A Tour of the City
From the Guarda Museum to the Cathedral. From Praça Velha to the Jewish Quarter. Step by step, past towers and walls, gardens and artistic churches, or discovering a collection of Medieval or Renaissance relics.
Leave from the Tourist Office, housed in the Town Hall building, in Rua Infante D. Henrique, and turn left to Praça do Município. At the end of this square stands the Hotel Turismo, designed by Raúl Lino, while close to the José de Lemos Garden the ancient Convent of S. Francisco has stood since 1246, today the District Archive. Continuing along to the right, as far as Largo Frei Pedro, visit the Guarda Museum, housed in the seventeenth century seminary, linked by a chapel to the Bishop's Palace. On the ground floor of the museum are four rooms chronologically exhibiting pre-history, the Roman period, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The Arms Room is in the basement and on an upper floor temporary folk, handicraft and painting exhibitions are open to the public.
From the Museum climb Rua Camilo Castelo Branco to the Ferreiros tower. Take a look at the eighteenth century Chapel of S. Pedro and at the stretch of wall dating from the thirteenth century. A niche enshrining Our Lady of Affliction can be seen inside the Tower. Leaving by Rua da Torre, turn left into Rua dos Clérigos, so named because the cathedral clergy used to live here. There are two twin vaulted arch doorways in this street, nºs 7 and 9, and a medieval oven inside the Muralha Bar. The street ends at the east end of the cathedral next to the Alarcão Mansion dating from the seventeenth century, with a chapel in its courtyard, and today used as a tourist guest house.
Taking Rua D. Miguel de Alarcão you will pass the Santa Clara School before reaching the Keep, the last vestige of Guarda's castle, where there is a fine view over the cathedral, the city, the mountains and the plain. Walk back to the Solar Teles Vasconcelos where the Municipal Library stands and a garden with an open leisure area, until youreach the main facade of the cathedral. A visit to the cathedral begins by entering the side door off Praça Luís de Camões (Praça Velha). The cathedral is fortified and has turreted flying buttresses and a fringe of fleur de lys. The finest of its three entrances is the North side door, facing Praça Velha. The doorway is in flamboyant Gothic style and above it there is a Manueline window. The main faced faces the west on Largo Dr. Amândio Paúl and has a Manueline doorway protected by two octagonal bellturrets. In the Gothic interior of the cathedral there is a central nave and two lateral naves that culminate in two side chapels and the high altar, decorated with a magnificent sixteenth century Renaissance retable, sculpted in Ança limestone by João de Ruão, in his Coimbra workshop. The work is magnificient, and bears four vertical levels of apostles, evangelist and biblical figures crowned by the scene of Christ' s passion. The chair of the clergy stand in the transept and the private chapels of the Pinas and the Ferros stand in the right lateral nave.
This square has been the heart of the city from the twelfth century and among the many buildings that stand here is the ancient Manueline Town Hall. On Rua Francisco de Passos, formerly Rua Direita, there are seventeenth century houses at nºs 14, 15 and 19, a sixteenth century house at nºo 21 and at nº 41 a beautiful Renaissance window. The church of S. Vicente is in Baroque style dating from the eighteenth century, with fine tiled panels in the nave depicting the life of Christ. Rua de S. Vicente continues as far as the Portas d'El Rei that are Surrounded by a stretch of old city wall circled by a road.
When you turn the corner of Rua S. Vicente with Rua do Amparo, you are in the heart of Guarda's Jewish quarter. Here everything is medieval - the cobbles, vaulted doorways and small houses huddled up against the wall or granite rocks. In Largo da Judaria a whole succession of stone terraces is ablaze with flowers. One house with a porch, nº 57, was once the Jewish Court. Rua do Amparo also leads to the former Rua Direita again, and turning left, you reach Largo do Torreão which is restful with its views and gardens.
At the end of this street is Largo do Paço do Biu where there is a seventeenth century house with a corner window and a niche that serves as one of the stations of the cross, covered traditionally in purple during Holy Week.
Nearby, in Rua D. Sancho I, a cross is engraved on the left hand doorway of the house at nº 15, a tool shop, once the sign used by the New Christians (Jews expelled from Spain and converted to Christianity) to express their new faith and protect themselves from the Inquisition.
Leaving by Porta da Erva notice on the left a stretch of wall before going up Rua Dr. Lopo de Carvalho as far as Largo João de Almeida, where is a cross and the Church of Misericordia.
Lastly, take Rua Marquês de Pombal and go and look at the imposing granite of the buildings of the Palace of Justice or the former Bank of Portugal until you return to where you began this walking tour.