Forte da Graça

Alto Alentejo

Looming high over the arid countryside, about 3km north of town, this old military fort has a commanding presence. From the castelo, the fort is just visible on a distant hillside. Partially restored in 2015, the thick-walled corridors provide a window into the past – particularly if you take part in one of the 80-minute guided tours (call ahead to arrange an English guide). There are splendid views over Elvas and the surrounding countryside.

The strategic hillside (where a hermitage dedicated to Nossa Senhora da Graça once stood) played a key role in wars with Spain over the years, when it was used by the Spanish as an artillery point to attack the besieged city of Elvas in the 1650s and again in the 1760s. Following the latter, Dom José I ordered the construction of this powerful fortified bastion – a masterpiece of military architecture – which indeed survived subsequent attacks in the early 1800s (thanks in part to its 144 cannons). It later served as a political prison until 1974. Note the striking main entrance, the Porta do Dragão (Dragon Gate), complete with carved stone dragon over the passageway.

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