the north of Portugal, a few minutes from the city of Mêda, in a setting that reveals one of the living relics of the Portuguese ancestry, which invites any visitor to know the deepest roots of the country’s history. Its streets, flanked by buildings which have stood for centuries, lead to the village surrounded by walls, shrouded in ruins. Populated by several peoples, it was later conquered by the Romans, followed by Arabs / Moors, until the final victory of D.Fernando de Leão, in its emblematic conquest of the Beiras Region, but was the first king of Portugal, who granted him a charter in 1179 , thus formalizing its foundation.
Given the frontier location of Marialva, with Spain and its traditional ancestral fair, which granted several privileges to the residents and marketers, it began in the 13th century with the fixation of Jews, whose number increased during the reign of King Manuel I, forming even a Jewry. Within its walls, stand out the main Square, marked by the Pelourinho and the building of the old House of the House, also court and chain during century XVII. In the same place to visit the keep and the Church of Santiago with its magnificent painted ceiling and the Chapel of the Misericordia, appreciated for its retable in carving, and that are true treasures built inside the walled village. Not to be missed, is also it´s medieval Castle, with an important defensive function, once belonged to the KnightsTemplar.
The visitor is always a special guest at the table of this lovely village, and should not leave without tasting the delicious dishes made by our traditional cuisine. Of the various tapas and regional desserts are: Cod roasted on the grill; Stewed lamb; Papas de milho; Cavacas; egg candy.
Besides its historical monuments, we also recommend a tour of the Douro region, or a visit to the rock engravings of the Archaeological Park of the Côa Valley, hiking and cycling around, thermal circuit, picnics. Marialva is a place that can please all ages, but if you happen to be on honeymoon in Portugal, do not forget to include this small village in your itinerary, because all its old atmosphere, but cozy, exudes romance.
Located in the municipality of Idanha-a-Nova, Monsanto became known as the most Portuguese Village of Portugal thanks to its unique and stunning architecture and its traditions. In the 21st century, Monsanto was able to maintain all the beauty of its traditional houses and monuments, but it is also a totally new place full of surprises to discover. It´s a very old place, with a human presence since the Paleolithic, but its more presently from Roman period that some vestiges are found. The Moslems also were here, they would later be defeated by King Afonso Henriques and in 1165 Monsanto’s place was donated to the Order of the Templars that under orders of Gualdim Pais, had the Monsanto Castle built. In the 19th century, Monsanto’s imposing medieval castle was partially destroyed by the accidental explosion of the ammunition bunker on a Christmas night, leaving only two towers, the Peão and the Menagem, as well as the beautiful ruins of the Chapel of Saint Miguel.
Considered a living museum and cultural patrimony of the country, the paths confuse themselves in the rocks and the houses stand up among massive cliffs; In granite it is still possible to see small gardens.
At its highest point, its peak reaches 758 meters. Monsanto, is the result of a harmonious fusion of nature and its geographical accidents with the action of man, this is a place worth visiting.
Nazaré is a colourful fishing village with an awesome view from the “Sitio of Nazaré”, up on the cliff. The beach of Nazaré, with a mild climate and natural beauty, has the oldest traditions of Portugal linked to the fishing arts. Its postcard is the white houses of fishermen and huge cliffs over a sea of intense blue, which make this fishing village a tourist destination of choice. And it is not uncommon to cross with the fishwifes who still wear the seven skirts, as tradition says. On a Saturday afternoon in the summer months, it´s essential to sit and relax on the beach watching the interesting spectacle of “Arte Xávega”, where fish nets arrive from the sea and the women shout their trading sessions.
Its beauty and uniqueness has been captured by several artists: writers, painters, photographers, filmmakers, but it was after Garrett McNamara rode that world-record breaking 90ft wave, Praia do Norte in Nazaré became a global spectacle; the new home of big wave surfing. And now this small fishing town has been all over world media. At the top, in “Sitio” place, besides the view you will find a beautiful church, known as Our Lady Nazaré Sanctuary, and near by there is also a small chapel clinging to the edge of the sheer drop, the “Ermida da Memória”, whose origins are closely connected to the miraculous appearance of the Virgin Mary, and in honour of this life saving miracle, a chapel was built. Over the years it has attracted many pilgrims and today visitors can still see the tale depicted in 18th Century painted tiles.
Along the seafront of Nazaré, people still dry their catch of fish in the sun and mend their boats alongside sunbathing holiday makers.
Obidos is a beautiful walled village, considered as one of the most charming and picturesque towns of central Portugal, with traditional painted houses and narrow cobbed streets. Obidos has an extensive history, an imposing Castle and wonderfully preserved walls.
Its name probably derives from the Latin term oppidum, meaning “fortified city”. The municipality had its origin in an early Roman settlement near the foothills of an elevated escarpment, but the region of Obidos, extending from the Atlantic to the interior has been inhabited since the late Paleolithic. Sometime after 713 the Moors established a fortification on this mountain, and it was in 1148 that it was taken by the first king of Portugal, but only received the first foral in 1195, under the reign of D. Sancho I. It also was part of the dowry of countless queens of Portugal, and is still today called as the Queens Village.
