Lisbon and the Alentejo
Setubal - Alcacer do Sal - Evora - Estremoz - Queluz
The rural and fertile Alentejo, a land of many historic monasteries, convents and medieval castles, occupies a large area of Portugal, extending south from the Tagus river as far as the Algarve region and bordering Spain in the east and the Atlantic in the west. An exploration of at least part
of the Alentejo will give you a very enjoyable insight into the heart, history and culture of the country. The climate in this part of Portugal is generally mild, so this tour can be enjoyed at any time of year.
STAY: POUSADA DE SETUBAL
Built in 1590 by King Philip II of Spain (Philip I of Portugal) this converted fortress affords stunning views of the city below and across the estuary of the River Sado. Its intimate atmosphere is enhanced by the beautiful decoration and the friendly and hospitable staff. Access is up steep stone steps so it is not suitable for those with serious walking ifficulties. Setúbal itself, 45 km south of Lisbon and one of Portugalʼs main ports, is a delightful place to explore on foot, and there are there are many things to see and do, from ferry trips to the long white beaches of the Troja peninsular and to a range of golf courses.
The route starts in Setubal above the river Sado estuary and from where you can enjoy the beaches of the Troja pennisular. The main influence in the west of the region is the Atlantic, with the landscape of the coast – the ‘Costa de Prata’, or Silver Coast, changing from high sweeping cliffs to long beaches and little coves of white sand.
It then moves on to Alcacer do Sal for a stay in the magnificent medieval Moorish castle. The countryside of this essentially rural region varies considerably with fertile grasslands along the banks of the Tagus to the north-west, and numerous beautiful little villages and towns in the hills to the north-east – the land of many medieval castles.
STAY: POUSADA DE ALCACER DO SAL
The magnificent medieval Moorish castle dominates the historic town of Alcácer do Sal. The hotel retains the castellated walls and towers of the original structure including the cloisters of a convent, and the keynote is luxury, the tasteful modern touches in both art and woodwork complement areas of rough ancient stonework, oriental rugs and Baroque coats of arms. The Pousada is 90km southeast of Lisbon and stands on a site that has been occupied since Neolithic times, overlooking the broad green valley of the River Sado.
Moving inland the route reaches the town of Evora, a UNESCO world heritage site and well worth a few days stop over. one of the most beautiful cities in Portugal – is a museum city: walls surround the centre where the major landmark is the Roman Temple of Diana, and there are many splendid aristocratic houses here displaying carved doors and windows and the famous glazed tiles of Portugal – the ‘azulejos’.Beja, further south, is a fascinating city: it received its name from the occupying Moors in the 6th century, and a variety of cultures have influenced the city and its region since pre-historic times.
STAY: POUSADA DE EVORA
This Pousada stands in the heart of the historic centre of Évora, 130km east of Lisbon and a city classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. The town is well know for its roman ruins and the frescoes found inside many of its churches. Originally a convent founded in 1485, the Pousada is one of Évoraʼs historic gems, with lements of Romanesque, Gothic and Manueline architecture. There are sumptuous drapes, richly covered velvet chairs and sofas, 18th-century frescos, and gilt mirrors. The restaurant is located in the monastery’s cloisters, and there is also a swimming pool.
Next the route goes up to the 14th century castle of Estremoz. Here, further south, the Alentejo becomes warmer and flatter and here are some of the most attractive towns in the region.
STAY: POUSADA DE ESTREMOZ
The castle of Estremoz is a magnificent restored palace, originally built in the early 14th century by King Dinis I for his wife, the saintly Queen Isabel. This impressive Pousada – which was also home to later Kings and Queens of Portugal – is decorated with sumptuous velvets and gilt, and furnished with beautiful antiques. The Pousada has a central courtyard, a charming private garden and a swimming pool enclosed by the splendid castle battlements that separate it from the surrounding city. Its position on a hilltop overlooking the Alentejan plain affords tunning views of the historic city of Estremoz, much of it built from the famous local marble.
It then continues to the charming 16th century convent at Arraiolos which is perfect for a lunch stop.The route concludes with a couple of days at Queluz, the perfect base from which to explore the city of Lisbon. Lisbon is a delightful city. Portugal’s capital since 1255 following the conquest of the Moors a century earlier, Lisbon can certainly be described as a monumental city with over 20 centuries of history. One of Lisbon’s oldest quarters is the Alfama, which fortunately survived the devastating earthquake in 1755, and its narrow medieval streets with their typical tile-covered building façades can easily be explored on foot. The finest views of the city and across and beyond the far side of the river are from the magnificent St George’s Castle, set on a hilltop above the Alfama and its adjoining medieval quarter of Mouraria.
STAY: POUSADA DE QUELUZ
This magnificent pink and white Baroque Pousada (which will be painted blue over the summer of 2017) was formerly used by the Royal Guard of the Court while resident at the Palace of Queluz, known as ‘the Portuguese Versailles’. It has been beautifully renovated and retains a charming small theatre which would have been used for private erformances, complete with gilded balcony and armchairs. We strongly recommendeating in the Pousada's dining room, the "Cozinha Velha" restaurant, which is quite exceptional and located across the square, in what was the original kitchen of the palace with its bread oven and magnificent stone table. Queluz is located only half an hour from Lisbon with good public transport links and is a calm place to retreat to after a day visiting the capital.