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Guarda is the highest city in Portugal, located at 1056 meters above sea level, between the Guarda-Sabugal Plateau and the Montejunto-Estrela mountain system, where we find the Serra da Estrela Natural Park, the largest protected area in Portugal, with the highest mountain in mainland Portugal at an altitude of 1993 meters, a winter attraction for winter ski and snowboard sports. The Guarda region is known for the quality of its smoked and hand-made cheese making. Here in Serra da Estrela we can visit the sources of the Mondego River; the Zêzere River; the River Alva and the River Alvôco. Guarda is the capital of a district, located in the Center of Portugal, and a sub-region of Beiras and Serra da Estrela, located at a distance of 199 km from Porto and 318 km from Lisbon. Guarda is a historic city, founded in 1199. The historic center of the city of Guarda shows the presence of the Jewish community throughout history.
Places to visit in Guarda
Praça Luís de Camões or Praça Velha
Praça Luís de Camões or Praça Velha: it is the busiest place in the city. Here we find the Sé Catedral da Guarda, the old Paços do Concelho, palaces of former noble families, such as the Solar dos Póvoas, the Welcome Center of Guarda, and the Balcões building with a 17th century architectural ensemble.
Cathedral of Guarda
Sé Catedral da Guarda: it is a Romanesque-style cathedral built in the 14th century, with emphasis on the headboard altar carved in stone of antion representing episodes from the life of Jesus Christ. It is the most important monument in Guarda.
Rua Francisco de Passos
Rua Francisco de Passos: known as Rua Direita, it is the main axis of the medieval area of Guarda. In this street, the shops of commerce are installed in buildings with rich and varied architectural features, with facades of the 16th century in architectural style from the reign of D Manuel I, and buildings of architecture by the Spanish king Filipe I, who dominated Portugal during the 16th century.
Castle of Sabugal
Castelo do Sabugal: it is a medieval castle classified National Monument, located on the top of the hill over the city of Sabugal, with great importance in antiquity for allowing control over the Côa river. The tradition says that it was in the square of this castle that the famous miracle of roses took place, with Queen Santa Isabel and King Dinis as protagonists.
Urban Park of Rio Diz
Rio Diz Urban Park: it is a green park located in the center of Guarda, very popular with families with children, due to the playground and the green spaces that allow life and outdoor play, also very popular by young people to practice sports, and people of all ages to walk and enjoy nature. In the urban park of Rio Liz we find a café with a terrace and large lawned areas with large trees.
Centum Cellas Tower
Torre de Centum Cellas: it is a Roman building from the 1st century, approximately 12 meters high, classified as a National Monument, located on the Santo Antão hill.
Castle of Guarda
Guarda Castle: it is a 12th century castle in the Gothic style, built in granite. With the expansion of the city, part of the castle walls were demolished, however we can still visit parts of the castle throughout the city, namely the Porta d`el Rei, one of the circulation doors of the defensive complex of the Middle Ages; the Porta e Torre dos Ferreiros, built to defend the city in the 12th century; the Porta da Erva, one of the city’s circulation gates dating back to the 13th century, also known as Porta da Estrela; the Torre de Menagem, built in the 13th century to integrate an imposing military and residential structure, the Alcáçova, where the chief mayor and his family lived, at the same time as a military garrison; Torre Velha, located in the northern part of the city, is the remaining building of the primitive castle ordered to be built by the Portuguese king D Sancho I; and Bairro Judaico, a Jewish place located in the Parish of São Vicente within the walls, includes Rua de São Vicente, Rua Direita and Largo de São Vicente. The main building of this Jewish community is the Synagogue. There are records of the Jewish presence in Guarda since the 13th century.
Termas do Cró
Termas do Cró: they are a hotel with thermal treatment, part of a project of the Association of Termas de Portugal that aims to promote the Spa that are part of the network composed by Termas de Alcafache, Termas de Almeida – Fonte Santa, Termas de Águas – Penamacor, Termas do Bicanho, Caldas da Felgueira, Caldas da Rainha, Termas do Carvalhal, Termas da Curia, Termas do Cró, Termas do Ladeira de Envendos, Termas de Longroiva, Termas de Luso, Termas de Manteigas, Termas de Monfortinho, Termas da Piedade, Termas de Sangemil, Termas de São Pedro do Sul, Termas de Unhais da Serra, Termas de Vale da Mó and Termas do Vimeiro.
Museum of Guarda
Guarda Museum: it is an archaeological museum installed in the old Episcopal Seminary built in 1601, with a permanent exhibition where we can find two Bronze Age swords, a Hispanic annular fibula from the 5th / 6th centuries BC. C., the collection of Roman numismatics, an Imperial Roman torso of the 2nd century, a biface (the first prehistoric cutting tools) dated 100 thousand years ago, and the Manueline charters of the city of Guarda.
