Portugal City Travel Guide: Beja
Beja, 30km west of Serpa and about the same distance north west of Moura, is the major town in this remote area of the Lower Alentejo (Baixa Alentejo) in south east Portugal with rail links to the capital, Lisbon.
Beja is believed to have been founded by Julius Caesar in 48 BCE and was named Pax Julia in honour of a peace accord between the Romans and the Lusitanians becoming over time Pax Augusta, Pax, Paca, Baca, Baju and eventually Beja.
Whatever the name changes, you will still find modern-day Beja a very peaceful and tranquil place.
The Roman influence is still evident to the north of the town at the Ruinas Romanas de São Cucufate, where three Roman villas have been excavated and partially reconstructed.
Beja, with a population of around 36,000 inhabitants, is strategically situated in the middle of the plain, though this means it becomes one of the hottest places in Portugal in high summer.
Beja, like nearby Serpa, is now an agricultural hub for the surrounding expanses of mostly cultivated wheat and olive trees.
The historic centre of Beja is surrounded by modern suburbs and the town makes for a good base for exploring the surrounding area.
Praça da República is the main square and heart of Beja. You can't miss the pelourinho or stone pillory close to the 16th century Igreja de Misericórdia, where the arched portico was once the site of the city's meat market.
The 14th century Castelo was constructed by Dom Dinis and the 42m-tall Torre de Menagem has great views over the surrounding countryside.
The Convento de Nossa Senhora de Conceicão dates from the 15th century and includes impressive Manueline features. The convent was dissolved in 1834 and is now home to the excellent Museu Regional which has exhibits of religious art and Flemish paintings. The star of the show, however, is the superb 16th and 17th century tile work (azulejos) on the walls of the cloisters and chapter house. Other highlights are the marble Rococo chapel dripping with gold leaf on its woodwork and the 15th century Mudéjar terracotta grille that connected the convent to the adjacent palace.
The Museu Regional also has exhibits of Roman period stonework, glass and stelae found at the Pisões archeological site 7km south west of Beju.
It was at the Convento de Nossa Senhora de Conceicão that an unlikely 17th century love affair took place between a nun, Mariana Alcoforado and a French cavalry officer, Count Chamilly, who was in the town during a war with the Spanish.
The then scandalous Letters of a Portuguese Nun were published in French in 1669, the Fifty Shades of Grey of their era, though the originals were never located.
A later feminist work The Three Marias: New Portuguese Letters published in 1972 earned the Portuguese writers a court appearance under the post-Salazar authoritarian regime.
The Museu Jorge Vieira on Rua do Touro showcases the surrealist sculptures and terracotta works of the Cubist-influenced artist Jorge Vieira (1922-1998).
The former Igeja de Santo Amaro dates back to pre-Moorish times and houses the small though interesting Museu Visigótico with exhibits of swords and other historic artefacts. This is one of Portugal's oldest buildings post-Roman times and well worth a visit for the sense of history the building exudes.
Beja's main festivals or feiras are the Ovibeja Agricultural Fair held in March which includes an agricultural show, music, handicrafts and food and the Beja Alternative featuring bands, street performances and sports.
Beja Tourist Office
Beja Tourist Office.
Tel. 284 311 913.
Find information on where to stay and eat in Beja.
Getting to Beja
Beja is connected by railway to Lisbon with a change of train in Casa Branca. The journey from Beja to Lisbon takes about 2 hours, 10 minutes.
Beja is on the N260 north west of Mértola.
Beja has bus connections with Mertola (1 hour, 15 minutes), Lisbon (3 hours), Evora (1 hour, 15 minutes), Faro (2 hours, 50 minutes), Moura (1 hour, 15 minutes), Portalegre (approximately 3 hours) via Evora and Estremoz and Serpa (35 minutes) with Rede Expressos.
Recommended places to stay in Beja include Pousada Convento de Beja, the Hotel Bejense, the Pax Julia Hostel, the Hotel Francis and the Monte do Gafanhoto a short drive east out of town. See here for a complete listing of hotels in Beja.
Book Hotel Accommodation in Beja
Try the local cuisine of Beja at A Pipa 76 on Rua da Moeda, O Capitel on Largo Eng Duarte Pacheco and Pena at Praça de Diogo Fernandes.
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There is a WiFi point at the Parque de Campismo de Beja.
The average high June temperatures for Portugal is between 22 degrees Centigrade and 26 degrees Centigrade.
Get more weather information for Portugal