The Castle of Torres Novas (in Portuguese, Castelo de Torres Novas) is a very picturesque monument, located about 115 km from Lisbon. Constructed in the Middle Ages as part of the Tagus Line, this military fortress helped to defend the southern border of the Kingdom of Portugal during the Christian Reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula.
Unfortunately, part of the castle was destroyed in the Lisbon Earthquake in 1755 and during the Peninsular War against Napoleonic troops. Even so, the Castle of Torres Novas is today the most popular tourist attraction in Torres Novas, because of its photogenic spots and the panoramic views over the city!
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- Brief History of the Castle of Torres Novas
- How to Get to the Castle of Torres Novas
- What to See at the Castle of Torres Novas
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Brief History of the Castle of Torres Novas
Like so many other Portuguese castles – Almourol Castle (in Vila Nova da Barquinha), Tomar Castle, and Moorish Castle (in Sintra) are just some of the examples already mentioned in this blog – the Castle of Torres Novas was founded as an Arab fortress, in this case from the twelfth century. And this same Moorish castle was definitively conquered in 1190 by King Sancho I.
In its heyday, the Castle of Torres Novas was surrounded by a wall with eleven towers and a manor house, where the Mayor of Torres Novas lived. Since then, the monument has undergone several interventions and reconstructions that have altered its original appearance. And on June 16th, 1910, the Castle of Torres Novas was classified as a National Monument.
How to Get to the Castle of Torres Novas
Let’s say you want to visit the Castle of Torres Novas on a day trip from Lisbon or on a road trip through the Santarém district (or the Médio Tejo sub-region). In that case, you can take the opportunity to discover some cities and towns in the vicinity: Entroncamento (7 km), Golegã (12 km), Alcanena (14 km), Vila Nova da Barquinha (18 km), Chamusca (20 km), Constância (20 km), Ourém (25 km), Tomar (27 km), or Abrantes (35 km).
In my opinion, the fastest and most practical way to get to the Castle of Torres Novas is by car. Nonetheless, if you don’t have that possibility, you can travel by bus for only €19 (round trip) or €10 (one way)! Leaving from Lisboa-Sete Rios station, the journey takes about 1h15-1h30, but I recommend that you consult all the practical information on the official website of Rede Expressos.
Opening Hours & Ticket Prices
The Castle of Torres Novas is open every day, from 9 am to 5:30 pm (from Monday to Friday) or from 10 am to 5:30 pm (on weekends and holidays). As far as tickets are concerned, admission is free for everyone and the visit to the interior of the Castle and the Garden is done in no specific order.
What to See at the Castle of Torres Novas
Statue of Sancho I
Did you know that the Castle of Torres Novas was first taken by King Afonso Henriques (in 1147-48), before being finally conquered by his son and successor, King Sancho I (in 1190)?
For that reason, it’s normal that the first thing you see before entering the main door of the Castle of Torres Novas is this Statue of Sancho I (in Portuguese, Estátua de D. Sancho I), honoring the founder of the town of Torres Novas.
The statue of the monarch was created in various types of stone by the Portuguese sculptor João Cutileiro. Dating back to 2006, the bust was placed in front of the Castle of Torres Novas, to celebrate the attribution of the Charter to the former town.
The Charter was granted by King Sancho I himself, on October 1st, 1190.
The Alcaidaria of the Castle of Torres Novas was the place where the official residence of the Mayor of Torres Novas was located. Erected in the 14th century, this manor house served as a prison and jailer’s house (between 1758 and the beginning of the 1960s), as well as the historical archive (until the 1990s)!