Mendo Castle Castle
Castelo de Castelo Mendo: it is a historic medieval walled village, where you can visit parts of the castle, namely the citadel, the keep, around the village, and the Porta da Vila. From the Castle we can see the entire Via River valley.
Castle of Vila do Touro
Vila do Touro Castle: it is one of the five castles built in the municipality of Vila do Touro, with a large part of the castle in a state of ruins, however it is a historic site with a medieval environment. From the top of the castle walls we can enjoy a panoramic view over the neighboring towns of Abitureira, Arrifana, Baraçal, Guarda, Martim Pêga, Pega, Sabugal and Seixo do Côa.
Castro do Jarmelo
Castro do Jarmelo: it is an old town classified as a Property of Public Interest, dating from the Iron Age, Roman and Medieval Christian times. It is a walled castle located on an elevation of the Planalto da Guarda, in the place of the old village of Jarmelo. Access to the castro is via a Roman cobbled road.
Ponte de Sequeiros: it is a fortified medieval bridge, supported by three full arches over the Côa river, probably built in the 13th century.
Convent of São Francisco
São Francisco Convent: it is a historic convent built in the 13th century outside the city walls to provide support to the residents there. Currently, the convent houses the Guarda District Archive. Inside this building we highlight the church, a closed courtyard and the cloister.
Fountain of Santo André
Chafariz de Santo André: built in the 18th century, it is one of the largest fountains in the city of Guarda.
Igreja da Misericórdia: it is one of the most important buildings from the Baroque era of the city of Guarda, a church built in the 18th century, it stands out for the royal weapons of the Portuguese king D João V, and for the image of Nossa Senhora da Misericórdia .
Church of São Vicente
Igreja de São Vicente: built in the 13th century inside the walls, it stands out for its two towers with bells, the tiles and the frames that portray episodes from the life of Our Lady and Jesus Christ.
Paço Episcopal e Seminário
Episcopal Palace and Seminary: built by the Bishop of Guarda D. Nuno de Noronha in the 17th century, it is the place where the Paço da Cultura is currently installed.
Former Sanatorium of Guarda
Former Sanatorium of Guarda: the Old Sanatorium Sousa Martins is a listed building of Public Interest, built at the end of the 19th century marks the beginning of the struggle in Portugal against tuberculosis.
Solar dos Póvoas
Solar dos Póvoas: it is a historic manor built in the 18th century, it stands out for its architecture and good condition, one of the most beautiful buildings in the city of Guarda.
Places to visit near the city of Guarda
Serra da Estrela
Serra da Estrela: it is the highest mountain in mainland Portugal, it includes the first natural park created in Portugal, with about 101 thousand hectares, on July 16, 1976. Serra da Estrela is where we find temperatures lowest in Portugal in winter, with regular snowfall during winter, where we find the only ski resort in Portugal, at a maximum altitude of 1993 meters in the Tower, covering the three municipalities of Covilhã, Seia and Manteigas. The Guarda region is well known for its gastronomy, namely Serra da Estrela cheese, carqueja rice, juniper liquor, honey brandy or Manteigas trout, and for the creation of Serra da Estrela dogs, with watchdog and herding characteristics. In Serra da Estrela we find the source of the two largest exclusively national rivers: the Mondego and the Zêzere rivers. It is in the Vale do Côa, in the Serra da Estrela natural park, that there is the most amazing set of rock engravings outdoors in the world. There are twenty-five lagoons that we can visit.
Celorico da Beira
Celorico da Beira: it is a village located at 550 meters of altitude in the extreme north of Serra da Estrela, with about 7100 inhabitants. In Celorico da Beira we highlight the Church of Santa Maria, the Church of Misericórdia, the Solar do Queijo and the Museum of the Farmer and the Cheese. This town is known as the “Cheese Capital of Serra da Estrela”. The most emblematic locality of this municipality is Linhares da Beira, classified as Historic Village. The heritage of this village includes the castle, the pillory and the Mother Church of Nossa Senhora da Assunção. With stunning landscapes, it is the place of choice for Paragliding and the stage for regular free flight championships.
