Alentejo Portugal

The Ultimate Guide to Alentejo, Portugal

Portugal isn’t just Lisbon, Porto, or the Algarve. Nestled somewhere in the middle there’s Alentejo: gentle, uncrowded, and wildly beautiful. Here’s how to eat, where to stay, and what to drink in Alentejo. Quick, before the secret's out!

Waking up in Alentejo, everything is still and silent. Your eyes open to ceilings built of rammed earth and stone slabs, within a room devoid of right angles. Close your eyes, and the only sound is the distant sheeps or goats. 

Alentejo takes you back seven centuries; arguably, the last unspoiled spot in Southern Europe.

It’s hard to believe, in our ultra-connected lives, that such unchanged places still exist. Cobblestone streets are ruled by territorial cats, and lined with old cafes making traditional coffee. 

From balconies draped with linen sheets, shop-keepers and farmers pass a “Bom dia”. Rugged coastlines, whitewashed villages, marble towns, and majestic medieval cities. The only hint of change in Alentejo? A constellation of sparklingly modern vineyards.

The cooking is simple and rustic. Thanks to the fertile sandy soil, grapes, rice, wheat, and, fortunately for us, olives flourish abundantly. Each town has its own specialities, ranging from peppery olive oils to indulgent egg-yolk-based desserts. Stale bread finds new life in dishes like Acorda, a soupy bread dish dressed with olive oil and coriander, often topped with seafood along the coast. 

With a long history of conflict, most of its towns are on hilltops, like the medieval Monzaraz or the pantiled city of Beja. Roman remains are scattered everywhere; you’ll even find a huge aqueduct and temple dedicated to Augustus in Évora. 

A weekend wouldn’t feel long enough to slow down to Alentejo’s seductive pace of life. Rent a car from Lisbon or Faro, and stay in a few different spots (we’ve suggested our favourites below). You need at least three days on some of Portugal’s prettiest beaches, and another three pottering around Alentejo’s vineyards and white marble villages. 

It’s uncrowded, gentle, and wildly beautiful. Let us be your guide. Here’s where to stay, eat and sip in Alentejo.

Basics

Much like the rest of the Med, you’ll need euros and SPF 50. July and August have some fierce heat; early spring or late autumn are the best times to visit. 

Top Tip: Nothing in Portugal is free. Your table will be strewn with saucers of olives, cheese, and even tiny squid by the coast–this comes standard with most tables. Anything you touch, you pay for. You’ve been warned!

Getting around

Flying into Lisbon or Faro is your best bet. Beja, Alentejo’s cobblestone capital, has a direct link to Heathrow—but it only runs weekly. And for under £100 return deals, practically all year round, the big cities are ideal to fly into. Starting at the top (Lisbon) or the bottom (Faro) sets you up nicely for a road trip. 

There’s a train that connects larger towns, like Evora and Beja, but the best way to get around is by car. That way you can hit all the best olive groves and vineyards. Or, maybe do both: get a train to explore Évora and Beja, and rent a car directly from there to explore the villages around.

Alentejo Portugal

Where to stay in Alentejo

Convento dos Loios, Évora
1hr 30 min from Lisbon

Évora is an ideal starting point to explore Alentejo: a beautiful historic city that’s practically a living Roman museum. And if you’re drawn to the historical allure of Alentejo, opt for a pousada stay: hotels in historic buildings like monasteries or castles. Just don’t stick to their hotel restaurants. This one in Evora is a former monastery, with lofty white cloisters, each room a former monk’s cell.  

Casa do Adro da Igreja, Vila Nova de Milfontes
2 hours from Lisbon  

Alentejo is home to Portugal’s prettiest beaches. Much of its coastline is what St. Tropez used to be in the 1950s, before Brigitte Bardot. Vila Nova de Milfontes is a quiet beach town, known as the place where people who love good food come on holiday. 

