In Central Portugal’s Dão-Lafões region, Mangualde is a quiet, provincial town not far from the city of Viseu. Investigating the town and its surroundings will lead you to a Megalithic monument, Roman remains, splendid Baroque mansions and hermitages posted high on hilltops. The fertile soils in the Dão River Valley are coated with vineyards, apple orchards and wheat fields, and you’ll stumble over all kinds of interesting things on walks.
Mangualde is famed for the Feira dos Santos, a food market held in the town for centuries. At these stalls you’ll realise quickly that pork products and cured sausages are Mangualde’s strong suits, and these go great with a bold Dão Valley wine.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Mangualde:
1. Anta de Cunha Baixa
In Cunha Baixa, minutes down the road from Mangualde there’s a Megalithic monument standing alone in a field.
This dolmen could be up to 5,000 years old and was restored and cleaned up in the 80s and 90s.
It’s a funerary monument, comprising a main chamber, 3 metres across and 3.2 metres high.
This space is formed by nine granite slabs and if you inspect the stone there are faint carvings.
You reach the chamber along a corridor lined with slabs and also paved with smaller granite stones.
Archaeological digs around the dolmen have shown that it was used for thousands of years, well into the Bronze Age.
2. Santuário de Nossa Senhora do Castelo
Always visible on the town’s eastern horizon is a hermitage chapel from 1832. The building has a facade in the Baroque style from the previous and there’s a Neoclassical altar in its chancel.
This is the most recent of a series of chapels established on this perch since the 15th century to commemorate the Portuguese victory over Spain at the Battle of Trancoso in 1385. Although the building warrants a moment of your time, it’s the walk up the hill and scenery that you have to come for.
In pines, cypresses and cork oaks is a monumental stairway lined with obelisks, and at the top the platform you can soak up the views of Mangualde and its countryside.
3. Palácio dos Condes da Anadia
The seat of the Counts of Anadia is now a wine estate and may well be the finest building in Mangualde.
It’s a Baroque palace that was built between the 1730s and 1800s.
Some illustrious figures have trodden these floors, like André Masséna, marshal of the French army during the invasion of Portugal in 1810. Luís I of Portugal also came here in 1862 after the Beira Alta railway was completed.
Admire the masonry on the Italianate southern and western facades, festooned with rich masonry.
The interior meanwhile is decorated with period furniture and has glazed tiles and paintings by Italian artists like Gigagenti, Pellegrini and Lanzarotto.
4. Mosteiro de Santa Maria de Maceira Dão
It’s a small adventure to reach this abandoned Cistercian monastery, which lies in remote vine-draped countryside in the Dão River valley.
After getting off the N16 and passing the hamlet of Vila Garcia you have to use a dirt road.
The monastery shut down in 1834 after religious fraternities were dissolved in Portugal.
Before then this complex thrived for hundreds of years and dates back to 1173. The medieval tower, completed around the 1400s is in good condition, as are the monastic buildings from the 1500s like the cloister, refectory, infirmary, chapterhouse and cells.
5. Igreja da Misericórdia de Mangualde
The town’s glorious main church was constructed between 1720 and 1764 in the Baroque style by the Coimbra architect Gaspar Ferreira.
Churches for the Misericórdia fraternity are often part of an ensemble, and this one is joined to a tower, various halls and the sacristy, all with identical architecture.
Note the facade and its elegant masonry , as well as the chancel inside: The gilt-wood altarpiece may have the best workmanship in all of the Viseu diocese, while the chance ceiling has 15 panels painted in Lisbon in the 1600s.
The azulejos were painted in Coimbra in the mid-1700s and show Marian symbols and Bible scenes like Feeding the Multitude.
6. Ermida de Nossa Senhora de Cervães
There’s another old hermitage and viewpoint near the village of Santiago de Cassurrães to the east.
The patch has had a chapel since the 1100s, and the present building was completed in 1660. The architecture is a fusion of Mannerist and Baroque, and you can size up the bell-tower and scrolls on the facade’s gable.
If the door is open, duck inside to check out the painted panels on the chancel ceiling.
The other attraction is the majestic granite stairway climbing the hill to the chapel, and vistas that stretch to the Serra da Estrela in the east.
7. Termas de Alcafache
This spa is in Mangualde’s tranquil countryside, enveloped in coniferous forest, vineyards and apple orchards.
Bubbling through the granite bedrock at the site’s river is a sulphurous, sodic and bicorbonated water that is meant to be beneficial for people suffering from respiratory problems, skin diseases, motor difficulties and musculoskeletal or metabolic-endocrine disorders.
