Alentejo is one of the regions of Portugal. In the Portuguese language it means “behind the Tejo river”. It is a real gem hidden from the usual circuits of international tourism, and it will surprise whomever comes to visit it, especially because this region managed to keep its original folkloristic tradition.
The Alentejo region includes two provinces: Alto Alentejo and Baixo Alentejo. The main cities are Evora, Beja, Serpa, Estremoz, Elvas and Portalegre. To the North, the region boarders with the river Tejo, while to the South it borders with the Algarve region. It borders with the Atlantic Ocean and the Lisbon Region to the West, white to the East it borders with Spain.
The region is far from the North of Portugal; just to give you an example, from Porto to Portalegre – one of the northernmost towns of Alentejo – there are more than 350 kilometres.
The Alentejo region is a land full of history, villages, and small towns that will conquer whomever visits them for the first time. The past comes along with local traditions, giving birth to a unique mix of colors, flavors, and sounds.
The city of Évora has about 60.000 residents and it is one of the biggest cities of Alentejo. It is a great starting point for discovering the region. Thanks to its very well preserved old town, which is still partially enclosed by its medieval walls, Évora was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It is possible to admire a number of historical monuments dating from different times, including an ancient roman temple. The historical center is market by Praca do Geraldo with the famous Henriquima fountain which dates back to 1570. At the north side of the square there is the Church of Santo Antao, built in the 16th century.
The city is also home to some historical buildings such as the Paço de São Miguel da Freiria, which dates back to the Moorish domination, as well as the Paço dos Duques de Cadaval, which was built during the XVII century on the remains of an old castle.
Lastly, you can’t miss a visit to the Cathedral of Evora. It was built at the beginning of 1300, and it represents one of the most important gothic monuments of Portugal.
Elvas is a fortified city at the border with Spain and it is characterized by a complex defensive system, along with the Santa Luzia Fortress and the Graça Fortress.
In addiction to these fortifications from the 15th century, there is are smaller defensive wall dating back to the 19th century. Fortim de Sao Pedro, de Sao Mamede, da Piedade and de Sao Francisco can still be visited today.
You should not miss the Amoeira castle and the aqueduct, which extends for about 7 kilometers. In the main square of the city, that is to say Praça Republica, there is the cathedral of Elvas, the Church of Nossa Senhora da Assunção.
Among the best museums, the contemporary art museum is housed in a former hospital.
Marvao is a medieval town located between Castelo de Vide and Portalegre, just a few kilometers away from the border with Spain. It is located on the highest pick of Serra de Sao Mamede, offering a great view of its surroundings.
Back in the past it was known as Ammaia, and today Marvao keeps its original city walls. Here you will find several narrow streets, which are typical from the Alentejo region.
Visit the Castle and admire its forth, climb all the way up to the Managem Tower, where you will enjoy a stunning view.
The greatness of the architectural heritage is visible by admiring the Church of Santa Maria, which today is deconsecrated and it is home to the Municipal Museum.
Lastly, do not miss a visit to the Igreja de Santiago, the Renaissance Chapel of the Holy Spirit, and the Convent of Nossa Senhora da Estrela.
Castelo de Vide is located inland of Alentejo, at the border with Spain, and it represents one of the most important destinations of the region. Since the end of 1200 the city was a forth against foreign invaders, and today you can still admire the traces of its tumultuous past.
The Church of Santa Maria da Devesa is located right in the center, and its white façade and two bell towers represent one of the main peculiarities of this town.
The quiet yet very charming fortified city of Estremoz is located in an area rich with marble caves. The city indeed is great if you wish to admire the use of this material in the construction of streets and squares in the center.
Uptown you will find a palace built by the merchant Dom Dinis. In the lower part of Estremoz there is Rossio Square, where every Saturday takes place one of the most beautiful markets of Portugal. If you wish to visit it during its pick hours, you should go there early in the morning.
During the first weekend of September do not miss a visit to the Feira Internacional de Agricultura e Pecuària, with live performances, artisanal handcrafts, and much more.
Mertola was an ancient Roman city which then became the capital of the Arab kingdom. In order to admire its grandeur from the Medieval time, you should visit the Municipal Palace and its Castle, which is the highest pick of the municipality.
The medieval Church, which was built on the same site of an ancient mosque, is still very well conserved. Its importance during the Moorish domination can be observed at the Islamic Museum, which showcases one of the world’s most important collections of this kind.
There are many artisan workshops which can be visited in order to admire the richness of the arts within the city.
The surroundings of Mertola include also the Parque Natural Vale do Guadiana, which can be reached by a short path that will offer you the opportunity to get in touch with the most uncontaminated areas of Alentejo.
Serpa is a small commercial town offering the classical attractions of the Alentejo region: it is structured as a small fortified village with an ancient castle and several narrow streets.
Praça da Républica is the main center of Serpa; it is a great place where to sit, enjoy a coffee and observe the local life. Here an arched gateway leads to the modern area of the city.
In the uptown of Serpa you can visit the Church of St. Mary, the remains of the Castle, the Clock Tower, as well as the Museum of Archaeology.
