Beja is the main town of the Baixa Alentejo (Lower Alentejo), though its population only numbers around 35,000. Weather-wise, its inland position means that it’s frequently the hottest place in Portugal, something to bear in mind if you plan a visit during the summer months. Once past the modern suburbs, you’ll find a laidback old quarter with a historic convent and an impressive castle dating from the thirteenth century. You can take in the sights in the compact historic centre in half a day, though it’s not a bad night’s stopover in any case, with plenty of good cafés and restaurants.
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Things to do in Beja
The Torre de Menagem is made entirely from marble and is an impressive spectacle when visiting the grounds of Castelo de Beja. Amongst other monuments, churches and musuems, Beja has plenty to do if you are interested in history. Roman ruins and Moorish castles from Arab rule are present in Beja, showing a clear run through of Portugals everchanging history from invaders. Other top sites include Convento de Nossa de Senhora da Conceicao, hospital da Misericordia and Museum Jorge Vieria. If all else fails, strolling around the old quarter and stopping off in cafes is a pleasant way to spend an afternoon.
Castelo de Beja, Portugal © Cezary Wojtkowski / Shutterstock
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 – this gradually became corrupted to Paca, Baca, Baju, and finally Beja. You can still experience the Roman influence to the north, at the atmospheric Ruinas Romanas de São Cucufate, where the history of three separate Roman villas is laid bare in a series of extensive excavations and reconstructions.
Featured Image, Beja, Portugal © Studio f22 / Shutterstock