Did you know that Estremoz is an Alentejo town that was the scene of military events decisive for the course of Portugal’s history? There is much to see and discover in this white Alentejo town! Come with us!
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There are two sets of walls surrounding Estremoz. The first and oldest is located in the upper part, known as “old town” and dates back to medieval times. The second, built around the low, flat area, is called the “new town” and was erected at the time of the War of Restoration. Estremoz, one of the “white towns” of the Alentejo, is famous for its deposits of white marble, which are also found in Vila Viçosa and Borba. The marble of Estremoz has been used since Antiquity, having been the material chosen for the construction of the Roman temple of Évora.
WHERE AND HOW TO GO TO ESTREMOZ?
Estremoz is a city that is located in the sub-region of Central Alentejo and belongs to the district of Évora. The best way to get to Estremoz from Lisbon is via the A6 freeway. The two cities are about 170 km apart and the journey by car takes approximately two hours.
WHAT TO VISIT IN ESTREMOZ?
Estremoz is a city with a very rich history and there are many points of interest to visit during your stay. The architecture of this city allows us to travel back in time, from the Middle Ages, to the turn to the 20th century, passing through the turbulent period of the Restoration of the Independence of Portugal. Below is a map with the location of the main attractions that you can’t miss! We hope it’s useful!
ESTREMOZ HISTORIC CENTER
Throughout the streets and squares of the historic center of Estremoz we can find orange trees, which fill the medieval city with aroma and color. The central square of Estremoz, called Rossio do Marquês de Pombal, or simply Rossio, hosts a local market every week, where you can get to know the region’s products.
The most emblematic element of the historic center of Estremoz is, without a doubt, the medieval castle. At the top of the castle is a viewpoint where visitors can get a privileged view of the nearby villages, such as Marvão, Portalegre and Alter do Chão, as well as the vast plains of Alentejo. On clear days it is even possible to observe the Serra da Estrela!
Estremoz Castle was built in the 12th century on a hill in the Serra de Ossa. It was soon considered a strategic place, due to its proximity to Spain, functioning as a second line of defense of the Portuguese border, where men and goods were stored. Estremoz assumed a central importance in some episodes of our country’s military history. As could not be otherwise, Estremoz Castle played an important role in the development of these episodes. For example, in 1384, D. Nuno Álvares de Pereira installed his headquarters in the castle, from where they would leave for the Battle of Atoleiros, which would be won by the Portuguese.
The Castle, of medieval origin, has undergone successive renovations over the centuries, and today features elements of various architectural styles, such as Gothic, Baroque, and Neoclassical.
The Tower of the Castle of Estremoz is known as Torre dos Três Reis or Tower of the Three Crowns. Its name is due to the fact that its construction went through three kingdoms: D. Afonso IV, D. Pedro and D. Fernando. Currently, the castle has a luxurious inn in the former Royal Palace (Pousada da Rainha Santa Isabel, now Pousada do Castelo de Estremoz), an Art Gallery (Galeria de Desenho da Câmara Municipal de Estremoz), as well as a chapel (Capela de Santa Isabel).
PORTA DOS CURRAIS (CURRAIS GATE)
The Porta dos Currais, also known as Porta de Nossa Senhora dos Mártires, is one of the entry points to the second set of walls that protect Estremoz, built in the 17th century. It was designed by António Rodrigues, who drew it around 1670. This door stands out for its monumentality, with an eagle and a griffin carved in marble on top of it.
The so-called Porta de Santarém is one of the entry points to the wall ordered built by D. Dinis. There is a plaque dedicated to Nossa Senhora da Conceição, where you can see the date of completion of the work: 1261. This gate is flanked by two towers, one cylindrical and the other square. The existence of two towers indicates that this would have been the main entrance to the village during the Middle Ages, as it denotes a greater need for defense of this point of passage to the interior of the walls. Opposite the Porta de Santarém we find the Porta do Sol (or Porta Frandina).
CLAUSTRO DA MISERICÓRDIA
The Claustro da Misericórdia, also known as Claustro do Convento das Maltezas, is part of the Convent of São João da Penitência of the Order of Malta. The convent was ordered built by King Manuel I or by his son, Prince Luís, Duke of Beja, and has characteristics of the Manueline Gothic style. The columns of the cloister are made of Estremoz marble and on the staircase leading to the upper floor of the cloister are polychrome tiles from the Pombaline era, also produced in the region. The cloister is surrounded by three chapels.
This convent served as a place of retreat for the Knights of Rhodes in Portugal and as the cloistered headquarters of the nuns of the Order of Malta from the 16th century onwards. In 1881, the Misericórdia brotherhood installed itself in the convent, after the extinction of the religious orders in Portugal. Nowadays, the old convent is used by several institutions, such as the Misericórdia of Estremoz, the Parish of Santo André, the Centro Ciência Viva of Estremoz and the University of Évora. It is possible to visit this monument during the following hours: Monday from 9am to 8pm (closed between 12:30pm and 2pm); Tuesday to Friday from 9am to 8pm and Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 8pm.
