Elvas is located on the border of Spain and has been the defense of Portugal for years against the replenishment of the Spaniards. Due to its location, Portugal’s first settlement city was created here. Elvas used to be impossible to take by outsiders because you find the largest fortress in the world here. Elvas is great to visit because you can find two worlds here, a cozy picturesque center and impressive defense lines outside the city walls.
Elvas is an excellent place to visit if you are traveling through Portugal. Find out in this article: things to do in Elvas.
Things to do in Elvas?
Elvas is fun to walk through for a few hours, it’s not a metropolis so you can’t do a lot of things here, but the 7 things you can do are awesome to explore.
Tip: use the map of Elvas below to see where the best things in Elvas can be found. Click on the top right corner to enlarge the map. If you click on the star symbol next to the title you can save this map in your Google Maps account. In the folder, you can show or hide different categories. You can then use this map to navigate when you are at your destination.
#1 Visit the largest fortress in the world
If you are in Elvas, a visit to Forte de Nossas Senhora da Graça cannot be missed, this is the highlight of your visit to Elvas. This star fortress was built in the 18th century and is the largest fortress in the world. The special thing about this fort is its location because you have a good view of the city. The fortress is also cleverly built because of the bastions on the corners and the many fortifications. The unique thing in our opinion is the water reservoir, when you were locked up you could give water to 2000 people for 2 years. Currently, this fortress houses a military museum. You can visit it all days from 10:00 to 17:00 except Monday for €5 / $5 per person. If you want to visit it with a guide you pay €8 / $8 per person.
#2 Explore the central square
If you are in Elvas, a visit to the central square Praça da República is recommended. You can eat well at Taverna & Restaurante Portal do Tempo, you can read more about this in the next tip. In addition to this food spot, you can visit the church Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Assunção. From the outside, it looks like a Templar church and inside you can see a lot of marble. You can visit the church for free.
Besides the church, it is striking that everything around the square is built low and you have the feeling that you are going back in time for years. The buildings are painted in typical white and you will find several terraces where you can have a drink. Finally, you will find the tourist office, always nice to walk in and look at some books.
#3 Eat delicious local food at Taverna & Restaurante Portal do Tempo
During our trip through Portugal, we ate in many different places and we found the food place that you can find in the main square Praça da República called Taverna & Restaurante Portal do Tempo great. If you have your back in front of the church, the 2nd building on your right has a small terrace, so it is behind the kiosk in the square. The nice thing about eating here are the people, they serve fanatic Portuguese tapas. The tapas are freshly made, they have an extensive menu and they help you with a big smile. What we liked is the fact that you have the feeling that you are part of a big family. We had tapas that consisted of asparagus, sausages, some kind of tortilla, and olives. A drink costs €1.50 / $1.50 and a tapas between €5 / $5 and €10 / $10. We paid in total €30.50 / $30.50 for two people.
Note: if you search on google it will show that Taverna & Restaurante Portal do Tempo is not on the square but somewhere in the neighborhood, this business has two locations. We recommend the one in the main square for the view.
#4 Discover the historic center
The best thing to do in Elvas is to stroll through the streets and surprise yourself with the things you will encounter. In the historic center, the streets are very small, beautifully decorated and the influences of the Moors and Spaniards are visible in the various houses. There are old Jewish and Moorish neighborhoods to be found, but our personal favorite to walk through is Largo dos Terceiros street because here you will see an authentic church called Igreja da Ordem Terceira de São Francisco. From the outside, this church looks simple, only inside you can see an altar covered with a lot of gold.
#5 The Castle of Elvas
The medieval castle we can see today was originally built in the 8th century by the Moors. It has changed over the centuries, with the last adjustments being made in the 16th. The castle is nice to visit because of the view you have from the towers over Elvas and the border with Spain. By the way, do not expect an impressive castle where you will be enchanted, the castle is fun to visit, but nothing more than that. You can walk to the castle from the center of Elvas in 5 minutes. To enter the castle you have to walk through the old gate, here you can walk around without having to pay anything. To enter the tower and walk on the walls you have to buy a ticket for €2 / $2 per person.
#6 Museums in Elvas
In Elvas you have two museums that may be worth a visit, this is the Jewish Museum and the Plum Museum. In the Jewish Museum, you will learn how Jewish history has contributed to the culture of Elvas and Portugal in general. You can also see where a secret entrance to a synagogue was. The museum is located in the Jewish neighborhood of Elvas.
Another museum that is unique to visit is the Plum Museum Fábrica Museu da Ameixa. The plums of Elvas are world famous because they are cooked in syrup and because of this they have a different taste. If you find it interesting, you can visit this museum where you learn everything about the production process of a plum.
On the map, you can see exactly where both museums can be found in Elvas. We did not visit both museums, because we found the other activities sufficient with the time we had in Elvas.
#7 Aqueduct of Amoreira
A 10-minute walk from the main square is the Amoreira Aqueduct. This is worth visiting, when you consider that this was built in the 16th century and they were able to make 5 floors aqueduct, you will be amazed at what people could do at the time. Besides the aqueduct itself, there is not much nearby which is worth a visit.
Tip: walk from the center to the aqueduct via the west side because you will then pass a magnificent chapel with a city gate.
How many days do you need for Elvas?
