Alcacer do Sal, Portugal: TOP 15 places to visit (2021)

Do you know Alcácer do Sal? To pass the bridge by car (on your way to the Algarve) and see the castle in the distance is not to know Alcácer! In this article we’ll tell you everything you can’t miss in these parts!

ALCÁCER DO SAL

It is a still very traditional village, with a medieval silhouette that needs to be discovered on foot. There we can still find narrow alleys which are what remains of the medieval village. It passed the city in 1997 and is today one of the smallest cities in the country. The name of Alcácer do Sal is due to the immense salt marshes that exist in the area and that, as everyone knows, played a very important role in the conservation of food in the distant past.

DO YOU WANT TO FEEL THE SOUL OF ALCÁCER DO SAL?

Park your car, drop your mobile phone and walk through the streets and alleys of the old medieval village. Read in this article the story of Alcácer do Sal (end of the article) so that you can look and admire the monuments with other eyes. Spend a night in the city, have lunch and dine in traditional restaurants. Observe and talk with the locals.

WHERE IS ALCÁCER DO SAL?

Only 59 minutes (by car) separate Lisbon from Alcácer and Sal (92 kilometres)!

WHAT TO VISIT IN ALCÁCER DO SAL?

Alcácer do Sal is a small town with an interesting number of tourist attractions. In order to plan your trip we have prepared a map that locates the most interesting places in the town.

CASTLE

Built in the 12th century on top of a hill. Even today it resists despite being built in taipa (it is one of the very few specimens in taipa that has resisted the passage of time).

castle alcacer do sal

RIVERSIDE PROMENADE

Start at Camões Square (next to the old tilting metal bridge that dates from 1945). From here you can admire the castle at the top of the town. Follow the river towards the new bridge. Along the way, admire the white house (on your right) and the square where the town hall and the statue of the great illustrious man of the region are located: the cosmographer Pedro Nunes.

Once you have arrived at the new bridge, enter it and take some photographs taking advantage of the different perspectives that it will offer you.

RIVERSIDE PROMENADE alcacer do sal

CHURCH OF SANTIAGO

Mother church of the city. It dates back to the 18th century and has an austere appearance. Its interior is covered with historic tile panels.

church santiago alcacer do sal

In the month of October 1500, Dom Manuel’s marriage to the infanta D. Maria was celebrated in this church.

After the reconquest, Don Afonso II donated Alcácer do Sal to Santiago. In 1573 the convent of our Lady of Aracaeli was erected. Between 1990 and 1998 a reconversion work was carried out in an inn. During the work an ancient Roman forum was discovered.

CHURCH OF SANTA MARIA DO CASTELO

It lies within the walls of the castle. It was built by the order of Santiago, after the conquest of the town by Dom Afonso II in the 12th century. The church was erected on the site where there was previously a mosque and a pagan temple. It was for a long time the most important meeting place in the village. The actions of the government were, for a long time (average age), communicated in the churchyard.

CHURCH OF SANTA MARIA DO CASTELO alcacer do sal

It is a rather large church, with 3 naves and a pulpit (raised platform used by speakers) from the 17th century. It also has a gilded carving and tile coating.

CONVENT CHURCH AND CHAPEL OF THE ELEVEN THOUSAND VIRGINS

It was a convent of Poor Clare nuns, between 1573 and 1834 (the year of the extinction of the religious orders). It was built in 1524 by Dona Violante Henriques (reign of Don John III).

CONVENT CHURCH AND CHAPEL OF THE ELEVEN THOUSAND VIRGINS alcacer do sal

The chapel of the eleven thousand virgins was later built. It has an unseen exterior that hides one of the most spectacular Renaissance interiors (the chapel was designed in 1550 by the architect António Rodrigues during the reign of Dom Sebastião). A white marble masterpiece inside the convent. The dome lets in rays of sunshine that produce a unique set of colours inside the chapel.

The church and chapel can only be visited if a request is made by email to: paroquiasdealcacer@gmail.com – if you wish to contact by telephone, the number is: 92 64 62 939

TREASURE CHAPEL

To the right of the convent church is the Treasury Chapel, a beautiful building dating from the 13th century with a small shrine. There are two more chapels: the one of São Bartolomeu (built by order of Garcia Peres in 1333) and the sepulchral chapel of Maria de Resende where the body of Diogo Pereira (15th century) found eternal rest.

TREASURE CHAPEL alcacer do sal

CHURCH OF MERCY

The Church of Mercy was built in 1547 (according to the inscription on one of the doors of this small temple). It is a building with Manueline, Baroque and Mannerist influences. It is distinguished from the rest by having a nave and a main chapel in the same area.

