74 Best Sights in Évora and the Alentejo, Portugal

Castelo de Estremoz

Fodor's choice

The former royal palace, an impressive hilltop fortress towering over the city, is the highlight of any visit to Estremoz (it now functions as a luxury pousada). The palace was built in the 13th century by Portugal's King Dom Dinis. It's named after his wife, Queen Isabel of Aragon, who died here in 1336. An explosion in 1698 destroyed much of the medieval structure except the Torre das Três Coroas (Tower of the Three Crowns), which you can still climb today for fantastic views of Estremoz and the surrounding countryside. The palace was restored after the ammunition blast and fire. The interior houses an impressive collection of 17th- and 18th-century artifacts and furniture.

Largo de D. Dinis, Estremoz, Évora, 7100-509, Portugal
268 332 075
sights Details
Rate Includes: Free admission to pousada lobby, tower, and chapel

Castelo de Montemor-o-Novo

Fodor's choice

One of the most beautiful in the region, this huge castle towers over the city. It includes an ancient porta da vila (city gate) that could be closed during attacks, a casa da guarda (guard station), and a dramatic torre do relógio (clock tower). You can climb onto the outer fortifications and walk around the complex for a 360-degree view of the town and the sweeping plains beyond. It's also a pleasant walk up to the castle through the winding, steep side streets lined with 17th-century manor houses and ornate doorways.

Castelo de Serpa

Fodor's choice

Serpa's 11th-century aqueduct forms an integral part of the walls of the 13th-century castle, from which there's a stunning view of town. The huge ruined sections of wall tottering precariously above the entrance are the result of explosions ordered by the Duke of Osuna during the 18th-century War of the Spanish Succession.

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Convento de Nossa Senhora da Conceição

Fodor's choice

Facing a broad plaza in the oldest part of town, the Convent of Our Lady of the Conception was founded in 1459 by the parents of King Manuel I. Favored by the royal family, this Franciscan convent became one of the richest of the period. It now houses the Museu Regional de Beja (Regional Museum of Beja), and if there's one museum you visit in Beja, this should be it. It's tough to decide which is more impressive, the exhibits inside or the building itself. You walk into an ornate, gold-encrusted chapel with saints' relics, and then proceed through the convent's old cloisters covered in azulejos from the 16th and 17th centuries. Some of them comprise panels depicting scenes from the life of St. John the Baptist, and there's also a section of Moorish tiles. At the far end of the second-floor gallery is the famous Mariana Window, named for the 17th-century nun Mariana Alcoforado, whose love affair with a French officer is the stuff of local legend.

Coudelaria de Alter

Fodor's choice

If you're interested in horses, you must visit the Alter Stud Farm, 22 km (14 miles) southwest of Portalegre. It was founded by Dom João V in 1748 to furnish royalty with high-quality mounts. Dedicated to preserving and developing the beautiful Alter Real (Royal Alter) strain of the Lusitania breed, the farm has had a long, turbulent history. After years of foreign invasion and pillage, little remains of its original structures, but a huge modern equestrian complex now surrounds the older buildings. Fortunately, the equine bloodline, one of Europe's noblest, has been preserved, and you can watch these superb horses being trained and exercised on the farm. There are also three small but interesting museums here: one documents the history of the farm, one has a collection of horse-drawn carriages, and one has displays on the art of falconry. The town of Alter do Chão itself, with the battlements of a 14th-century castle overlooking a square, is also worth a stroll.

Cripta Arqueológica do Castelo

Fodor's choice

This stunning underground fortress displays archaeological relics from 2,600 years of settlement here. In the mid-1990s, archaeologists discovered traces of an Iron Age settlement from the 6th century BC underneath the town's castle. Structures are believed to have existed here from Roman times, with later castles being built one on top of another through Moorish and medieval times. The current castle and adjacent church are from the 13th century.

Castelo de Alcácer do Sal, Alcácer do Sal, Setúbal, 7580-197, Portugal
265 612 058
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Rate Includes: €3, Closed Mon.

Herdade do Esporão

Fodor's choice

This famed wine estate produces Esporão, one of Portugal's top labels. It's on a beautiful, sprawling property overlooking a lake that you won't believe is tucked away in the outskirts of this small town. The winery's driveway cuts across miles of vineyards, up to the main house with an arched portico showcasing the vast property. The winery offers one-hour tours of its facilities several times daily, and they all end with a free glass of wine. You can also sample wines at the bar (you pay according to the number and type of wines tasted). Pair wines with sophisticated Portuguese cuisine in the elegant lunchtime restaurant, where chef Carlos Teixeira prepares dishes with wine, olive oil, and vinegar from the estate.

