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.
ALCACER DO SAL CASTLE
Built in the 12th century on top of a hill. Even today it resists despite being built in taipa (in Portugal, it is one of the very few specimens made of taipa that has stood the test of time).
Start at the Camões square (next to the old metal swing bridge dating from 1945). From here you can admire the castle at the top of the city.
Follow the river in the direction of the new bridge.
Along the way, admire the white houses (to your right) and the square where the town hall is located and the statue of the great illustrator of the region: the cosmographer Pedro Nunes.
Once you get to the new bridge, go inside and take some pictures from the different perspectives it will offer you.
Mother church of the city. It dates back to the 18th century and has an austere appearance. Its interior is lined with historic tile panels. In the month of October of the year 1500, the marriage of Dom Manuel and the Infanta Maria was celebrated in this church. After the reconquest, King Afonso II donates Alcácer do Sal to the Order of Santiago. In 1573 the convent of Our Lady of Aracaeli was built. Between 1990 and 1998 it was converted into a Pousada. During the works an ancient roman forum was discovered.
SANTA MARIA DO CASTELO CHURCH
It is inside the walls of the castle. It was commissioned by the order of Santiago, after the conquest of the town by Dom Afonso II in the 12th century. The church was erected in the place where there used to be a mosque and a pagan temple. For a long time it was the most important meeting place in the village. Government actions were, for a long time (Middle Ages), communicated in the churchyard. It is a rather large church, with 3 naves and a pulpit (elevated platform used by orators) from the seventeenth century. It also has a gilded carving and tile covering.
ELEVEN THOUSAND VIRGINS CONVENT CHURCH AND CHAPEL
It was a convent of Clarissas nuns, between 1573 and 1834 (year of the extinction of the religious orders). It was built in 1524 by Violante Henriques (reign of Dom João III)
The chapel of the eleven thousand virgins was built later. It has an inconspicuous exterior that hides one of the most spectacular Renaissance interiors (the chapel was designed in 1550 by architect António Rodrigues during the reign of Dom Sebastião). A masterpiece of white marble inside the convent. The dome lets in rays of sunlight that produce a unique play of colors inside the chapel.
The church and chapel can only be visited if a request is made by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org – if you wish to contact by telephone, the number is: 92 64 62 939
To the right of the convent church is the Capela do Tesouro, a beautiful building dating from the 13th century that has a small shrine. There are two more chapels: São Bartolomeu (built by order of Garcia Peres in 1333) and the sepulchral chapel of Maria de Resende where the body of Diogo Pereira found eternal rest (15th century).
The Misericórdia church was built in 1547 (according to the inscription on one of the doors of this small temple). It is a construction with Manueline, Baroque and Mannerist influences. It is distinguished from the others by having a nave and a main chapel in the same area.
During the 19th century, the church underwent a barbaric “renovation” that deprived it of its original features. The tiles that decorated the walls were reduced to half and the rest of the church was “renovated” with stucco. If you visit this church, be sure to look closely at its ceiling. There you will find a beautiful image painted by Francisco Flamengo in 1895. The painting illustrates 3 virtues: charity, faith and hope.
It is 27 centuries of history! It was in the 90’s, during the conversion of the castle ruins into a tourism project (pousada), that the Archaeological Crypt of Alcácer do Sal was discovered. Here you can see the vestiges of the ancient populations of the town. Traces of the Iron Age (7th century BC), of the Islamic occupation and also of the period of Roman rule.
The crypt is located in the basement of the fortress and the convent of our lady of Aracaeli. If you decide to visit Alcácer do Sal and if you choose to stay at the inn at Enatur, you already know that inside the inn you will have the opportunity to make this historical 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?
The Rice Museum was created to promote rice farming (cultivation of rice) and also to preserve and spread the traditions of the region. It is a space of culture where you can take a trip back in time (to the past) and understand the impact that rice had in the history of Herdade da Comporta. The museum is located in the old rice hulling factory and was created in 1952. There you will also find a very famous restaurant in the region – the “Rice Museum”.
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.
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.
SAINT SUSANA HOUSES
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.
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).
It is a beautiful beach with an extensive sandy 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 there is ample parking space.
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!
TAGUS ESTUARY NATURAL RESERVE
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.