SANTA MARIA CHURCH
Santa Maria Church is the mother church of Estremoz. In 1560, by order of Cardinal D. Henrique, construction began on the site where there was already an old Romanesque church. The construction work would only be completed almost a century later. It is not known for sure who was responsible for the project. If on the one hand it is thought to have been Afonso Alvares, architect of the Cardinal D. Henrique, on the other, the similarities with other churches, such as the Church of Santo Antão in Évora, lead one to believe that it may have been the work of the architect Miguel de Arruda.
This Mannerist-style church is considered a prime example of geometry and geometric symbolism in the architecture of the time. Its exterior has a simple, whitewashed facade, Alentejo style. The interior is supported by enormous marble columns and is organized in several chapels that present different artistic styles. It is still possible to identify some elements that were used from the previous church, such as the altar of São Bento.
The church is open to the public and can be visited, free of charge, during the following hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00 am to 12:30 pm and from 2:00 pm to 5:30 pm. Please note, you must ask for a key in the Drawing Gallery to enter.
This tower was probably built at the same time as the Keep of the Castle of Estremoz. The breastplate is an element of military architecture that aims to make the connection between the interior of the walls and a drinking water point, which was accessible even in case of siege. In a siege situation, where much of the population was confined to the interior of the walls, access to water could mean victory over the attacking forces. The Torre das Couraças was classified as a national monument in 1910, along with the castle, the walls and the Chapel of the Holy Queen.
ESTREMOZ LIVING SCIENCE CENTER
The Live Science Center of Estremoz is located in the city center, in the building of the old Maltezas Convent. Opened in 2005, the main goal of this museum is to bring science and technology to the public. As such, it has a strongly interactive aspect, where the visitor is invited to have close contact with the exhibition, through dynamic materials and activities. It presents a permanent exhibition about the planet earth. The elaboration of the exhibition counted with the participation of the Institute of Earth Sciences of the School of Sciences and Technology of the University of Évora, being guaranteed the scientific rigor of the presented contents. The opening hours are from 10 am to 6 pm on weekdays, closed on holidays. In the current context, it is advisable to book the visit by phone, due to the maximum number of visitors allowed inside the enclosure.
SÃO FRANCISCO CHURCH
The Church of São Francisco is an example of Gothic-style religious architecture, dating from the 12th century. It is an integral part of the Convent of São Francisco. The façade of the church belongs to the rococo style, i.e. it was built much later than the original building. The interior of the church has some interesting features, for example, the coat of arms of King Afonso III and his wife Beatriz, as well as a 16th century altarpiece with a representation of the Tree of Jesse (artistic representation of the ancestors of Jesus Christ) in gilded woodcarving.
CONGREGATION OF ESTREMOZ CHURCH
The Convento de Nossa Senhora da Conceição dos Congregados do Oratório de São Filipe de Nery de Estremoz (or simply Convento dos Congregados de Estremoz) was ordered built by King Pedro II in 1698. The convent was to be built in a palace from the previous century that had been owned by D. Constantino de Bragança. The building was confiscated from him by the Crown in 1640 and later donated to the congregants. With the extinction of the religious orders in the mid-19th century, the convent began to be used for other purposes, namely as the headquarters of the Estremoz City Hall, Municipal Library, and also as the site of the Museum of Sacred Art. The building was subject to consecutive works until the 20th century and, in 1974, the City Hall gave the church of the old convent to the Parish of Santo André. The church was only inaugurated in 1995, almost three centuries after construction began. For example, the church facade, made of pink marble, was only completed in the 1960s. Inside the church, we highlight the tile panel depicting the life and miracles of St. Philip of Nery.
ÁGUIAS D’OURO CAFÉ
The Águias d’Ouro Café is an important example of the tertúlia cafés, famous in Portugal in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, where personalities of Portuguese society gathered to discuss various topics. The building, designed by architect Jorge Santos Costa, was built in 1908 and inaugurated the following year, on April 4. It has three floors, with large windows and balconies with iron railings in Art Nouveau style. In addition to their size, the windows draw attention by the geometric motifs that decorate them, as well as by their stained glass windows in shades of green, blue and brown. This cafe started as a buffet and billiard room. Later, in the 1960s, the second floor was transformed into a restaurant, which caused some of its original features to be lost. In 2002 it received the classification of property of public interest.
This marble lake, which is located next to the Municipal Garden of Estremoz, began to be built in 1688. It is supplied by the spring of Fonte Nova, through an underground pipe system that crosses the entire Rossio of Marquês de Pombal. It is a huge lake, about 40 meters long, and it was believed that the water supplying it was endless. Currently, in the center of the lake we find a statue. However, it was only placed there in the 19th century, having been brought from the Convent of the Congregates. The statue is what gives the lake its name, but it turns out that the figure it depicts is Saturn, the Roman god of wealth and abundance. At this time, the population began to interpret the figure as a representation of the ephemerality of life, and, curiously, began to give it a meaning quite different from the one it had in its origin.