Igreja de São Francisco

Fodor's choice

After the Sé, this is the most impressive of Évora's churches. Its construction in the early 16th century, on the site of a former Gothic chapel, involved the greatest talents of the day, including Nicolas Chanterene, Oliver of Ghent, and the Arruda brothers, Francisco and Diogo. Magnificent architecture notwithstanding, the bizarre Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones) is the main attraction. The translation of the chilling inscription over the entrance reads, "We, the bones that are here, await yours." The bones of some 5,000 skeletons dug up from cemeteries in the area line the ceilings and supporting columns. With a flair worthy of Charles Addams, a 16th-century Franciscan monk placed skulls jaw-to-cranium so they form arches across the ceiling; arm and leg bones are neatly stacked to shape the supporting columns.

Igreja de São João Evangelista

Fodor's choice

This small church next to the former Convento dos Lóios, which is now the Pousada dos Lóios, houses one of the most impressive displays of 18th-century azulejos (painted and glazed ceramic tiles) anywhere in Portugal. The sanctuary, dedicated to St. John the Evangelist, was founded in the 15th century by the Venetian-based Lóios Order. Its interior walls are covered with azulejos created by Oliveira Bernardes, the foremost master of this unique Portuguese art form. The blue-and-white tiles depict scenes from the life of the church's founder, Rodrigo de Melo, who, along with members of his family, is buried here. The bas-relief marble tombstones at the foot of the high altar are the only ones of their kind in Portugal. Note the two metal hatches on either side of the main aisle: one covers an ancient cistern, which belonged to the Moorish castle that predated the church (an underground spring still supplies the cistern with potable water), and beneath the other hatch lie the neatly stacked bones of hundreds of monks. This bizarre ossuary was uncovered in 1958 during restoration work.

Largo do Conde de Vila Flor, Évora, Évora, 7000, Portugal
919 588 474
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Rate Includes: Church €4; combined ticket €8, includes the adjacent Palácio dos Duques de Cadaval

Jardim de Diana

Fodor's choice

Opposite the Templo Romano, this restful, tree-lined park looks out over the aqueduct and the plains from the modest heights of what is sometimes grandiosely referred to as "Évora's Acropolis." You can take in nearly 2,000 years of Portuguese history from here. One sweeping glance encompasses the temple, the spires of the Gothic Sé, the Igreja dos Lóios, and the 20th-century pousada housed in the convent. A garden café at the corner of the park is a great spot to reflect on the architectural marvels before you, with a glass of port in hand.

Mosteiro de São Bernardo

Fodor's choice

Founded in 1518, the Monastery of Saint Bernard is a beautiful Renaissance property that includes a tiled church, cloisters with a central garden and fountain, and a mausoleum. The monastery closed after the last monk died in 1878, and since then the building has been used as a seminary, a high school, a municipal museum, and military barracks. It's now used by the National Guard, which opens the building to visitors during selected hours.

Museu de Tapeçaria Guy Fino

Fodor's choice

This wonderful museum holds a contemporary collection of the tapestries that made Portalegre world famous. The museum is named after Guy Fino, the founder of one of the city's textile factories.

Museu Municipal de Mértola

Fodor's choice

Mértola has a handful of fine museums all within walking distance of one another on the town's hilltop, which together make a wonderful afternoon of sightseeing. The Núcleo Islâmico has impressive displays of jewels, metal items, and a collection of ceramics from the 9th to 13th centuries, when Mértola was ruled by the Moors. The Casa Romana is a restored, Roman-era house in the basement of the city hall. You can walk through the house's foundations and view a small collection of pottery and kitchen tools excavated nearby. The nearby Museu de Arte Sacra has religious statues and carvings from the 16th through 18th centuries, borrowed from Mértola's various churches. The museum group's oldest collection is housed in the Basílica Paleocristã and includes funerary stones and other artifacts excavated from the site of the town's paleo-Christian basilica and nearby cemetery.

Praça Luís de Camões, Mértola, Beja, 7750, Portugal
286 610 100
sights Details
Rate Includes: €2 for Núcleo Islâmico, other museums are free. To access Museu de Arte Sacra on weekends ask the staff at Núcleo Islâmico.

