The Alentejo is master of subtle and discrete charms, don’t cease to surprise and seduce those who visit. Find out what to visit in Alentejo, in order to enjoy this region in the best possible way.
This vast region is characterized by extensive wheat fields, huge cork oak groves, and sumptuous vineyards.
Enriching this impressive flat landscape, there is also the whiteness of small villages, integrated into picturesque meadows of wildflowers. But the Alentejo is much more than that: to those who explore it with interest and some passion, offers a series of incredible surprises, ranging from vestiges of the Stone Age to a coastline filled with the most fabulous beaches, passing through unforgettable medieval cities.
Discover some of these treasures here, following our list of 10 destinations that you can’t miss in Alentejo.
WHAT TO VISIT IN ALENTEJO:
Évora is one of the two World Heritage cities by UNESCO that can be found in Alentejo, the other being Elvas. Although it has grown beyond the ancient walls, Évora is a relatively compact city, whose center is well known in a day or two. Considered one of the most historic and best preserved of Portugal, Évora is an imposing city that deserves your visit.
In Évora visit the Roman Temple, the medieval walls, the Moorish alleys and the mansions of the 18th century. XVI, which put it permanently in the world tourist circuits. Start your visit at Praça do Giraldo and, from there, it’s about 10 minutes to reach any of the main attractions. Be sure to visit the medieval Aqueduto do Água Prata and if you are in town on a Tuesday, pass the outdoor bi-weekly market in Rossio, south of the city walls.
This fabulous city, strategically located 15 km from Badajoz, was once one of the most important border posts in our country. Today, with a population of about 25,000 inhabitants, it counts mainly on tourism to boost its economy. When the topic is what to visit in Alentejo, Elvas is definitely one of the must-visit spots.
Elvas is famous mainly for its seismic walls, its forts, and its historical center. It was the incredible state of preservation of these monuments, among the best preserved in Europe, that contributed to the city receiving the UNESCO nomination of World Heritage of Humanity.
Located on top of a hill, in this Alentejo city, you can still stroll along the sloping alleys and spend relaxed moments and tranquility in the central square, fully restored. In Elvas, it is mandatory to visit the Fort Nossa Senhora da Graça.
Also in Elvas, a biweekly market is held. This market that attracts many visitors to the city takes place on Mondays in the area behind the Aqueduct, already on the outskirts of the city.
In Alentejo, as you can see, there are plenty of cities full of history. Strategically located in the center of the plain, the Roman Pax Julia has long assumed the status of a prosperous city and visiting it is inevitable. However, its location makes it also often the hottest place in Portugal – something that is not liked by all tourists, especially when caught by surprise by the high temperatures of the summer months.
The historical center of Beja is reasonably compact, so it is feasible to visit the main points of interest in an afternoon only. Take the opportunity to visit the convent of the city and the impressive castle of the 16th century. XIII. Being one of the main cities to visit in the Alentejo, try to spend at least one night there, enjoying the numerous high-quality cafes and restaurants.
Also worth a visit are the Roman Ruins of San Cucufate. Only by visiting this part of the city can you be fully aware of the Roman influence throughout this area. There, through a series of extensive excavations and reconstructions, you will get to know the history of three different Roman villages.
Still inside the topic what to visit in the Alentejo, another point of obligatory visit: Mértola. Mértola is part of the Vale do Guadiana Natural Park and is located on top of a spur and protected by the ruins of a Moorish castle. This small Alentejo town has a history of thousands of years of occupation by the most diverse conquerors and settlers, a fact that is visible in practically all the buildings and streets.
Like other Alentejo cities, also in Mértola you will find a small historical center, but filled with numerous attractions. As for the outskirts of the city, these are characterized by the rural environment, quiet and sleepy, being especially pleasant a trip through the mountains, valleys and river banks. In this context, take the opportunity to visit the old mining town of S. Domingos.