About clocks, in Serpa it is also possible to visit the Clock Museum, located in the former Mosteirinho convent.
Besides the city walls, you should not miss a visit to the St. Anthony Convent, where there are the chapels devoted to honoring two popular Saints of Portugal, that is to say Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Sebastian.
Vila Viçosa is often called the “marble museum town“: many of its largest houses were built with white marble, just like its suggestive Ducal Palace, which dates back to 1500 and which is decorated with beautiful frescoes and tapestries from Brussels.
Along with the Palace, there are some geometrically perfect gardens recalling the same style of the Palace. Do not miss the gateway to the Palace, the Porto do Nò, characterised by the symbols of the Braganças.
The Church of Nossa Senhora de Conceição, built in the XIV century, is home to a gothic statue of the Virgin Mary probably coming from England.
Lastly, in the former monastery das Chagas there are the tombstones of the Bragança duchesses.
Famous for its yearly festival of the flowers, Campo Maior in the last few years has inaugurated a number of attractions.
If you happen to be around this area, do not forget to visit the Coffee Museum, which describes the history of this ancient drink as well as the activities of the Nabeiro family, leader in the production sector.
You can also visit the wine cellar Adega Mayor, which offers innovative visits in order to find more about the wine production.
Just like any other town of Alentejo, Campo Maior conserves the remains of an ancient castle. The structure dates back to the 14th century, with further works that have been made around 1500.
Among the main museums you should not miss a visit to the sacred art museum, which exhibits 150 pieces representing the Christina art and history. The objects are displayed in 6 different rooms, and the exhibition traces back the history of Christ.
Portalegre is by far one of the most important city of the Alentejo region. It is located by the Serra de São Mamede. In the city center one can still admire several militar buildings as well as some religious buildings dating back to the XIII century.
Do not miss a visit to the monastery of San Francisco, as well as to the St. Clare and St. Bernardo’s monasteries. There is also a museum in honor to the native poet José Régio and its works.
The Museum Municipal hosts a collection of sacred art as well as some excellent examples of Portuguese ceramic.
However, Portalegre is famous because of its tapestries, its silk fabrics, and its religious tableaux. The Tapestry Museum showcases pieces from the XVII century.
Lastly, it is interesting to visit the Robinson Cork factory, which was created in 1800 by the British, and which is dedicated to the production of cork, a typical product from this region.
Alcacer do Sal managed to keep its beauty intact for centuries. The remains of its ancient castle rise on a hill facing the valley of the Sado River. Today the castle was transformed into a hotel, so it is possible to stay for the night.
In order to explore its city center, take a long walk around its narrow streets. Visit the Church of Saint Mary at the Castle, the Martyr Chapel, the Church of St. Anthony, the Church of Santiago, and the Municipal Archeology Museum.
Along the cost you will find many beautiful beaches, such as Comporta, Torre, Carvalhal, Raposa and Galé.
Moura is a fortified town dating back to 1200.
The first attraction to visit is the Mouraria, a neighborhood built during the Moorish invasion and one of the largest and best preserved areas of Portugal. The neighborhood has the typical features of an Arab architecture.
You should not miss a visit to the Arab Museum, which is home to a collection from the time of the Moorish invasion. From the former City Hall building, now known as the Municipal Library, you can see the Tower from Taipa, another emblem of the Arab period.
Among the main religious monuments, you should not miss a visit to the Church dedicated to St. John the Baptiste and the Church of Carmine and Sao Franciso. Lastly, in Moura there is an example of forerunner militar architecture from the XVII century, known as the Edificio dos Quartéis.
The best time to visit Monsaraz is the month of July, when the village becomes an open air museum. While visiting the town center, you will have the opportunity to get in touch with the traditions and customs related to the Alentejo’s craft industry, discover the regional cuisine, and take part to a number of cultural events.
The heritage of Monsaraz’s architectural heritage finds its greatest points in the medieval fortified castle, in the old palace of justice from the XIV-XVI century, and in the parish Church of our Lady of Lagoa.
In the surroundings of Monsaraz there is the Adega Ervideira, a large winery offering wine tasting tours to single visitors and groups.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
If you stay in Lisbon and you wish to take a day trip in the Alentejo region, you can join one of the Alentejo tours below.
The region corresponds approximately to one third of Portugal, offering both coastal and inland towns surrounded by a natural and uncontaminated landscape.
It is a region that hasn’t been fully discovered yet, and that is why wherever you will decide to stay you will find very convenient prices. If you wish to find more about the culture and the traditions of this region, you should choose one of the many rural houses. These traditional structures offer a bed & breakfast formula as well as a friendly and welcoming service.
Some of these farmhouses offer luxury stays at affordable prices.
If you are looking for a seaside stay, you will find several hotels along the coast; although they might be quite old, these structures offer really affordable rates.
In the Alentejo there are also structures belonging to the Pousadas de Portugal, which are some excellent options if you want to get in touch with the most authentic life of this region.All accommodations in Alentejo