Belmonte maintains its medieval narrow cobbled lanes, the stone-walled houses typical of the region from which brightly colour flowers cling to or hang from windows boxes and hanging baskets.
In the 13th century Bishop Egas Fafes, instructed by King Afonso III, rebuilt the bulwarks of a Moorish castle for defence against the Castilians. Two centuries later, the Portuguese territories had expanded eastward and Belmonte was no longer a border town. The site was given to Fernão Cabral and converted into his family residence. Fernão's son Pedro Ålvares Cabral, the discoverer of Brazil, was born here in 1467. The family's coat of arms can still be seen emblazoned above a double-arched Manueline window within the side walls. Following a fire that badly destroyed the west wing in the 17th century, maybe a casualty of the Restoration War, the castle was abandoned.
The Cabral family relocated to the Casa dos Condes in the village, which is now home to the Discoveries Museum.
The castle's irregular oval shape covers around 2,265 square metres, with a keep in the southwest corner and two gates. There's an 18th-century building attached to the periphery. An amphitheatre for shows and concerts occupies the inner ramparts. Archaeological investigations carried out between 1992 to 1994 have discovered the remains of Roman ramparts and artefacts from the Roman occupation are now on display inside the keep. Recently the site was declared a National Monument and has been restored.
Tuesdays – Sundays: 19h00 – 12h00/14h00 - 17h30, Friday: 10h00 – 20h00, Mondays: CLOSED
Largo do Castelo, 6250 048 Belmonte, Castelo Branco, Portugal.
40° 21' 33.3" N | 07° 20' 53"8 W | +351 275 911 488
Below the southern end of the castle walls, within the maze of narrow streets, you'll encounter the Jewish Quarter. Belmonte was traditionally home to the largest community of Jews on the whole Iberian peninsular and the oldest synagogue dating back to the 13th century. The dozens of Jewish families who live there today are direct descendants of the Sephardic Jews. During the Inquisition, they were forced to convert to Christianity, killed or they simply fled the country. Many of these "New Christians" or Belmontenses Conversos continued to practice their faith, keeping their traditions secret, being passed on verbally from generation to generation and the practice of endogamy.
Their traditions endured, underground, hushed up and isolated, right up to the 1970s. Following the 1974 revolution, they dared to come out into the open and practice their faith again publicly. Today they remain the largest Jewish community in Portugal, a true testament to their endurance.
500 years after King Manuel I's tragic edict to expel or convert Portugal's Jews, (he bowed to pressure from Rome and Spain to reverse his earlier decision to restore Jewish freedom) the Bet Eliahu Synagogue was inaugurated. It was designed by the architect Neves Dias and opened its doors in 1996. The structure faces Jerusalem and displays the Menorah on the door and the Star of David on the gates. Further information about the Belmonte's Jews and their plight can be found in the Jewish Museum.
The old town is a pleasure to walk around, the narrow streets, Beira-style stone houses and old-worldly charm. Points of interest are signposted with carved wooden plaques. At the heart of the old town is the Largo do Pelourinho square dominated on one side by the 15th-century old town hall. In the 19th century, during the Napoleonic Wars, Jean-Andoche Junot ordered the coats of arms to be removed because Belmonte had refused to surrender to the French.
In front is a replica of the town's pillory standing on a three-step octagonal pedestal. Its form represents an olive press and is linked to a local legend. It is reported the Lord of Belmonte preferred to watch his daughter being crushed by a press than surrendering the castle. The pillory is capped with the Fernão Cabral family coat of arms.
One inescapable fact about Belmonte is the explorer and navigator Pedro Álvares Cabral was born here in 1467/8. He is famed for discovering Brazil and thus changing Portugal's fortune and history. Following Vasco da Gama's famous voyage that discovered a sailing route to India, Pedro Álvares Cabral was instructed to repeat the voyage and take thirteen ships on a follow-up mission. However, as the story goes, Cabral sailed too far west whilst traversing Africa's Cape of Good Hope and inadvertently bumped into the Brazilian coastline.
Belmonte commemorates his achievements by naming a street after him and plonking a life-sized statue of his likeness on a road junction. It was created in 1961 by Álvaro de Brée and unveiled by Juscelino Kubitschek de Oliveira, the then president of Brazil, in 1963. Pedro Álvares Cabral's effigy stands clutching an astrolabe, a sword and a cross.
Found in the square facing the castle walls are these twin chapels. Both are classified as National Monuments. The impression one is struck with is the age of the site. The Igreja de São Tiago was constructed in 1240 on the order of Maria Gil Cabral. The pantheon was added later in 1433. The original construction is typically Romanesque and with subsequent renovations, it has acquired a few gothic and mannerist characteristics. Inside the church are fragments of 15th-century frescos and a 14th-century Pietà. The ashes of Pedro Álvares Cabral along with his family members can be found inside the Cabrais Pantheon. The bell tower opposite was built in 1860.
Low Season: Tuesdays – Sundays: 09h00 – 12h30/14h00 – 17h30, High Season: Tuesdays – Sundays: 09h30 – 13h00/14h30 – 18h00, Mondays: CLOSED
Largo Cidade de Santarém 4-6, 6250-073 Belmonte, Portugal.