If you are a fan of birdwatching, know that the Alentejo is a particularly privileged region for this activity and Mértola stands out as the home of the rare black stork and many other birds at risk of extinction.
Estremoz was an important frontier community at the time of D. Dinis, who even built his castle there. Nowadays, the walled city is imposed by its central location in a district that is distinguished by marble quarries, a fact that becomes noticeable by the most diverse and mundane uses that are given to the material.
Stroll through the streets and squares lined with this crystalline rock and delight in the opulence of the environment. Take advantage of visiting Estremoz Market, one of the best in our country. This market is held every Saturday in the main square of the city.
6. VILA VIÇOSA
The main point of attraction of the beautiful Vila Viçosa is the Paço Ducal, known as the last residence of the Portuguese monarchy. Despite the hordes of tourists who visit it during the day, spending the night in Vila Viçosa will be able to enjoy the characteristic calm and relaxed atmosphere characteristic of small towns.
Once again, and just like in Estremoz, the marble dominates the landscape of the city, being used in all buildings, from the most modest building to the most luxurious floor covering.
In Vila Viçosa you have to visit the imposing Medieval Castle and enjoy to enjoy the magnificent views of the city.
The small parish of Monsaraz has only a few hundred inhabitants and is a shining example of the purity of lines and brightness of the Alentejo’s buildings. When you visit its intramural core, we suggest you go to the heart of the village and, starting from the central square, get to know at least the Mother Church and the Pelourinho, XVIII.
Part of the charm of this delightful locality is also due to the prehistoric vestiges that you can know there: do not miss Cromeleque do Xerez, Anta do Olival da Pega and Menir do Outeiro.
Also, enjoy knowing the Tower of Sorceresses. This mythical construction is inserted in the castle that watches the south end of the village. The castle, in turn, is part of a group of fortifications originally run by the Knights Templar and later by the Order of Christ.
Marvão is a tiny town with less than 1,000 inhabitants, characterized by buildings of pure lines, with granite window sills and sloping red roofs. The village is still protected by an impressive 13th-century wall.
Located at the top of an undulating road that advances along the steep mountain, Marvão offers absolutely fantastic views, which are probably its main point of tourist interest. However, and although there is little else to see in the picturesque village, it can be quite rewarding to stroll along its parallel lanes and its well-arranged gardens.
When you are in Marvão, visit the Casa da Cultura and try to catch some of the exhibitions and handicrafts exhibitions organized there.
9. VILA NOVA DE MILFONTES
The parish of Vila Nova de Milfontes is part of the Natural Park of Southwest Alentejo and Costa Vicentina and constitutes one of the most famous bathing resorts of the region. Home to a series of absolutely unforgettable beaches, it is not surprising that in summer it becomes a real magnet for tourists.
As for the old city, its streets unfold around an impressive construction of the 16th century, the Castle of Milfontes, whose façade is facing the Mira River estuary; also known as St. Clement’s Fort, this is one of the major tourist attractions in the area. Now, if you want to capture the essence of the Alentejo coast and the soul of this city, you can not miss the Port of Barcas, also known as Portinho do Canal.
In Vila Nova de Milfontes, take the opportunity to visit the Lighthouse. It is one of the most emblematic places in the city because it offers beautiful panoramic views of Foz do Mira, Furnas Beach and the city itself.
Arraiolos, well known for its centuries-old carpets, has many other points of interest that you can not miss. Here you can visit one of the rare circular castles of the world, the emblematic Arraiolos Castle or the Divor’s Albufeira, nestled between cork oaks and holm oaks, where you can enjoy bird watching and the Paio Valley area.
The famous Carpets of Arraiolos, embroidered by hand by the ingenious hands of generations of embroiderers, are preparing their candidacy for World Heritage; are an excellent example of the good craftsmanship that is done in Portugal.
There would be much more to say about the Alentejo and the places you should visit once there. However, we hope that the suggested destinations will have met your expectations, helping you to know a little better this seductive region of our country.