At the heart of the Alentejo, not far from the Spanish border, lies Castelo de Vide, a cozy, beautiful town. It looks like a postcard because of the neat whiteness of its house walls and orange roofs. Castelo de Vide is not as ancient as the neighboring Marvão, but its well preserved medieval streets, filled with dozens of different flowers, charm every visitor.
Castelo de Vide is known mainly for its Jewish neighborhood and its synagogue. The once religious building can be visited daily, but you won’t be able to find much inside: every trace of Jewish presence was erased after their forced departure in 1496. Once outside, it is a must to wander around the neighborhood. Every now and then, you will find plenty of doors with Gothic arches (all of them unique!), made of pure granite. In some streets, you would think you are back in medieval times. Nevertheless, the biggest attraction is undoubtedly the castle. More particularly, its homage tower. Perfectly preserved, it was built on the side of the town, where the fortress was weaker. A rocky hill and a city wall protected the back of the castle.
Inside the castle walls, the ancient Bourg continues to be inhabited. Here, the flowers on the street are even more impressive, maybe because there used to be yearly contests to reward the most beautiful road. At the back of it, the visitor can admire the view of the Alentejan plain. Endless kilometers in a landscape quite similar to Tuscany, with some big, stone farmhouses here and there.
The castle can be visited for free, and from the top, you can enjoy the view of the whole village. At the very core of it, there's the main church, huge, dominating the city center with its two towers. In Castelo de Vide, there are twelve churches in total, which is a lot, if taken into account the number of people living there (3.500). One of the most interesting ones for the hikers is the chapel belonging to the Senhora da Penha (The Lady of the Rock), probably dating back to an older pagan cult. You can climb up there by following an ancient cobbled road. Again, you will find a breath-taking view from there.
In the XVIIIth century, a few peasants lived together in the castle area. "Castelo" means "castle" in Portuguese, so it only took its current name once the castle was built (before it was only called Vide). With the birth of the nearby border with Spain, the Portuguese king Afonso III thought to defend the place better. The richness of its lands and the purity of its waters made it a fascinating village. Indeed, the excellent quality of its waters is still vital for Castelo de Vide. For instance, a Spanish national supermarket buys here its bottled water. There are springs and fountains everywhere. The most famous is the beautiful Fonte da Vila, literally the “fountain of the village.”
Castelo de Vide can’t be missed while traveling around the Northern Alentejo. Get inside the oldest neighborhoods, get lost in its narrow, snaky streets. Watch a sunset from the medieval Bourg. If you are there in September, don’t miss the Medieval Fair. In August, make sure to attend the Andanças Festival: the streets are crowded with concerts and ateliers of world-known artists. It attracts thousands of people from all over Europe. Have a beer at any terrace of the local square; they are cheap and tasty. Bottoms up!
Cover Picture © Credits iStock/Celli07
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