Portugal City Travel Guide: Portalegre
- Population 24,000.
- Famed for its Baroque mansions.
- Situated in the north Alto Alentejo region.
- Name comes from Latin - Portus Alacer ("dry port").
- Charming town of whitewashed buildings and historic monuments.
- Situated north east of Lisbon at the foot of Serra de Sao Mamede.
- Formerly an important textile center.
Portalegre's history dates back to the mid-13th century but the city's boom years were in 15-17th centuries, when tapestry and later silk production financed the building of Portalegre's many fine merchants' mansions to be seen on the main street - Rua 19 de Junho. The old part of town still retains much of its city walls, while the newer town stretches out to the north.
The 16th century Sé on Praça do Municipio (Tel: 245 331 113) is Portalegre's rather austere cathedral, save for the pyramidal design of its twin towers. Inside are blue and white azulejos and a collection of religious paintings. The Municipal Museum, (Tel: 245 330 616) housed in an 18th century mansion, is nearby and displays a diverse collection of azulejos ceramic tiles, porcelain, furniture and even an historic car!
Portalegre's highlight is walking the Rua 19 de Junho and marveling at the faded elegance of the town's stone mansions - former homes of the rich merchants who profited from the town's early textile industry.
Portalegre's castle, off Rua do Carmo, dates from the town's foundation and has been restored recently. The towers afford good views over the city's rooftops.
The Museu da Tapeçaria de Portalgre or Museu do Guy Fino (Tel: 245 307 980) at Rua da Figueira opened in 2001 and is dedicated to the local tapestry industry. On display are tapestries depicting works of art by some of Portugal's most famous artists of the 20th century including Vieira de Silva, Costa Pinheiro and Almada Negreiros. The Tapestry Museum is housed in the 18th century, former Castel-Branco residence and is well worth a visit.
Another interesting museum is the Museu Jose Regio, which was the house of poet and novelist Jose Regio (1901-1969) for 34 years of his life in Portalegre. On display are an eclectic collection of ceramics, religious and folk art and manuscripts, which the author sold to the city on the condition the authorities restored the house after his death and made his collection available to the public. The collection of ceramics from Coimbra were obtained from migrant workers to Portalgre who exchanged them for clothes.
Portalegre's modern heart is the Rossio square in the new town, which is near to the bus station, with shuttle buses to the train station, 10km outside town to the south.
Portalegre Alto Alentejo, Portugal
Portalegre Tourist Office
Rua Guilherme Gomes Fernandes, 22 (tel. 245 307 445)
Getting to Portalegre
There are daily trains to Lisbon (3 hours, 30 mins) changing at Abrantes - take a shuttle bus from the bus station to the Estação de Portalegre.
Around three-four hours by car from Lisbon on the A2 and the A6 and IP2 highways. From Elvas or Spain (Badajoz), head north from Elvas on the N246.
The bus station (tel. 245 330 723) is just off Rossio on Rua Nuno Alvarez Pereira.
Fairly frequent buses a day make the 4 hour plus journey to Lisbon.
There are also bus connections to Elvas (90 minutes), Evora (90 minutes), Castelo Branco (110 minutes) and Estremoz (50 minutes).
Book Hotel Accommodation in Portalgre
Restaurante O Escondidinho
Travessa das Cruzes, 1
Traditional Portuguese fare
Tel. 245 202 728, closed Sunday.
Rua Nuno Alvarez Pereira, 11-15
Good, budget choices near the bus station.
Rua 19 de Junho
Bistro & bar.
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Praça da Republica
The average high June temperatures for Portugal is between 22 degrees Centigrade and 26 degrees Centigrade.
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