Vila Viçosa Alentejo | Portugal Visitor


Vila Viçosa

Palácio dos Duques de Bragança
  • Population around 8,000 inhabitants.
  • Once the seat of the Dukes of Bragança.
  • Known for its fine marble.
  • Called the “Princess of Alentejo”
  • Birthplace of poet Florbela Espanca
  • Situated south east of Lisbon in the Alentejo close to Estremoz, Evora and Elvas.

Vila Viçosa – Opulent Home of the Dukes & Duchesses of Bragança

The small town of Vila Viçosa in the Alentejo region was once the seat of the powerful Dukes of Bragança. This line of the Portuguese royal family took power in 1640 after the Spanish were driven out. The House of Bragança reigned as monarchs until Portugal became a republic in 1910.

Vila Viçosa, along with the nearby towns of Borba and Estremoz, is the center of the marble quarrying area of the Alentejo Plain. Marble from this area was used in the construction of buildings throughout Portugal and even the Escorial in Spain.

Located 27 km southeast from Estremoz, Vila Viçosa is a relaxing place to stroll and enjoy the beautiful palaces, churches and museums dotted around this lovely and laid-back town.

The grand architecture of Vila Viçosa, Portugal.
The grand architecture of Vila Viçosa – Igreja dos Agostinhos

History

Vila Viçosa has the usual Portuguese history of occupation by Romans, Visigoths and Moors before its Reconquista (reconquest) by Christian forces led by the Order of Aviz in 1217.

In the mid-15th century the town and surrounding area passed to the House of Braganza. In 1502 construction of the Ducal Palace began. The palace was remodelled during the 16th and 17th centuries in the Mannerist style. It remains the main attraction for visitors to this day.

From 1640 on the Braganzas moved their main residence to the capital Lisbon and a slow decay set in on the town. However, the palace remained as a holiday home for the family. Indeed, Dom Carlos spent his last night here before his assassination in Terreiro do Paço near Praça do Comércio in Lisbon in 1908. Also Catarina de Bragança (1638-1705), the wife of Charles II of England, was born here.

Another local of note is Florbela Espanca (1894-1930) a feminist poet who packed much into a short and extraordinary life. Several hotels, restaurants and streets are named in her honor. She is buried in the local cemetery.

Palácio dos Duques de Bragança, Portugal.
Statue of Dom João IV, by Francisco Franco (1943), Palácio dos Duques de Bragança

Paço Ducal de Vila Viçosa

The vast Ducal Palace (Paço Ducal de Vila Viçosa) is the main attraction in Vila Viçosa. The family originally came from Bragança in the Trás-os-Montes region of north east Portugal, close to the Spanish border.

They settled in the castle in the town but decided to build more luxurious quarters in the early 16th century.

The palace is full of fine furniture, paintings and tableware from different centuries. The interior is beautifully worked with much use of local marble.

Highlights of the Paço Ducal de Vila Viçosa include the Sala das Tapeçarias (Tapestry Hall) with its beautiful azulejos tiles, the Sala do Gigante (Hall of the Giant) with its fantasy frescoes and the Sala de Medusa (Hall of Medusa), with a painted fresco depicting the struggle between Medusa and Perseus.

The armory has displays of arms and weapons belonging to the Dukes of Bragança and there are also collections of royal coaches and carriages, ceramics from both Portugal and China as well as hunting trophies from the Tapada Real (royal hunting grounds).

The Castelo de Vila Viçosa, Portugal.
The Castelo de Vila Viçosa

Castle of Vila Viçosa

The Castle of Vila Viçosa (Castelo de Vila Viçosa) was the former residence of the dukes before they decamped to their more spacious and opulent palace.

Historians believe the fortress was built by D. Dinis from the late 13th to early 14th century following initial work by his father Afonso III.

The ground floor of the castle includes the Museu de Arqueologia e da Caça combining archeological finds dating back to the Roman period and before, plus the history of royal hunting in the area and overseas. The collection of hunting trophies includes numerous European birds as well as trophies from Africa such as a pygmy elephant skull.

There is also a historic pelourinho (pillory) close to the castle.