Covilhã: is a city located southwest of Serra da Estrela with approximately 52 thousand inhabitants. We highlight the visit to the Royal Cloth Factory of Covilhã, the Wool Museum of the University of Beira Interior, the Chapel of Santa Cruz, the Chapel of São Martinho, the Church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição, the Church of Misericórdia, the pillory, the city walls, the Roman Temple of Senhora das Cabeças in Orjais. Near Covilhã we can visit the spa resort of Unhais da Serra, with water at 31ºC and indicated for the treatment of rheumatism, problems in the respiratory tract and skin problems. In terms of landscape, we highlight the covão do Boi, the Alto da Pedrice gravel pit, the Glacier Valley of Alforfa, Piornos and the Varanda dos Carqueijais. The highest point of Serra da Estrela is the “Torre”, shared by Covilhã, Seia and Manteigas
Fornos de Algodres
Fornos de Algodres: is a small village comprising the 12 parishes of Algodres, Casal Vasco, Cortiçô and Vila Chã, Figueiró da Granja, Fornos de Algodres, Infias, Juncais, Vila Ruiva and Vila Soeiro do Chão, Maceira, Matança, Muxagata, Queiriz, and Sobral Pichorro and Weasels.
Gouveia: it is a city located in the western part of Serra da Estrela and has approximately 15 thousand inhabitants. Gouveia is approximately 700 meters above sea level. In this municipality there is the Municipal Museum of Modern Art Abel Manta, the Municipal Library Vergílio Ferreira, the Paços do Concelho, the Casa da Torre, the Church of São Pedro, the Church of Misericórdia. Close to the city is the Convento de São Francisco. With regard to the natural heritage, there are highlights of Casais de Folgosinho, Santinha plateau, fragments of Penhas Douradas, Vale do Rossim and Sumo do Mondego.
Cabeça do Velho: it is an imposing rock in the shape of a human head, located on the edge of the n232 road that connects Gouveia. The Cabeça do Velho is a reference point for photographs with the landscape of the Serra da Estrela Natural Park.
Manteigas: is a village located in the heart of the Serra da Estrela Natural Park, with approximately 3500 inhabitants. The village of Manteigas is approximately 775 meters above sea level. Regarding the built heritage, we highlight the Casa das Obras, a noble manor built in the center of this village. Near Manteigas there is a spa, considered suitable for treating problems in the airways, bones and skin. Manteigas has a very rich natural heritage, namely the Magro, Raso and Gordo jars, Rua dos Mercadores, the Fragão do Corvo viewpoint, the Santo António Nave, the Poço do Inferno, the glacial valley of the Zêzere river, the Seixo Branco , Vale das Éguas and Covão da Ponte.
- Poço do Inferno: is a waterfall located near the village of Manteigas, in Serra da Estrela, with a waterfall to a small lagoon of transparent water surrounded by rock and nature.
Mêda: it is a city located approximately 670 meters above sea level in the Serra da Estrela, known for its great scenic beauty and for the production of wine. As some historical heritage, we highlight the 16th century Mother Church, the Clock Tower, the Church Square Fountain, the Espírito Santo Fountain, the Municipal Museum and the 18th century Manor House. Near Mêda we highlight the historic village of Marialva, the Archaeological Site of the Vale do Mouro and the Termas de Longroiva.
Seia: is a city located in the Southwest of the Serra da Estrela, with approximately 25 thousand inhabitants. In the city of Seia we highlight the Mother Church, the Church of Nossa Senhora do Rosário, the Chapel of São pedro, the manor of Botelhos, the Church of Misericórdia, the House of Despacho, the manor of the Miranda Brandão family, the Toy Museum, Museu do Pão and the Casa das Obras Fountain, where the City Hall is installed. Regarding the natural heritage in Seia, we highlight the Lagoa Comprida, the Lagoacho das Favas, the Caniça valley, the covão do Urso, the Fervença waterfall, the Loriga canyon and wells and the river Alva.
- Museu do Pão: is a private museum with more than 3,500 m2 of covered area in a building with a south view.
- Buraco da Moura: it is a river beach with a bottom and sides in natural granite rock, surrounded by vegetation. Here we can find a small support bar.
- CISE – Serra da Estrela Interpretation Center: it is an entity dedicated to the promotion of knowledge and dissemination of the Serra da Estrela’s environmental heritage, namely the promotion of nature activities, scientific research, environmental education and nature tourism ;
- Seia Natural Electricity Museum: it is a museum with the estate of the old Senhora do Desterro hydroelectric power station, one of the oldest hydroelectric power stations in Portugal opened in 1909.
- Vale do Rossim Dam: it is a dam in the Rossim Valley, in the middle of nature, a very pleasant area for walks. This place is very popular in the summer as a river beach. Near the dam there is an ecoresort and a restaurant.
- Lagoa Comprida: is a natural lagoon set in an idyllic landscape, next to Serra da Estrela. The river beach is very popular during the summer.
