For many, the south of Portugal holds a special charm. It’s easy to get to from the UK, for example, with daily flights connecting local airports throughout the year. Most people stay in their resorts to relax (and who wouldn’t?) but if you fancy heading a little further afield, the towns of the Alentejo are a good option, and at this time of year they have a big advantage over their northern counterparts – sunshine!
We headed down to Lisbon for a weekend in search of said sunshine and decided to have a day out in Beja, a town located in the Alentejo, a region that is famous for fantastic food and wines. We weren’t disappointed on either front but we’ve definitely upped our intake of Alentejo wines as a result of that trip.
Beja welcomes visitors to the town in its azulejo tiled train station, something that’s fairly common in Portugal and an indication of just how popular the railways once were here. Almost every station we’ve been to from the railways’ glory days are a work of art in themselves, just like the beautiful Victorian ones in the UK (think York, St Pancras, Darlington). Beja takes its name from Pax Julia, Julias Caesar’s name for the town, since 48 BC and if you look closely enough there’s still evidence of the Romans around the town. A medieval castle stands proud, with the town’s original walls, built in Roman times and restored in the Middle Ages, still intact. The view from here over the surrounding countryside is worth the climb. It reminds you just how much of Portugal is still lush farmland.
A trip to Beja’s museums are a must. With an all inclusive ticket (€3 per person) you have access to the Museu da Rainha D. Leonor and the brand new Nucleo. The Museu is housed in a Manueline and Gothic convent with a mix of artwork on display once you pass through the wonderfully tiled halls. Tastefully decorated and in immaculate condition, the azulejo walls and Baroque church are a At the Nucleo Museologico you have the opportunity to walk over the remains of a section of a Roman bath house. With reinforced glass just metres away from the bricks and mortar themselves and clearly marked maps, this is a fantastic insight into the Roman world.
I would recommend a day to Beja for anyone passing through from the Algarve or en route from Evora. It’s quite a small town but with a visit to the museums and a long lunch, it’s esy to spend a day here.