To visit the Alentejo means discovering sensations, meeting people, feeling each moment slowly enjoying the light breeze, the local food on the plate and the wine in the glass, a conversation with hospitable people. In addition, to visit the Alentejo is all about discovering the traditions of handicrafts and festivities.
But all these experiences always have a scenery. Whether in the vast historical heritage locations or in the middle of nature. There are plenty of suggestions to help you decide what to do in Alentejo and enjoy the region in your own way.
But what to visit in Alentejo?
Please note! This page is not a list of hidden places in Alentejo. They are in plain sight for any traveller.
Here, you will find suggestions of Alentejo cities but also towns and villages that represent some of the best places to be part of your travel itinerary.
The truth is that all our cities, towns and villages have their beauty, uniqueness and grace. However, since our time is always limited, we highlight here a possible Top 10 – What to visit in Alentejo. “Those” places that you really can’t miss.
The rest of the discoveries will come later, when you drive the roads of the region on your own or in one of our tours in Alentejo. With the help of a local guide or experience host, we reveal secrets that are not in these lines or even in books.
Come and join us! Bring your curiosity and the desire to make memories.
What to visit in the Alentejo? | The most beautiful cities, towns and villages
1 – Evora
Evora is considered the capital of the Alentejo. After being distinguished as world heritage by UNESCO in 1986, all travellers who come to visit the Alentejo want to explore the city. But don’t worry. There is no mass tourism and the character of this wonderful place remains intact.
Evora is frequently used as a base to get to know the whole Alentejo. Check out your options of hotels, guesthouses and country houses in Evora and its outskirts.
To visit Alentejo is synonym of visiting Evora. It is in this museum-city that you will find an important part of Portugal’s past. Before your eyes, the following will arise: the megalithic monuments of the surrounding area, the Roman monuments, the architecture of the city’s golden age (16th century) which served as inspiration for the creation of Portuguese cities in Brazil,… These traces of our history have survived everything. Even the great earthquake of 1755.
Don’t miss… all the city nooks, streets and squares. Like the houses painted white, the balconies that overlook us and the Portuguese tiles that you have always wanted to see up close.
To visit in Evora
- Roman Temple
- Giraldo Square
- Evora Cathedral
- Evora University (Colégio do Espírito Santo)
- Igreja de S. Francisco (church)
- Capela dos Ossos (Bones Chapel)
- Palácio D. Manuel (King Manuel Palace)
- Public Garden (and Fake Ruins)
- City Hall building (and the Roman Baths inside)
- Aqueduto da Água de Prata (aqueduct)
- Mouraria (Moorish quarter)
- Palácio Cadaval (palace)
- Igreja dos Lóios (church)
- Paço de São Miguel (Condes de Basto palace)
- Centro de Arte e Cultura – Fundação Eugénio de Almeida (Arts and Culture Center)
- Museu de Évora (museum)
- Several other museums
- Convento dos Remédios
- Museu de Arte Sacra da Catedral de Évora (Evora Cathedral Museum of Sacred Art)
- Museu do Artesanato e do Design – MADE (handicraft and design)
- Museu das Carruagens (carriages)
- Museu do Brinquedo (toys)
- Museu do Relógio (clocks and watches)
- Casa da Balança (scales)
- Several squares and gates (Santa Isabel, Moura, Avis,…)
- Several churches (Santo Antão, Graça, Carmo, Nossa Senhora dos Remédios, Senhor Jesus da Pobreza, Misericórdia, S. Vicente, S. Tiago, S. Mamede,…)
- Alto S. Bento viewpoint
- Megalithic monuments – Almendres Cromelech, Almendres Menhir, Anta Grande do Zambujeiro (big dolmen)
- Alcáçovas and its UNESCO world heritage rattles
2 – Elvas
Like Evora, Elvas is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site (2012). This honour was awarded due to the excellent state of preservation of the historic centre, as well as the 17th-century fortified walls, two magnificent forts (Forte de Santa Luzia and Forte da Graça) and three other smaller forts (São Pedro, São Mamede and São Domingos).
