FIVE fantastic castles in Alentejo, southern Portugal

Are you one of those people who, when you visit a country, like to learn about its history and past? One of the ways to revisit distant times is through architecture and, through it, castles stand out. That said, did you know that Portugal is one of the countries in Europe with the most castles? It's true and there are many, they account for almost 500, some better preserved than others. Castles played a crucial role in Portuguese history and served as a defense against attacks by the Moors and the Spanish.

To make your choice easier when visiting Portugal, I will indicate some castles located in the beautiful area of Alentejo, in the south of the country! Over the centuries, castles and other fortifications were built throughout this region of the country, as Portugal conquered territory to the south. The border (border between Portugal and Spain) often had to be defended by a much smaller number of soldiers than in the neighboring country.

But time is relentless and always shows its action. And with the Alentejo castles he did not act any differently, they are currently just vestiges of what they were in the past and the importance they had for Portugal. They no longer fulfill their defensive function but serve, above all, as tourist attractions. Some are in an advanced state of degradation while others remain imposing and well cared for.

Discover five of the ones that are well cared for and you can visit in Alentejo!

1. Monsaraz Castle

O Monsaraz Castle It is one of the main tourist attractions in the best-known village in Alentejo. On top of a hill, the fortress was built in the 17th century. XIV by order of D. Dinis and is classified as a national monument and is 187 km from the capital, Lisbon.

One of the alleys inside the Castle walls

From the top of the walls we can have a 360º view of the entire region and we see, from the small town of Reguengos de Monsaraz, in the distance, to the incredible water mirror of the Alqueva Dam, the largest artificial lake in Europe.

One of the four doors of the Castle of Monsaraz

Walking inside the walls is a worthwhile trip and having a coffee while enjoying this view is one of those things that is priceless. And even better is to spend the night in one of the centuries-old local accommodations and have breakfast enjoying the beauty of Alentejo! He was one of the finalists of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.

2. Marvão Castle

One of the furthest from Lisbon, the beautiful Marvão Castle It is 233 km from the capital, but in addition to the path to get there being unusually beautiful, when we arrive in Marvão we are speechless. Located within a natural park, Marvão Castle appears at the highest point of the Serra de São Mamede, showing its walls and giving a glimpse of some of the buildings it houses within them.

The beautiful white houses inside the Castle

In Gothic style, the castle was conquered from the Moors by D. Dinis in the 17th century. XIII, the same period as its construction. Surrounded by rugged mountains, Marvão Castle offers unique views over the territory. Walking through the castle's alleys, enjoying its beautiful gardens and seeing the beautiful landscapes in the distance are worth watching time pass more slowly.

The wall that protects the castle of Marvão to this day

And while you're here, take the opportunity to visit the ruins of Ammaia (just over 7 km from Marvão), one of the most important remains of the Roman period in Alentejo lands. Marvão Castle was very important in the conflicts between the Portuguese and the Spanish and is very well preserved. From there we could see Spain, right next door, 4 km away.

3. Beja Castle

Beja is the capital of the District of the same name and has an impressive medieval castle in the city center. The imposing and well-preserved building (in this case the walls) dates back to the 2nd century BC and the rest was built at the end of the 13th century on ancient Roman foundations, by order of King D. Dinis.

The imposing Torre da Menagem and one of the entrances to Beja Castle

A mix of styles, we find in Beja Castle references to the romantic, Gothic, Manueline, medieval and mannerist styles all give shape to the pentagonal building, flanked by six towers, including the keep, considered one of the most beautiful keep towers in the entire country.

One of the castle doors, which dates back to the Romans

From the top of this impressive 42 meter high tower we can enjoy magnificent views over the city and the immense Alentejo plateaus. The road to Beja is beautiful, with many olive groves and also cork oaks (a tree that provides us with cork through its bark). They are 177 km away from Lisbon and many of them offer a cinema setting.

4. Elvas Castle

Elvas was one of the first national lines of defense from the Middle Ages until the 19th century. XVIII, especially during the Restoration War, given its proximity to neighboring Spain and this can be seen in its cultural heritage. O Elvas Castle It is part of the “Border City-Barracks of Elvas and its Fortifications” complex — classified as a World Heritage Site. UNESCO and is one of the best examples of military architecture in Portugal.

Part of the wall and one of the towers of Elvas Castle

The castle began to be built in 1229 on Roman ruins dating from the 2nd century BC, although its walls date back to 714. It is a large and imposing construction: there are 22 towers, eleven gates and barbican and triple walls . And precisely because it had this composition of walls, the sovereigns determined its importance in defending the border with Spain.

The grandeur of the Amoreira Aqueduct

It's worth staying in Elvas and discovering the delicious Alentejo cuisine and spending a few hours in the imposing castle (you can't stay there). And while we're talking about World Heritage Sites, don't miss seeing the Amoreira Aqueduct, a remarkable piece of civil architecture and one of the largest aqueducts in Portugal.

5. Mértola Castle

From the list of the five castles in Alentejo, the Castle of Mértola It is the furthest away: it is 240 km from the capital and close to the border with Spain. The building was erected in a strategic location, next to the Guadiana river, in the year 440 AD Land of conquests and reconquests, the castle was used to defend the borders with Spain and the first references attest to the existence of a fortification in this location, in when Mértola was designated as Myrtilis Julia.

On this side, protected by the castle walls, Mértola. Across the river, Spain

Information about its rebuilding dates back to the period of the reign of D. Dinis (1279-1325), at which time the reconstruction of the town wall began, works continued by his successors. At the beginning of the 20th century, the town of Mértola and its castle were considered a National Monument and major restoration work was carried out.

One of the porticos, the tower and the city within the castle walls

Due to Roman, Visotic and Muslim influences, Mértola is considered an open-air museum town and holds one of the largest collections of architecture, art, sculptures and Islamic tiles in Portugal!

This makes it easier to choose which castles to visit in Portugal. There are almost 500 in total, many are closer to the big cities, but those further away preserve the essence of Portuguese and Portugal. It's worth visiting them! I guarantee you will like it!

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