Portugal City Travel Guide: Guarda
As the name implies, Guarda, has its origins as a fortress town guarding the frontier of Portugal from approach from Spain. During its long history, Guarda was occupied by the Romans, the Visigoths and later the Moors.
Guarda, located 70km east of Viseu, is also Portugal's highest town at an altitude of over 1,000m
Constructed mostly from granite, Guarda is an elegant town which earns the soubriquet "forte, farta, fiel e formosa" (strong, wealthy, loyal and beautiful) from its proud residents.
Guarda's most famous attraction is its fortress-like Sé, a granite cathedral built between 1390-1540 and including a number of different architectural styles including its Gothic extrior and intricate Manueline flourishes. The interior is distinguished by a beautiful Renaissance, white marble altar.
Guarda's cathedral stands adjacent to the town's main square - the Praça Luis de Camões - and a statue of Dom Sancho I, who founded the city in 1199. The main square has a number of cafes and includes Guarda's turismo.
Around the cathedral are remains of what is left of Guarda's city fortifications including the Torre dos Ferreiros (Blacksmiths' Tower), the Porta da Erva and the Porta d'El Rei. The streets in this area once made up the medieval Jewish area and are still the most atmospheric in Guarda to stroll.
The Torre de Menagem, south west of the cathedral is set in a park and is the former keep of Guarda's castle. The tower is at 1056m, the highest point in town with wonderful views.
The Museu da Garda (Tel: 271 213 460) is housed in the former bishop's palace and has displays of Roman antiquities, paintings, furniture and ceramics.
Two of the town's historic churches are Igreja da Misericordia and Igreja São Vicente.
The nearby village of Belmonte is home to the descendants of Jewish families who fled persecution in Spain and Portugal in the latter part of the 15th century and managed to maintain their faith in secret in this remote part of the country. A small, free museum charts their incredible history at Rua da Portela 4. The village still retains the narrow streets of its old Jewish quarter with the addition of a new synagogue.
Guarda Tourist Office
Guarda Tourist Office.
Praça Luis de Camões, 21.
Tel. 271 205 530.
Getting to Guarda
Guarda's train station is 5km north east of the centre of town with regular buses connecting the station to the main bus station. There are also lots of taxis.
There are trains from Guarda to Coimbra (2 hours, 30 minutes-3 hours), Lisbon (4hours-5 hours, 30 minutes), Mangualde (55 minutes) and Porto (3 hours, 50 minutes-4 hours, 35 minutes).
The A25 highway heads east to the Spanish border and Vilar Formoso with the A23 going south to Covilha. The E80/IP5 runs west to Aveiro, connecting with the north-south A1/IP1 which links Porto and Lisbon.
Guarda has bus connections from the bus terminal at Rua Dom Nuno Alvares Pereira near the city market to Almeida (70 minutes), Coimbra (2 hours), Covilha (45 minutes), Lisbon (3 hours, 30 minutes), Porto (3 hours), Vila Nova de Foz Coa (90 minutes) and Viseu (75 minutes).
Buses also go to Salamanca in Spain with onward connections to Madrid.
See here for a full listing of hotel accommodation in Guarda.
Solar De Alarcao, Rua D. Miguel De Alarcão, 25, 6300-684 Guarda, Portugal.
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Many of Guarda's eateries are located on the Rua Francisco dos Passos which runs north from the cathedral towards Igreja São Vicente. Regional specialities of the local cuisine include black pudding (morcela), kid (cabrito), wild boar (javali) and spicy sausage (chouriçada). A Floresta is a friendly choice on Rua Francisco dos Passos.
The Vivaci shopping mall has cheap eats including a branch of Soup Company as well as kebabs, pizza, and pasta outlets.
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Most of the hotels in Guarda have their own WiFi or you can get online at the Vivaci shopping mall.
The average high June temperatures for Portugal is between 22 degrees Centigrade and 26 degrees Centigrade.
Guarda, at an elevation of around 1000m above sea level, is chilly even in August in the early morning and at night.
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