All these structures were built so that, from the 17th century onwards, this “Queen of the Border” city could defend Portugal from possible Spanish invasions. Today, they are still some of the largest and best preserved fortifications in the world. Elvas is a star with walls in the shape of a… star.
So, there are many reasons to get lost in this border town whose rich military heritage tells the story of ancient disputes. But its religious heritage is also magnificent (churches, various convents and the Senhor Jesus da Piedade sanctuary), as well as the architecture of countless buildings in the historic centre, including palaces, historic houses and fountains. The diversity of architectural styles is abundant: Romanesque, Gothic, Manueline, Baroque, Rococo.
To visit in Elvas
- Praça da República (square)
- Aqueduto da Amoreira (aqueduct)
- Elvas castle
- Museu de Arte Sacra de Elvas (sacred art)
- Casa da Cultura (House of Culture in the old City Hall)
- Torre Fernandina (tower)
- Pelourinho (pillory)
- Porta do Tempre and Arco do Dr. Santa Clara (a gate and an arch)
- Elvas Cathedral (Nossa Senhora da Assunção church)
- Several other churches (Domínicas, Santa Maria de Alcáçova, S. Pedro, Ordem Terceira de São Francisco, Salvador, São Domingos)
- Convento de São Domingos (convent)
- Museu Militar de Elvas (military museum)
- Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Elvas – MACE (contemporary art)
- Museu Municipal de Fotografia de João Carpinteiro (photography)
- Santuário do Senhor Jesus da Piedade (sanctuary)
- Forte de Nossa Senhora da Graça (fort)
- Forte de Santa Luzia (fort)
- Fortaleza da Juromenha (fortress)
- Ponte da Ajuda (bridge)
3 – Monsaraz
The beautiful medieval village of Monsaraz was the winner of the 2017 edition in the “Monument Villages” category of the 7 Wonders of Portugal – Villages competition. This award is self explanatory and we could almost go no further in our introduction to this magnificent place. However, we think it is essential to reinforce that to visit Alentejo = getting to know Monsaraz.
Here, time was frozen by the winds that blew over the centuries, the houses painted with white lime and the schist walls that overlooked the River Guadiana and the border with Spain which they defended. Today, a time of peace, you can also enjoy the view over the breathtaking Alqueva Lake (the largest artificial lake in Europe).
Its very small size means that the real attraction of discovering Monsaraz is… seeing everything! Walk through the walls and cobbled streets, one by one, until you reach the castle. Built by King Dinis in the 14th century, it is classified as a National Monument.
On days when you can be alone with your partner, you will feel that this is one of the most romantic places in the Alentejo. Linger here and then venture into the interesting surroundings.
To visit in Monsaraz
- Walls and gates
- The view!
- Igreja Matriz de Nossa Senhora da Lagoa (church)
- Casa Monsaraz
- Antigos Paços da Audiência (old court house)
- Casa da Inquisição (inquisition house)
- Igreja de Santiago (church)
- Cisterna (cistern)
- Capela de São João Batista (chapel)
- São Pedro do Corval village (Portugal’s largest pottery centre)
- Cromeleque do Xarez (cromelech)
- Museu do Azeite (Olive Oil Museum)
- Casa do Cante Alentejano (tribute centre to Cante, traditional polyphonic Alentejo singing, UNESCO world heritage)
- Lake Alqueva shores
4 – Estremoz
When you visit the Alentejo to learn about its glorious history, you will certainly travel through Estremoz. Its vast and photogenic heritage is testimony to how this Alentejo city was chosen by Portuguese kings and queens to spend much of their time here.
In the upper part of Estremoz, where we find the castle, one of the most beautiful ones in the Alentejo, the grandeur of the fortification and the view dominate. The Serra d’Ossa (sierra) is on one side, the lower part of the city on the other. As we descend, the open spaces of the squares stand out, but also the architecture of the buildings.
As we walk through the streets, we understand why Estremoz is called the “white city”. You can see it in the colour of the houses, an Alentejo tradition, but also in the presence of the marble that this land provides, which accounts for 90% of Portugal’s production (second largest exporter in the world).
