Serpa, Portugal

Visit Serpa, one of the white-washed-house villages most characteristic of Alentejo, Portugal. 

Serpa, Portugal
Serpa
© Vítor Oliveira

Serpa is a municipality of white-washed houses characteristic of the region of Alentejo, Portugal. This city, surrounded by a landscape of hills and vines, features a quiet historical centre surrounded by a walls, and a great industry producing cheese and “queijadas” (cheesecakes) well known in Portugal.

aqueduct of Serpa
aqueduct of Serpa
© Vítor Oliveira
Square, Serpa
Square
© Vítor Oliveira

The Muslim Sheberina was definitely reconquered in 1230 and became part of the Kingdom of Spain by donation of the Order of S. Juan del Hospital. However, D. Dinis recovered it for Portugal and repaired both the castle and walls.

Nowadays, the streets are narrow and cobbled. The heart of the historic centre is formed by a charming medieval square. Serpa Castle was heavily worn off during the 1707-1708 wars and only the keep remains standing. Very close to it stands the Igreja de Santa María Church, Gothic in style and with charming 17th century tiles, as well as the Torre do Relógio. The 13th century wall surrounds a square space that can be accessed through the ancient gates of Moura and Beja. The latter is defended by two big turrets with battlements. Above them flows the aqueduct, with Italian arches from the 16th century, that could resemble an ancient big well from the Condes de Ficalho Palace (17th century).

In the heart of Sepra lies Praça da República square, presided over by the Câmara Municipal (Town Hall). The Igreja da Misericórida Church (18th century) features tile panels illustrating charitable deeds. Other interesting street or “largo” is that of São Paulo, with a Gothic house from the 16th century. Serpa features two museums: Serpa Ethnographic Museum, offering a tour of ancient skills and crafts, and Museo do Relógio (Clock Museum), with a private collection of clocks and watches from different periods, located in the Mosteirinho Convent.

The Santo António Convent is another religious building worth the visit. It is a Franciscan convent from the 16th century with a lavish cloister and an annex temple with a Manueline portico and 17th century tiles.

Only one kilometre away from Serpa, on the top of mount São Gêns, the Capela de Nossa Senhora de Guadalupe Shrine, patron virgin of the town, is a monument truly worth the visit.

Some of the most relevant celebrations and festivals in Serpa are the Festas da Senhora de Guadalupe, held between March and April. They commemorate the with a procession. The Noites na Nora, a famed festival with music shows and theatre plays in a hidden terrace in the aqueduct is also a major highlight.

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