Paço Ducal

Fodor's choice

This opulent palace draws a great many visitors—and for good reason. Built of locally quarried marble, the palace's main wing extends for some 360 feet and overlooks an expansive square and the bronze equestrian statue of Dom João IV. At the north end of the square note the Porta do Nó (Knot Gate) with its massive stone shaped like ropes—an intriguing example of the Manueline style.

The palace's interior was extensively restored in the 1950s and contains all you'd expect to find: intricate rugs, frescoed ceilings, priceless collections of silver and gold objects, Chinese vases, Gobelin tapestries, and a long dining hall adorned with antlers and other hunting trophies. The enormous kitchen's spits are large enough to accommodate several oxen, and there's enough gleaming copper to keep a small army of servants busy polishing. Dom Carlos, the nation's penultimate king, spent his last night here before being assassinated in 1908; his rooms have been maintained as they were. Carlos was quite an accomplished painter, and many of his works (along with private photos of Portugal's last royal family) line the walls of the apartments.

The ground floor of the castle has displays of objects ranging from Paleolithic to 18th century and mainly Roman artifacts discovered during excavations. These include pieces from ancient Mediterranean civilizations—Egypt, Rome, Carthage, and also pre-Columbian. Also on view are coaches from the 17th to the 20th century. Hunting, rather than war, is the dominant theme of the armory that holds more than 2,000 objects. The treasury displays crucifixes from Vila Viçosa and those belonging to Dona Catarina de Bragança as well as more than 200 pieces of jewelry, paintings, crystal, and ceramics. The porcelain collection is made up of blue-and-white china from the 15th to 18th centuries.

Praça do Giraldo

Fodor's choice

The arcade-lined square in the center of the old walled city is named after Évora's liberator, Gerald the Fearless. During Caesar's time, the square, marked by a large arch, was the Roman forum. In 1571 the arch was destroyed to make room for the fountain, a simple half sphere made of white Estremoz marble and designed by the Renaissance architect Afonso Álvares. Nowadays, it's a lovely spot to take in the scenery over coffee or cocktails at one of the many cafés with tables on the square. On the eastern side is a narrow cobblestone pedestrian thoroughfare called Rua 5 de Outubro that leads to the cathedral.

Praia Do Malhão

Fodor's choice

One of the longest beaches in the Vila Nova de Milfontes area, Malhão is popular with surfers, anglers, and a small colony of nudists on the beach's northern end. It's about 5 km (3 miles) north of Vila Nova de Milfontes, inside the coastal national park. The sheer size of these vast sand dunes ensures a sense that you have the place to yourself. Amenities: lifeguards. Best for: surfing.

Estudante da Praia Do Malhão, Vila Nova de Milfontes, Beja, 7645, Portugal

Fodor's choice

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this breathtaking cathedral was constructed in 1186 from huge granite blocks. It has been enhanced over the centuries with an octagonal, turreted dome above the transept; a blue-tile spire atop the north tower; a number of fine Manueline windows; and several Gothic rose windows. Two massive asymmetrical towers and battlement-ringed walls give the Sé a fortresslike appearance. At the entrance, Gothic arches are supported by marble columns bearing delicately sculpted statues of the apostles. With the exception of a fine baroque chapel, the granite interior is somber. The cloister, a 14th-century Gothic addition with Mudéjar vestiges, is one of the finest of its type in the country; it might look familiar to those who've visited a similar version at Lisbon's cathedral. Housed in the towers and chapter room is the Museu de Arte Sacra da Sé (Sacred Art Museum). Of particular interest is a 13th-century ivory Virgin of Paradise, whose body opens up to show exquisitely carved scenes of her life.


Fodor's choice

A Jewish community is believed to have existed in Castelo de Vide since the 12th century, and reached its peak in the 15th century, bolstered by Jews fleeing the Inquisition in neighboring Spain. This tiny synagogue is believed to be from the late 13th century. There's a small sign outside, but otherwise, you might miss it—it looks exactly like all the other row houses. The synagogue was adapted from existing buildings, with two separate prayer rooms for men and women. Although its exact construction year is unknown, this is thought to be one of the oldest in all of Portugal.

Rua da Judiaria, Castelo de Vide, Portalegre, 7320, Portugal
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Rate Includes: Free

Templo Romano

Fodor's choice

The well-preserved ruins of the Roman Temple dominate Largo do Conde de Vila Flor. The edifice, considered one of the finest of its kind on the Iberian Peninsula, was probably built in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. The temple, largely destroyed during the invasions of the barbarian tribes in the early 5th century, was later used for various purposes, including that of municipal slaughterhouse in the 14th century. It was restored to its present state in 1871.