Equally remarkable in this Alentejo city are the Bonecos de Estremoz sculptures, considered by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Over more than 300 years, upwards of 100 different clay figures have been created to honour the rural and urban experiences of everyday life in the Alentejo.
To visit in Estremoz
- Estremoz Castle and its beautiful gates (Santo António, Santa Catarina, Nossa Senhora dos Mártires, Évora)
- Pousada Castelo de Estremoz and the donjon (climb to the top!)
- Rossio Marquês de Pombal (large square)
- Café Águias D’Ouro
- Convento das Maltesas (and its Misericórdia cloister)
- Convento dos Congregados
- Igreja de Santa Maria e Santiago (church)
- Igreja de São Francisco (church)
- Torre das Couraças (tower)
- Fonte das Bicas (fountain)
- Lago do Gadanha (small artificial lake)
- Capela de Nossa Senhora dos Mártires (chapel)
- Centro de Ciência Viva de Estremoz (Live Science Centre)
- Workshops with “Bonecos de Estremoz”
- Museu Municipal de Estremoz (museum)
- Wineries of famed wine producers
- Evoramonte Castle
- Visitable marble quarries
5 – Vila Viçosa
Vila Viçosa (as in lush town), so called because of its charms and the fertility of its land, is also known as the “Princess of the Alentejo“. This Alentejo town is the home of one of the most renowned Portuguese poetesses, Florbela Espanca, a pioneer of the feminist movement in the country.
Whoever decides to visit the Alentejo will find the region’s many quarries and their beautiful marble in the enormous historical heritage of Vila Viçosa. Starting, obviously, with the Paço Ducal de Vila Viçosa (a 16th century palace), the most well-known monument. It would become the royal holiday residence from the moment King João IV ascended the throne of Portugal, starting the Bragança Dynasty.
Due to its historical importance, Vila Viçosa has many other vestiges of the past, from churches and monasteries to the imposing castle, not forgetting the many museums. And, of course, its streets and squares, with the Praça da República (square) and its emblematic orange trees standing out, best seen from the castle.
To visit in Vila Viçosa
- Palácio Ducal (Ducal Palace)
- Castle, walls and gates
- Santuário de Nossa Senhora da Conceição de Vila Viçosa (sanctuary)
- Several museums
- Caça (hunting)
- Arqueologia (archeology)
- Mármore (marble)
- Agrícola e Etnográfico (agricultural and ethnographic)
- Estanho (tin)
- Arte Sacra (sacred art)
- Casa Museu Bento de Jesus Caraça (a mathematician and fighter against the fascist regime)
- Praça da República (square)
- Churches like São Bartolomeu, São João Evangelista, Lapa
- Other churches and convents (like Agostinhos and Capuchos)
- Cross and pillory
- Pousada Convento de Vila Viçosa (a historic hotel in an old convent – Real Convento das Chagas de Cristo)
- Visitable marble quarries
6 – Arraiolos
Arraiolos is certainly one of the most famous and visited towns in Alentejo. The proximity to Evora and the short detour that you must make, if arriving from Lisbon, helps. But those who come already know the singularity of what they will find.
The Tapetes de Arraiolos (rugs) are famous, a hallmark of handicraft in Portugal. This art probably began with the Moors in the 12th century, due to the abundance of wool in the region and an already important textile activity. Suffering obvious changes with the passing of time, the rugs are embroidered with wools of various colours on a jute or cotton canvas. It is in Alexandre Herculano Street that we find the largest number of shops exhibiting beautiful models. In the same street, we find Igreja da Misericórdia (church) and its magnificent tiles, which only find similar beauty in those of the Convento dos Loios (convent), just outside the town.
As for Arraiolos Castle, it is one of few in the whole world with circular architecture. Such a distinctive feature is noticeable when we view the well-preserved outer walls from the town but also when we enter. The strange hilltop in the centre holds the oldest church, Igreja do Salvador, of Romanesque origin, older than the walls themselves.
