Arraiolos, the Alentejo village which needs no introduction, located in the heart of the region. The quality of the motifs and unique stitches of Arraiolos carpets as well as the peculiar circular castle put the village on the tourist map.
But there are many distinctive factors able to attract you to this place only around 12.4 mi / 20 km from Evora, where the urban houses dot the slope sighting a charming rural municipality. Discover it with us!
Arraiolos – history on the spotlight
The history of Arraiolos is long and rich, since many peoples have stayed here, each leaving their marks. The regions shows trace of human presence since ancient times, presumably since the Neolithic or even Chalcolithic. The region in Arraiolos municipality was probably significantly occupied by humans as early as the 4th millennium BC.
King Dinis granted the first charter to Arraiolos in 1290. In 1305, the same king ordered the construction of the castle, where he lived for some time. The village was also home of the Second Count of Arraiolos, Nuno Álvares Pereira, since 1387. In 1511, king Manuel gave the village a new charter.
Like any other Portuguese village, and particularly the ones in Alentejo, Arraiolos has many and diverse places of interest for tourists. Some, like you will see, are known worldwide. These places and monuments on the village itself and the whole municipality, are part of a route that goes around Alentejo grounds, constituting an important patrimony legacy.
- Arraiolos Castle
- Pousada de Nossa Senhora da Assunção (historic hotel)
- Igreja Matriz de Arraiolos (church)
- Igreja da Misericórdia (church)
- Fonte rural Chafariz dos Almocreves (fountain)
- The whole historical centre of Arraiolos
- Igreja Matriz do Vimeiro (church)
- Ermida de São João do Campo (chapel)
- Palácio da Sempre Noiva de Arraiolos (palace)
Let’s talk about the Castle of Arraiolos, also known as Paço dos Alcaides. This Romano-Gothic castle was built in the 14th century on the top of the hill called Monte de S. Pedro. Inside the walls, we come across the old 16th century Igreja do Salvador (church).
The privileged position the castle holds over everything around it provides an amazing view over the white houses of the village of Arraiolos and the Alentejo landscape. But the castle comes with a surprise, since it is one of the few in the world to have a circular architecture.
In the interior, the constructions are degraded because of the passing of the years. But the old walls are very well kept. A delight for the eyes, whether you take a walk inside and climb the towers or see them while you approach the castle from the road.
Convento dos Lóios
The Convento dos Lóios (Pousada Convento de Arraiolos or Pousada de Nossa Senhora da Assunção), where you can sleep in Arraiolos, is another place you should visit. It is located right on the outskirts of the village (on the roundabout of the national road to Pavia) and offers distinct architectural styles: Manueline-Moorish on the church and Baroque on the convent.
The date of its foundation goes back to the 16th century. The Order of Santo Elói decided to build and dedicate it to Nossa Senhora da Assunção. Bought by the state of Portugal in 1980, it was completely restored. In 1995 it was adapted into a historic hotel.
Arraiolos Carpets or Rugs, Portuguese needlework rugs
The renowned Arraiolos Carpets constitute another important heritage of the village. They are filled with history embroidered by hand. This work of generations of embroiderers is part of the most well-known and, probably, oldest handicrafts in Portugal.
Although there are doubts, some studies prove that the art of Arraiolos Carpets may have started with the Moors during the 12th century. It was developed into what is still done today during the 15th century. Its peak was in the 18th century, with the flower motifs.
The production of the carpets or rugs might have been originated, first, by the abundance of raw materials and workforce (wool, as well as looms and a large number of artisans dedicated to weaving). Then, by the presence and influence of Islamic tapestry-makers, who were in Portugal between the 8th and the 15th century.
Arraiolos Carpets are embroidered with wool of varied colours on a jute or cotton canvas. Although the patters are still the classic ones, they are getting more and more innovative. “O Tapete Está na Rua» (The Carpet is on the Street) is the cultural event which, during the month of May, celebrates and exalts the local culture to which this embroidery work is related.
Visit Arraiolos – the connection with nature
Leaving aside the historical and cultural heritage, let’s now focus on the landscape, another one of the most important assets in the municipality. Typically from the Alentejo, it strikes us with its plains dotted by the cork oak forest until the limits of the horizon.
When you visit Arraiolos, you will find vast cork oak forests. That is why cork items are part of the local handicrafts. Driving through the municipality paved or dirt roads always takes us to another small hill with almost never-ending views.
Nature plays a big part in the economy of the village. Apart from the extraction and export of cork, also fundamental are the production of milk and wine; the extraction of granite; and agriculture. The industry of carpets, small industries of sausages, liqueurs, honey and cheese equally stand out. From the land, clay is extracted, from which pieces are made to decorate or for daily use.
Arraiolos – typical regional Alentejo cuisine
Not only of cork oak forests, monuments and carpets is the story of the village written. The food carries very peculiar characteristics, adding to the reasons why tourism in Arraiolos has so much quality. Have you ever heard of the famous “Pastéis de Toucinho” (Lard Pastries)? It is a trademarked sweet from this beautiful village.
The “Empadas de Arraiolos” are famous too, typical Portuguese pot pies to which a special flavour is added here. Try them… and take them home.
On the subject of gastronomy of Alentejo present in Arraiolos, an invitation is in order to taste: dishes of pork, lamb and veal; Alentejo style soups, crumbs. All of these and many others are mouth-watering dishes. They make up one more reason to come, especially if you love eating… Don’t we all? And, how could we forget, with a fine meal, comes a fine Alentejo wine, of course.
To eat and drink the best you can around here, we suggest a visit during the events “Semanas Gastronómicas” (Gastronomic Weeks) and “Mostra Gastronómica” (Gastronomic Show). The days of the already mentioned “O Tapete está na rua” event could also be a good time.
Visit Arraiolos – enjoy this municipality of Alentejo
After the food, the culture and the events, we suggest you some areas where you can get in touch with the nature of Alentejo.
- Jardim Público (Public Garden)
- Parque Urbano de Vimieiro (urban park in Vimieiro
- Fonte e Parque de Merendas do Vimieiro (fountain and picnic area)
- Barragem do Divor (Divor dam)
- Percurso “Entre Pontos e Colinas” (path/route)
- Trilhos do Rio Divor (Aldeia da Serra) (path/route)
- Ecopista de Arraiolos (eco trail)
If you also appreciate a good wine, come to Arraiolos to taste some of the best that are produced in Alentejo. The Adega das Mouras de Arraiolos, for example, is a huge estate which has one of the three largest continuous vineyards in Europe. Fantastic wines are produced there.
Then you have Herdade dos Coelheiros, in perfect harmony with nature and providing countless activities. It has several productions derived from the cultures of vineyards, olive groves, walnut trees, cork oak trees, touristic hunting area and a wild park on the cork oak forest (including wild game and the famous black pig). In all these productions the Alentejo tradition is present.
Monte da Ravasqueira is another estate typical of Alentejo, with exceptional geological and climatic conditions helping the production of one of the best wines in Alentejo. The estate also has other activities related to cork, olive oil, honey and the breeding of exquisite cattle and the Lusitano Horse.
When you decide to visit Arraiolos, what is certainly going to happen, don’t forget that there is another smaller village nearby worthy of a visit. Aldeia de Santana do Campo was mainly built over Roman ruins. There you can see an archeological station and a Roman Temple you can not miss.
Arraiolos casts a spell on us for its uniqueness. It is a place that calls our name. That we carry with us to remember. Either on a carpet or on memories of walks through its lands and castles, through the steep but inviting streets. We await you. And your return.