12 Best Historical Villages in Portugal!
If you love castles and history, read on for your guide to the 12 Best Historical Villages in Portugal! We’ve created a step-by step guide that includes everything you need to know, where to stay and even where to eat! We do recommend hiring a car for this trip as getting from one village to the other is quicker and also easier in the comfort of a car! The 12 Historical Villages of Portugal are tucked into the Central part of Portugal, more specifically the Beira Interior. These are important villages in Portuguese history, as they were home to many a battle against Moors, Christians and Spaniards. Today they are peaceful villages tucked into the beautiful landscapes of the region bordering Spain.
When to visit
The best time to visit the 12 best historical villages in Portugal is in the spring and autumn, as the weather is mild and suitable for walking and exploring. If you opt for summer, you can expect high temperatures! Thankfully there are some lovely river beaches in the area where you can cool off! If you opt for the winter, expect icy cold temperatures, rain and potentially snow!
Where to stay
There is the option to hop around between the 12 best historical villages in Portugal, but this can be a bit of a hassle, as moving around luggage, check ins and chec outs can detract from your visits! We recommend making your base the city of Guarda. This means you won’t be traveling to far to each village and the city of Guarda itself is a lovely place to rest your head after a day of exploration! Here are our suggestions:
If you are looking for the true cultural experience, this hotel is a true example of traditional architecture! Set in the heart of the historical center, with a beautiful rustic decor offers all of the comforts of home! Average price per night is 40 euros.
If you’re looking to travel on a budget, you may want to give this quaint little guesthouse a chance! Cozy rooms, set in the historical center, with prices ranging from 25 euros a night!
If you’re looking to splurge on something special, this is the hotel to book! Set about 10 minutes from the center of Guarda, it offers you a peaceful atmosphere with indoor and outdoor pools as well as a spa. Prices range from 65 euros per night.
How to map out your itinerary
We’ve created a 5 day itinerary that covers all 12 best historical villages in Portugal. Each village is unique, so we made sure to give you an ample amount of time to explore a maximum of 3 villages per day. This way you can explore everything at a leisurely pace! We recommend flying into Porto, where you can rent a car. From here you’ll travel south on your way to Lisbon. We’ll even show you a few extra spots on your way to the capital!
Day 1 – Marialva, Trancoso and Linhares da Beira
Marialva (Drive from Guarda – 42 minutes)
Set at the top of a rocky mountain range, the village of Marialva not only offers you amazing views, but a wealth of things to see! Visit the spectacular Marialva Castle, dating back to the 11th century. You also won’t want to miss out on:
- Religious Buildings – Nossa Senhora de Lourdes/ Sao Joao Baptista Chapel, Santa Barbara Chapel, Senhora dos Passos Chapel, the Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Guia, Sao Pedro Church, Santiago Church
- Monuments and other points of interest – House of the Jewess, Casa do Leao, Historic Cistern, The Cross, The Pilory, Former Town Council, Mergulho Fountain, Manueline Fountain, Anjo da Guarda Gate, Monte Gate, Santa Maria Gate, Traitor’s Gate, Manor of the Marquis, Clock Tower, Granary
- Where to Eat – Taberna do Juiz – A nice little tapas place, with delicious local delicacies and amazing local wines!
Trancoso (drive from Marialva is – 24 minutes)
A hotspot for the fight for independence, Trancoso maintains its remarkable city walls and historical center. Along with the amazing castle and its surrounding walls, you may also take a look at:
- Religious buildings – Santa Eufemia Chapel, Santa Luzia Chapel, Sao Bartolomeu Chapel, Senhora da Calcada Chapel, Nossa Senhora da Fresta Church, Misericordia Church, Sao Pedro Church,
- Monuments – Former Town Hall, Barbican, Beresford Headquarters House, Casa dos Arcos, Trancoso Battlefield, Casa do Bandarra, Gato Preto house, Casa dos Correios, Isaac Cardoso Jewish Cultural House, Senhora da Boa Morte Cross, Vide Fountain, New Fountain, Necropolis of Primitive GravesMicha Velha Rock Tombs, Sao tome Rock Tombs, Ducal Palace, The Pilory, Moutinho Garcez Manor
- Where to Eat – Chafariz do Vento – A lovely traditional space owned by Mr Miguel, and serving real home made comfort food.