CHURCH OF MERCY alcacer do sal

During the 19th century, the church underwent a barbaric “renewal” that disfigured its original features. The tiles that decorated the walls were halved and the rest of the church was “renewed” in stucco.

If you visit this church, be sure to pay attention to its ceiling. There you will find a beautiful image painted by Francisco Flamengo in 1895. The painting illustrates three virtues: charity, faith and hope.

ARCHAEOLOGICAL CRYPT

It’s 27 centuries of history! It was in the 90’s, during the conversation of the castle ruins in a tourist project (pousada), that the archaeological crypt of Alcácer do Sal was discovered. Here you can see the vestiges of the ancient populations of the village. Traces of the Iron Age (7th century BC), the Islamic occupation and also the period of Roman rule.

ARCHAEOLOGICAL CRYPT alcacer do sal

The crypt is located underground in the fortress and convent of our lady of Aracaeli. If you decide to visit Alcácer do Sal and if you choose to stay in the lodge at Enatur, you already know that inside the lodge you will have the opportunity to make this historic journey! Magnificent!

SUGGESTION OF A WALKING ROUTE IN ALCÁCER DO SAL

Walking is the best (only?) way to know a place well. Here is a suggestion for a walking tour that starts at Luís de Camões Square and will take you through the middle of the historical centre of Alcácer, with passages through the castle (with its splendid view) and the church of Santiago. I hope you enjoy it!

WHAT TO VISIT NEAR ALCÁCER DO SAL?

RICE MUSEUM

The Rice Museum was created to promote rice cultivation and also to preserve and spread the traditions of the region. It is a place of culture where you can take a trip back in time (to the past) and understand the impact rice had on the history of Herdade da Comporta.

The museum is located in the old rice husking factory and was created in 1952. There you will also find a very famous restaurant in the region – the “Rice Museum”.

rice museum alcacer do sal

Around the rice mill, there were also other small businesses and workshops. Here there was a community where one could find (among others): barbers, bakeries, butchers, canteens, churches and also the houses for the farm workers.

Until the end of the 1960s, the estate was self-sufficient and lived isolated and closed in on itself.

PALAFÍTICO WHARF IN THE PORT OF CARRASQUEIRA (CAIS PALAFÍTICO DO PORTO DA CARRASQUEIRA)

A masterpiece of popular art! Built in the 50’s and 60’s with rough and very fragile looking wooden stakes. They support the quayside of fishing boats. The wharf is a few hundred metres long, allowing a unique walk, bird watching and a magnificent sunset. The morning visit (when the wharf is practically deserted) is also a great option.

PALAFÍTICO WHARF IN THE PORT OF CARRASQUEIRA (CAIS PALAFÍTICO DO PORTO DA CARRASQUEIRA) alcacer do sal

The palafítico pier can be visited at any time of the year. It is a bit far from Alcácer but well worth the trip.

The wharf remains an important tourist attraction in the region. It still fulfils the function for which it was built: to berth fishing boats.

HOUSES OF SAINT SUSANA

A village of typically Alentejo colours (white and blue) that leaves no one indifferent. The rural architecture remains very present in the streets and houses of the village. The houses are all very similar and the streets also have a very precise and regular geometry. The houses are more than 100 years old and were originally built to house field workers.

HOUSES OF SAINT SUSANA

The workers eventually settled in this village. Today it is an important tourist attraction in the region. Its maintenance and cleanliness is a permanent concern not only of the municipality but of the residents themselves. It is part of the localities of Alentejo that belong to the European network Genuineland (village tourism).

COMPORTA BEACH

It is a beautiful beach with an extensive beach (less than 30 minutes from Alcácer do Sal). Very frequented in the summer by the upper classes of Portuguese society (it’s the only thing I don’t like about this beach…). The accesses are very good and have a wide parking space.

COMPORTA BEACH

It is located in the limits of the Natural Reserve of the Sado river estuary, an area preserved and “embraced” by a pine forest. The sea is cold and the swell is often quite strong (watch out for children!). It is a good option for kitesurf lovers.

NATURAL RESERVE OF THE TAGUS ESTUARY

It is in the Tagus estuary that the river Sado flows (after passing through Alcácer do Sal) at the end of a 180-kilometre journey that starts near the city of Beja. It is a huge and protected estuary. There you will find several species of birds and the famous dolphins that dispute the fish with a small fishing community.

