Before 1214 when King Afonso II gifted the town to the Templar Knights little is known about Castelo Branco. It is believed Castelo Branco gets its name from the prior existence of a Luso-Roman castrum or fortified settlement called Castra Leuca where the castle now stands. It was the Templars who constructed the castle we see today and the town's original ramparts between 1214 and 1230.
The oldest part of town clings to the steep gradients below the castle walls. Narrow cobbled lanes are framed by crumbling whitewashed 15th-century houses with decorated doors and windows, a symbol of the wealth of traders who lived in them. Castelo Branco enjoyed great wealth during the late medieval times which financed the building of the Misericórdia and São Miguel churches as well as the lavish Episcopal Palace and its impressive gardens.
The impressive ão Miguel church serves as the city's Cathedral and originally dates back to the 13th century. Successive renovations and rebuilds have left the appearance of the church a hodgepodge of styles. Much of what we see now dates from the latter 17th Century. The façade is somewhat austere due to a lack of funds during a rebuild. The single nave interior contains a beautiful Renaissance arch with the coat of arms of D. Martim Afonso de Melo, Bishop of Guarda on top. Inside too, you will encounter altarpieces from the 17th century and paintings, as well as a beautiful organ.
Built on the summit of a hill the Romans called the Colina da Cardosa and a formidable climb from downtown the castle occupies a commanding vantage point over Castelo Branco. The area was taken from the Moors in 1165 and donated to the Knights Templars, who were instrumental in the Christian victory. The castle which is still known colloquially as the Castelo dos Templários was built between 1214 and 1230 along with its surrounding ramparts. By the end of the 13th century, during the reign of King Denis the castle included four gates: the Golden Gate, the Gate of Santiago, the Traitors' Gate and the Pelame Gate. The second set of walls was also constructed and the tower keep was added.
How much of the original castle is debatable, the walls were greatly restored in the 16th Century. Restorations and repairs were an ongoing process. The castle received a battering in the Restoration Wars (1 Dec 1640 – 13 Feb 1668), War of the Spanish Succession (9 Jul 1701 – 7 Mar 1714) and then during the Peninsular Wars against Napoleon. The castle never really recovered from the French onslaught and it fell into ruin. Castelo Branco was elevated to the status of a city in 1771 and the castle stones were pillaged to be used in new constructions in the expanding boroughs. Today the Castle is an empty shell yet the effort to walk to the ruins is well rewarded by the panoramic views from the ramparts.
Within the Episcopal Palace is the Museu Francisco Tavares Proença Júnior, which was founded in 1910. Francisco Tavares Proença Júnior was a collector of prehistoric and Roman archaeological artefacts from the Castelo Branco area. The collection has grown to include art pieces from the Episcopal Palace, paintings from Portuguese artists of the 16th, 18th and 19th Centuries, tapestries, coins, furniture and religious garments.
The museum's most treasured attractions are an extensive display of silk-embroidered bedspreads from the Vilhena collection typical of the Castelo Branco region and known throughout Portugal as colchas. This style of embroidery originates from India and China and was introduced to Portugal during the age of discovery. There is a room in the museum where you can watch women busy at work creating this centuries-old tradition. Today if you wanted to commission a personalised Colcha it will set you back thousands of Euros.
Tuesday – Sunday: 10h00 – 12h30/14h00 – 17h30, Monday: CLOSED | €2.00, Sunday AM: FREE
Largo Dr. José Lopes Dias, 6000-462 Castelo Branco, Portugal. | 39° 49' 42.4" N | 07° 29' 38.8" W
+351 272 344 277 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Adjoining the Episcopal Palace are magnificent gardens (5418 m2) which are the star attraction of Castelo Branco. It was the Bishop of Guarda, Dom João de Mendonça (1711-1736) who commissioned the gardens and they were landscaped in the Italian style. They remain one of the finest Baroque gardens in Portugal. Found within the garden is a sequence of box hedges, fountains, flowerbeds, azulejos and orange trees. The garden sits on several layers connected by steps with avenues and thematic walks leading to balconies and verandas with iron guards and stone balusters. One highlight of the gardens is the kings staircase lined with carved figures on either side. On either side, stone effigies represent the succession of the ruling monarchs of Portugal. Three of the King statues are deliberately carved smaller because they were, in fact, Spanish rulers; the detested Felipe I, II and III, the so-called “intruder kings” who ruled from 1580 to 1640. Alongside the avenues there are five lakes with water features and fountains interspersed with many other statues alluding to such diverse themes as the signs of the Zodiac, the four seasons, Earths continents, the four moral virtues and the three theological virtues.
In 2013 the Centre of Contemporary Culture opened its doors to the public, a partnership between the Berardo Foundation and the City Hall of Castelo Branco. Nighty-two pieces of art spanning twenty-two countries can be seen here. View the painting "Watchman, what of the night? " by Chilian artist Roberto Matta (1911–2002), and the "Male Torso" sculpture by Colombian figurative artist Fernando Botero (born 19 April 1932).