The Church of Santa Maria in Obidos, was the setting for the wedding of King Afonso V to his cousin, Princess Isabella of Coimbra, on 15 August 1441, when they were both still children aged 9 and 10, respectively.
The main entrance of the village is surmounted by the inscription “The Virgin Our Lady was conceived without original sin”, ordered by King João IV, to thank for the protection of the Patroness, when was the Restoration of our independence in 1640. Inside, what remains of a chapel, of Our lady Senhora da Piedade, patron saint of the village, with a baroque balcony and 18th Century blue and white tiles.
As you walk down the “ Direita street”, passers-by take you for the most attractive in the village: winding narrow walls, medieval streets, manueline style windows, stairs, very old doors, beautiful façades, chimneys of various types. It is worth noting the colorful flower boxes, which give a red and lilac tonality, contrasting with the white of the houses, the blue and yellow bands, giving the sensation of nature, as they enrich the beauty of the village of Óbidos. Most handicraft shops are on this street, where you can see all kinds of handicrafts and there is no way you can resist it. But do not leave behind the famous liquor of the region, “Ginjinha”, and finish it by eating the glass as well, tasting the famous chocolate.
Each July Obidos castle hosts a traditional ‘Medieval Market’. For two weeks the castle and the surrounding town recreate the spirit of medieval Europe.
Also essential is a stop at Obidos lagoon, 10 minutes distance by car, which offers beautiful panoramic views that make this place one of the most romantic in Portugal.
The westernmost city of Continental Europe, is located on a peninsula (primitively an island), with about ten kilometers of perimeter. The settlement was built in a rocky area considered by scientists to be unique worldwide as an example of the transition from the Triassic period to the extinction of the Lower Jurassic. This area encompasses the coastline from “Papôa” to “Cape Carvoeiro”. This particularity unequivocally marks the great importance of the geological heritage of Peniche.
This beautiful city has a long and rich history. It was successively occupied by populations that, yesterday and today, have made fishing and agriculture their main economical activities. Peniche and its municipality are the scene of important historical events of national and international nature. Facing frequent assaults of pirates and occupations of foreign powers, land was defended by a fortified construction, the “Praça-Forte of Peniche”, ordered to be built by King João III in 1557. It was a military plaza in 1897 and a strategic bastion in the defense of the peninsula in the 19th century, it housed German and Austrian prisoners during the First World War. It would become famous as political prison during the authoritarian regime of Salazar, between 1934 and 1974, year of the Carnation Revolution. It also collected families of returnees from the former Portuguese colonies of Africa. When these integrated into the metropolitan society, the fort became a local museum, the Municipal Museum of Peniche.
Peniche has extensive beaches to the north and south of the peninsula. The westernmost point of the Peniche Peninsula is the “Cape Carvoeiro” and to the west of the Cape, beyond the six miles, lies the Berlengas archipelago, one of the most popular places especially during the summer, where you can take a cruise-boat and visit not only this small island, but also its mysterious caves, today a natural reserve where rare species of flora, birds and fish can be found.
The Piódão is located in the Serra do Açôr, with an accentuation of steep slopes and a structure of closed mesh and sinuous trajectory, well adapted to the roughness of the surrounding space. Serra do Açor, a protected landscape area which is full of breathtaking views, springs and pastureland.
Now imagine a village, where practically all the houses and buildings were erected in beautiful shale butchers, a stone that, incredible as it may seem, bears a kinship with oil. The combination of the quiet and peaceful countryside, with the dark colors of the walls and blue contrasts of guides and door and window frames, create a unique atmosphere.
In medieval times, a small settlement was formed which was given the name of Casas de Piódão, later transferred to the present location, due to the installation of a Monastery of Cister, from the 13th century.
Amongst the number of small xyst houses, the one building that particularly stands out is the parish church dedicated to Our Lady of the Conception, which is whitewashed and supported by some rather peculiar cylindrical buttresses. Built around the 19th century by the local population, with their gold and money.
The population that lives here and settled in the 15th century still lives on pasture, agriculture, in the community place near “Eira”, goes up the narrow sidewalk, which recalls medieval times and produces the earth’s flavors, namely chestnut liqueur and the honey brandy.
Located next to the Serra da Opa, the village of Sortelha had its foundation at the time of the construction of its castle, in 1228, and built on a rocky space at an altitude of 760 meters. The village retains its medieval authenticity with its rustic granite houses.
In spite of the existence of several vestiges that prove that the village was occupied by the Romans, or even by the Visigothic, and later in the early 8th century by the Moors until the Christian Reconquest, it was in the reign of D. Sancho II that it received its Charter as well as the castle, which was part of one of the most important defensive lines during the Christian Reconquest. It´s believed that Sortelha was built in such a way to prevent enemies from attacking it quickly, and because of their altitude allowed them time to prepare against enemy attacks. Later it was King D. Dinis who built the oval walls that still today protect the village and can be seen.