To visit in Arraiolos
- Circular castle
- The entire historic centre
- Praça do Município (Town square)
- Igreja Matriz (main church)
- Igreja da Misericórdia (church)
- Centro Interpretativo do Tapete de Arraiolos (Arraiolos Carpet Interpretation Centre)
- Arraiolos carpets shops
- Centro Interpretativo do Mundo Rural (rural world)
- Pousada de Nossa Senhora da Assunção (a historic hotel in an old convent – Convento dos Loios)
- Casa da Sempre Noiva (small palace)
- Igreja de Santana do Campo (church)
- Arraiolos Eco-trail (following Evora Eco-trail)
7 – Marvão
Those who visit Alentejo will surely end up going to Monsaraz. Marvão is often unfairly left behind because the similarities are obvious: magnificent defensive castles on top of hills overlooking the lands of Spain.
But Marvão has a unique identity that makes a visit a must. To begin with, this town in the middle of the Parque Natural da Serra de S. Mamede (a natural park in the sierra) is very close to the skies, at almost 3,000ft (900m), that take over the impressive landscape.
This was the only Portuguese fortification that maintained its strategic purpose until the 19th century. That is why it is the richest in terms of historical-military heritage of the walls we have seen here since they were built (13th and 17th centuries). We can walk its involving streets but also see them from the top of the impressive castle. No doubt the rock is dominant. However, the white houses still proudly show that they are part of the Alentejo.
To visit in Marvão
- The view!
- Surrounding walls and entrances (Portas da Vila, Postigo do Torrejão, Portas de Rodão)
- All the streets and the harmonious way the houses blend with the schist and granite rocks
- Manueline pillory
- Casa da Cultura (House of Culture – old Town Hall)
- Churches (Matriz, São Tiago, Espírito Santo)
- Museu Municipal de Marvão (Municipality Museum in old Santa Maria Church)
- Igreja do Espírito Santo and Convento de Nossa Senhora da Estrela (church and convent)
- Ammaia Roman city ruins
- All the involving area of Serra de S. Mamede, perfect for hiking and discovering the wonderful waterfalls
- Alameda dos Freixos (EN 246-1), probably the most beautiful road in the Alentejo
- Medieval monuments like dolmens and menhirs
- Several chafurdões (very old small rustic houses), medieval necropolises and hermitages
- Praia fluvial de Portagem (river beach)
8 – Castelo de Vide
Castelo de Vide is wrapped in a romantic atmosphere with the Serra de São Mamede (sierra) as a backdrop. The fountains, gardens and green vegetation let us guess that, here, the climate of the Alentejo, which may go to extremes, has become mild. These characteristics have earned the town the title of “Alentejo’s Sintra“.
No wonder then that Castelo de Vide should be at the top of your list of priorities for what to visit in the Alentejo. Once you arrive at the centre, which is Praça D. Pedro V (square), you’ll find yourself surrounded by striking buildings. Then, it’s just a question of walking through the town, always on the way up, to let its charm grow on you.
We return to medieval times, in this case, highlighting one of the best preserved Jewish quarters there is to visit in Portugal. The sound of water in the fountains and its freshness make this day exploring the Alentejo memorable.
To visit in Castelo de Vide
- The castle and the view over the plains and the sierra
- Fonte da Vila and Fonte da Mealhada (fountains)
- Praça D. Pedro V (square)
- Edifício dos Paços do Concelho (Town Hall building)
- Igreja Matriz Santa Maria da Devesa (church)
- Igreja de São João (church)
- Several other churches (like São Salvador do Mundo, Santo Amaro, Nossa Senhora da Alegria, São Roque), the Antigo Convento de São Francisco (a convent) and Capela de Santo António (a chapel)
- Casa Amarela (“Yellow House”)
- The old Jewish Quarter (especially the Old Synagogue and the museum)
- Casa do Arçário, Casa de Mouzinho da Silveira, Casa de Matos, Casa do Prior (houses)
- Parque Natural da Serra de São Mamede
- Ermida de Nossa Senhora da Penha (chapel)
- Traces of megalithicism such as Anta da Melriça (dolmen) and Menir da Meada (menhir)
9 – Alegrete
Like the two previous towns you should visit in the Alentejo, Alegrete is located in the middle of the Serra de São Mamede Natural Park, in the municipality of Portalegre.This location and the altitude of about 1600ft (500m) give it a privileged position to see all the beautiful calmness that surrounds it. Reason enough for such a lively and pleasant name (“Alegre” = joyful).
