Alentejo Guide: 10+ Places You Must Visit

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Written by: | Last updated on September 22, 2023 | Est. Reading Time: 13 minutes
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The Alentejo, stretching across the south-central and southern regions of Portugal, is an enchanting land of contrasts, offering something for every type of traveler. Known for its vast golden plains, rolling hills dotted with cork and olive trees, historic towns, and pristine coastline, the Alentejo encapsulates the very essence of Portugal’s rich heritage and natural beauty.

In the interior, historical towns like Évora and Beja invite you to step back in time as you wander through narrow cobblestone streets, marvelling at medieval architecture, ancient Roman ruins, and majestic castles. Évora, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is particularly noteworthy for its well-preserved Roman Temple and intriguing Chapel of Bones. These towns also serve as gateways to the region’s celebrated wineries, where you can indulge in tasting sessions of the Alentejo’s renowned wines, including the full-bodied reds.

Coastal Alentejo offers an entirely different allure with its breathtaking beaches and rugged cliffs. This untouched coastline is an idyllic destination for those seeking tranquility and unspoiled beauty. Whether you’re surfing the waves at Praia do Amado or relaxing on the sands of Praia da Zambujeira do Mar, the coastal region is a paradise for beach lovers and water enthusiasts alike.

The Alentejo is also a hub for eco-tourism, with various eco-friendly accommodations and activities that emphasise sustainability and harmony with nature. From bird-watching and hiking to cycling through scenic landscapes, the region provides numerous ways to immerse yourself in its diverse ecosystems. The local cuisine, deeply rooted in traditional farming practices, complements this sustainable approach, offering delectable dishes such as “migas” (bread-based dish) and “porco preto” (black pork), all prepared with fresh, local ingredients.

Whether you’re drawn to the cultural richness of its ancient towns, the indulgence of its wine and culinary delights, the serenity of its coastlines, or the adventure of its natural landscapes, the Alentejo promises a unique and fulfilling experience. Its blend of historical significance and natural splendour, combined with a warm, inviting culture, makes the Alentejo a must-visit destination for anyone exploring Portugal.

Useful Resources for Your Trip to Alentejo

Here’s our top tips and tricks for getting the best deals for your trip to The Alentejo. 

  • Accommodation: Booking.com and Airbnb are the two most comprehensive websites for finding hotels, hostels, apartments, and other types of accommodation in the Alentejo. 
  • Car Rental: Discover Cars and Rental Cars are the two most useful sites for booking local car rental. 
  • Airport transfers: There are taxis and Ubers at Lisbon and Porto Airport, but you can also pre-book an airport transfer with Welcome Pickups
  • Tours & Things to Do: Both Get Your Guide and Viator list lots of local tours and activities in Viseu and the surrounding Alentejo region. 
  • Luggage Storage: Luggage Hero and Bounce are two great sites for finding places to store your luggage in Portugal. 
  • Public Transport: Cp.pt is the main website for trains in Portugal. For longer distance buses, see Rede Expressos. Flixbus.pt often has cheap tickets between cities in Portugal. 
  • Flights: Skyscanner and Google Flights are the two most useful websites for finding flights to Portugal. The main airport for the Alentejo is Lisbon Airport, although it may be worth looking at Porto Airport or Faro Airport as well. 

Top Places to Visit

Évora

Évora, a captivating city nestled in the heart of Portugal’s Alentejo region, is a living testament to the country’s rich and varied history. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Évora offers a blend of Roman, Moorish, and Portuguese architectural wonders, all contained within its well-preserved medieval walls. From the iconic Roman Temple, known as the Temple of Diana, to the chilling Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones) adorned with human skulls and bones, the city’s historical sites beckon exploration.

Visiting Évora is like taking a step back in time, as you meander through narrow cobblestone streets, discover hidden courtyards, and revel in the city’s artistic heritage. The main square, Praça do Giraldo, is a lively hub filled with cafes, shops, and historic buildings, providing an ideal spot to absorb the local atmosphere. Beyond its tangible history, Évora also offers an enticing culinary scene, with traditional Alentejo dishes and excellent wines awaiting discovery. Whether you’re an avid history enthusiast or simply looking for a unique cultural experience, Évora’s timeless charm is sure to captivate.

Beja

Beja, situated in the southern part of Portugal’s Alentejo region, is a picturesque and historically rich city that offers a glimpse into Portugal’s storied past. The city’s crowning jewel is undoubtedly the Castle of Beja, a well-preserved medieval fortress offering panoramic views of the sweeping Alentejo plains. Within the castle complex, visitors can explore the Torre de Menagem, the tallest free-standing keep in Portugal, and marvel at medieval architecture, military relics, and intricate tilework.

The city is also home to other remarkable sites such as the Convento de Nossa Senhora da Conceição, showcasing a blend of Gothic, Manueline, and Renaissance styles. The whitewashed buildings and narrow alleys of the old town create a charming atmosphere, perfect for leisurely strolls.

