Elvas is a charming town in eastern Portugal known for its ancient fortifications that were recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2012. This beautiful town is located not far from the Spanish border and boasts a small but cozy center while all around the hills result covered in orchards and olive groves.
The sturdy city walls, moat and castle are evidence of how this has always been considered a strategic border town. Elvas, in fact, was of great importance for Portugal’s independence especially in the conflicts against Spain during the 17th century. The city also long served as General Wellington’s base during the Napoleonic Wars.
Few foreign tourists come to visit this beautiful town that actually holds a truly unique architectural heritage. Within the star-shaped city walls it is possible to discover a maze of cobblestone streets that hold ancient churches, fascinating squares and museums. The heart of Elvas is Republic Square where the old city hall is also located. Walking through the historic streets of the town, however, leads all the way to the Castle area, which is the oldest part of Elvas.
The Fort of Our Lady of Grace, also known as Fort Conde de Lippe, is located approximately one kilometer north of the center of Elvas. Built in a commanding position on Monte da Graça (Hill of Grace) this has always been a site of great strategic importance.
The complex consists of three bodies: a central core, the main body, and an outer structure. The central core, was the one where the governor lived, and it looks like a quadrilateral with ramparts at the corners and revetments.
The fort is considered a true masterpiece of 18th-century European military architecture. The structure has now been converted into a museum and is fully open to visitors. From the terrace of the governor’s apartments there is a fantastic view of the city and surrounding area.
In the 1500s the city of Elvas faced a serious water supply problem, so it was decided to channel water from Amoreira with an aqueduct. TheAmoreira Aqueduct was built by architect Francisco de Arruda, the same architect who built the Torre de Belém in Lisbon.
The aqueduct, about 7 km long, boasts 843 arches and accesses the city from the west to also bring water to the fountain at Largo da Misericórdia. Work began in 1529 but took nearly 100 years to finish since the project was completed in 1622.
The original core of Elvas Castle dates back to the 18th century when the Moors built a fortress here on the remains of an earlier defensive structure of Roman origin. Between the 12th and 13th centuries the castle was renovated first by Dionysius of Portugal (known as Dom Dinis) and then by John of Portugal II (known as Dom João) in the late 15th century. It is possible to walk the walkway by climbing up to the ramparts to admire a wonderful landscape that also allows one to note the proximity to Spain.
The wall surrounding the city dates back to three different periods: a first part of the wall was erected in the 8th century, a second part was built between the 10th and 11th centuries, and a final section was built in the 17th century. The latter is the most substantial part of the wall that can be admired today and was built by Jesuit Father Cosmander.
In the 17th century, in fact, King John IV sent Father Cosmander who was a Dutchman expert in military architecture to build a system of ramparts to defend this border town. To this day, the 17th-century walls of Elvas are a magnificent example of fortification that has come down to us in good condition.
The Fort of Santa Luzia is a stronghold that was built around 1640 and is located in the southwest part of the town. The complex was besieged several times during the wars between Portugal and Spain until the Battle of the Elvas Lines in 1659 that saw Portugal triumph. Inside is now a museum site that chronicles not only the years of war with Spain over the border but also showcases a collection of weapons ranging from the Middle Ages to the 19th century.
The Fernandina Tower was built around the 14th century, but by the 15th century it had lost its defensive role and was converted into a prison. Today it is possible to visit the interior, and by walking up a rapid spiral staircase to the top you can enjoy a beautiful view from above of the entire surrounding area.
The Church of Our Lady of the Assumption or Old Cathedral of Elvas was the town cathedral until 1882, when Elvas ceased to be an episcopal see. The present church was built in the 16th century on the site of an earlier religious building in the Gothic style. Between the 17th and 18th centuries the complex underwent major renovations. Inside you can admire beautiful 17th- and 18th-century azulejos and a sumptuous 18th-century organ. The main chapel was built in 1734 by Jose Francisco Abreu in polychrome marble in the Baroque style and features paintings by artist Lorenzo Gramiccia.
The Church of Our Lady of Consolation from the outside looks simple and plain but once inside you can admire the sumptuously furnished interior. At one time the church was part of a larger complex that also included a Dominican convent, which, however, was destroyed.
As youenter the building, in fact, you can see painted marble columns, several chapels with gold decorations, and some azulejos dating back to the 17th century.
Largo de Santa Clara is a picturesque square in the city of Elvas that is characterized by the presence of typical aristocratic houses with iron grilles. The Square is located right in front of the Church of Our Lady of Consolation and in the center houses the “pelourinho” pillory. This pillory is a special column dating back to the 16th century where there are four iron arms with dragon heads that were used to hang arrested offenders.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
Elvas is a small but attractive Portuguese town located a few kilometers from Spain. Although the town is modest in size and although very few tourists come all the way here in Elvas, there are several cozy accommodations to be found. Prices are cheaper than in other tourist resorts in Portugal. Here you can choose to stay in small hotels or guesthouses in the historic center or you can opt to stay in a traditional Portuguese quinta.
Elvas can be reached by car or bus from Lisbon. The city is about 210 km east of the Portuguese capital. To reach it by car from Lisbon, you need to first take the A2 and then the A6 to exit 9. Once off the A6 it is necessary to take the N4. Alternatively, it is possible to take the Lisbon the Rede Expressos buses that take about 2 hours and 40 minutes to Elvas.
What's the weather at Elvas? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Elvas for the next few days.
Elvas is a town in eastern Portugal that lies not far from the Spanish border. The town is 210 km from Lisbon and less than 20 km from the Spanish town of Badajoz.