PEGO DO ALTAR DAM
A beautiful place with fantastic scenery! A perfect place to rest and relax. It is close to the village of Santa Susana (already mentioned in this article). The Pego do altar Dam was built between the years 1935 and 1950. It has a reservoir of almost 900 hectares. It is an engineering masterpiece (recognized by the order of engineers as such!).
There are 42 minutes between the Troia peninsula and Alcácer do Sal. An effort that will be amply rewarded.
The Troia Peninsula is famous for its long, soft sands. But also for its crystal clear, calm waters (much calmer than the sea at Costa da Caparica).
This is where the Sado River and the Atlantic Ocean meet. An oasis with a privileged view of the Arrábida Mountains. A perfect place to spend a beach day and relax away from the crowds. It was in the 60’s of the last century that the massive construction of tourist resorts was started here. The project did not succeed. Later a new attempt was made, this time with more success. Besides the beach there you will find hotels, a marina and a casino. Not to be missed!
BOAT TRIPS ON THE SADO RIVER
If you enjoy observing nature and learning more about the fauna and flora of this region, then keep an eye on the Alcácer do Sal municipality website. During the summer months it is possible to embark on a trip 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 drop anchor in Setúbal or the magnificent beaches of Troia. During the trip you will have a guide who will teach you all about the fauna and flora that you will encounter along the way. If you are lucky, dolphins will mark your presence and make your experience even more unforgettable!
VIRTUAL TOUR TO ALCÁCER DO SAL
ALCACER DO SAL VIEWPOINTS
Next to the church of Santa Maria do Castelo (the first Christian church that was built in Alcácer do Sal), it has a magnificent view over the Sado river and the city’s riverside area.
HOTELS IN ALCACER DO SAL
The main amenities of this place are: outdoor pool, pet admission, and private parking. It has a rating of 9.3/10 at Booking.
ALCÁCER DO SAL CASTLE HOTEL
It has an overall rating of 8.5/10. As mentioned earlier in this article, this pousada was the former castle of Alcácer do Sal (over 1000 years old). It was remodeled and transformed in the 1990s into an Enatur guesthouse. The views of the waterfront and the Sado River are a big attraction. It seems to be very appreciated by couples who rate the pousada with 9.1/10.
Over 400 reviews and an overall rating of 8.3/10. It has a very central location and is a 20 minute walk from the train station. It has a breakfast buffet praised in the reviews. Pet admission is possible upon prior request. 1 minute walk from the Sado river. Couples refer to the location of the Stork hotel as one of its strongest points.
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 Sado. It has an overall rating of 8/10. The reviews mention simple rooms with basic decoration, internet, TV and toiletries. Couples seem to have a good opinion of the place probably because of the romantic view the guesthouse offers its guests.
EATING AT ALCÁCER DO SAL
Here are our gastronomic recommendations-.
CARNE DE PORCO COM MIGAS
RESTAURANTS IN ALCÁCER DO SAL
It has over 340 reviews on google and an overall rating of 4.4 (out of a maximum of 5). Customer praise focuses on the quality of the snacks and the cozy atmosphere. It is also a “pet friendly” restaurant as you can see from the photo below (another reason why it deserves our visit!)
ALCÁCER DO SAL HISTORY
Alcácer do Sal, by the Sado river, was an important urban and military center in the Islamic Peninsular 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), 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 a millennium it functioned as the entrance road to the Alentejo. It 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 Moorish occupation, the town grew with the establishment of the shipyards. Even after the reconquest, the Muslims continued to live in Alcácer working in pottery, carpentry and basket weaving. They settled in the Moorish quarter, east of the castle, and were excellent farmers and artisans. The Alentejo’s gastronomy – its refined spices – still has influences that date back to the time of the Muslims. The Moorish quarter was the first quarter outside the walls and the beginning of the development of the lower and riverside parts of the town. Dom Afonso Henriques tried (unsuccessfully) to conquer Alcácer do Sal twice. But it was his grandson, Afonso II who conquered the town in 1217. The first “Portuguese” construction was built in the 13th century, the church of Santa Maria do Castelo.
THE MOST ILLUSTRIOUS PERSONALITY OF ALCÁCER 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 great importance to 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 “fibula”.
THE PEOPLE OF ALCÁCER DO SAL
The illiteracy rate decreased from 20.3% (year 2001) to 13.1% in 2011. In 2011 there were 2,029 people without schooling in Alcácer do Sal. 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.