The castled town of Penela is located high up on the western slope of the old Roman road connecting Coimbra to Tomar, about 30 miles south of Coimbra. The name “Penela” is a diminutive of “peña”, “pena” or “penha”, which means mound or rock.
The Castle of Penela has a long and colourful history being built and destroyed to varying extents many times over its long history. Second only to the larger Caste of Montemor-o-Velho, it is the largest and strongest castle that survives along the Mondego defensive line. Today it’s walls and ramparts have been renovated allowing the visitor spectacular views of the surrounding countryside and the below.
Penela has all the amenities you’d expect in a provincial town: restaurants and cafés, shops and supermarkets, dentists, doctors, frequent local markets, hotels and bars.
There are many beautiful churches in Penela itself and in the small towns and villages in the Penela administrative district.
About ten minutes drive (12 km) from Penela in the village of Rabaçal is the 4th-century Vila Romana do Rabaçal, which is perhaps one of the most important Roman historical sites in Portugal. During the 15th and 16th centuries the property was used as a cemetery and suffered from the removal of many important architectural elements. However in the 1980’s the site was extensively excavated revealing important bas-reliefs and unique mosaics. Further work to the site in the early 21st-century has ensured the stabilisation and protection of the site and its treasures. The village of Rabaçal is home to a large museum worthy of a visit.
The area is rich in mountain villages with their well preserved rural architecture.