Linhares da Beira (drive from Trancoso – 38 min)
A 12th century village built on the Serra da Estrela Mountain. Occupied by Romans, Visigoths and Arabs, it came back into Portuguese rule under King Afonso Henriques. Get to know the beautiful castle and explore the winding streets to see:
- Religious Buildings – Misericordia Church
- Monuments – Old Town Hall and Prison, the Old Inn, Forum and Mergulho Fountain
- Where to eat – Cova da Loba – A restaurant that combines traditional and modern decor, with delicious traditional menu options
Day 2 – Castelo Rodrigo, Almeida, Castelo Mendo
Castelo Rodrigo (drive from Guarda – 27 min)
Castelo Rodrigo has a medieval movie set feel to it. From the castle you can view the Douro River to the north and Spain to the east. You’ll also want to check out:
- Religious buildings – Our Lady of Conception, Parish Church, Santa Maria de Aguiar Monastery, Synagogue and Mikweh
- Monuments – House with Cavalry, Casa da Cadeia, Old Town Hall, Casa da Misericordia, Rabbi’s House, Medieval Cistern, Sacred Road, Christ the King, Village Cross, Medieval Fountain, Leone’s Charter, Manueline Charter, Medieval Jewry, Cristovao da Moura Palace, Village Pilory, Porta da Traicao, Sao Joao Square Gate, Monumental Palace Gate, Eastern Gate, Albarran Tower, Watchtower, Donjon, Clock Tower, Quadrangular Turret
- Where to eat – Taverna da Matilde – Great decor, mixing old and new and a delightful menu. You can choose from a great tapas menu, or enjoy regional dishes.
Almeida (drive from Castelo Rodrigo – 18 min)
A village not to be missed due to its unique quadrangle shape, built after the 1641 Restoration. Along with the castle and walls, you’ll really enjoy exploring the churches and monuments including:
- Religious buildings – Misericordia Church
- Monuments – Jose Dantas Cunha’s House, Sao Joao de Deus Fort, Blood Hospital, Clock Tower
Where to eat – Mercearia com Alma – a cute little traditional restaurant, and shop! You can buy biological teas and even local artwork, while enjoying yummy dishes!
Castelo Mendo (drive from Almeida – 25 min)
A charming village that was occupied in the Iron Age, it still holds some remnants of Roman occupation as well! Along with the Castle, city walls and five gates, you may want to have a look at:
- Religious Buildings – Sao Pedro and Sao Vicente Churches, the ruins of Santa Maria Church
- Monuments – Wishing Rock, Community Oven, Mendo and Menda, Pilory, Nobleman’s Manion and Tomb
Day 3 – Belmonte and Sortelha
Belmonte (drive from Guarda – 27 min)
A fantastic village, that was once home to Pedro Alvares Cabral, the navigator who discovered Brazil! Not only will you see the beautiful castle and its walls, but also pieces of Jewish history along the way! We recommend:
- Religious buildings – Santo Antao Chapel, Hanukkah Candlestick, Santiago Church and Cabrais Pantheon
- Monuments – Former Town Hall and Pilory, Olive Oil Museum, Jewish Museum, Vila da Quinta da Fornea
- Special notes – along the way you may want to check out Anta da caria, Castros da Caria and Castros da Chandeirinha where you can find some amazing megalithic monuments!
- Where to eat – Fio de Azeite – A cozy little tapas place where you can sample many local delicacies
Sortelha (drive from Belmonte – 22 min)
One of the best preserved of the villages, maintaining many of its monuments. Along with exploring the castle, we also recommend:
- Religious Buildings – Misericordia Church, Nossa Senhra das Neves Church, Station of the Cross
- Monuments – Lizards, the Old Lady’s Head, Arab House, Old Town Hall and Prison, the Pilory, the three Town Gates, Eternal Kiss Rock, Anthropomorphic Tombs, the Bell Tower
- Where to eat – D. Sancho – A great restaurant set in the historical center, within the castle walls!
