Visit Castelo Branco in 2024

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 If your travel destination this year is Portugal, chances are you will want to visit the big cities like Lisbon and Porto. Those are fine choices for most people, but if you’re looking for a little extra experience, you’ll have to spare a few more days to explore further inland.

It will be worth the effort, as that’s where you’ll find Castelo Branco, a truly historical and eye-catching city. In this piece, let’s show you some of its best features, and give you enough reason the city is a must-visit in 2024.

About Castelo Branco

Castelo Branco exists further inland in Portugal, about two hours from Lisbon airport either by train or the highway. Before the Knights Templar arrived, The city’s history remained largely unrecorded. However, it is believed that the Knights Templar played a pivotal role in the city’s early development. They were credited with establishing their urban areas and constructing the initial castles and fortifications between 1214 and 1230.

The medieval essence of the city’s old town remains today, preserved in the stone walls. They were initially erected and later expanded under the directive of King D. Dinis in the 1300s. Later, Castelo Branco flourished under King Manuel’s reign, receiving a new charter that spurred population growth and urban expansion.

Today, the streets still echo the prosperity of the 15th century, and you’d find intricately decorated doors and windows indicative of the affluent traders who once resided within. Over those years, Castelo Branco earned acclaim as an outstanding town, witnessing the construction of notable landmarks such as the elaborately adorned Misericórdia and São Miguel churches, the latter, now serving as the city’s Cathedral.

Exploring Castelo Branco

At heart, this city is all about delicate Portuguese embroidery. It doesn’t shy from showing you meticulous care and craftsmanship in its traditional Portuguese pavement; “calçada”. The intricate ornamental motifs in Castelo Branco’s stunning embroideries are mirrored in the intricate designs adorning its streets. If you can raise your gaze, the central Cargaleiro Museum presents unparalleled paintings by Cargaleiro himself.

But your visit to Castelo Branco only truly begins when you stroll through the exquisite Garden of the Bishop’s Palace, the most captivating Baroque garden in the entire Central region of Portugal. It has a rectangular layout adorned with balconies, and verandas featuring ornate iron guards and stone balusters – in true Baroque style.. Its centerpiece comprises five lakes, each bordered with decorative edges and featuring water displays.

Another noteworthy point on your trip should be the Steps of the Kings, adorned with granite statues arranged chronologically, showcasing the lineage of Portuguese monarchs. 

The expansive City Park is adjacent to the garden, covering an impressive area of over 18,000 square meters. Established at the outset of the 20th century, this park, also called the Laurel Garden, further enhances Castelo Branco’s reputation as a green city, offering residents and visitors alike a serene and verdant retreat.

Other Attractions

  1. Visit the Natural Park of Tejo Internacional 

The Natural Park of Tejo Internacional incorporates the best of natural wonders and rich historical legacies so well that you can’t help but feel the captivating fusion of past and present. This park is packed, too: We’re talking holm oaks and cork oaks, heather and rosemary; over 150 bird species, 40 mammal species, 15 amphibian species, 20 reptile species; 12 fish species and 153 insect species, all coexisting. 

You’d also find remnants of Neolithic settlements and Roman graves coexisting alongside quaint, sparsely inhabited rural villages when you visit—certainly, a place to be if you’d love some quiet nature at the heart of Portugal.

  1. Stop by at Idanha-a-Velha Village

Ever wondered what beauty and antiques look and feel like? Then Idanha-a-Velha is worth checking out while you’re in Castelo Branco. Aside from the ancient beauty, this village has a bit of lore as well. 

History has it that Idanha-a-Velha was established during the 1st century B.C. under the reign of Emperor Augustus. At the time, the village was called “Civitas Igaedinorum”. Positioned strategically along the transportation routes connecting Coimbra and Mérida, it served as a pivotal hub for trade and travel. 

In the 6th century, following the Visigothic conquest, the village transformed and was renamed Egitânia. Throughout the years, the village held onto its historical and religious significance. 

  1. Check out Monsanto Village

While in Castelo Branco, you’ve got to check out the most undoubtedly Portuguese village of all villages – Monsanto. It’s been the most quintessentially Portuguese village in the country since 1938, yet Monsanto still retains the characteristic charm of Beira villages, reflecting its enduring cultural heritage. 

People have lived in Monsanto since Paleolithic times, so you won’t miss the traces of ancient civilization, including remnants of a hill fort and a bath complex believed to have been constructed during the Roman era.

Conclusion

Castelo Branco is immensely rich in cultural heritage, with numerous landmarks that serve as sources of inspiration and pride for its inhabitants and visitors alike. While many itineraries might miss it for bigger cities in central Portugal, sparing a day or two to visit Castelo Branco will prove to be quite the experience.

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