The best independent guide to north Portugal
The best independent guide to north Portugal
Trancoso is a medieval delight of Eastern Portugal.
The historic centre of Trancoso has barely altered since its zenith in the 13th century, when king Dinis married his 12-year-old bride here. Within the ancient walls are narrow cobbled streets lined with traditional houses, while cars squeeze through gateways design to prevent cavalry charges.
Standing at the summit of the hill is a heavily fortified castle, and from the top of the castle's keep the panoramic views show why a fortified town was constructed here. Trancoso was home to a large medieval Jewish community and dotted throughout the pretty cobbled streets are Jewish symbols and icons.
There are many fortified towns within the Beira region, and Trancoso (along with Almeida) are regarded as the finest. Trancoso is not large, and for a day trip it can be seen with a couple of hours of sightseeing.
You may consider spending longer here, as it makes for a great base from which to explore the region and offers a scenic town with a decent selection of restaurants, shops and late-night cafes.
Related article: The Beira region
Trancoso is a charming medieval town, and you will want to include it in your tour of the Beira region. All of the historical sights of Trancoso are contained within the city walls, and this relatively compact area.
To fully see Trancoso will only take 1-2 hours, and a visit will include the castle, the city walls, and the pretty Praça Dom Dinis. As with all of eastern Portugal public transport is patchy and a car is needed to get the most from the region.
The Portas do Prado gateway, with steps on the right to the top of the walls
There is a large car park to the south of the historic quarter, and it is best to avoid driving in the narrow streets of within the walled town. A day trip to Trancoso is often combined with the castle ruins of Marialva (20km to the north). Marialva is very different to Trancoso, and complement each other for a day trip. Trancoso is the larger town, so is the better place for lunch.
Below is a suggested tour of Trancoso, which begins at the main car park. Also on the map are the main historic town of the region (to see them zoom out on the map)
Sights of the tour: 1) Kings gate 2) Câmara Municipal 3) Praça Dom Dinis 4) Igreja de Sao Pedro 5) Rua da Alegria 6) Transcoso Castle 7) Igreja de Santa Maria 8) Town walls
The main plaza in the centre of the historic area is the Praça Dom Dinis (3). The Rua da Alegria (4) is a delightful cobbled street which leads up to castle, while in the castle is an amazing viewpoint at the top of the keep.
The city walls can be climbed at the king's gate (1) or the western gate (8); there are no handrails, and the steps are very worn, but this high point provides good views over Trancoso.
From the top of the keep in the castle, you can see all the way to the Spanish border
Trancoso makes for an ideal base from which to explore the Beira region, with its many historic towns, fortifications, and stunning natural scenery.
There is so much to see within the surrounding area (45minute drive) a whole week could be based in Trancoso. The standout fortified town is Almeida, with its star-shaped defensives and charming centre.
Castelo Rodrigo and Marialva are both scenic castle ruins positioned on high vantage points, and incredibly dramatic. Guarda is a larger fortified town, and the historic city of Viseu is only a 50-minute drive away.
To the south of Trancoso, the hills rise into the foothills of the Serra da Estrela mountains, and there are the pretty villages of Linhares and Folgosinho. The true mountains are to the south of the Serra da Estrela and crossed by the N339 road.
To the north of Trancoso Vila Nova de Foz Côa, with its Palaeolithic rock art. The Côa Valley animal inscriptions can only be viewed with a guided tour, but there is an informative museum above the valley.
There is a lot to see and do with the Beira region, but unfortunately, a car is needed to explore as there is very limited public transport.
Our opinion: For a touring holiday in the Trancso region we would suggest this order: Day 1) Trancoso & Marialva, Day 2) Almeida, Castelo Rodrigo and Pinhel (optional), Day 3) Linhares, Folgosinho, and Serra da Estrela (N339), Day 4) Monsanto (a lot of driving but worth it), Day 5) Vila Nova de Foz Côa and upper Douro (Pocinho) Day 6) Viseu
Trancoso makes for a great base from which to explore the region as it is a bustling and pretty town with many good restaurants and shops. Along with being a pretty town it also has some of the best road connections for day trips, it is served by the fast IP2 while to the south is the major A25 expressway.
Trancoso has a decent selection of accommodation and the best hotels and rental rooms are shown in the map below. If you adjust the dates to your holiday, it will display current prices and availability.