Castelo de Vide

Nestled in the northern part of the Alentejo region, Castelo de Vide is a charming town known for its medieval castle, narrow cobbled streets, and well-preserved Jewish Quarter. The town’s castle, dating back to the 14th century, stands as a majestic reminder of Portugal’s medieval history, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding hills and valleys. Visitors can explore the castle’s robust walls and towers, absorbing the historic ambiance that permeates the area.

Castelo de Vide is also famous for its ancient Jewish Quarter, one of the most important in Portugal, where narrow alleys and traditional whitewashed houses transport you back in time. The medieval synagogue, though modest in size, is a poignant testament to the rich cultural tapestry of the region. A stroll through the town’s picturesque streets, filled with flower-laden balconies and intriguing historical sites, makes Castelo de Vide a delightful stop for history enthusiasts and romantics alike.

Marvão

Marvão is a stunning hilltop town in the Alentejo region, perched high above the surrounding landscape and offering unparalleled views of the Portuguese countryside. Enclosed by medieval walls, Marvão’s castle is one of its defining features, providing a fascinating glimpse into the town’s defensive past. The castle’s keep serves as an excellent vantage point, allowing visitors to survey the rolling hills and valleys that stretch out in all directions.

The narrow and winding streets of Marvão lead visitors through a beautifully preserved medieval town, complete with charming white-washed houses and well-tended gardens. The serene and timeless atmosphere makes Marvão an idyllic destination for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of modern life. Whether exploring the historic architecture or simply taking in the extraordinary views, a visit to Marvão offers a truly unique and memorable experience.

Elvas

Elvas is a remarkable fortified city in the Alentejo region of Portugal, known for its extensive military fortifications that date back to the 17th century. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Elvas is home to the largest bulwarked dry-ditch system in the world, with its walls, forts, and bastions forming an impressive defensive complex. The town played a crucial role in Portugal’s history, particularly during the wars with Spain, and the preserved fortifications serve as a testament to its strategic importance.

Within the walls, Elvas reveals a rich architectural heritage, featuring beautiful churches, narrow cobbled streets, and picturesque squares. The Aqueduto da Amoreira, a remarkable 16th-century aqueduct that stretches for over 7 kilometers, is one of the city’s iconic landmarks. Visitors to Elvas can explore the military museum, enjoy local gastronomy, and immerse themselves in a town that perfectly blends historical significance with modern vibrancy.

Vila Viçosa

Vila Viçosa, often referred to as the “Princess of the Alentejo,” is a charming town steeped in history and elegance. It’s best known for its stunning Ducal Palace, a grandiose Renaissance building that once served as the residence for the Dukes of Braganza. This magnificent edifice showcases an impressive facade stretching over 110 meters, adorned with beautiful sculptures and intricate details. The palace is now a museum, offering visitors a glimpse into the lives of Portuguese nobility, with richly decorated rooms and remarkable collections of art and historical artifacts.

Beyond the palace, Vila Viçosa offers a picturesque old town filled with traditional whitewashed houses, ornate churches, and tranquil gardens. The town is also renowned for its marble quarries, and the widespread use of marble in the local architecture has earned it the nickname “Marble Town.”

Monsaraz

Monsaraz is a fairy-tale-like hilltop village located in the Alentejo region of Portugal. Its narrow cobbled streets, medieval castle, and charming whitewashed buildings provide a glimpse into the region’s storied past. From its fortified walls, visitors are afforded breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding Alentejo plains and the nearby Alqueva Dam, Europe’s largest artificial lake.

Time seems to stand still in Monsaraz, allowing visitors to lose themselves in its timeless ambiance. There are lovely artisan shops selling local crafts, traditional eateries offering Alentejo cuisine, and numerous historical sites to explore, including the Church of Santa Maria da Lagoa and various megalithic monuments nearby.

Estremoz

Estremoz is a captivating town in the Alentejo region of Portugal, known for its rich history, stunning landscapes, and the unique white marble that’s been extracted from local quarries for centuries. The town is often referred to as the “White City” because of the extensive use of marble in its buildings and monuments. A magnificent medieval castle dominates the skyline, with the Torre das Três Coroas, a 27-meter-high marble tower, serving as a prominent landmark.

Visitors to Estremoz can explore the old town’s narrow streets, filled with charming shops and traditional eateries, or visit the bustling weekly market where local products, including cheeses, sausages, and the renowned red pottery of the region, are sold. The Museu Municipal Professor Joaquim Vermelho offers insight into the town’s history and cultural heritage.

