15 Best things to do in Alentejo (Portugal)

The huge Alentejo region occupies almost the lower third of Portugal.

This is an agricultural area of ​​wheat fields that has fed the country since the Middle Ages.

Historically, the Alentejo was the main route from Spain into Portugal, and dozens of medieval castles will tell you that relations between the two countries were not always friendly.

The capital is Évora, a wonderful UNESCO World Heritage town surrounded by medieval walls and hidden Roman ruins.

On the hundreds of Neolithic monuments in the area, there are signs of civilization dating back to pre-Roman times.

Let’s explore the best things to do in Alentejo:

1. Evora

Evora

With an immaculate historic center, Evora is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and there is so much to see, it’s hard to know where to start.

The town was walled for 2,000 years, and you can still find the Moorish accent on the narrow black cobblestone streets of Évora.

Among the many attractions is a Gothic cathedral, built in stages until the 18th century, with stunning 14th-century carvings of apostles on its vaulted portals.

Among the Medieval and Renaissance houses in Évora, the Roman Temple of Diana bears evidence of ancient civilization, with Corinthian columns made of granite supporting exquisite capitals carved from Estremoz marble.

2. Amoreira Aqueduct

Amoreira Aqueduct

In the 16th century, the fortified city of Elvas was drying up; the well was drying up, so it was decided to divert water from Amoreira, 8 km away.

The project was plagued by problems (including war) and was not completed until 1622, 93 years after its inception.

The result is a building of striking heroic proportions, with the four-story arch taking up almost all the buildings next to it.

This is the largest aqueduct on the Iberian Peninsula and is part of the Elvas World Heritage Site.

3. Elvas Fortifications

Elvas fortifications

One of the reasons the Amoreira Aqueduct is so high is that it was designed to prevent sieges.

That’s the story of Elvas, a competitive garrison town that was embroiled in the Portuguese Restoration Wars and the War of the Spanish Succession in the 17th and 18th centuries.

In the age of the cannon, the solution was to build the world’s largest bulwark dry trench defense system.

The defensive gates, walls and fortresses stretch for 5 kilometers and are fortified by the 18th-century Nossa Senhora da Graça fortress, which defends the town from a hill to the south.

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4. Marwan Castle

Marwan Castle

The castle has a stunning location in the eastern town of Marvão, perched on a quartzite cliff on a hill almost 1,000 meters above sea level.

The castle would be built by the Moors starting in the 8th century and then fortified several times after Marwan fell to the Christian army in the 1100s.

From then on, it will serve as an outpost guarding the Spanish border.

There’s a lot to see, below the creepy cistern, or from the heights of the two towers, with views of the Spanish mountains, or the terracotta tiles and stuccoes above the town. wall.

5. Vila Viçosa Ducal Palace

Villa Vesosa Ducal Palace

Construction of the palace began in 1501 as the luxurious seat of the Dukes of Briganza, built by Dom Jaime I. In the front square, there is an equestrian statue of João IV, who reigned on Earth in the 17th century when the Portuguese Empire crossed.

The palace is in Mannerist style, with a 110-meter-long facade.

Along the way are pilasters and pediments carved from local marble.

Frozen in time as a museum, the interior features 17th-century frescoes, fine varnishes, tapestries, marble fireplaces, and works of sculpture, painting, and goldsmithing.

6. Cabo Espichel

Cabo Espicher

Could this be the best place in the world to watch a sunset? From a cliff-top headland about an hour south of Lisbon, you can watch the sun sink into the Atlantic Ocean.

People come down from the capital to witness this natural wonder for themselves.

The limestone and breccia cliffs here look magnificent in the soft evening light, but there are also Jurassic formations that deposit fossils along the shore.

There are also many signs of human settlement, especially in the ruins of a 17th-century fortress with a chapel, 15th-century sanctuary and ancient pilgrims’ residence.

7. Troia Beach

Troia Beach

From Setúbal, you can choose to take a direct ferry or take a detour to this paradise beach at the mouth of the Sado River.

Praia de Tróia is located at the end of a long peninsula that is partially separated from the Atlantic Ocean and therefore safe for swimmers.

The more exposed part is for kite surfers, while you can stroll down to the land beach with its crystalline lagoon-like waters.

As you gaze at the vistas of white sandy beaches and green hillsides from the estuary to the Arrábida Natural Park, you’ll wonder if you’re in the Caribbean.

