Full of history and rustic traditions, Celorico da Beira is a small town nestling on the edge of the Serra da Estrela mountains approximately 50 kilometres east of Viseu in the heart of central Portugal.
Its most famous son, Sacadura Cabral, made aviation history in 1922 by making the first-ever flight across the South Atlantic with fellow Portuguese pilot Gago Coutinho.
The pastures surrounding Celorico da Beira have long been a source of the region’s famous Serra cheese, which is made from the milk of locally-reared ewes. Produced during the winter months, the cheese is pale and slightly runny, with a thin rind.
Several old cheese shops in the centre of town cater for passing visitors and the local cheese market held in Celorico da Beira’s main square (Praça Municipal) is an event not to be missed, while every February a lively fair dedicated to the region’s tasty cheeses attracts cheese connoisseurs from all over Portugal and beyond.
The main focus of the town is its lumbering granite-built castle of pre-Roman origin, which was later refurbished by King Dinis in the 14th century and sacked by the Spanish in 1762.
Restored in the 18th century, and blessed with a painted coffered ceiling, the nearby parish church (Igreja Matriz) of Santa Maria served as a hospital for English forces during the Peninsular War.
Standing alone in a field of wildflowers a few kilometres west of Celorico da Beira, between Fornos and Matança, the large lonesome figure of an ancient dolmen is another of the town’s must-see attractions.
Where to go in central Portugal
Rising to more than 1,000 metres, Guarda to the south-east is one of the highest cities in Europe. Dating back to 1390, its fortress-like cathedral is striking for its flying buttresses, fantastic pinnacles and grimacing gargoyles.
Lying to the south-west, and guarded by the towers of its medieval castle, the ancient village of Linhares is considered one of the most picturesque places in Portugal. With two keeps to catch the eye and much of its history still intact, this picture-book fortified village (described as a living museum) was taken from the Moors by Portugal’s first king, Afonso Henriques, midway through the 12th century.
Like the walled settlement of Óbidos north of Lisbon, the old town of Trancoso just a few kilometres north of Celorico da Beira was gifted by a king (Dinis) to his queen (Isabel of Aragon) as a wedding present in the late 13th century. Today, the town is notable for its Jewish heritage largely due to the fact that the renowned Jewish author, philosopher, and physicist Isaac Cardoso was born there in 1603.
The exhilarating 30-drive south of Celorico da Beira leads you to Belmonte, one of Portugal’s most historic villages. Besides being a charming place to visit, a leading figure in the Age of Discovery, Pedro Álvares Cabral, was born within its castle walls in 1467, 33 years before his epic voyage to Brazil in 1500.
Celorico da Beira (indicated on the Google map below) is also a suitable base for people exploring the spectacular Serra da Estrela mountain region of central Portugal. Meaning ‘star’ in Portuguese, Estrela is the mainland’s highest point with an altitude of 1,993 metres and attracts many skiers and snowboarders during the winter season.
A natural barrier between southern and northern Portugal, the sceniSerra da Estrela harbours many picturesque towns and villages, including Manteigas, Gouveia, Seia and Covilhã, the latter of which is mostly famous for its high-quality wool products.
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