Anta Grande do Zambujeiro

The 20-foot-high Dolmen of Zambujeiro is the largest of its kind on the Iberian Peninsula. This prehistoric monument is typical of those found throughout Neolithic Europe: several massive stone slabs stand upright, supporting a flat stone that serves as a roof. These structures were designed as burial chambers.

Off CM1079, Valverde, Évora, Portugal


This impressive structure from the 11th century used to ferry water to Serpa from wells in the countryside. In the 17th century, a wheel pump was added just outside the city's southern walls, and still stands there today. Follow the aqueduct's walls from the pump out across the city's west side.

Aqueduto da Água de Prata

The graceful arched Silver Water Aqueduct, which once carried water to Évora from the springs at Graça do Divor, is best seen as you drive along the road to Arraiolos (R114-4). Constructed in 1532 under the patronage of Dom João III, the aqueduct was designed by the famous architect Francisco de Arruda and extends 18 km (11 miles) north of Évora. Évora's tourist office has a map of the aqueduct and footpaths alongside it.

Off the R114-4, Valverde, Évora, 7000, Portugal

Aqueduto da Amoreira

The 8-km (5-mile) Amoreira Aqueduct took more than a century to build and is still in use today. It was started in 1498 under the direction of one of the era's great architects, Francisco de Arruda—who also designed the Aqueduto da Água da Prata north of Évora. The first drops of water didn't flow into the town fountain until 1622. Some parts of the impressive structure have five stories of arches; the total number of arches is 843. The aqueduct is best viewed from outside the city walls, on the road from Lisbon.

Barragem do Alqueva

If the valleys surrounding Monsaraz look flooded, that's because they are. In the late 1990s, Portugal and Spain jointly began work on a huge dam that created the 250-square-km (96-square-mile) Alqueva Reservoir, Europe's largest lake. You can drive or walk across the dam, but one of the best ways to see the lake's expanse is by boat. Visit the nearby town of Amieira, where the Amieira Marina offers day trips on the lake, boat rentals, and dining at a waterfront restaurant.

Biblioteca Municipal

This former convent houses the municipal library and a gallery featuring temporary exhibitions on plastic arts. Originally erected in 1676, the building went through several extensions in the 18th century.

Terreiro de St. João de Deus 5, Montemor-o-Novo, Évora, 7050-089, Portugal
266 898 105
sights Details
Rate Includes: Free, Closed Sat. and Sun.

Capela de Rainha Santa Isabel

Across the street from the Castelo de Estremoz, Queen Isabel's personal chapel is a striking, richly decorated enclave lined with azulejo tiles. If the door is closed, you can ask to access it at the Museu Municipal.

Rua da Rainha Santa Isabel 8, Estremoz, Évora, 7100-509, Portugal
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Rate Includes: Free

Casa-Museu José Regio

Halfway between the cathedral and the castle, the José Regio House and Museum was named for a local poet who bequeathed his collection of religious and folk art to the museum.

Rua José Régio, Portalegre, Portalegre, 7300, Portugal
245 307 535
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Rate Includes: €2, Closed Mon.


You can venture into the tower in Castelo de Vide's castle and inside the well-preserved keep to the large Gothic hall, which has a picture window looking down on the town square and the church.

Rua Direita, Castelo de Vide, Portalegre, 7230, Portugal
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Rate Includes: Free

Castelo de Arraiolos

Nestled on a grassy hill overlooking the village, this medieval castle stands out with its circular walls. The interior has seen better days, especially around the two towers, but the ramparts are still pretty much intact and offer incredible views over Alentejo's countryside. In the middle of the fortress there's a 16th-century church that is occasionally open and has a small souvenir shop. You can drive here or walk from the village, but it's a steep climb.
Rua do Castelo, Arraiolos, Évora, 7040-000, Portugal
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Rate Includes: Free

Castelo de Beja

Beja's castle is an extensive system of fortifications whose crenellated walls and towers chronicle the history of the town from its Roman occupation through its 19th-century battles with the French. Once inside the central courtyard, climb up the castle's ramparts to the impressive 140-foot Torre de Menagem, a stone tower with gorgeous views of the surrounding countryside. The tourist office is also located inside the castle grounds.

Largo Dr. Lima Faleiro, Beja, Beja, 7800, Portugal
sights Details
Rate Includes: Free; €2 for tower