Montemor-o-Novo

Montemor-o-Novo is a town rich in history and cultural heritage, situated in the Alentejo region of Portugal. Dominated by the ruins of a medieval castle, the town offers a picturesque blend of old and new. The castle ruins overlook the town, providing stunning panoramic views of the surrounding landscape, and house the small but engaging Archaeological Museum. The town’s history stretches back to Roman times, with remnants of Roman architecture visible in various parts of the area.

Within Montemor-o-Novo, visitors can explore a variety of churches, chapels, and monasteries, each with its unique architectural style and historical significance. The Convento de São Domingos and the Church of São Francisco are notable landmarks. In addition to its historical sites, Montemor-o-Novo serves as a gateway to the beautiful Alentejo countryside. The nearby Escoural Cave, known for its prehistoric rock art, is also a fascinating excursion. Montemor-o-Novo’s blend of history, culture, and natural beauty makes it a compelling stop for those exploring the Alentejo region.

Portalegre

Portalegre, a charming city in the Alentejo region of Portugal, nestles at the foothills of the Serra de São Mamede Natural Park. Known for its textile industry in the past, Portalegre has grown into a center of culture and natural beauty. The city’s historic center is filled with narrow streets, traditional whitewashed houses, and stunning examples of Manueline and Renaissance architecture.

The impressive Cathedral of Portalegre, dating back to the 16th century, stands as one of the city’s key landmarks. Another must-visit is the José Régio Museum, home to works by the renowned Portuguese poet. Portalegre is also famous for its rich culinary traditions and fine wines, particularly those produced at the local wineries in the region. For those interested in outdoor activities, the nearby Serra de São Mamede offers numerous hiking and bird-watching opportunities, making Portalegre a delightful destination that combines historical intrigue, cultural richness, and natural splendor.

Rota Vicentina

The Rota Vicentina is a network of walking trails in the Alentejo region that offers one of the most unspoiled coastal trekking experiences in Southern Europe. Comprising over 450 kilometres of paths, it connects the historic towns and fishing villages along the stunning coastline, allowing walkers to explore the breathtaking landscapes of cliffs, pristine beaches, and dense coastal scrubland.

The two main routes, the Historical Way and the Fishermen’s Trail, provide diverse experiences for walkers of all levels. The Historical Way winds through the rural inland areas, connecting villages and showcasing the rich cultural heritage of the region. Meanwhile, the Fishermen’s Trail closely follows the coast, offering rugged terrain and spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean. Managed and maintained by local communities, the Rota Vicentina is well-marked and offers various accommodation options along the way, making it an unmissable experience for nature lovers and those seeking a tranquil escape in the beautiful Alentejo region.

Regional Food

The culinary traditions of the Alentejo region in Portugal are deeply rooted in the area’s history and landscape, offering a rich and hearty gastronomic experience. Influenced by agricultural practices and the vast plains of the region, Alentejo cuisine emphasises simple ingredients prepared with time-honoured techniques. A significant part of the diet is based on bread, pork, olive oil, and aromatic herbs, producing flavourful and satisfying dishes.

Pork is especially revered, and the black pigs native to the region are the source of the renowned presunto (dry-cured ham) and other traditional sausages. One popular dish is “Pork à Alentejana,” a combination of pork and clams cooked with paprika, garlic, and coriander. Açorda, a unique bread soup made with garlic, coriander, olive oil, and sometimes fish or eggs, is another local staple. The region is also known for its quality wines, particularly reds, which pair wonderfully with the robust local flavours. Desserts in Alentejo often feature ingredients like almonds, figs, and eggs, leading to sweet treats like Sericaia (a type of egg pudding) often served with a plum sauce called ameixa de Elvas. Overall, Alentejo’s food is a delightful fusion of taste and tradition, offering a genuine taste of Portuguese countryside life.

Getting Here

There are several ways to get to the Alentejo, including by public transport. However, it’s worth noting that many of the smaller towns and coastal areas are not well-connected by public transport and renting a car is definitely recommended. 

  • Flying: Although there is a small, regional airport near Beja, the two main airports near the Alentejo are Lisbon Airport and Faro Airport, which is in the Algarve. From here, you will need to take public transport or rent a car to get to the Alentejo.
  • Train: It is possible to get the train to certain parts of the Alentejo, but be aware that the train network doesn’t cover the whole of the region. You can get to places like Évora, Beja, Portalegra, and Elvas, for example, but not many of the other towns listed. Getting from town to town by train is also sometimes difficult and often requires more journey time than travelling by bus. For tickets and timetables, see cp.pt. 
  • Bus: Generally speaking, it’s easier to get around the Alentejo by bus than it is by train. Train tickets and timetables can be found on Rede Expressos and Flixbus.pt, for longer distance coaches, and on the regional bus websites for shorter journeys between local Alentejo towns. 
  • Car: Having a car is recommended if you want to explore this part of Portugal. It’s usually easiest (and often cheapest) to rent a car at the airport, for example at Faro Airport or Lisbon Airport.