Above the parish church looms Mértola’s fortified castle, most of which dates from the 13th century. It was built upon Moorish foundations next to an Islamic residence, the alcáçova (citadel), which itself overlaid the Roman forum. For centuries the castle was considered western Iberia’s most impregnable fortress. From the walls, there are ultrafabulous views – the alcáçova is on one side, and the old town and the river on the other.

The castle’s prominent tower, the Torre de Menagem, has exhibitions related to the history of Mértola, with several worthwhile (if dramatically scored) videos in both English and Portuguese on Mértola’s strategic location and the reconquest by the Knights of Santiago in 1238.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Mértola attractions

1. Torre de Menagem

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Inside the castle walls, this prominent tower has exhibitions related to the history of Mértola, with several worthwhile (if dramatically scored) videos…

2. Igreja Matriz

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Mértola’s striking parish church – square, flat-faced and topped with whimsical little conical decorations – is known because in a former incarnation it…

3. Casa Islâmica

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Next to the alcáçova (citadel), this interpretation centre is an accurately sized replica of an Islamic residence dating from the 12th century. Key…

4. Alcáçova

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This site contains the ruins of what was once a thriving Islamic neighbourhood. Some 20 dwellings were here, each with a classic Mediterranean layout – a…

5. Largo Luís de Camões

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This is the administrative heart of the old town, a picturesque square lined with orange trees, with the câmara municipal (town hall) at its western end…

6. Casa de Mértola

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Next to the turismo, this small two-room house shows what living conditions were like for Mértolans up until fairly recent times (the 1970s).

7. Torre do Relógio

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This little clock tower, topped with a stork’s nest and overlooking the Rio Guadiana, is northeast of Largo Luís de Camões. Alongside it is a municipal…

8. Casa Romana

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The enchanting Casa Romana is located in the cellar of the câmara municipal (town hall). The clever display allows visitors to walk ‘through’ the…