Trancoso: it is a city located approximately 900 meters above sea level, part of the route Historic Villages of Portugal. In Trancoso we highlight the Municipal Park of Trancoso, the Chapel of São Bartolomeu of the 18th century, where the wedding of the Portuguese king D. Dinis with Queen Santa Isabel, the Church of Santa Maria de Guimarães, the Church of Misericórdia, the Church was celebrated from São pedro where the Portuguese poet / prophet Bandarra is buried, the barracks of the English General Beresford, the Ducal Palace in the old Jewish quarter, and the castle. Near Trancoso we can visit the Anthropomorphic Necropolis (a prehistoric cemetery), the Chapel of Santa Luzia, the Church of Nossa Senhora da Fresta, the Chapel of Senhor da Calçada, the Fonte da Vide, the Fonte Nova, and the Convento de Frades .
Vila Nova de Foz Côa
Vila Nova de Foz Côa: is a city located in the district of Guarda with approximately 3 thousand inhabitants. Vila Nova de Foz Côa is World Heritage Site of Humanity by UNESCO due to its outdoor rock engravings in the valley of the River Côa, one of the largest archaeological centers of rock art in Europe. In Vila Nova de Foz Côa we highlight the Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Conceição, the Chapel of Santa Luzia, the Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Veiga next to the Douro River, the Chapel of Santa Bárbara, the Chapel of São Pedro, the Chapel of Santo António , the Pocinho Dam and Station, the Associative Game Reserve and the Aflitos Viewpoint. The gastronomy of Vila Nova de Foz Côa has typical dishes such as wild boar, roast kid, almond cakes, supplications, fish migas, smoked meat and wild asparagus omelets. In Foz Côa is the place where the “Barca Velha” wine is produced, one of the most respected wines in Portugal.
Economy to Watch
The Guarda district lives mainly from the automotive, food, textile and wood processing industries, from livestock raising with cattle and goats, and from growing potatoes, cereals, wine and olive oil. With an economy with a productive structure divided into three main sectors: trade with 41% of the activity, 23% in the manufacturing industry with 23% and the construction industry with 15%. In the manufacturing industries, food, textiles and the transformation of natural resources into energy should be highlighted, with emphasis on wind energy. Wine production plays an important role in the economy and has been increasing its export capacity: over 620 thousand bottles of wine, approximately 21% of production, is destined for markets such as Poland, France, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Angola, Brazil, China and the USA according to the Regional Wine Commission. Another typical product that is increasing its export capacity is cheese, with seventeen certified cheese producers, including seven producers of Serra cheese, which are increasing their sales to various markets, with a special emphasis on the Chinese market .
The Polytechnic Institute of Guarda plays a central role in the economy of this Portuguese region since it allows to fix young population, increase business competitiveness and promote investment in Research and Development. This Educational Institution contributes 72% of the knowledge in this area.
Guarda has a strong growth potential, located in a strategic region that includes the main rail and road routes of the Iberian Peninsula. This region serves as a strategic position for companies wishing to expand to the Iberian and European markets.
Crafts from Guarda
The handicrafts of the Guarda region are very rich and ancestral. The main products, agricultural and craft industries of this Portuguese locality are:
- Olive oil: with a production of millions of liters of oil practically dedicated to export to Italy, Spain and the USA;
- Sausages: in the municipality of Guarda, blood sausages, flour, sausages, ham and tripe are produced;
- Queijo da Serra: it is a cured cheese made by hand from hundreds of years ago using sheep’s milk fed from free pasture, one of the most popular cheese in Portugal, with DOC (controlled denomination of origin) certification from European Union. Serra cheese was named one of the 7 Wonders of Gastronomy in Portugal in 2011
- Maçainhas bells: they are bronze bells produced by hand in the village of Maçainhas since ancient times. The Apple Bells are used around the sheep’s neck, in order to signal the shepherd regarding the animals on the pasture.
- Gonçalo basketwork: it is a millenary activity from a time prior to the Roman occupation, which consists in the artisanal production of wicker and wicker baskets as everyday utensils.
- Papa’s Blanket: it is a traditional Portuguese handmade blanket from the Guarda region, created from the artisanal activity of producing blankets created from the churra wool extracted from the native Portuguese sheep of the mondegueira breed, from the Guarda region . Textile production was boosted in the 18th century by a project of the Portuguese government at the initiative of the Marquis of Pombal
- Cutlery of Knives of the Verdugal: is a craft activity of production of knives of steel blade and wooden handle.
- Community oven: it is a tradition still present in some locations in Portugal, where the presence of a community oven allows the inhabitants families to gather and bake the bread produced from the flours produced from their rye, wheat crops and corn.