The building itself is a mighty piece of contemporary design with large cantilevered sections overhanging the ramps to the front and rear. Inside two dedicated galleries host temporary art exhibitions of regional paintings, photography, and sculpture amongst other installations. Found in the heart of the building is an auditorium that seats 275 people with perfect acoustics by the Catalan expert Higini Arau.
Tuesday – Sunday: 10h00 - 13h00/4h00 - 18h00, Monday: CLOSED | Adult: €3.00, Concessionary: €1.50
R. do Campo dos Mártires da Pátria S/N, Devesa) 097 Castelo Branco, Portugal
39° 49' 24.7" N | 07° 29' 24.1" W
+351 272 348 170 | email@example.com | Website
Hotel Império do Rei is set in a traditional building in the historical centre of Castelo Branco. Hotel Império do Rei offers air-conditioned rooms that include a flat-screen TV, a telephone, free wi-fi and a desk. The en-suite bathrooms include a shower with free toiletries and towels. At Hotel Império do Rei guests will find a 24-hour front desk and a bar. Other facilities offered include a shared lounge, a tour desk and luggage storage. Guests can visit the traditional Portuguese restaurants located within 50 yards and taste the local gastronomy. Services available include babysitting, dry cleaning, ironing, laundry and daily maid.
Rua dos Prazeres, nº 20, 6000-209 Castelo Branco, Portugal. | 39° 49' 33.1" N | 07° 29' 26.0" W
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Hotel Meliá Castelo Branco is located on a hilltop, offering panoramic views of Castelo Branco. It features a health club with an indoor pool, sauna and Turkish bath. The air-conditioned rooms have balconies.
The Meliá Castelo Branco's rooms are spacious and have modern furnishings. They come equipped with a minibar and a flat-screen TV with satellite channels. The private bathrooms include free toiletries and a hairdryer.
The Cozinha do Castelo restaurant offers a buffet breakfast with fresh fruit and pastries. The restaurant also serves a daily lunch and dinner buffet. Portuguese and international specialities are served à la carte. The hotel features a fully equipped gym, thee tennis courts and two squash courts. Guests can relax in the spa bath or take advantage of the indoor swimming pool. Well lit meeting rooms and air-conditioned business facilities are also available.
Rua Da Piscina S/N, 6000-776 Castelo Branco, Portugal. | 39° 49' 35.0" N | 07° 29' 56.0" W
Located within 412 metres of St. Michael's Church and 412 metres of Cargaleiro Museum, CASA 92 - OS LUGARES DE CASTRALEUCA offers accommodation complete with a flat-screen TV. All units include a fully equipped kitchenette, allowing guests to prepare their own meals. An oven and microwave are also featured, as well as a kettle.
Av. Gen. Humberto Delgado 92, 6000-081 Castelo Branco, Portugal. | 39° 49' 25.5" N | 07° 29' 25.7" W
Traditional Beira Baixa cuisine with a modern twist. Utilising the best produce the area has to offer the food here is cooked to a high standard an served in a somewhat relaxed and unpretentious atmosphere. The waiting staff are friendly and helpful, always willing to suggest a wine match with your meal. Food is prepared to order and may take longer than anticipated, I would suggest coming here for an evening if you have plans during the day. Make sure you save space for their fantastic desserts.
Monday – Saturday: 12h00 – 13h00/19h00 – 20h00, Sunday: 12h00 – 13h00
Rua Santa Maria No 13, Castelo Branco 6000-178 Portugal. | 39° 49' 22.9" N | 07° 29' 41.1" W
+351 272 030 303 | firstname.lastname@example.org | Website
A great little grill house famed for their steaks. Huge choice of meats, fish and poultry on the menu to choose from. The ambience is canteen like and bright. A great destination for a non-pretentious meal of good quality and good value. Ideal for larger groups and children too.
Daily: 12h00 - 16h00/19h00 - 23h00
Rua Doutor Henrique Carvalhao 4A R/C Esq. Quinta Da Granja, Castelo Branco 6000-235 Portugal.
39° 49' 03.5" N | 07° 30' 05.2" W
+351 272 326 406 | Website
A ham boutique! A great place for lunch, local hams and cheese modelled into various creations. Great range of sandwiches and toasts. An interesting delicatessen attached. Ample outdoor seating area in a central square, an ideal spot to enjoy a cold beer and watch the world go by.
Daily: 12h00 - 16h00/19h00 - 23h00
Rua Do Campo Dos Martires Da Patria 59, Castelo Branco 6000-097 Portugal.
39° 49' 24.1" N | 07° 29' 31.3" W
+351 272 325 085 | email@example.com | Website
Only 218km (136 miles) Northeast of Lisbon Portela Airport
GET A GREAT DEAL ON FLIGHTS:
From Lisbon take the A23 and A1 218km (136 miles) north bound.
GET A GREAT DEAL ON CAR HIRE:
Close to the train station there's a brand new coach station (Terminal Rodoviário) where services from all over Portugal stop: