On the inland route through southern Alentejo, BEJA appears as a welcome oasis amid the sweltering wheat fields. Commanding a strategic position in the centre of the plains, it has long been an important and prosperous city. Founded by Julius Caesar in 48 BC, it was named Pax Julia, in honour of the peace accord signed here between Rome and the Lusitanians, but later became Pax Augusta and then just Pax, from which it gradually corrupted to Paca, Baca, Baju, and finally Beja.
South of Évora, it’s the only major town en route to the Algarve, but with a population of only around 30,000. Once past the modern suburbs, Beja reveals an unhurried old quarter with a beautiful convent and a thirteenth-century castle. You can take in the sights in the compact historic centre in half a day, though in summer the heat will slow you down – and it’s not a bad night’s stopover in any case, with plenty of good cafés and restaurants.Read More