The small village a few kilometres north of Portalegre takes visitors back in time. Marvao is one of the Portuguese fortresses along the Spanish border, which has remained unchanged for over 800 years. From its extreme mountain location one has a wide view into the Spanish Extremadura and the Portuguese heartland. Inside the city walls one can find a maze of alleys, stairs and squares. High above Marvao stands the 13th century castle with its keep and several ring walls. It's best to leave the car at the bottom in Portagem. From there, a footpath follows medieval mule tracks through shady cork oak forests all the way to the fortress (red-yellow hiking sign). The ensemble is embedded in the Serra de Mamede Nature Park, a wooded low mountain range up to 1,000 m high.
Front city on the border to Spain
The city near Marvao is considered to be the best preserved medieval fortified city in Portugal. For centuries it served to secure the Portuguese-Spanish border. Today the former front town is quiet and cozy, especially during low season. Next to the castle is the Juderia, the old Jewish quarter with the oldest synagogue in Portugal and a covered marble fountain from the 16th century. Several good restaurants offer regional dishes, including goat meat (Cabrito assado) and rabbit (Coelho).
The art of tapestry in the Serra de São Mamede
Although the small town in the Serra de São Mamede Nature Park already existed in the Middle Ages, today's cityscape dates back to the Baroque era, when textile art brought the city new prosperity. A tapestry factory is still in operation in the former Jesuit monastery of Rossio. In the carpet museum there is a permanent exhibition about the production of wool carpets. In a garden in the city centre there is a tree that was planted in 1838 and today is said to have the largest crown on the Iberian Peninsula.