Mértola, Portugal

Discover Mértola, the Portuguese village which best preserves its Arabic essence.

Mértola, Portugal
© Celestino Manuel

Mértola is a Medieval village perched on rocky hills located next to the Guadiana River, in the region of Baixo Alentejo, Portugal.

Crossing its thick walls and getting inside the old city is like travelling back in time. Its stone-paved streets are a pleasant place to walk in.


Mértola Castle
Mértola Castle
© Vítor Ribeiro
Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Assunção Mértola Mother Church
Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Assunção
Mértola Mother Church
© Vítor Ribeiro
Mértola, Alentejo
Mértola, Alentejo
© Celestino Manuel

In the city there is a small but important castle that dominates a group of white houses and a picturesque church, back in time used as a mosque.

This isolated village has been during a long period of time an economic stagnation, which has favoured the preservation of many remains from the Islamic occupation. Because of this, Mértola is considered a Vila Museu (Museum City) and one of the Portuguese villages which best preserves its Arabic essence.

It is recommended to access the old city from the river, by the stairway that goes up to the nice Torre do Relógio Tower (17th century), in order to enjoy one of the best panoramic views over the city. Right after, it is worth visiting the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Assunçao Mother Church.

At the top you will find the Mértola Castle, with an old homage tower built in the year 1292 by D. João Fernandes, master of the Saint James Order; and five turrets reinforcing the walls’ angles. In front of the entrance remain the ruins of the Roman Forum of Mirtilis, later transformed into Muslim citadel. On its excavations, various mosaics and pieces of great historical value were founded. They are currently exposed in the Forum-Alcazaba Archeological Museum.

The city has another four fascinating museological centres (with a single and cheap ticket). Within the walls and next to the Porta da Ribeira is located the Islamic art Museum and the Religious Art Museum; while outside the remains the Tecelagem Cooperative, an old loom, and the Museu Paleocristião (Paleochristian Museum), located in the old basilica, dating back to the 5th-8th centuries.

To go for a stroll by the river you can rent a boat or a kayak. On the other shore stands out the São Francisco Convent, with a fascinating botanic garden.

15 kilometres to the East from Mértola is the ghost city of São Domingos and its abandoned mines, with the Mineiro House Museum and the majestic Hotel São Domingos.

It should be mentioned that great part of the area is situated inside the Vale do Guadiana Natural Park, a place with a rich variety of flora and fauna and various interesting Prehistoric remains.

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