There are 7 fun activities you can do in Elvas. In our opinion it is not necessary to do everything, if like us you visit everything except the museums, you need +/- 5 hours to see everything. You sometimes read on the internet that people say that you need more time, but in our opinion, this is not necessary, it is better to travel to your next destination.
Where to stay in Elvas?
Depending on what time you arrive in Elvas, it is recommended to stay in Elvas. If you arrive in Elvas in the morning, it is better to travel further in the afternoon too, for example, Évora or Monsanto. If like us, you arrive in Elvas in the afternoon, it is best to stay in Elvas. Elvas is a popular place to visit when you making a road trip through Portugal as it cuts the long distance between Évora, Monsanto, and other destinations. We stayed in Hotel Sao Joao De Deus by RIDAN Hotels because this is a converted monastery and we wanted to stay once in our life in a historical building. Below you can read another recommendation for this accommodation. We recommend that you book in time, there are not many accommodations to be found so if you want to be assured of a place, you should not wait too long to make a reservation.
We stayed at Hotel Sao Joao De Deus by RIDAN Hotels, this is an old monastery that has been converted into a beautiful hotel. The rooms are stylish and have a lot of character. The pool is also a nice place to relax and in the morning you can enjoy a good buffet. A great stay for a good price.
The other accommodations in Elvas are honestly all less in terms of value for money, there is only one accommodation that stands head and shoulders above it and that is Vila Gale Collection Elvas. In this villa, you will find all the luxury, such as a spa, restaurant, fitness center, garden, and swimming pool.
Where to eat in Elvas?
We recommend that you do not stay too long in Elvas, for this reason, two tips on where you can eat well in Elvas will suffice. As you can read in activity #3, we recommend eating at Taverna & Restaurante Portal do Tempo. Besides this place, Adega Regional is a cool place to visit. The difference is that Adega Regional is a bit more upscale. This restaurant is for travelers who want a luxurious lunch or dinner. The menu mainly features local dishes such as Carne de Porco à Alentejana, which is pork prepared in a stew with shells. To be assured of a table, it is best to drop by in advance to make a reservation. The main course costs on average €14 / $14 and a drink €2 / $2.
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Transportation in Elvas
Because Elvas is a fortified city, all streets are very narrow, which makes it cozy, but which means that you have to visit everything by walking. It is not possible to have yourself transported by Elvas by bus or any other means of transport. This is not a big problem as it is only a 10-minute walk from the north wall to the south wall.
How do you get to Elvas?
Elvas is often visited by travelers when they make a road trip through Portugal. Usually, they come from Monsanto, Évora, Lisbon, or Badajoz which is in Spain.
We recommend traveling to Elvas by car or bus. From surrounding places, you can easily take the bus, the bus stop for Elvas is Elvas Rua do Patrimonio. You can also travel to Elvas by train, but we do not recommend this because when you travel by train you are limited in which destinations you want to visit in Portugal, there are not many railways in Portugal. Check the actual routes and prices for the bus here.
The easiest way to travel through Portugal is by car, Elvas is easy to reach. Below you can see how long it takes you to get to Elvas from different places:
- Lisbon to Elvas: 2 hours | 208 km / 129 miles
- Evora to Elvas: 1 hour | 84 km / 52 miles
- Monsanto to Elvas: 2 hours 40 minutes | 202 km / 125 miles
- Badajoz to Elvas: 25 minutes | 19 km / 11 miles
If you travel to Portugal by plane and you are looking for a car to rent, you can rent it through Rentalcars. We use Rentalcars when we want to travel by car to discover new destinations. They’re easy to use and book with.
When is the best time to visit Elvas?
Elvas is located inland against the border of Spain, in this area it is warmer than along the coast. There is also a lot less rain here. For this reason, you can visit Elvas all year round. However, the summer months (June to August) are less suitable, because it can be very hot and a bit busier due to the summer holidays of the European schools. The best period to travel to Portugal is during the spring (March till May).
The spring period is pleasant because the average temperature is then 20°C / 68°F, which is also during the autumn period. In winter the temperate average is 13°C / 55.4°F and in summer it can reach an average of 30°C / 86°F.
We were in Elvas at the beginning of June and found it perfect, pleasant temperature, long days with sun and it was not extremely busy. It is therefore best to visit Elvas from March to November.
Elvas things to do FAQ
1. If I’m traveling through Portugal, which route + planning do you recommend for a visit to Elvas?
We recommend regardless of where you are to leave there in the morning and travel to Elvas so that you arrive in Elvas in the morning. This gives you the whole afternoon to discover Elvas. You can then leave at the end of the afternoon for your next destination and it is not necessary to stay in Elvas.
If you are unable to arrive in Elvas in the morning, it is better to stay in Elvas so that you are not traveling too hastily.
Want to see more in Portugal?
You can most likely have a nice afternoon in Elvas after reading our tip. Of course, you can see many more things in Portugal besides Elvas. We have made a 3-week itinerary through Portugal that you can use as a basis to compose your itinerary. If you follow our itinerary Monsanto is your next destination, this is a small village on a mountain that is built between large rocks.
From Elvas also travel to Évora or Lisbon. Évora is a city where you can find many historical buildings from Roman times. Lisbon is the capital of Portugal where impressive buildings can be seen. If you don’t mind driving a little longer, you can also travel to the south of Portugal, here you have a beautiful coastline. We discovered this region from Lagos.
What do you think of Elvas? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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