Located near the Spanish border, Monsaraz is a quaint Portuguese town on a hill that will give you history, a taste of traditional Portuguese lifestyles and phenomenal views. It is a very picturesque Portuguese destination – one of the prettiest places in Portugal.
Where is Monsaraz?
This village is located right near the Spanish border in the Alentejo region. Because it is in a remote location of Alentejo you will probably need a car to get there – public transport is scarce. You can hire a car in Portugal for between 15-25€ per day. Also it is possible to book tours to Monsaraz from Evora and Lisbon. I booked to travel with Antonio from Air BnB experiences.
To access this world class destination, you will have to take a road called Ancares that is a challenging journey of 7km from the town centre. It is quite a curvy road with huge cliffs and views that will leave you breathless.
Monsaraz Climate and when to Go
If you want to visit in the early summer, then this will be the ideal place for you to visit. The temperature at this destination ranges between 18 and 25 degrees Celsius, but in the peak summer months temperatures can exceed 30 degrees because it is far from the coast. In June, July and August, suncream and sun hats are recommended.
What To Do In Monsaraz
Monsaraz is popular with Portuguese tourists, but less well know by international tourists as it is somewhat off the beaten track. It makes for a brilliant place to visit, as it is small and beautiful with cute houses – it reminds me of a more quaint and less touristy Obidos.
Countryside and Lake Views
The views from the village of Monsaraz are phenomenal – it is often referred to as the ‘village in the Sky’. You will see the Alentejo countryside full of vinyards, almond plantations and olive groves. There is also a fantastic view of the largest artificial lake in Europe that has been created by the Alqueva Dam.
If you fancy sailing and have ample time then you can hire boats to go on the lake. The area of Aquelva is also fantastic for hiking, horse riding and mountain biking.
The main attraction is the castle, which was built by King Dinis, in the 14th century and is classified as a National Monument of Portugal.
There is also a famous bull fighting place called Pastel de Monsaraz which is located within the castle itself. There is a festival every year in September time when locals from Alentejo flock to the village of Monsaraz to see the show and have a drink together. If you are concerned with the ethics of bull-fighting, it’s not as severe as bull-fighting in Spain. In Portugal, they don’t kill the bull. However, if you are still concerned about this as a cruel or unethical tradition then you should avoid Monsaraz at that time.
The main tourist attraction is the Santa Maria Tower – which is perched on top of a hill, with a beautiful view of the town.
There are plenty of top rated restaurants in the town with an amazing view, most of which serve traditional Portuguese food. The best restaurants in Monsaraz are Taverna Os Templarios, Xarez, O Gespacho, Lumumba and Casa do Ferno. You will find the Alentejo food to be very meat heavy – so it’s not a very vegetarian friendly. There is a small black pig that is popular in Alentejo – Plumes are the best cuts! Definitely try that if you like Pork.
Shopping in Monsaraz
There is plenty of shopping to do, with some shops selling unique local clothing, home accessories and souvenirs. There are local ladies on the main streets selling crafts including cork bookmarks, olive bowls and Azulejos (Portugiese tiles) in the busy periods. Another great place to shop is on the balcony of the Santa Maria Tower, which has tons of shops and restaurants.
Where To Stay In Monsaraz
In all honesty, Monsaraz is so small that you don’t really need to stay there overnight – most people see Monsaraz as a day trip from Evora or Lisbon because it is so small. However, if you would like to stay overnight in this beautiful hill top village, I would recommend that you stay at Casa Deterra Suites which is a beautiful luxury hotel in the heart of the Old Town.
Have you ever been to Monsaraz? If so, I’d love to hear your comments below.