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A tiny medieval village in Portugal’s Alentejo region, Monsaraz is a must visit. Set high on a hill as a fortified village with a castle, it has all the charm you could hope for.

During my trip to the Alentejo region this last month, I spent time visiting Évora. From there, I knew I had to make the day trip out to Monsaraz located nearby as so many people recommended it. It became one of my favorite villages visited in Portugal for its views, history, and picturesque streets.

As I drove through the countryside with rolling hills of olive trees and vineyards, I could see the view of Monsaraz in the distance. When you get closer, you drive up the steep road that turns into cobblestone near the top. The village doesn’t allow cars in, so it’s entirely pedestrian-friendly (except for locals who drive through for construction).

From Monsaraz, Portugal, you look down into the Guadiana Valley and back into Alqueva Lake. The views alone are worth it from the top of the village. In the village itself, historic cobblestone streets, whitewashed buildings, church, shops, and restaurants await.

If you’re planning a trip to Alentejo, I highly recommend making the drive to Monsaraz. You won’t be disappointed in this charming village with a view. And if you’re looking for where to go after, might I suggest the small town of Comporta on the coast.

Short on Time? Here Are My Top Picks for the Best Hotels in Monsaraz:

  1. São Lourenço do Barrocal, for the best countryside retreat
  2. Montimerso Skyscape Countryhouse, for the best views
  3. Casa de São bento, for the best vacation rental

The Monsaraz, Portugal Travel Guide


What to Know Before Visiting Monsaraz

How to Get to Monsaraz From Lisbon

Monsaraz, Portugal Guide

To get to Monsaraz, Portugal, you can fly into Lisbon and then rent a car to reach the town, which is located in the Alentejo region near the border with Spain. The journey from Lisbon by car takes approximately 2 hours, offering a scenic route through the beautiful Portuguese countryside. I used Discover Cars, took full insurance, and booked with one of the higher-rated agencies like Sixt.

If you’re in Évora, it’s about an hour or so drive to the village itself. I’d recommend an early start before the tour buses arrive as it is quite popular to visit.

Is Monsaraz Portugal Worth Visiting?

Monsaraz, Portugal Guide

Absolutely! Monsaraz, Portugal, is considered a hidden gem worth visiting for several reasons. This charming medieval village offers stunning views of the Alentejo plains and the Alqueva Dam, one of the largest artificial lakes in Western Europe. The well-preserved castle, cobblestone streets, and white-washed houses provide a picturesque setting that feels like stepping back in time.

Additionally, Monsaraz is known for its local wine and cuisine, cultural festivals, and artisan shops, making it an appealing destination for those interested in history, culture, and the tranquil beauty of rural Portugal.

How Old is Monsaraz Portugal?

Monsaraz, Portugal, has a rich history that dates back to prehistoric times. While the area has been inhabited for thousands of years, the medieval village of Monsaraz as it is known today began to take shape over 800 years ago. The area is dotted with megalithic structures, such as cromlechs and menhirs, showing its ancient significance. The town itself, with its current structure and fortifications, was significantly developed during the Middle Ages, particularly in the 12th and 13th centuries following the Christian Reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula.

When is the Best Time to Visit Monsaraz?

I visited in spring and loved how much the valley was blooming. Everything was green and colorful. The summer is equally popular for visiting as well but it keep in mind the heat.

Can I Take a Day Tour to Monsaraz?

Yes! There are many day tours to Monsaraz, especially from Évora. If you’re without transport, this would be the most convenient way to visit Monsaraz. This Monsaraz and Wine Tasting Tour from Évora is a good option.


Things to Do in Monsaraz, Portugal

Stroll the Charming Streets of Monsaraz

Monsaraz, Portugal Guide

I think one of the best things to do is simply stroll the streets of Monsaraz. This is what I enjoyed the most, popping in and out of the two main streets. There’s a lot for the eye to take in here where the schist stone walls make the village unique. You could easily walk the village in about an hour if going slowly. But I’d recommend a least half day to see it all properly with a meal in the village.

Soak in the Views of Lake Alqueva

Monsaraz, Portugal Guide

Off of the village, you can see Lake Alqueva. Lake Alqueva, also known as the Great Lake, is a vast artificial lake in the Alentejo region of Portugal, created by the damming of the Guadiana River. It is the largest reservoir in Western Europe, covering an area of approximately 250 square kilometers. A lot of people here come for recreational experiences like boating and bird watching. You can even visit some of the beaches on the lake if you want to enjoy it that way.

Shop Local at Casa Tial

At the very beginning of the village near the Porta da Vila (Town Door), is the small boutique of Casa Tial. This shop is such a gem, all local products from the region. You can find olive oils, alcohols, soap, herbs, and more. And of course, tinned goods. One of my favorite things I bought were these candied egg yolks, there up at the front at check out – get at least 2 as I think you’ll be surprised!