In the historical records of the municipality of Torres Novas, were found mentions of nineteen Mayors of Torres Novas, who ruled the town for almost six centuries! These names are now listed at the entrance to the Castle of Torres Novas:
- 12th century – Mendo Extrema
- 13th century – Pedro Anes
- 14th century – Gil Paes, Gonçalo Vasques, and Afonso Lopes de Texeda
- 15th century – Fernando Álvaro de Almeida, Álvaro Fernandes de Ameida, João d’Osem, and Lopo de Ameida
- 16th century – Diogo Fernandes de Almeida, Pedro d’Osem, João de Almeida, and Rodrigo Caldeira Pimentel
- 17th century – Pedro de Almeida, Francisco Pimentel de Brito, Rodrigo Pimentel de Almeida, and Martim Barroso
- 18th century – Manuel Caetano Lopes do Lavra and Francisco Feliciano Velho da Costa Mesquita Castelo Branco
Wall & Towers
As I mentioned earlier, the Castle of Torres Novas is surrounded by an extensive wall, in which eleven quadrangular towers were incorporated. Like other medieval castles, the primary purpose of these turrets was to guard and defend both the military fortress and the population that lived within the walls.
After the first works campaign promoted by King Sancho I at the end of the 12th century, the expansion of the walls carried out by King Fernando I in the 1370s stands out, as a result of the conflicts with the Kingdom of Castile in the second half of that same century.
When the town was confined within the walls of the Castle of Torres Novas, this had four gates – among them the Main Gate and the infamous Traitor’s Gate (or Wicket Gate). However, it’s known that the village quickly went beyond the walled perimeter, as evidenced by the construction of two parish churches outside the walls.
The South Landscape of the Castle of Torres Novas (in Portuguese, Paisagem Sul) is marked by the “heart” of the old town, where three churches stand out: the ruins of the Church of Santa Maria do Castelo, the Misericórdia Church, and the Salvador Church.
Apart from that, it’s impossible not to mention 5 de Outubro Square, one of the most frequented places in the historic center by tourists visiting Torres Novas. With numerous cafes and restaurants serving typical Ribatejo food, its terraces are almost always full of people!
From the towers on the south wall of the Castle of Torres Novas, you can also see the Carlos Reis Municipal Museum, one of the most exciting and complete municipal museums I’ve ever had the opportunity to explore!
If, on the one hand, the South Landscape reveals the architectural wonders of the historic center, on the other hand, the North Landscape of Castle of Torres Novas (in Portuguese, Paisagem Norte) has privileged views over the gigantic Municipal Garden of Torres Novas.
Designed on both banks of the Almonda River, the Municipal Garden of Torres Novas is composed of numerous leisure and recreation areas, such as the Gustavo Pinto Lopes Municipal Library, the Fernando Cunha Municipal Swimming Pools, and the Rose Garden.
There are also cafes and restaurants serving light meals, as well as a children’s playground, an open-air amphitheater, and dozens of winding paths for walking or jogging. And there’s a free car park between the library and the swimming pools!
It seems hard to believe, but the Garden of the Castle of Torres Novas (in Portuguese, Jardim) served as a municipal cemetery for almost a century! But yes, this happened between 1835 and 1938, at the same time that the Alcaidaria building housed the Torres Novas County Jail!
These days, there are no longer any traces of the old cemetery to be seen – just a pleasant and very well-kept garden. This green park was part of a requalification project developed by the Estado Novo in 1940, during the centenary commemorations of the Foundation of Portugal (in 1140) and the Restoration of Independence (in 1640).
In my opinion, the Garden of the Castle of Torres Novas is the best place to stroll and enjoy nature in the city, right after the Municipal Garden. And from here, you have direct access to several flights of stairs, which allow you to climb the walls and towers to enjoy the surrounding landscape!
The Traitor’s Gate of the Castle of Torres Novas (in Portuguese, Porta da Traição) is quite hidden amidst the trees and undergrowth of the Garden and, therefore, can go unnoticed by the less curious eyes.
Also known as Postern or Wicket Gate, the Traitor’s Gate is a very characteristic architectural element of castles and military fortresses of the Middle Ages.
It usually consisted of a secondary door concealed in the wall, which allowed its occupants to leave (or enter) unnoticed.
Currently, the Traitor’s Gate of the Castle of Torres Novas has a security perimeter preventing its access, since the tunnel where it stands has been the subject of archaeological excavations.
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