Santuário de Nossa Senhora da Conceição de Vila Viçosa, Portugal.
Santuário de Nossa Senhora da Conceição de Vila Viçosa
Goods From Japan delivered to your home or business.
Goods From Japan delivered to your home or business
Igreja do Convento das Chagas.
Igreja do Convento das Chagas

Churches

As with almost every Portuguese town, Vila Viçosa is awash with churches, chapels and hermitages. Santa Maria do Castelo is the main church though there are several others of beauty. These include the Igreja dos Agostinhos where the dukes of Braganza were laid to rest and the Convento das Chagas where the duchesses were buried. This is now part of the pousada.

The Santuário de Nossa Senhora da Conceição de Vila Viçosa lies within the medieval walls of the castle and is the town’s parish church or Igreja Matriz. The church we see today was renovated in 1569, during the reign of D. Sebastião de Portugal with much use of local marble in the construction.

The church is of national importance due to its image of Our Lady of Conception, the Patroness of Portugal. The stone image, thought to have been acquired in England by D. Nuno Álvares Pereira in the 14th century was traditionally dressed in rich vestments donated by the queens of Portugal.

An annual pilgrimage to the church takes place on December 8th.

Vila Viçosa, Alentejo, Portugal.
Vila Viçosa, Alentejo, Portugal

Museums

The Museu do Mármore is dedicated to the local marble of this area of Portugal. The museum is housed in the former Gradinha quarry building and has exhibits on the extraction and shaping of the marble found in the wider area. Machinery, photographs, tools and marble sculptures are all on display.

The Museu Agrícola e Etnográfico (closed Mondays), housed in the former railway station, has exhibits of various agricultural crafts, local folk costumes and farming tools such as harrows, ploughs and yokes.

The Museu Bento de Jesus Caraça is dedicated to Bento de Jesus Caraça (1901-1948) who was born in the town and was a mathematician, economist and statistician. He was persecuted by the Salazar regime and spent time in the infamous Aljube prison in Lisbon.

The Residência Florbela Espanca is a residential space for visiting artists and students to the University of Evora.

Vila Viçosa Tourist Office

Praça da República 32, 7160-207 Vila Viçosa (tel: 268 881 101)

Train Travel in Portugal.
Train Travel in Portugal

Getting to Vila Viçosa

Train Travel in Portugal

Vila Viçosa is not connected to the Portuguese rail network anymore, neither is nearby Estremoz.

Car Travel in Portugal

The town is around two hours by car from Lisbon on the A2 and the A6 highways. From Elvas take the Rua da Carreira (30 minutes). If driving from Spain (Badajoz), take the A6/E90. From Borba, Vila Viçosa is 13 km southeast on the Rua da Carreira. From Estremoz the town is 24 km southeast on the N4.

Bus Travel in Portugal

The long-distance bus station is on R. Dom João IV.
There are buses to Lisbon, Evora and Portalegre via Estremoz. Local buses connect the town with Estremoz and outlying villages.

Portugal Hotel & Hostel Accommodation

Pousada Convento Vila Viçosa.
Pousada Convento Vila Viçosa

Featured Hotel

Pousada Convento Vila Viçosa; Convento das Chagas – Terreiro do Paço, 7160-251 Vila Viçosa, Portugal – a magnificent pousada in the old part of town.

Book the Pousada Convento Vila Viçosa

Book Hotel Accommodation in Vila Viçosa

Hotel Solar dos Mascarenhas – housed in a 16th century mansion with stables and gardens.

Casa do Colégio Velho – upmarket hotel in a converted 16th century manor house.

Hotel Solar dos Mascarenhas Vila Viçosa.
Hotel Solar dos Mascarenhas

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Lisbon Hop-On Hop-Off Bus, Tramcars, and Yellow Boat River Tour

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Eating

For local food and Alentejo wines try the recommended Taverna dos Conjurados at Nº 12 Largo 25 de Abril. Also of note are Café/Restaurante Veneza and Safari on Largo Mariano Prezado.

Drinking

There are many decent cafes and bars in town. For a drink try Espadinha Bar on Rua Florbela Espanca or Craft BBS for craft beer and hamburgers.

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The average high June temperatures for Portugal is between 22 degrees Centigrade and 26 degrees Centigrade.
Get more weather information for Portugal

Map

Map of Estremoz, Portugal.
Map of Estremoz, Portugal
Map of Vila Viçosa & Estremoz




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