Taste the Cuisine of Alentejo

The Alentejo region of Portugal is renowned for its rich and hearty cuisine, reflecting the area’s agricultural roots and cultural heritage. Staples of Alentejo’s culinary landscape include bread, olive oil, and wine, with dishes often featuring pork, lamb, and game meats, accented by herbs like coriander and oregano. A standout dish is the “Açorda Alentejana,” a traditional bread soup flavored with garlic, cilantro, olive oil, and poached eggs, showcasing the simplicity and depth of local flavors.

Another favorite is “Porco Preto,” a dish made from the region’s prized Iberian black pigs, known for their flavorful and tender meat. Alentejo is also famous for its cheeses, especially those from Nisa, Serpa, and Évora, which range from soft and creamy to firm and pungent. Desserts in Alentejo often feature egg yolks and almond, like the “Sericaia” cake served with plums from Elvas.

Dine at These Monsaraz, Portugal Restaurants

Now that you know a bit about the regional cuisine, when it comes to dining in Monsaraz, there are a few options. Taverna Os Templários has incredible views and Sabores de Monsaraz is another option if you’re looking for a good view as well. My favorite meal in Monsaraz was just outside of town at Barrocal inside the São Lourenço do Barrocal hotel. It’s more in the countryside, but the meal was fantastic for lunch.

A local also recommended Chafarica Tapas & Wine Bar in Reguengos de Monsaraz if you’re looking for somewhere between Évora and Monsaraz.

See the Monsaraz Castle and Churches

The Monsaraz Castle, constructed in the 14th century by King D. Afonso III and completed by King D. Dinis, stands in the southern corner of the fortified village. It originally served as a military stronghold before being repurposed as a bullfighting arena in the 19th century. You can walk the grounds, climb to the top for views, and learn more about the history.

In the town as well, there is the church of Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Lagoa. The inside is incredibly impressive and there’s a 14th century marble tomb carved with 14 saints.

For some greater context on the village, Geraldo the Fearless, a knight also known as Geraldo Sem Pavor, initially liberated Monsaraz from Moorish hands in 1167. The stronghold briefly returned to Muslim governance in 1173, but by 1232, with the aid of the Knights Templar, King Sancho II successfully reclaimed and secured Monsaraz.

See the Stars from Lake Alqueva Observatory

The Lake Alqueva Observatory, situated in the vicinity of the vast Alqueva Dark Sky Reserve in Portugal, stands as a testament to the region’s commitment to astronomy and the study of the night sky. This state-of-the-art facility offers visitors a unique opportunity to gaze at the stars, planets, and galaxies through powerful telescopes, in an area renowned for its exceptionally clear skies and minimal light pollution. Lake Alqueva is actually a Starlight Tourism Destination — a location recognized for its exceptional quality of starry nights and a commitment to preserving the night sky from light pollution

Shop Traditional Pottery in Nearby Town of Corval

Monsaraz, Portugal Guide

One of the best things I did in Alentejo area was a stop into the town of Corval. Known for its traditional Portuguese pottery, there are many “olaria” or pottery stores you can stop into. The town itself is small, but there are at least a dozen stores spread throughout it. So if you see one open, definitely pop your head in. My favorite was Olaria Tavares.

Go Wine Tasting

No trip would be complete without experiencing Alentejo’s wine production. There is an official wine route, but if you’re looking for a nearby winery, check out Herdade do Esporão. It was the best rated in this part of Alentejo. I tried out the wines at Fitapreta which is closer to Évora and was equally lovely.


Best Places to Stay Near Monsaraz

If you’re looking to stay near Monsaraz itself, there are wonderful accommodation options just outside the village itself. I think being out here would be a wonderful way to experience the Alentejo region. I’d also recommend a few nights in Évora as well at places like Octant or L’AND Vineyards.

São Lourenço do Barrocal

Monsaraz, Portugal Guide

São Lourenço do Barrocal is a special retreat nestled in the heart of the Alentejo countryside, near Monsaraz, Portugal. This luxurious hotel and winery is situated on an ancient agricultural estate that has been lovingly restored, blending traditional charm with modern comfort and elegance. Guests can stay in beautifully appointed rooms, cottages, or farmhouses that showcase the region’s rustic beauty through natural materials and understated design. The estate offers a range of activities including horseback riding, wine tasting in its own vineyards, and relaxing spa treatments that incorporate local herbs and traditions. Book the best rates here.

Casa de São bento

One of the best vacation rentals in town, I found Casa de São bento when I was doing research. There aren’t many options in the actual town so this one is the best option. The views are absolutely stunning from here and it’s air conditioned. Book the best rates here.

Montimerso Skyscape Countryhouse

If you’re looking to book a stay that combines modern luxury with the untouched beauty of nature, Montimerso Skyscape Countryhouse in the Alentejo region near Monsaraz, Portugal, is it. This hotel is celebrated for its sustainable design and breathtaking panoramic views of the rolling Alentejo plains, tranquil Alqueva Lake, and the pristine night sky. Book the best rates here.


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Xx,
Jessica

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