Pine trees, cork oaks and rice fields are an integral part of this beautiful landscape. Visiting the Tagus estuary is also a historical journey as you will find there the ancient salt basins dating back to a very distant past.

NATURAL RESERVE OF THE TAGUS ESTUARY

PEGO DO ALTAR BARRAGE

A beautiful place with fantastic views! A perfect place to rest and relax. It is near the village of Santa Susana (already mentioned in this article). The Pego Dam of the altar was built between 1935 and 1950. It has a reservoir with almost 900 hectares. It is an engineering masterpiece (recognized by the order of engineers as such!).

PEGO DO ALTAR BARRAGE

TROIA PENINSULA

It is 42 minutes that separate the trojan peninsula of Alcácer from Salt. An effort that will be largely compensated.

The Trojan Peninsula is famous for its extensive and soft sands. But also for its crystal clear and calm waters (much calmer than the sea in Costa da Caparica).

TROIA PENINSULA

This is where the Sado River and the Atlantic Ocean meet. An oasis with a privileged view to the Arrábida mountains. A perfect place to spend a day at the beach and relax away from the crowds.

It was in the 60s of the last century that the massive construction of tourist resorts in this place began. The project did not succeed. Later a new attempt was made this time with more success. Besides the beach there you will find a hotel, a marina and a casino. Not to be missed!

BOAT TRIPS ON THE SADO RIVER

If you like to observe nature and learn more about the fauna and flora of this region, then stay tuned to the website of the municipality of Alcácer do Sal.

During the summer months it is possible to embark on a journey that can be half day or full day. If you choose the 1 day trip, you will have the opportunity to cross the Tagus estuary and will anchor in Setúbal or the magnificent beaches of Troia.

During the journey you will have a guide who will teach you everything about the fauna and flora that you will find along the way. If you are lucky, the dolphins will mark your presence and make your experience even more unforgettable!

ALCÁCER DO SAL – VIRTUAL TRAVEL

ALCÁCER DO SAL – WHEN TO VISIT

Alcácer do Sal is, in a straight line, approximately 30 kilometers from the coast. This distance is enough for the city to suffer some days of extreme heat in summer (and also some days of extreme cold in winter). For this reason, and because to get to know Alcácer you have to walk along its streets and alleys, we suggest that you visit it at any time of the year except the months of July and August (to prevent the extreme heat that some summer days are felt).

CONCISE HISTORY OF Alcácer do Sal

Alcácer do Sal, by the Sado River, was an important urban and military center of the peninsular Islamic territory. Its name derives from the name “Al-kasser” which, in Arabic, means castle.

During the Roman occupation, Alcácer was an important center of Salinas (it was called Salácia) and even had its own currency.

Its river, the Sado, is born near Ourique and flows into the Atlantic near Setúbal. Its estuary is very rich in rice paddies and salt pans. The river is the main figure of Alcácer and for more than 1 millennium it functioned as the entrance road to the Alentejo. This allowed the settlement of Phoenicians, Greeks, and Carthaginians. The river was the road that allowed the flow of agricultural products and minerals from Alentejo to… Rome! And later it also allowed the flow of bread to Lisbon.

During the occupation of the Moors, the town grew with the establishment of shipyards. Even after the reconquest, the Muslims continued to live in Alcácer working in ceramics, carpentry, and basketwork. They settled in the district of the castle’s spring and were excellent farmers and craftsmen. The Alentejo’s gastronomy – its refined spices – still have influences that go back to the time of the Muslims.

The quarter of the “Mouraria” was the first quarter outside the walls and the beginning of the development of the lower part and riverside of the village. In the first charter of the village during the reign of Dom Afonso Henriques, it is defined how Christians, Jews, and Muslims would have to live together.

The name of Alcácer do Sal is due to the immense salt marshes that exist in the area and that, as everyone knows, played a very important role in food conservation.

Dom Afonso Henriques tried to conquer (without success) Alcácer do Sal twice. But it was his grandson, Dom Afonso II who conquered the city in 1217. The first “Portuguese” construction was made in the 13th century, the church of Santa Maria do Castelo.

ALCÁCER DO SALWHERE CAN I GET THE BEST VIEWS FROM?

Next to the church of Santa Maria do Castelo (the first Christian church to be built in Alcácer do Sal) there is a magnificent life over the Sado river and the riverside area of the city.

