12 Best things to do in Nova Vendas (Portugal)

On the road between Setúbal and Évora, Novo Vendas is a low-key Alentejano town embedded in farmland.

Most Portuguese know Vendas Novas for its sandwiches “bifanas”, which are pork steaks seasoned with garlic and spices.

The driver will even take a detour to pick one up! The town was born as a stopover for people travelling between cities, and in this spirit a Royal Palace was built here as a rest stop in the 1700s.

This was turned into a military academy in the 19th century, but almost all of the original palace remains intact.

The municipal pool is just what you need on a hot day, and for smaller clan members there is an ethical animal park not far outside Vendas Novas.

Let’s explore the best things to do in New Vendas:

1. Palácio das Passagens

Passage Palace

This artillery college since 1861 was commissioned by King John V in 1728. The palace was actually a sanctuary, where the royal family left behind on the way to the marriage of John’s daughter Barbara and the future Fernando VI of Spain.

The palace was built in less than a year, a record at the time, and there are still signs of its first year.

Some ceilings have Rococo frescoes, there is a king’s hunting lodge, and there is a well in the courtyard.

If you want to look around, ask the tourist office in Novo Vendas.

2. Capela Real do Palácio das Passagens

Capela Real do Palácio das Passagens

Feel free to visit the palace’s classical-style chapel, which was built in the same project.

Like the palace, it was most likely designed by court architect Custódio Vieira, who was also responsible for Lisbon’s Águas Livres aqueduct.

The facade has a simple triangular pediment, fluted pilasters and the figure of St. Anthony.

Go inside and admire the painted garlands of the barrel vaults, the 17th-century “Conception of the Virgin” image on the altar, and the blue-and-white tile panels on the walls from the 1750s.

3. Zafaris Real

zafaris real

Another tantalizing glimpse of the Royal Palace is hidden behind the municipal market of Vendas Novas.

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The Royal Fountain consists of two long stone basins next to the wall, with a blue border and a gable with scrolls on the side.

These tanks are from 1728 and were originally built for the workers and animals involved in the construction.

The fountain was later insulted for being a public toilet before it was restored to its 18th century appearance.

4. Museu da Escola Prática de Artilharia

Museu da Escola Prática de Artilharia

On weekends, the Artillery Academy allows visitors to peruse eight rooms filled with artifacts from the past.

Exhibits date back to the 1860s, with a particular focus on World War I, during which Portugal fought the Allies.

There are uniforms, medals, cartridge cases and sidearms from this conflict.

The museum also documents some of the college’s most prominent graduates and traces the evolution of artillery over the century and a half since the college’s founding.

5. Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Nazaré

Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Nazaré

This church, built in the early 1500s, is the oldest existing building in the city of Nova Vendas.

It is located in La Deira, about halfway from the town of Vendas Novas to the city of Setúbal.

The charm of the church stems from its transitional architecture, which combines elements of Gothic and Manueline design.

The rear of the building has a Gothic octagon, while many of the interior decorations inside date back to the 1700s.

Since then, there has been an Indo-Portuguese ivory cross on the altar, and the walls are lined in typical Portuguese blue and white glazing.

Older works include a 1500s Manuel Holy Water font and a 17th century wooden statue of the Virgin of Nazareth.

6. Vidigal Palace

Vidigal Palace

Describing the building as a “palace” may be benevolent, but to avid Portuguese historians, it remains a fascinating relic of royal times.

Palácio do Vidigal, on a side road in Vendas Novas, was the hunting lodge of King Carlos I in 1896. The cottage has typical Ribatejo architecture and lasted until the king was assassinated in 1908. Within the complex there is a chapel and an open space where bullfights can be held.

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The palace is still owned by the foundation of the Braganza family (royal family) and you can ask the tourist office about visiting it.

7. Complexo das Piscinas Municipais

Complexo das Piscinas Municipais

The closest beach to Novo Vendas is 45 minutes from Setúbal, so if you’re looking for a more convenient place to bathe, the town has an open-air swimming pool.

When the sun is shining, it’s a veritable oasis in the town centre, attracting thousands of swimmers from June to September.

The complex has an Olympic-sized swimming pool, a diving pool and a smaller pool, especially for toddlers and toddlers.

These are outside, while there is also a small indoor pool for the rest of the year.

Add a spacious green area and a bar/restaurant and you can spend a few comfortable hours.

8. Jardim Público de Vendas Novas

Jardim Público de Vendas Novas

The park at Vendas Novas was established in 1993 on what was once farmland.

The palm trees, almond and citrus groves, cork oaks, holm oaks and irrigation networks you see are all traces of the past.

These sit on verdant lawns and a pond with a cafe.

There’s also a decorative water mirror, a skate park, children’s playground and an amphitheater that hosts events in the summer.

There are also sculptures by local artist Hélder Batista scattered around the park.

9. Antigo Moinho de Vento de Vendas Novas

Antigo Moinho de Vento de Vendas Novas

Open Tuesday to Sunday, the old whitewashed windmill in the heart of New Vendas probably dates back to the early 1800s.

A number of old mechanisms can be seen inside, including a wheel that lets you turn the blades in the direction of the wind.

You may also come to this attraction as Vendas Novas has set up a tourist office inside.

So you can pick up a flyer inside the historic windmill and get advice on what to see and do in the area.

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10. Montselvaheim

montselvaheim

Anyone traveling in the area with young children should spend an afternoon at the eco-friendly animal sanctuary.

Opened in 2004, Monte Selvagem complies with animal welfare regulations and provides enclosures that mimic natural habitats as closely as possible.

You’ll find many primates, wallabies, crocodiles, meerkats, wild boars, camels, emus, llamas and plenty of exotic birds.

The park has a hands-on philosophy, you can drop into a veterinary clinic, and youngsters can meet and pet goats and lambs on the educational farm.

11. New Montemore

new montmore

A short drive east, New Vendas belonged to New Montemore until it formed its own borough in the 1960s.

On the highest hill in the region, the city’s dilapidated citadel still wraps a punch castle.

It was built in 1203 when King Sancho I was fighting to reconquer Portugal from the Moors.

You’ll get some stunning photos of the walls, towers, monasteries and hills dotted with cork oaks in the Alentejo countryside.

Another fantastic view awaits in the 16th-century Santuário de Nossa Senhora da Visitação, a hilltop chapel located in a straight line of arrows from the city.

12. Food and drink

Chorriso

Head to the municipal market or shop around the village for some local delicacies.

These may be cured sausages such as chouriço and alheira, honey, pine nuts, oranges and Alentejano cheese, which usually have a smooth taste and semi-hard texture.

If you go out to eat, Alentejo cuisine is rustic, with lots of soups and stews filled with ingredients grown and raised in the region.

Bread is the basis of migas and açorda, both dishes made with lots of olive oil and garlic.

And, most famously, it’s used in bifanas, cured pork tenderloin sandwiches, and it’s amazing with a cold beer.

Vendas Novas has five bars that pride themselves on this treat.

Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Nova Vendas, Portugal
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