FONTE DAS BICAS
The Fonte das Bicas (also known as the Round Fountain) was probably built during the 16th century, but its current shape is believed to be quite different from the original, due to several alterations it underwent over time. The Fountain, in the form that it has come to this day, features several black and white marble elements, as well as eight lion’s heads carved in stone, through which water flows.
NOSSA SENHORA DOS MÁRTIRES CHAPEL
A national monument since 1922, the Chapel of Nossa Senhora dos Mártires was erected in the 14th century. This chapel was built in the Gothic style, however, its interior has undergone several interventions over time. This fact makes it a very interesting monument, for presenting several artistic styles in coexistence. We highlight, for example, the braided columns in Manueline marble and the tile panels with representations of the life of Jesus Christ and the Virgin in rococo style.
NOSSO SENHOR DOS INOCENTES CHAPEL
Also known as Ermida do Senhor Jesus dos Inocentes, it was built in 1726. Unfortunately, the facade collapsed and today only the chancel survives, where it is possible to see traces of the Baroque style that would originally characterize the entire construction. Although there are no certainties, it is thought that this small sanctuary was dedicated to orphans and more unprotected members of society.
VIRTUAL TOUR TO ESTREMOZ
Estremoz is a city with a long history, having its origins in the 13th century. In 1258, King Afonso III granted a charter to the town of Estremoz and its walls began to be built. This town in Alentejo has a strong connection with Queen Santa Isabel. The Queen died in 1336, in the Royal Palace of Estremoz, which had been built by King Dinis. Her rooms are later transformed into a chapel and it is there that we find some of the most important artistic records of the life and miracles of the Holy Queen.
Estremoz was the scene of important moments in the military history of Portugal, even becoming one of the fortresses of the Alentejo. During the War of Restoration, Estremoz is the headquarters of the Portuguese troops. The detachments of Estremoz were decisive in battles that dictated the restoration of Portugal’s independence from Castile, namely, the Battle of the Lines of Elvas (1659), the Battle of Ameixial (1663) and the Battle of Montes Claros (1665). The “remarkable town” of medieval times is elevated to city status in 1926.
WHAT TO VISIT NEAR ESTREMOZ?
To visit and get to know Estremoz calmly, we suggest a stay of 2 full days. In the surroundings there are other very interesting tourist attractions. In case you have some time left, we suggest the following options: Alqueva region and Évora.
One hour and fifteen minutes separate Estremoz from the Alqueva region (a distance of 103 kilometers). This vast region has a lot to see and visit. Four days are not too many for so many interesting things. Highlight for Moura, Alqueva dam and Dark Sky Alqueva. Another forgotten pearl of the Alentejo.
36 minutes and 46 kilometers are the distance between Estremoz and Évora, the biggest pearl of the Alto Alentejo. Add Roman temples, bone chapels, palaces and monumental cathedrals into the equation. The end result is called Évora. One of those cities that is mandatory for each and every Portuguese.
ESTREMOZ TYPICAL GASTRONOMY
In Estremoz you can enjoy the well-known Alentejo gastronomy. Here we can find typical dishes such as lamb stew, pork with clams (commonly known as carne de porco à alentejana), shark soup, as well as the traditional açorda and migas. But that’s not all! There are also some snacks, such as the “pezinhos de coentrada”.
In terms of confectionery, the most important is sericaia, a sweet of conventual origin, which is served in a deep clay dish and whose main ingredients are eggs and cinnamon. The wine produced in Estremoz is of quality and well known by the Portuguese. In terms of drinks, in this city we can also find the pennyroyal liqueur.
Every year (with the exception of 2020), an Alentejo gastronomy festival called “Cozinha dos Ganhões” is held in Estremoz. This great festival takes place between November and December each year. The festival, which combines gastronomy and handicraft, is, in our opinion, an excellent incentive to visit Estremoz and get to know several aspects of its culture.
RESTAURANTS IN ESTREMOZ
Cheap restaurant. It has more than 1270 comments on google and an overall rating of 4.7 stars. A restaurant where you can eat traditional Portuguese food. Customers insistently praise the quality of the food, the good value for money and the extreme friendliness of the staff. Absolutely not to be missed!
HOTELS IN ESTREMOZ
POUSADA CASTELO ESTREMOZ
There are many options for accommodation in the city of Estremoz. But the obvious choice is the pousada do castelo de Estremoz, or wouldn’t this pousada be located strictly within the castle. A place with a 4.5 star rating (out of a maximum of 5). The biggest compliments go to the decoration, the good state of conservation, the pool and the friendliness of the staff.