ACCOMMODATION IN ALCACER DO SAL

If your finances breathe health, we recommend the following accommodations:

ALENTEJO’S NEST

The main amenities of this place are: outdoor pool, pet admission and private parking. It has a 9,3/10 quotation in the Booking.

alentejo nest alcacer do sal

ALCÁCER DO SAL CASTLE

It has an overall rating of 8.5/10. As previously mentioned in this article, this inn was the old castle of Alcácer do Sal (over 1000 years old). It was remodeled and transformed in the 90’s into an Enatur’s inn. The views to the waterfront and the river Sado are a great attraction. It seems to be very appreciated by couples who value the pousada with 9,1/10.

ALCACER DO SAL CASTLE HOTEL

CHEAP ACCOMMODATION IN ALCACER DO SAL

It is possible to find economical solutions, of very reasonable quality and with good location in Alcácer. Here are two balanced (but not luxurious) suggestions.

CEGONHA HOTEL

Over 400 reviews and an overall rating of 8.3/10. It is very centrally located and 20 minutes walk from the train station. It has a buffet breakfast complimented in reviews. The admission of animals is possible upon prior request. 1 minute from the river Sado. The couples mention the location of the stork hotel as one of its strongest points.

CEGONHA HOTEL ALCACER DO SAL

SALATIA HOTEL

It is probably one of the cheapest options in Alcácer. It has an extraordinary location (on the waterfront) that gives it a magnificent view of the Sado. It has an overall rating of 8/10. The reviews mention simple rooms with a basic decoration, internet, TV and personal hygiene products. The couples seem to have a good opinion of the place probably due to the romantic view that the residential offers to its guests.

SALATIA HOTEL

WHAT TO EAT IN ALCÁCER DO SAL

Here are our gastronomic recommendations:

CARNE DE PORCO COM MIGAS (PORK WITH BREADCRUMBS)

ARROZ DE LINGUEIRÃO (RAZOR CLAMS RICE)

RAZOR CLAMS RICE

VITELA GUISADA

GOOD FOOD IN ALCÁCER DO SAL

RESTAURANT MOMENTO

Restaurant of 2 ciphers (a maximum of 3). It has over 340 comments on google and an overall rating of 4.4 (maximum 5). Customer compliments focus on the quality of the snacks and the welcoming environment.

It is also a “animal-friendly” restaurant as you can see from the photo below (another reason to deserve our visit!)

momento restaurant in Alcácer do sal portugal

HISTORY OF ALCÁCER DO SAL

Alcácer do Sal, by the Sado river, was an important urban and military centre of the peninsular Islamic territory. Its name derives from the name “Al-kasser” which, in Arabic, means castle. During the Roman occupation, Alcácer was an important centre of Salinas (it was called Salácia) and even had its own currency.

Its river (the Sado), rises near Ourique and flows into the Atlantic near Setúbal. Its estuary is very rich in rice paddies and salt pans. The river is the main figure of Alcácer and for more than 1 millennium it has functioned as the entrance road to the Alentejo. This allowed the settlement of Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginians. It was the road that allowed the flow of agricultural products and minerals from Alentejo to… Rome!

During the occupation of the Moors, the town grew with the establishment of shipyards. Even after the reconquest, the Muslims continued to live in Alcácer working in ceramics, carpentry and basketwork. They settled in the borough of the castle and were excellent farmers and craftsmen. The Alentejo’s gastronomy – its refined spices – still has influences that go back to the time of the Muslims. The district of Mouraria was the first district outside the walls and the beginning of the development of the lower and riverside part of the village.

Dom Afonso Henriques tried to conquer (without success) Alcácer do Sal twice. But it was his grandson, Dom Afonso II who conquered the city in 1217. The first “Portuguese” construction was made in the 13th century, the church of Santa Maria do Castelo.

THE MOST FAMOUS SON OF ALCACER DO SAL – PEDRO NUNES (MATHEMATICIAN AND COSMOGRAPHER)

Pedro Nunes was born in Alcácer do Sal in 1502. He was an important mathematician who held the prestigious position of chief cosmographer at a time when the discoveries were of enormous importance for Portugal. Pedro Nunes was one of the great scientific references of his time. He contributed to the development of navigation and cartography. He invented several measuring instruments such as the “nautical ring”, the “shadow instrument” and the “nónio”.

POPULATION TREND IN ALCÁCER DO SAL

POPULATION TREND IN ALCÁCER DO SAL

QUALIFICATIONS

The illiteracy rate fell from 20.3% (2001) to 13.1% in 2011. In 2011 there were 2,029 people in Alcácer do Sal without schooling. 4,450 had the first cycle of basic education and 1,858 had completed secondary education. 1,061 people had completed a higher education course.

OLD PHOTOGRAPHS OF ALCACER DO SAL

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