Portalegre is the gateway to the Alentejo's most mountainous region as well as to the Parque Natural da Serra de São Mamede. The town is at the foot of the Serra de São Mamede, where the parched plains of the south give way to a greener, more inviting landscape. Because it’s a larger, more modern town, Portalegre lacks a bit of the charm of the whitewashed hamlets in the south of the province. But the city’s vibrant spirit, buoyed by its large university, more than makes up for it. Unlike some of those deserted southern towns, Portalegre is alive with a diverse community and economy, and still has a university, Gothic cathedral, castle, and walled old town to explore.
It’s a great base for outdoors lovers who want easy access to nearby mountains and villages. History buffs will enjoy exploring the remnants of its once-thriving textile industry—Portalegre retains a worldwide reputation for its handmade tapestries, which fetch high prices.