The most impressive of all Portugal’s fortified border settlements is surely ALMEIDA, within a mere cannon-shot of Spain. It’s a handsomely preserved eighteenth-century stronghold, laid out in the shape of a twelve-pointed star and well worth the effort of a visit – particularly during the twice-monthly feiras (on the eighth day and last Saturday), and the annual bash on September 1. The village within is charming, while a 3km walk around the walls – now overgrown with grass, and grazed by horses – shows you the true extent of the fortifications, though you can only really appreciate their shape by looking at the aerial-shot postcards sold in the gift shops.

Almeida played a key role in the Peninsular War. Besieged here in 1810 by the Napoleonic army, the garrison held out for seventeen days until, on July 26, a barrel of gunpowder ignited and began a devastating fire. That should have been it for the town, and the remaining survivors gave themselves up, but they were reprieved when the Duke of Wellington later arrived with full army in tow – the French army disappeared into the night and Almeida was saved.

The town defences

Almeida’s walls enclose a warren of cobbled lanes and whitewashed houses, punctuated by airy squares – inside the walled town, you’ll also find the village post office, a bank with ATM, a grocery shop and a few cafés. The main entrance is still through the original two consecutive defensive tunnel-gates of the Portas de São Francisco, complete with a wide, dry moat between inner and outer walls. Immediately inside the gates, to the left, are the long infantry barracks, while a right turn, past the gardens and along the walls, leads to the Casamatas (opposite the fire station), an underground storage area with a capacity for five thousand men and their supplies.

You’ll easily find your way up to what’s left of the castle, blown up in 1810, the foundations now exposed under a modern walkway. Behind here, in one of the star-points, is the picadeiro, the restored cavalry barracks and horse-training area, whose stables offer short riding lessons and horse-and-buggy rides around town.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Portugal features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

6 reasons why you should visit Portugal in 2018

6 reasons why you should visit Portugal in 2018

Portugal is less than three hours’ flight time from the UK, while flights from the US are generally available for under $500. Moreover, once you get there, it…

04 May 2018 • Matthew Hancock insert_drive_file Article
Your Portugal itinerary: 4 road trip ideas to explore the country

Your Portugal itinerary: 4 road trip ideas to explore the country

Portugal is having a real purple patch right now. It’s one of the safest and least expensive countries in Europe with a balmy year-round sunny climate. Your d…

03 May 2018 • Matthew Hancock insert_drive_file Article
An expert’s guide: the best places to stay in Porto

An expert’s guide: the best places to stay in Porto

Porto’s cityscape of narrow streets and stepped alleys spreads up the steep slopes of the Douro river to a centre full of broad squares, Neoclassical building…

02 May 2018 • Amanda Tomlin insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right