Monsaraz Alentejo Portugal Image of Monsaraz village at night

Monsaraz, Alentejo, Portugal

Off the beaten path Portugal at it's best

Monsaraz Portugal is one of the most beautiful villages we’ve visited in the country, even all of Europe

Image of an alleyway in Monsaraz, portugal, looking out over the plain below
One of the narrow travessas, or alleyways, of Monsaraz

It’s a tiny village, essentially two long streets with alleyways in between, and a pathway along some of the fortified walls.

Image of Monsaraz, Portugal from the Castle Walls
Monsaraz from the Castle Walls

It occupies a dramatic site of strategic importance, occupying a hill with commanding views to the Alqueva lakes system and Spanish border to the east and the vast Alentejo plain to the west.

Image of the skyline of Monsaraz, Portugal
The terracotta and white skyline of Monsaraz

Monsaraz has been fought over several times in its history, having been under the control of the Moors, the Knights Templar, the Kingdom of Portugal and even the disgruntled, unpaid Earl of Cambridge and his band of mercenaries at one point.

Image of Monsaraz Castle, Alentejo, Portugal
Monsaraz Castle at dusk

The 13th century castle sits at the southern end of the village, is free to enter and has outstanding views over the village, the surrounding countryside and the Alqueva lakes.

Image of sunrise over the Barragem da Alqueva lakes from Monsaraz, Portugal
Sunrise over the Barragem da Alqueva lakes from Monsaraz

Most of the village was built between the 13th and 18th centuries, though the area has been inhabited for several millennia, as some prehistoric remains, including the Cromleque de Xerez, attest.

Image of the empty streets of Monsaraz, Portugal at dusk
The streets of Monsaraz at dusk

We visited in early spring, and had the village almost to ourselves. We walked the streets at dusk and then before dawn the following morning. It was still quiet the following lunchtime, and it felt slightly disconcerting that nobody else was around to savour this amazing place.

Black and white image of Monsaraz, Alentejo, Portugal
Monsaraz in monochrome

It’s an extraordinarily beautiful village, with most of the buildings whitewashed to reflect the intense dry summer heat.

Image of church detail in Monsaraz
Church detail in Monsaraz

Apart from the Castle and scenery, the village has several medieval churches to explore.

Image of pillory outside the Misericordia church in Monsaraz
The pillory outside the Igreja da Misericordia
Image of Traditional ceramic plates at art shop in Monsaraz Portugal
Traditional ceramic plates at art shop in Monsaraz

There are also several craft and souvenir shops, specialising in traditional Portuguese arts and crafts, from gorgeous ceramic plates and bowls to these exquisite children’s painted folk art chairs.

Default image
David Angel
David Angel is a British writer and photographer who has been travelling and photographing Europe for over 25 years.  His work is regularly featured in worldwide media including the BBC, the Guardian, the Times and the Sunday Times.