The town’s restaurant, Tasca do Celso, is famous for its prawns with garlic and rice, tossed with the sweet juice of clams. Pair that with a glass of their ice-cold Vinho Verde, sit in their open-air restaurant bang on the beach, and you have yourself a holiday. Or grab lunch at Restaurante A Choupana (Praia do Farol) and try their barbecued sardines and shellfish. 

São Lourenco do Barrocal, Monsaraz
2hr 20 min from Lisbon

This hotel is a 2,000-acre estate. With a working farm, winery, two farm-to-folk restaurants, and even a spa, it’s a place dedicated to both timelessness and sustainability. You can bike through the holm oaks and ride on horses through vineyards. 

Alentejo Portugal Guide

Where to eat in Alentejo

The food in Alentejo isn’t fussy. It’s as unpretentious and rustic as the region itself. Wherever you go, stop by every open pastelaria: beyond the pastel de natas, there’s a traditional Alentigon dessert called ‘sericaia’: a creamy pudding made from eggs, sugar, cinnamon and lemon. Bom apetite. 

Quinta do Quetzal, Vidiguera
50 min from Evora, 2 hrs from Faro

This Quinta (country house) is set at the foot of the rich slopes in Vidigueira. It’s where our founders went the first time they came to visit our producers, Ana and Marije, before we started working together. What was once a winery is now a restaurant, shop, art centre—and striking winery. Every dish features produce from their garden and every wine poured offers a taste of their vineyard. 

Taverna Os Templários, Monsaraz
10 min from São Lourenco do Barrocal

A family-run restaurant 20km from the Spanish border. The terrace looking over to the Alqueva reservoir is a highlight. And the local black pig with a bottle of Reguengos red, or the bacalhau com espinafres (salt cod with spinach).

Fialho, Évora

In 1948, Manuel Fialho started serving local snacks. Today, his busy restaurant is said to have saved several traditional Alentijon dishes such as favada real de caça (a bean stew served to royal guests after hunting trips). The walls are covered in deer antlers and Manuel’s awards. This is a must-visit. 

Alentejo Portugal Guide

Where to drink in Alentejo

Alentejo is now one of the world’s top wine destinations. And it’s not surprising— Alentejo makes over half of Portugal’s wines. Their voluptuous red and aromatic white wines have distinctive character, versatility, and excellent ageing potential. These are our favourite spots to sip and snack. 

Herdade dos Grous, Beja
1 hour 20 min from Faro

Beja is a cobblestone town in the depths of Antelejo. This modern wine bar sits on a country estate, just outside, with its own vineyards, cork forests, olive groves and organic farm. You can learn about wine pairings, do a mixology class, or just enjoy a glass in their farm-to-fork restaurant.

Fitapreta, Evora
10 min from Evora, 1 hr 30 min from Lisbon

Led by unconventional winemaker, Antonio Macanita, Fitapreta creates wines that reflect the character of Alentejo. He takes nearly extinct grapes and almost-forgotten techniques (ageing in amphoras, for example) and reinvents them. As a result, his wines don’t taste like today’s Alentejo wines, but more like something of the paste. Or maybe the future. Either way, they’re delicious. 

His winery occupies a 14th-century medieval palace, a charming backdrop for exclusive wine tastings, leisurely lunches, and occasional enchanting concerts, available by appointment only.
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For those of you who don’t have Portugal on the horizon this summer, we’ve bottled the very essence of Alentejo in our latest oil from our inspiring farmer Ana. With intense pepperiness, wrapped in notes of apples, treat yourself to Ana’s polyphenol-packed oil from our Extra Rare collection. Decadently drizzle over things like lemony shrimps and tomato salads to evoke the taste and sense of these rugged Portuguese surroundings from wherever you are in the world.

Author: Kate Carruthers, Copywriter & Recipe Developer

 "I write copy people want to read. That people can't resist sinking their teeth into. Especially if it's about food, drink or hospitality. Currently freelancing at Ottolenghi, I bring a touch of fun to a world that can sometimes take itself too seriously. Because, at the end of the day, that’s what it is all about. Fun.”

 

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