Gastronomy from Guarda
Guarda’s gastronomy is traditional, varied and intense. The typical dishes of this region include specialties such as: Grain broth; Chestnuts Soup; Lagareiro roasted cod; Cod to the Count of Guarda; Lagareiro roasted cod; Trout; Morcelas; Roasted lamb; Wild Boar Chops with Chestnuts; Cherries; Apples; Peaches; Sweet rice; Pumpkin jam; Children; Serra cheese; Creamy cheese.
Fairs and pilgrimages in the Guarda region
In Guarda district there are several festivals and pilgrimages:
- Senhora do Mileu Pilgrimage, held annually in August;
- Pilgrimage of Nossa Senhora da Misericórdia, held annually in September;
- Pilgrimage of São Pedro, happens annually in April;
- São Francisco Fair, held annually in October;
- Festa do Senhora do Açor.
Guarda, the City of Five F`s
Guarda is known as the city of the 5 f’s, characterized as Forte, Farta, Fria, Fiel, and Formosa:
(Forte) Fort: due to the defensive position of the castle, and the granite stone, which characterizes the natural and urban landscape of Guarda;
(Farta) Plenty: due to the fertile subsoils and the large number of water courses that guarantee the sustainability of the region;
(Fria) Cold: due to the climate caused by the altitude and proximity to Serra da Estrela,
(Fiel) Faithful: due to the historical fact that its people have been from ancient times, loyal, integral, honest and hospitable;
(Formosa) Formosa: due to the beauty of the landscapes, heritage, gardens, and natural parks.
History of Guarda
The city of Guarda received its first charter in 1199 attributed by D Sancho I, the second Portuguese king. The city of Guarda is the capital of a district with the same name, being one of the largest Portuguese municipalities with regard to the number of parishes, physical area and number of inhabitants. This city in the central region of Portugal is portrayed as being tall, mountainous, historic and monumental.
This Portuguese town has more than 800 years of history and a unique heritage in the country, with two ex-libris: Torre de Menagem, where you can see a landscape of rare beauty and as far as Spain and the Cathedral.
The district of Guarda is distinguished by the quality of its air since the 19th century, reflected in the construction of a sanatorium dedicated to the cure of tuberculosis by order of Queen D Amélia in the 19th century and by the “Iberian Bioclimatic City” prize awarded in 2002 by the Federation European Bio Climatism.
Administrative organization of the district of Guarda
The Guarda district borders the districts of Bragança, Castelo Branco, Coimbra and Viseu. This region is crossed by the river Douro, Mondego, Zêzere and Alva. The Guarda district is organized in the 14 municipalities: Aguiar da Beira, Almeida, Celorico da Beira, Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo, Fornos de Algodres, Gouveia, Guarda, Manteigas, Meda, Pinhel, Sabugal, Seia, Trancoso, and Vila Nova de Foz Côa. And in the 43 parishes of Adão, Aldeia do Bispo, Aldeia Viçosa, Alvendre, Arrifana, Avelãs da Ribeira, Avelãs de Ambom and Rocamondo, Benespera, Casal de Ash, Castanheira, Cavadoude, Codesseiro, Corujeira e Trinta, Beech, Famalicão, Fernão Joanes , Gonçalo, Gonçalo Bocas, Guarda, Jarmelo São Miguel, Jarmelo São Pedro, João Antão, Maçainhas, Quince, Means, Mizarela, Pêro Soares and Vila Soeiro, Panoias de Cima, Pega, Pera do Moço, Porto da Carne, Pousade and Albardo , Ramela, Rochoso and Monte Margarida, Santana da Azinha, Sobral da Serra, Vale de Estrela, Valhelhas, Vela, Videmonte, Vila Cortês do Mondego, Vila Fernando, Vila Franca do Deão, and Vila Garcia.
Facts and curiosities about Guarda
- The native of Guarda is called egitaniense or guardense
- Guarda was the birthplace of the Portuguese language, when in 1189 a Galician troubadour wrote a text for his beloved;
- Municipal holiday: 27th of November;
- Guarda city population: approximately 26 thousand inhabitants;
- Population of the municipality: approximately 43 thousand inhabitants;
- Population of the district: approximately 175 thousand inhabitants;
- Area: 712.1 km2;
- Year of foundation of the city of Guarda: 1199 by D Sancho I;
- Portugal Region: Center;
- District: Guarda;
- Old Province: Beira Alta;
- Economy: 41% in the trade sector, 23% in the manufacturing industry and 15% in construction;
- Municipal Holiday: 27th of November.