Coming from Lisbon and the west, ALCÁCER DO SAL is the first town of the Baixo Alentejo, 52km from Setúbal. It is one of Portugal’s oldest ports, founded by the Phoenicians and made a regional capital under the Moors – whence its name (al-Ksar, the town) derives. The other part of its name, do Sal, “of salt”, reflects the dominance of the salt industry in these parts; the Sado estuary is still fringed with salt marshes.
Few stop longer than to stretch the legs – either Beja or the coast is less than an hour away – but it’s an attractive enough place to do just that, particularly along the waterfront promenade where there are various cafés and restaurants. A couple of roads back from the promenade, at its western end, lies a charming quarter of medieval houses. Further uphill, above the town, stands the part-ruined Moorish castle, from where there are striking views of the lush green paddy fields which almost surround the town, and of the storks’ nests on the church rooftops. The castle is now home to the fabulous Pousada Dom Afonso II, whose contemporary rooms, swimming pool and pricey restaurant make dramatic use of the buildings.Read More