Castles and historic villages
Serra da Estrela was the cradle of numerous castles. The so-called 20 Castles Route enables us to return to the beginning of the establishment of the nation, to the time when Europe’s oldest borders were defined, to the time of the struggles for the construction of a Country and a People.
There are also many historic villages in the region. Located in or near border areas, several villages have a place in history due to their military vocation for the defence and consolidation of Portuguese territory. A visit to these villages offers a trip to mediaeval, Roman or even Palaeolithic times.
The Jewish Quarters
Until the early 20th century, the interior of Portugal was home to the last secret Crypto-Jewish community in the Iberian Peninsula and possibly in Europe. Even today, many towns on Serra da Estrela retain traces of the rich and ancient Jewish Portugal, present in the architecture, the names, the commercial activity, the textile industry and of course, the collection in the Belmonte Jewish Museum and Synagogue. Travelling this so-called Ancient Jewry Route is to honour the country's history and experience a culture that was decisive in the movements of the Portuguese and Spanish Discoveries, the development of trade and the increase in the woollen textile industry in Serra da Estrela.
Check out the region’s various history, cultural and architectural heritage museums.
THE NAVIGATORS - Pedro Álvares Cabral
Despite having no connection with the sea, Serra da Estrela was, nevertheless, a strong driving force behind the Portuguese discoveries, and produced many of the 15th century’s great scientists, discoverers and explorers. Its villages and towns gave birth to men who proved to be crucial figures in the major discoveries of 500 years ago: Pedro Álvares Cabral was born in Belmonte, Pêro da Covilhã, as the name implies, was born in Covilhã, and Henry the Navigator himself was forever linked to these lands on being appointed Lord of Covilhã by his father.
Discovering these explorers of former times who succeeded in this region is another challenge that Serra da Estrela offers visitors who want to follow the so-called Route of the Discoverers
The Belmonte, Covilhã and Seia Museums
Belmonte, Covilhã and Seia were the birthplace of several Portuguese explorers. Visit their museums and get to know their history, their cultural and architectural heritage, as well as the big local names such as Pedro Álvares Cabral. We would particularly recommend the museum of the discoveries, "Discovering the New World". This is a unique project in Portugal, which put the latest interactive technologies to use in the museum, to engage visitors in a reunion with some important moments in our history, such as the Age of Discoveries, the finding of Brazil and its establishment as a country. Discover, too, the Jewish Museum and the brand new Cheese Museum in Covilhã, amongst many others.