Currently in ruins, the castle is king of the hill. Before reaching the summit, we still have to overcome the steep slope, winding through the clear and immaculate houses with colourful stripes. Their walls contrast with the cats that constantly greet us and the plethora of flower pots in certain nooks.
Alegrete may well be the starting point to visit a different Alentejo, where the improbable waterfalls of Serra de S. Mamede can be found. Happy exploring!
To visit in Alegrete
- Main church
- Chapels (São Pedro and Misericórdia)
- Torre do Relógio (Clock Tower)
- The whole Serra de S. Mamede
- Several waterfalls (Pego do Inferno, Cabroeira, São Julião)
10 – Mértola
Far to the south, very close to the limits with the Algarve region and even the border with Spain, Mertola shows us how surprised we can get when we visit the Alentejo. This is where, over the centuries, one of the most important fluvial ports in the Mediterranean was. It was, therefore, of extreme importance to the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Visigoths, Moors and even the Portuguese of the 16th and 17th centuries. Towards the end of the 19th century, prosperity arrived again with the exploitation of the ore of Mina de S. Domingos (mine).
The boats that went up the River Guadiana were decisive for the development of Mertola, which culminated in very interesting vestiges of a past of great civilisations. The rich Muslim heritage here stands out clearly because this was the capital of a small independent Islamic emirate, the Taifa of Mertola. It is especially remarkable because the Moor heritage disappeared in so many other places in Portugal, destroyed and converted after the Christian Reconquest. The Parish Church of Mertola, of Islamic architecture and Catholic religion, is an excellent example.
The entire historic centre of Mertola is a mysterious place reminiscent of the medinas of North Africa. The narrow streets protect us from the sun as we climb the hill. Arriving at the castle, we conquer the most sublime view over the river and the irregular fields.
To visit in Mértola
- Historic centre and its beautiful streets and small squares
- Main Church
- Convento de S. Francisco (convent)
- Torre Couraça (tower)
- Torre do Relógio (Clock Tower)
- Mertola Museums
- Basílica Paleocristã (Paleochristian Basilica)
- Oficina de Tecelagem (Weaving Workshop)
- Casa de Mertola (Mertola House)
- Igreja Matriz (Main Church)
- Alcáçova e Casa Islâmica (Alcazar and Islamic House)
- Castelo (Castle)
- Núcleo Museológico de Alcaria dos Javazes (rural life)
- Forja do Ferreiro (Blacksmith’s Forge)
- Arte Islâmica (Islamic Art)
- Arte Sacra (Sacred Art)
- Casa Romana (Roman House)
- Ermida e Necrópole de S. Sebastião (Hermitage and Necropolis of St Sebastião)
- Mosteiro (Monastery)
- Parque Natural do Vale do Guadiana (natural park)
- Mina de S. Domingos (mine)
- Casa do Mineiro (in S. Domingos, another part of the Mertola Museum)
- Cascata do Pulo do Lobo (waterfall)
- Praia da Albufeira da Tapada Grande (beach)
Visit Alentejo – go further, go deeper
Our Top 10 – What to visit in Alentejo is over. But many other cities, towns and small villages were left unmentioned. Therefore, we leave you with other suggestions for a longer exploration of the region or for when you return after having your heart conquered by our lands.
Alto Alentejo (Upper Alentejo) – Alter do chão, Avis, Crato, Portalegre
Alentejo Central (Central Alentejo) – Alcáçovas, Mora, Montemor-o-Novo, Viana do Alentejo, Terena
Baixo Alentejo (Lower Alentejo) – Beja, Odemira, Moura, Porto Covo, Serpa, Sines, Vila Nova de Milfontes
Whenever you feel like embracing the ever-present nature of the Alentejo, get out of town. There is a whole new and exciting world to discover.
- Farms and country houses accommodation
- Alqueva Lake and its banks
- The Alentejo coast from the Troia peninsula to the Algarve, with focus on the South West Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park.
We are happy if we have made your visit to the Alentejo easier to plan. We hope to see you here as soon as possible.