Days of pomp and splendour
Take a three-day tour of the main cities in central Portugal and admire all the extraordinary details of the 17th and 18th-century arts.
Begin this trip in Coimbra by visiting the Museu Nacional de Machado de Castro, which houses the oldest remains of the Roman city of Aeminium. Note the baroque rarities such as the Pietá, a superb example of 17th-century Portuguese sculpture, or the Sacramento Monstrance, a remarkable example of the goldsmith’s art in the 18th century.
Continue from here to the University and admire the breathtaking Biblioteca Joanina, one of the most beautiful libraries in Europe. With its imposing façade, replicated on the inside with triumphal arches decorated with gilded woodcarving, its shelves bear the accumulated knowledge of 300,000 volumes of inestimable value, published between the 16th and 18th centuries. Next to this is the surprising Capela de São Miguel with its monumental baroque organ and its walls lined with tile panels.
Next, move on to the Vista Alegre Museum, close to Ílhavo, where you can see a curious oratory in the shape of a boat. Close by, in the Capela de Nossa Senhora da Penha de França, you can admire the marble tomb of the Bishop Dom Manuel de Moura. In Aveiro, the final stop for this first day, make sure to visit the Convento de Jesus, whose chancel contains a remarkable example of gilded woodcarving, so perfect that it gives the impression of being a piece made by a goldsmith.
If you have some time left before stopping to rest for the day, you can always take a brief trip to Arouca. Visit the monastery, the hub of activity in this region for many centuries, where you can admire the church’s 18th-century organ and the remarkable choir stalls. Spend some time getting to know the Sacred Art Museum housed here, and, amongst so many exuberant pieces, note the delicate limestone sculpture of St. Gertrude.
The first stop on your second day is the city of Viseu, which is worth taking some time to explore on foot. You will certainly notice the many manor houses here, as well as the homes bearing the coats of arms of their owners from the 17th and 18th centuries. Make sure to visit the cathedral with its remarkable altarpieces from the time of Dom João V, as well as the two beautiful baroque churches of Igreja do Carmo and Igreja dos Terceiros de São Francisco.
Continue on to Guarda and cool yourself down at the Chafariz de Santo André, a fountain that stands as a fine example of the baroque style in civil architecture. And then head on to Almeida. This historical village is a fortress that was built in the 17th century, completely surrounded by walls in the shape of a regular polygon. Walk along the top of the fortifications, exploring the ramparts and casemates, and, as the day draws to an end, rest for a while as you imagine the battles fought here in order to defend Portugal’s independence.
For your third day, we suggest an itinerary that will take you through other historic villages, such as Castelo Mendo, Belmonte, Sortelha and Castelo Novo. At this last one, note the fountain in the typical style of the reign of Dom João V built into the façade of the former town hall, which is considered to be the village’s most distinctive feature. Continue on to Castelo Branco, whose main attraction is the baroque Episcopal Palace and its gardens. Round off your trip with a walk through this green space, with its harmonious combination of lakes, fountains, flower beds and staircases decorated with statues of the kings of Portugal.
In Coimbra, discover a library of 250,000 books stored on shelves made of gilded exotic woods.
Visit Aveiro, one of the most beautiful cities in Portugal.
In the shadow of the cathedral, old houses, narrow streets and doorways with coats of arms carved in granite make up the ancient town of Viseu.
Viewed from the air, this fortified town looks like a 12-pointed star, due to the shape of the bulwarks that surround it.
Discover these historic villages with their untouched landscape and their traditional way of life.