Classified as a National Monument, the 11th-century Lousã Castle (a.k.a. the Arouce Castle) is part of the Mondego Castles and Walls Network, and the area it dominates features wooden railed walkways and winding stone paths that take you over bridges, past fountains (some with potable water), and eventually through a network of xisto (schist) villages that will have you considering a simpler life. The Lousã village is well worth a visit, should it be for a few hours or the full day as the whole family can enjoy walking through this historical site — and if weather permits, you can even take a swim mid-way through.
The village sits just two kilometers outside the civil parish of Lousã e Vilarinho (near Coimbra), so having access to a car is ideal. You can take a walk and a dip in the summer at the adjoining Praia Fluvial Senhora da Piedade (river beach), or go for a lazy walkabout year-round. Cross the bridge from the dipping spot and have lunch at the fancy O Burgo Restaurant, where you can try typical dishes like chestnut-stuffed javali (black pork) or cabrito assado (roasted young goat). If you’d rather have a snack, a bit further up the hill, there is a seasonal café and grill that serves lighter fare (and ice cream!) and features a terrace overlooking the main attraction: the Arouce Castle, likewise made almost entirely out of schist.
The castle’s origins are uncertain, but it once formed part of the Mondego defensive lines to Coimbra. In 1124 it was taken over by the Moors and then changed hands again under the direction of Dom Afonso Henriques in 1151. According to the Camara Municipal de Lousã, you can visit the castle Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and on holidays, from 9h30 to 12h30 and 14h to 17h.
Don’t expect precision when it comes to this timetable — our decision to wait around for it to be open at 14h was foolhardy. If you find yourself in a similar predicament, go enjoy the wooden and stone walkways, stunning overlooks, and natural springs. Remember to manage your expectations and try not to rush things.
On a similar note, for those of you who love slow-cooked things like chanfana (stewed old goat) and want to diversify your visit, every February, the main town of Lousã hosts the annual Festival Gastronómico da Chanfana. Once it’s finally been digested, you can run it all off at the beginning of March at the trail-running Louzantrail event that winds through the stone pathways that connect five of the 27 schist villages in the Portuguese network, including Talasnal, Casal Novo, Candal, Cerdeira, and Chiqueiro. The runs range from 13 to 43 kilometers and also include a “Raposinhos (Fox) Walk” for the kids.
For other activities in the area, you can keep checking on the Lousã City Hall website, but it hasn’t been updated since the pandemic.