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Beja in Alentejo
Our visit to the sleepy town of Beja in Alentejo, a rural area south of Lisbon, was what you call a stroke of luck. The city happened to be en route to our final destination, and as we had to stay somewhere overnight we booked a hotel in the centre of Beja not knowing it would be a such a pleasant break.
Remarkably enough I had never heard of this town, even though it turned out to be a most charming town. Most of the houses in the city are covered with azulejos, these tiles are somewhat similar to the Dutch Delftware but of course made in Portugal. Apart from the colourful streets, Beja also has a number of top attractions, including a medieval castle, a pre-romanesque church and the museum of Queen Eleanor.
The light in Beja
Beja is, at least at the height of summer, a place with a special kind of light. Ceramic tiles, oldtimers and bougainvillea create a cheerful colour palette on the peeling facades of the city. The clear blue sky and the reflective tiles make shadows dance in 50 shades of grey.
This town is every photographer’s dream of and even though Beja has a lot to offer for a small town, tourists are scarce. The few foreigners seem to be mainly interested in the annual arts and music festival.
Sights of Beja
Since it is too hot here during the summer days to do something meaningful, my advice is: sit on a terrace with a cool glass of white wine and watch time go by. Early in the morning or in the late afternoon,as it slowly begins to cool, then embark on the climb of the castle tower.
If you want to brave the heat anyway, it is good to know that the attractions are just steps away from each other.
The castle of Beja overlooks the surroundings of this town situated on a hill. It was built at the same time as the city walls, during the reign of King Diniz in the 13th century. The castle was built on top of the remains of a Roman fort which was later reinforced by the Moors. The structure consists of walls with four corner towers and a central tower. This 40 meter high tower is the tallest of its kind in Portugal. The top of the tower is accessible via a spiral staircase with 197 steps, from the top you have a sensational view of the surrounding landscape.
Museum Queen Eleanor
This regional museum is housed since1927 in a former monastery dating from the year 1459. It is an impressive building that is classified as a national monument. Inside the building several antique azulejos are displayed. The museum also houses an important collection of Flemish, Spanish and Portuguese paintings from the 15th-18th century and an archaeological collection that was donated after forty years of archaeological research by Fernando Nunes Ribeiro, in 1987.
The Church of St. Amaro is one of the four remaining pre-Romanesque churches in Portugal, some parts dating back to the 6th century. The church has a small archaeological museum with Visigoth art.
Flying If you fly to Lisbon then Beja is a two hours drive, from Faro it is one and a half hour.
Car The roads in southern Portugal are generally quiet. Keep in mind that some drivers tend to use their phone whilst driving. If you would like to rent a car, click here for prices and availability.
Hotel: We spent the night in hospedaria Santa Maria ,a simple centrally located hostel. The bathroom is shared with the rest of the corridor, but otherwise it’s fine.
You will find the Tourist Office inside de castle.
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