Castelo Branco is the capital of the old province of Beira Baixa. Located just twenty kilometres from the Spanish border, most of the historical character of Castelo Branco has an attractive atmosphere to it, with generous parks, wide boulevards and bustling squares.
Full of history and with a heritage of infinite value, this secular city has a great diversity of spaces and multiple activities, with a close and familiar environment, where the mountains and the city come together. Castelo Branco is a very good foundation from which to explore the border region of central Portugal.
The Bishop's Palace Garden in Castelo Branco is one of Portugal's most unique Baroque examples! João de Mendonça, Bishop of Guarda, financed the project and supervised its completion. Balconies and verandas with iron guards and stone balusters dominate this beautiful rectangular Baroque garden.
The key level of the garden is divided into 24 areas separated by hedges of bushes. As an allusion to Christ's five injuries, you will find five lakes with fountains here.
The west side staircase leads to the upper level of the garden, where we find sculptures representing the Old Testament and water as a sign of purification.
Castelo Branco's medieval centre is a bewildering maze of narrow streets winding through ravines of whitewashed houses in varying states of repair. One such artery is the steep Rua dos Peleteiros, which name means "street of the furriers" and refers to the old-time businesses that were founded here hundreds of years ago.
You'll pass through squares like the Praça de Camões, which is undoubtedly the most beautiful in the region and features the old town hall, which has a decorated coat of arms and a lovely arcade.
If you keep going up the hill on Rua dos Peleteiros, you'll finally reach the medieval castle that gave Castelo Branco its name. This is the city's highest point, and the shape of the single tower can be seen from a long distance. The castle was a Templar fortification built in the early 13th century.
The castle suffered significant loss during the Portuguese Restoration War in the 17th century, and then again during the War of the Spanish Succession and Napoleon's Peninsular Wars, and by the 1800s, its stone had been quarried for city buildings. Despite this, you still get a decent look at how the castle used to be and, above all, can enjoy the perfect view of Castelo Branco!
If you love the silence and nature, you'll find it in the 40 kilometres of Tejo International Park which is filled with fauna and flora rarities.
The Tejo Internacional Natural Park area contains 154 bird species, 44 mammal species, 15 amphibian species, 20 reptile species, 12 fish species, and 153 insect species including holm oaks and cork oaks, heather and rosemary, turning it one of the most important protected areas in Portugal.
Here’s where the Tagus River meets Spain, blending the best of nature with historical and cultural heritage. Traces from Neolithic and Roman graves coexist with rustic settlements, and the landscape harmoniously incorporates the common architecture of nearby traditional villages, which welcome you with open arms.
Castelo Branco is well-known for its high-quality olive oil and honey, which can also make excellent gifts.
Traditional meals in this rural region of Portugal are plain, meaty, and satisfying, relying on local and fresh agricultural products, turning the food even more earthy.
If you're looking for something authentic to eat when dining out, try empadas de Castelo Branco, a pastry with pork and onion filling, soup made with local cheese, roast lamb, roast partridge, goat stuffed with bacon and herbs and, or fried liver in an onion, tomato, and paprika sauce.
Monsanto is a former parish in the municipality of Idanha-a-Nova and was voted for “the most Portuguese village in Portugal”. The village is unique as it’s one of the “Historical Villages of Portugal” and stands out for its impressive boulders in which the village is built around.
The village is perfect for walkers looking for peace and comfort, since it is surrounded by a huge array of hiking paths, including a trail that showcases the best of the area's rare rock formations.
Igreja Matriz de São Salvador, and Capela de São Miguel are also must-sees in Monsanto.
Viseu (VSE) is the closest airport to Castelo Branco. There are, however, faster ways to get to Castelo Branco. Every day, Citi Express runs a bus from Lisboa Oriente to Castelo Branco. The ride takes 2h20 and tickets range from 12€ to 14€.
Lisbon (LIS), Porto (OPO), Sevilla (SVQ), and Faro (FAO) are other nearby airports.
While there is strong public transportation to Castelo Branco from other parts of Portugal, such as Lisbon and Porto, getting a car is almost needed if you want to visit nearby towns such as Monsanto, Idanha-a-Velha, and Belmonte.
There’s also train station situated at Praça Rei D. Carlos, Estação dos Caminhos de Ferro and bus services around the town.
Castelo Branco is a relatively small region, hence there aren’t as many places to shop around other than local malls. These places are best for shopping around the city:
Forum Castelo Branco
Regional - Produtos das beiras
August is usually the hottest month of the year in Castelo Branco, going up to 25ºC. In January, the average temperature is 7ºC. and is the lowest average temperature of the whole year.
The best months to visit Castelo Branco are potentially June or September when the weather is mild but not too hot. Since the city does not get as many visitors as Lisbon and Porto, it should not be a problem if you come in July or August.
The Portuguese region of Beira Baixa is best known for its cheeses! Here it is where some of the country's best known traditional cheeses are made. Its long history of agriculture, granitic soils and healthy pastures make it the perfect place to produce curated, tasty cheese.
If you fancy non-veg food, Maranho is a traditional Portuguese dish hailing from Sertã - a district in Castelo Branco. It's made with a combination of goat meat, chouriço, ham, rice and mint.
Head out to some of the best restaurants and bars in Castelo Branco:
Boutique Do Presunto
Retiro do Caçador
There are no beaches in Castelo Branco since it is an inland city. The city, on the other hand, is well prepared for the summer months, with swimming pools that do resemble a sea! The municipality has built attractive swimming pools - Complexo de Piscinas Municipais de Castelo Branco - to provide residents and tourists with a relaxing atmosphere during the hot summer months. These pools are the country's largest and are completely fitted with leisure facilities, ensuring that their users receive the highest levels of water quality, sanitation, and security.
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