It´s worth to visit the main church, from the 14th Century, where it´s in excellent condition a work of the Hispano-Arab ceiling, and the gilded carving of the high altar, added in the baroque period. During your visit, you must not miss the former Misericórdia Hospital, such as the Misericórdia Church, also see the Sacred Way, and stop at the chapels of São Sebastião and Santiago, the solariums, the parish church dedicated to Nossa Senhora das Neves.
In the fertile region of Ribatejo, Tomar is dominated by its 12th century Castle and the glorious Christ’s Convent, one of the country’s most enigmatic sacred sites, which served as a residence for the Templars, a secretive but influential religious and military Order, and this close connection has shrouded the region in legends and mystery involving Tomar in its history of these noble knights, or as originally called Order of the Poor Knights of the Order of the Temple and later, in the Order of Christ ( already founded in Portugal ), but that in the background served as a camouflage to keep long live to those who have been envied.
As tourist destination, Tomar is a very pretty place, being built along the banks of the Nabão River and having a delightful old town with narrow cobbled streets and traditional painted houses. The town center, webbed by narrow lanes lined with family restaurants, cozy cafés, and homestyle shops, exudes a delightfully domestic atmosphere, a quality not lost to those that appreciate the humble, down-to-earth character. The ancient Convent of Christ is the main tourist attraction and this fortified convent is regarded as one of the finest historical monuments of Portugal. Also worth to be visited the Santa Maria do Olival Church, that was constructed as the pantheon for the leaders of the knights Templar and the founder of Tomar, Gualdim Pais, that is buried here. Stop off at the São João Baptista Church to admire its manueline façade and interesting interior, and don´t leave without a stop at the oldest synagogue of Portugal, just 5 minutes distance from the Republica square.
Further afield, you will see a lake that provides sunbathing and water sports opportunities, while another castle, renowned for its rugged good looks, woos sightseers at Almourol. And yes, the Templars built it!
The city of Trancoso still maintains the traces of a medieval center, which other Portuguese cities, such as Viseu, by virtue of the city’s growth processes during the 19th century, have not preserved. In this way, a visit to Trancoso constitutes a trip in time and allows the visitor to apprehend and question the evolution of cities and their forms over time.
With its numerous monuments, civil, religious and military architecture, Trancoso is one of the most expressive and beautiful historical centers of Portugal, visited annually by many thousands of people. These monuments are distributed a little throughout the county. Its millenary castle contrasts with the jolts and fears lived by the people of other times. It was land of borders stablishment, stage of several fights and striking battles for the formation and independence of the kingdom. Received important privileges, by our kings, like for example the foral by the first king of Portugal, or when king Dinis orders to build the walls that still today protect a town where Christians and Jews lived together. The waist of walls that still surrounds the old medieval village, as well as the vast civil and religious architectural heritage, give the historical center a unique image.
With a glorious and distinguished past, the town also stood out for being associated with numerous historical and legendary figures, such as: João Tição, Gonçalo Vasques Coutinho, Gonçalo Fernandes Trancoso, Fernando Isaac Cardoso, among others.
The origins of the city goes back to the Castro Period. An old city, marked by the gray of the stone, but rich in natural beauty, warm and lively, being considered the best of Portugal in the ranking of quality of life.
According to the legend, in the process of the Christian Reconquest, a member of a group of warriors arrived in the city on the eastern side, where the rivers Pavia and Dão intersect, asked: “What do I see?” (“Que viso eu ?”) From this question, the name of the city would be born.
With the Romanization, it gained great importance, due to the intersection of Roman roads of which there are only a few left, like for example the one on “Rua do Arco”, being the most central. Perhaps this is why the octagonal defensive structure, two kilometers in circumference – the Cava de Viriato – can be justified. These milestones are aligned on an axis that seems to correspond to the road to Merida (Spain), which intersects with the Olissipo-Cale-Bracara link, two other very influential poles. Perhaps for this reason it is possible also to justify the construction of the octagonal defensive structure, of two kilometers of perimeter “the Cava of Viriato”.
Viseu is associated with the figure of Viriato, since it is thought that this Lusitanian hero may have been born in this region. After Roman occupation on the peninsula, it was occupied by Muslims in 711, like most Iberian settlements, and during the Christian Reconquest of the peninsula was attacked and counterattacked alternately between Christians and Muslims. Viseu has a central position in relation to the district and the county, located in the designated “Planalto de Viseu”. The Sé or Cathedral, dated from the 13th century, rises high in the Roman walls. Like many Portuguese medieval cities, the historic center of Viseu is a labyrinth of narrow alleys, where the houses of the old noblemen, which branch from the highest point of the city, the Cathedral Square.
Also rich and varied, the traditional cuisine of this region is one of its main attractions.