8. Monsaraz Castle and Walls

Monsaraz castle and ramparts

Monsaraz, also close to the Spanish border, is a village in the clouds.

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Incredibly high, these walls protect a circle of cobblestone streets, some of which are almost vertiginous.

Monsalas is glorious from any angle; the way to its majestic schist walls will forever remain in memory, and once you get here, the views to the east of the Guardiana Valley and Lake Alqueva are breathtaking Amazed.

At one point, the settlement was completely abandoned, which explains why it retains so much of its original architecture.

9. Beja Regional Museum

Beja Regional Museum

It takes a long time to get a glimpse of the outside before stepping into Beja’s superb regional museum.

This is from 1459, founded by Ferdinand, Duke of Viseu, father of King Manuel I. Check out the gothic pointed arches and ornate multi-foil balustrades on the roof.

The interior of the 17th-century Baroque church is exquisite, with gilded wood carvings covering the walls.

In the cloister, the arches and walls are decorated with bold glazed tiles from the 1600s.

The museum’s collection dates back to the Bronze Age and includes Roman tombstones, medieval coat of arms and 17th-century musical instruments.

10. Old Estremoz

Old Estremoz

Estremoz is one of the main sources of Portuguese marble and it comes in any colour from raw white to black.

The highest part of the town is a fortified enclosure, shielded by jagged walls and accessed through a gateway from the 1300s.

Along the cobblestone streets, you are summoned to a central square with wonderful panoramic views of the countryside.

The sturdy towers of this 13th-century palace, made of striped marble, have been converted into the Pousada (historic luxury hotel). Check out the 17th century Capela de Santa Isabel, built in pearlescent white marble and beautifully glazed inside.

11. Almendres Cromlech

Almendes Kromlech

Not far from Évora is a mysterious megalithic site; it is the largest organized stele in Spain and Portugal, and one of the largest in Europe.

This scene is very special, with a ring of huge granite stones in the clearing of the cork oak forest.

Some menhirs reach 3.5 meters, but most are waist high.

You’ll want to walk around the circle and examine each stone, as many have strange carvings on them.

There are spirals, rounds, crescents, and the most common is the shepherd’s curved shape carved upside down.

12. Arrábida Natural Park

Arrábida Natural Park

The hills in this range east of Setúbal rise suddenly from the coast, creating some amazing views.

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Take the N379-1 coastal road and every few hundred meters there is a place to stop for a panoramic view of the ocean or the Troia Peninsula.

These steep hills help hide coves and secluded beaches nearly cut off from civilization.

If you want to enjoy the scenery under your own steam, the range has hiking and mountain biking trails through evergreen and deciduous forests, nourished by a microclimate of steep hillsides.

13. Praia do Malhão

playa do marjo

To the north of the Vila Nova de Milfontes resort is a beautiful beach.

Praia do Malhao is located in the Southwest Alentejo National Park and is therefore completely undeveloped.

Sand dunes surround wide golden sands and stretch for kilometers along the coast without any infrastructure that will be blissful for those who want peace and privacy. The beach is open to the full force of the Atlantic Ocean, so it’s not suitable for recreational swimmers, but surfers and surfers take advantage of the rough waves.

14. Palmera Fort

fort palmera

Our last castle is not guarding the border with Spain; instead, it occupies the highest point for miles around on the Setubal Peninsula, south of Lisbon.

The place has been inhabited since prehistoric times and bears witness to the Romans, Visigoths and Moors of the time.

The inner walls are the oldest, dating back to the 1100s, while the outermost defenses are from the 1600s and were designed to fire cannons.

Come and enjoy the 360-degree panorama of the Sado estuary, Tróia and the Serra da Arrábida mountains to the southwest.

On a clear day, you can even see Lisbon.

Your time will be spent walking from one heartbreaking vantage point to the next.

15. Food and drink

Negra ham

In the east, especially around Évora pata negra, ham is a specialty.

This comes from the Black Iberian pig, which has a free-range lifestyle and eats acorns, giving the meat its unique, smooth flavor and marbled texture.

Elvas plums have DOP protection: they are boiled, soaked in sugar for six weeks, then sun-dried and paired perfectly with cheese after a meal.

The Alentejo is also a wine-producing region, and if you want to learn more about the industry, try the Herdade do Esporão winery in Monsalas, which uses Old World grapes (such as Aragon and Cabernet Sauvignon) to make wine.

Where to Stay: The Best Hotels in Alentejo, Portugal
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