It is said that Portalegre was founded by Lísias in the 12th century after his daughter Maia was kidnapped by a vagabond named Dolme. In his desperation, Lísias searched for Maia and found her dead near a stream (called Ribeira do Baco in present days). The story ends with him dying of happiness thinking he saw her reach for him. The city he founded was originally named Amaia.
Afonso III in 1259, gave the first foral to the city attributing it Council status, and later donated it to his second son, Afonso. The name Portalegre has its origins in Portus Alacer: porto (or port of passage) and alacer, alegre (meaning joyful).
Its location near the Spanish border on the São Mamede mountains made it an important defensive site since Medieval times, and a historical marvel you can’t miss.
Forte da Graça
The Forte de Nossa Senhora da Graça, officially known as Forte Conde de Lippe, was built between 1763 and 1792. Located around a kilometre north of Elvas, classified in 2012 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It stands on the Monte da Graça, forming part of the Garrison Border Town of Elvas and its Fortifications, as it was a key place of defence against Spanish forces.
The Forte is a quadrangle of 150 metres (or 490ft) with stunning pentagonal bastions at its corners. There are four ravelins covering the curtain wall; half of it forms part of the monumental gate – Porta do Dragão (or Dragon’s Gate). It took almost 30 years, four thousand animals, six thousand men, and 120,000 gold coins to erect this stunning Forte.
Located in Marvão, the castle is integrated in the Parque Natural da Serra de São Mamede, in a strategic, dominant position over the town. In the 12th century, D. Afonso Henriques conquered the area from the Moors. 850m above sea level (around 2788ft), the castle is a stunning, Gothic construction.
The legend of Nossa Senhora da Estrela, protector of the castle due to a convent being constructed on the site, tells the tale of treason. Two traitors led Castilian forces late at night, stealthily approaching the castle for an assault. It’s said that a woman’s voice called out “Às Armas!” (a call to arms), which helped the guards to warn the garrison, causing the Spaniard troops to flee).
Castelo de Vide is also known as Alentejo’s Sintra due to its beautiful gardens and proximity to the Serra de São Mamede. Its Roman origins are seen through the town and through the nearby ruins of the Roman settlement of Miróbriga. The Jewish Quarter’s cobbled streets and whitewashed houses have withstood the test of time. A truly stunning castle, Castelo de Vide is a must-see historical site.