After Portugal regained independence from Spain in the 1640s, the country’s border regions were on constant high alert. Almeida, along with Elvas and Valença do Minho, became a principal defence against Spanish incursions. Almeida’s vast, star-shaped fortress – completed in 1641 on the site of its medieval predecessor, 15km from Spain – is the least famous but the most handsome of the three.
When its military functions were largely suspended in 1927, Almeida settled into weedy obscurity. Nowadays, the fortified old village – designated as a national monument and recently scrubbed up for tourism – is a place of great charm: the town may have the disquieting calm of a museum, but it also has enough history and muscular grandeur to set the imagination humming.