But a lot of guests come just for the relaxation and pampering, as there’s a menu of massages, mud wraps, a jacuzzi, jet showers and many other treatments on offer.
In partnership with the Dão-Lafões tourist board the spa books pop, folk and jazz artists on summer evenings.
8. Citânia da Raposeira
At the bottom of the Monte da Nossa Senhora do Castelo are the ruins of a Roman inn.
This was built during the rule of Augustus at the start of the 1st century, and sat at the junction of two important imperial roads.
The inn was a vital amenity for people travelling through, and provided accommodation, space for pack animals and even thermal baths.
The inn also was also a postal station for Rome’s “cursus publicus” courier service.
There are bilingual interpretation boards on the site, with helpful reconstructions next to each set of ruins.
9. Calçada Romana de Mourilhe
A section of one of the Roman roads that used to cross Mangualde has been exposed just southeast of the town.
This is a couple of kilometres away, between the villages of Mourilha and Mesquitela.
It’s will fascinate amateur historians and is worth doing if you’d like to get out into the countryside for a while.
The road is around 50 metres long and 5.6 metres wide.
and you can see how its surface composed of four layers: The lowest is a rough cement, followed by cement using finer stones, and on top this is gravel which was the bedding for the chunky flagstones.
Eagle-eyed visitors will notice the groove marks left by ancient chariots.
The majestic city of Viseu is 15 kilometres west of Mangualde and for fans of art and culture it’s indispensible.
The high point in more ways than one is the Adro da Sé in the upper part of the town: In one place you have the Manueline cathedral and the city’s excellent art museum, set in the seminary building.
Viseu has a valuable art heritage, and was the birthplace of Portugal’s most celebrated Renaissance painter Grão Vasco.
The museum has several works, including a polyptych that used to be on the altarpiece in the cathedral, along with pieces by Gaspar Vaz, Grão Vasco’s great rival and also a follower of the Viseu School.
11. Live Beach
Mangualde is 100 kilometres from the coast, so in this town the beach comes to you instead: Live Beach is an artificial beach that had its first summer in 2011. Opening for three months from June to September this attraction offers an arc of fine sand around a large blue pool.
You can hire sun loungers and parasols, there’s a restaurant on site and a stage where live bands sometimes play in the evenings.
The beach is wrapped in evergreen woodland, and from the water you can contemplate the Montre da Nossa Senhora do Castelo.
12. Feira dos Santos
Mangualde’s annual market/fair is nationally recognised and has a heritage reaching back more than 300 years.
It trades on the first weekend of November, and is the easiest way to connect with Mangualde’s traditions.
This definitively goes for food, as there are markets selling nuts, honey and wine, together with locally made handicrafts like pottery and embroidery.
You may get peckish from the scent of barbecues searing pork loin, cured sausage and chops.
Meanwhile the town’s restaurants have special menus during the fair, showcasing local produce like apples, pumpkins and cheese.
13. Walking Trails (Percursos Pedrestes)
The bucolic Dão-Lafões farmland Mangualde is yours to explore on five signposted trails devised by the tourist office.
Given the light topography, none of these are more than medium difficulty, and the longest, PR5, is ten kilometres and taking four hours.
You’ll amble by river canyons, olive groves, vineyards, apple orchards, cork oaks, eucalyptus and pines, as well as some history.
These might be a remote chapel, a village fountain, a medieval bridge or an ancient site like the Castro do Bom Sucesso where a Bronze Age settlement used to stand at the summit of a 765-metre hill.
14. Dão Wine
The Dão Valley has supreme conditions for wine-making: The alluvial soils are fertile and drain well, winters in this continental zone are cool and damp, while summers are reliably warm.
The warmer temperatures give us some excellent reds, made with Touriga Nacional, Jaen, Alfrocheiro and Tinta Roriz Grapes.
These are robust and full-bodied and are known to age superbly.
Of course, this is just an introduction and there are nine places to keep in mind for a wine tour of Mangualde.
Among them are farming cooperatives and distinguished country estates like the Palácio dos Condes de Anadia on the edge of town.
15. Local Food
We already know from the Feira dos Santos that meat-eaters will never go hungry in Mangualde.
The trademark preparation here is rojões à moda de Mangualde, which is pork belly and ham, cooked on a skillet and enjoyed with sautéed, turnip greens and a medley of sausages like morcela (black pudding), farinheira and chouriço.
Another local speciality is roasted chicken breast stuffed with farinheira sausage meat on a bed of spinach.
All this red meat is complemented by glass of Dão wine.
And for dessert there’s baked apples or a fondant made from pumpkin.