Day 4 – Monsanto and Idanha-a-Velha
Monsanto (drive from Guarda – 1h24min)
Named one of the most traditional Portuguese villages, this is one of the most beloved on the route covering the 12 Historical Villages! The architecture is unique as the houses are built among huge boulders and rocks, which in some cases served as the roof of the house! Along with the castle, and its many beautiful gates, you won’t want to miss:
- Religious buildings – Santa Maria do Castelo Chapel, Sao Miguel Chapel, Sao Pedro de Vir-a-Corca Chapel, Ruins of the Chapel of Sao Joao
- Monuments – Executioner’s House, the three local fountains, Sao Salvador Cross, Furdas, Grotto, Slab of the Thirteen Bowls, Sao Miguel Necropolis, Patience Rock, Ruins of the Settlement of the Parish of Sao Miguel, Torre do Peao
- Where to eat – O Fornvm do Viriato – set in the heart of Monsanto, this little eatery has a great outdoor dining area with panoramic views!
Idanha-a-Velha (drive from Monsanto – 16 min)
Home to one of the country’s most beautiful archeological sites, discovered in the 1st century BC, by the Romans! Along with the castle, you should add to your itinerary:
- Religious Buildings – Sao Sebastiao Chapel, Santa Maria Church,
- Monuments – Epigraphic Archive, Baptistries, Village Oven, Roman Atrium House, Roman Bridge, the Stepping Stones across the River Ponsul, the Northern and Southern City Gates, Egitania Archeological Station
- Where to eat – Casa da Velha Fonte – A quaint little place where we recommend trying the migas that are lovingly prepared by Chef Maria!
Day 5 – Castelo Novo and Piodao
Castelo Novo (drive from Guarda – 44 min)
Nestled in the heart of Serra da Gardunha, the village will take you back to the time of the Knights Templar! With its winding roads and unique architecture, you’ll have to check out the castle and old town square as well as:
- Religious Buildings – the Chapels of Santa Ana, Sao Bras and Santo Antonio
- Monuments – Cabeco da Forca, Pavement of the Knights Templar, Roman Road, Falcao Family Home, D. Joao V and Bica Fountains, Manuela Justino Art Gallery, the Pilory, Riberia de Alpreade
- Where to eat – O Lagarto – a true traditional restaurant! Large portions of true traditional dishes! For something a bit more upscale, we have to add Pap d’Anjo to our favorite places to eat
Piodao (drive from Castelo Novo – 1h34min)
Built on the Acor Mountain, this is one of the loveliest villages, as the winding roads leading to small traditional houses is quite beautiful. It is frequently compared to a Navitiy scene! Piodao is also home to some of the prettiest springs and river beaches! Visit the castle and old town square, but add these to your to do list as well:
- Religious Buildings – Parish Church, Sao Pedro Chapel
- Monuments – the local Levada, Piodao Museum, Algares Fountain, Threshing Floor
- Special mentions – Foz d’ Egua River Beach, is the most beautiful river beach in the country! Add this to your list and we guarantee you won’t regret it!
- Where to eat – Delicias do Piodao – A restaurant with a view! Enjoy breathtaking surroundings while eating some of the best food of the region!
If you’re planning an extended stay
If you’re planning a longer holiday and love a good road trip, here are some suggestions of places to visit along the way!
From Porto to the Historical Villages there are many stopovers along the way! We recommend starting in Porto. Here you can explore some of the most iconic locations such as the Lello Bookstore, Torre dos Clerigos, take a stroll down Avenida dos Aliados and even check out what was named the most beautiful Mc Donald’s of the world!
As you work your way down along the coast, another great place to stop and explore is Aveiro! Known as the Venice of Aveiro, you can take a ride down the river in the traditional Moliceiro boats and sample the delicious ovos moles! Other special mentions along the way include Ovar, Sao Pedro do Sul and Viseu!
If you choose to drive down to Lisbon, there is a lot to be explore in Central Portugal! We recommend stopping along the Silver Coast in Nazare, Alcobaca and Peniche! Don’t miss Obidos! A lovely historical village set inside castle walls!
Lisbon as a final destination is wonderful as the buzzing city and beautiful surrounding areas allow you to explore monuments, castles and natural parks! We recommend exploring the popular neighborhoods such as Alfama and Graca. Driving along the river, you can get to know Belem and even sample a yummy Pastel de Nata! Sintra and Cascais are also quite popular and will bring you back to exploring castles!