Castelo Branco Tourist Attractions
Castelo Branco (Altitude: 375m/1230ft), in central Portugal near the Spanish frontier, is the former capital of the old province of Beira Baixa and now chief town of the district which bears its name.
It has been celebrated since the 17th C. for the brightly colored embroidered bedspreads known as colchas. Other local products much esteemed in Portugal are goat's milk cheese and olive oil.HistoryLying so near the Spanish frontier, the town was of great military and strategic importance. Of the medieval Templar castle, the "castelo branco" or white castle, probably built in the reign of King Dinis, only scanty remains survive. In spite of its defensive walls Castelo Branco sufferred throughout its history from enemy assaults and raids, most recently in 1807, when Napoleon's troops did much damage.TownscapeApart from the lovely Jardim Episcopal Castelo Branco has no particularly notable sights or unusual townscape features. Today's Castelo Branco is centerd around the broad Alameda da Liberdade and the adjacent square, with gardens and the tourist information center. West of this newer part of town are the 16th C. town hall and some 16th-18th C. townhouses, grouped around the Praça Luís de Camoes.
Castelo Branco's principal attraction is the Jardim Episcopal, formerly the Bishop's gardens and certainly one of the loveliest Baroque gardens in Portugal. The terraced gardens, laid out in the early 18th century for Dom Joao de Mendoça, are a showpiece of Baroque extravagance and fantasy, with carefully clipped trees and shrubs, elaborately patterned flowerbeds and a profusion of basins and fountains. There is also a lavish display of Baroque sculpture - archangels, evangelists, apostles, allegorical figures, animals and, flanking a flight of steps, the complete series of Portuguese kings with the Spanish Hapsburg kings (1580-1640) rather pointedly represented by much smaler figures.
Antigo Paço Episcopal (Palácio Episcopal)
The old Bishop's Palace, on the northern edge of the Jardim Episcopal, which was originally Gothic and remodeled as Baroque in 1726, houses the Museu de Francisco Tavares Proença Júnior, with prehistoric and Roman material from the Castelo Branco area, pictures by Portuguese artists of the 16th, 18th and 19th C., tapestries, coins, furniture, armor, etc. The museum's chief treasures are the colchas mentioned above.
The church of the Misericórdia (1519), opposite the Bishop's Palace, has a Manueline doorway.
Nossa Senhora da Piedade
The main attractions of the church of Nossa Senhora da Piedade are the azulejos.
The main attraction of the church of Santa Isabel is the paintings.
Santa Maria do Castelo
Above the town are the ruins of the 12th C. Templar castle and the little church of Santa Maria do Castelo.
Miradouro de Sao Gens
From the Santa Maria do Castelo a flight of steps leads up to the Miradouro de Sao Gens, a viewpoint from which there is a far ranging prospect of the town and surrounding area.
Map of Castelo Branco Attractions