40° 21' 33.1" N | 07° 20' 56"1 W | +351 275 088 698 | firstname.lastname@example.org
A few kilometres North of Belmonte, just off the road to Guarda, is this architectural conundrum. Also known as the Tower of St. Cornelius, the Centum Cellas is a Roman tower that rises three stories off the ground and measures around ten by eight metres around its sides. Historians are at a loss regarding the purpose of the structure. Some have speculated it was a watchtower, while others have thought the presence of over 40 windows suggest it was part of a villa. Others think it might have been a temple. Archaeological finds around the structure have unearthed remains of Roman habitation dating from the first century AD.
The tower is part of a larger architectural site. Its location of the ancient Roman road that once linked Augusta Emerita (Merida) to Bracara Augusta (Braga) hints the site might have been a coaching inn and guesthouses. Its believed to have been owned by Lucius Caecilius and his descendants, who were farmers and tin miners.
17 Estrada da Torre, 6250-151, Portugal. | 40° 22' 38.6" N | 07° 20' 34"1 W
The former convent of Nossa Senhora da Esperanca (Our Lady of Hope) is now the luxurious Hotel Convento De Belmonte. Ecclesiastical origins of the convent have been maintained in this new, elegantly designed Hotel Belmonte. An original amphitheatre can be found in the surrounding woodland and the Pousada has an 18th-century chapel. This hotel has panoramic views over the plains across to the peaks of the Serra de Estrela mountain range. The Pousada Belmonte has excellent facilities including an outdoor swimming pool, restaurant, bar, terrace and luxurious lounge areas.
The Pousada Belmonte has 24 rooms, including a luxury double room and a suite. All rooms are named after Friars who stayed at the convent. All rooms have balconies and all modern conveniences, including an en-suite bathroom, air-conditioning, free internet access, minibar, safe, hairdryer, cable television and telephone.
Convento de Belmonte, Serra da Esperança, 6250-073, Belmonte, Portugal.
40º 20" 38.4' N | 07º 21"37.9' W | +351 258 821 751
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This small guest house is only 50 metres from the Belmonte Castle and is constructed from the local Beira sly. This property offers free WiFi throughout, 24-hour reception and a garden. The air-conditioned rooms here feature cable TV, parquet floors and a shared bathroom. A communal kitchen and lounge are also available. The reception is in the craft shop.
Largo São Tiago 9, Belmonte, Portugal.
40º 21" 31.4' N | 07º 20"54.2' W | +351 962 587 379
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Belmonte Sinai Hotel boasts a Kosher restaurant and free WiFi, a bar and free private parking within a warm and friendly atmosphere. A TV is available. It's located within a stone's throw of the village's attractions and the reception is open 24 hours a day.
Largo de São Sebastião, 6250-086 Belmonte, Portugal.
40º 21" 24.6' N | 07º 21"10.1' W | +351 275 910 800
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Expect to receive good ol' fashioned freshly prepared food, a great service and portions as generous as the smiles. This small family establishment has a homely and unpretentious atmosphere as well as being fairly reasonably priced.
Daily: 09h00 – 23h00
15 Largo Afonso Costa, 6250-026, Belmonte, Portugal | 40º 21' 31.1" N | 07º 20' 56.7" W
+351 965 283 179 | email@example.com | Website
In an ideal location in the Praça da Rebublic/Largo do Pelourinho for lunch or dinner. Using locally sourced ingredients they serve a great selection of Petiscos (Tapas), which are oddly on the large size. A well thought out wine list help you complete your dinning experience. The service is typically warm and friendly.
Monday - Saturday: 11h00 – 02h00, Sunday: 11h00 – 18h00.
Praca da Republica 8, Belmonte 6250-034-Belmonte, Portugal. | 40º 21' 30.4" N | 07º 20' 59.6" W
+351 275 913 005
Located within the shadow of Belmonte Castle this loverly traditional restaurant offers diners a true Beiras experience. Using only the freshest local products to masterfully create local cuisine. Keep an eye out for the grilled Kid, wild boar, lamb stew and the selection of local sausages. There are vegetarian options of the menu and a selection of fish dishes.
Tuesday - Saturday: 07h00 – 02h00, Sunday & Monday: 07h00 – 16h00.
Largo São Tiago 17, 6250-067 Belmonte, Portugal. | 40° 21' 34.0" N | 07° 20' 57.1" W
+351 965 283 179 | firstname.lastname@example.org | Website
237 km (147 miles) south east of Francisco de Sá Carneiro Airport PORTO. Website
GET A GREAT DEAL ON FLIGHTS:
The E80s runds North to Guarda and south to Covilhã and Castelo Branco. head west on the N232 to Manteigas and to traverse the Serra da Estrella mountain and national park. Latitude - 40º 21' 33.3" | Longitude - 07º 20' 53.8"
GET A GREAT DEAL ON CAR HIRE:
Rede Expressos run regular services to Almeida from Lisbon Sete Rios coach station and takes about two hours. Website