The Alentejo consists of a unique mix of villages and cities that never cease to charm. Discover them at your own pace.
Not to be missed is of course Évora where the Portuguese kings settled in the 15th century. The city dates back from Roman times and is best visited on foot to fully appreciate the rich cultural heritage. Allow a full day for your visit. Half an hour drive out of the city you’ll find the amazing Cromeleque dos Almendres. It’s the ‘Stonehenge’ of Portugal and a visit well worth. Try to get there early in the morning before the crowds arrive, for a unique experience.
Cromeleque dos Almendres
Just like Évora, the fortified city of Elvas is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Upon arrival you will immediately see the impressive aquaduct of Amoreira. This 3-storey structure is over 7 km long and designed by Francisco de Arruda who contributed to the construction of the Torre de Belém in Lisbon. Just outside Elvas you can visit the largest fortified building in the world, or you can take a stroll through the charming old town.
Portalegre is located at the foot of the green hills of the Serra de São Mamede. In the 16th century, this town was the Portuguese center of the wool trade. An overview of that rich history can be seen in the beautiful and interesting museu das tapeçarias. (carpet museum). The townscape of Portalegre is determined by the aristocratic facades of former baroque merchant houses from a bygone era.
One of the top attractions of the Alto Alentejo is the settlement village of Marvão which, like an eagle’s nest, is located in the mountains of São Mamede. This medieval village is one of the highest situated villages in all of Portugal, and together with Monsaraz, one of the absolute gems of the country. Along the steep streets you start the trip to the castle, located on the highest point of the rock plateau.
Another charming village is Castelo de Vide where the best preserved Jewish quarter in Portugal is located. The old synagogue is now a small museum. It lies in a labyrinth of extremely narrow streets, with flower boxes at all doors. The Jewish presence is reflected here in the street names and in the religious signs of generations of Hebrew culture on the granite doors. In the village you will also find a number of springs with medicinal water. Those who drink it will one day return to get married in Castelo de Vide!
Don’t forget to visit Vila Viçosa, the marble village whose streets are lined with fragrant orange trees. This pretty town is known for its beautiful white marble houses and the imposing 16th century Paço Ducal Palace. The interiors are lavishly decorated and include impressive ceiling paintings and Brussels tapestries. Make a stopover in nearby Borba, a winegrowing center where several wineries are located. Taste the local specialty “rabbit in the oven” at O Espalha Brasas, located just outside the village, amidst the extensive vineyards.
Estremoz is a very charming town where you can stroll on the largest antique and flea market in the Alentejo on Saturday mornings. You will find the craziest rarities amidst a variety of old local utensils. Walk into one of the many pastelarias to enjoy the various local pastries. In the old upper town you have a beautiful view over the plains around while you walk along the 17th-century fortress wall. Make sure you visit the ‘Berardo’ museum with a collection of the most beautiful and unique ‘Azulejos’ (floor and wall tiles) in the country.