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Alcácer do Sal: Paradise in the Sado

Updated: April 10, 2024
By: Adriana Pinto

Located in the Alentejo region of Portugal, Alcácer do Sal is a charming, beautiful municipality, whose rich history dates back centuries, to 1000 b.C, making it one of the oldest towns in Europe. Its large coast is bathed by the Sado river waters, but it is also close enough to the ocean, making it the perfect blend of history, nature and beauty.

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What are the main attractions in Alcácer do Sal?

Alcácer do Sal is definitely known for its stunning medieval castle, which stands atop a hill overlooking the entire town. The castle’s origins trace back to the Moorish era (Al-Kassr meaning ‘castle’ in Arabic), and it played a crucial role in defending the region during various historical conflicts. Today, you can explore its well-preserved ruins and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding countryside from its vantage points.

Then, as you wander through the narrow cobblestone streets of the town’s historic center, you’ll encounter an array of traditional Portuguese architecture, showcasing a mix of influences from different periods. The whitewashed buildings with colorful trims, wrought-iron balconies, and the traditional decorative tiles create a delightful ambiance that reflects the town’s character and history.

And, of course, the Sado River, which bathes most of Alcácer do Sal’s coast, provides an abundance of natural beauty and water activities. With the most popular being dolphin watching! Because of its unique qualities, the Sado is home to one of just 3 dolphin communities in Europe, so getting on a boat to go see the friendly creatures is a very popular activity. 

alcacer do sal portugal
The beautiful scenery of Alcácer do Sal

Cultural exploration is also a must in Alcácer do Sal, and the Archaeological Crypt is a fascinating place to delve into the town’s past. Unearthed artifacts and archaeological remains from different periods are on display, providing a glimpse into the diverse civilizations that once thrived in Alcácer. Some other attractions around town include Santa Maria do Castelo, Senhor dos Mártires hermitage and the Santo António and Santiago churches.

What to eat in Alcácer do Sal

Much like the rest of the country, the food in Alcácer do Sal is very mediterranean, so, heavy on bread, olive oil, wine and aromatic herbs. Meat is of course, also a protagonist, but, due to its elite location, you can find prime quality fish in this town as well. 

Typical dishes of the region are: eel stew, ‘migas’, fried rabbit, oven-roasted lamb, potatoes with ribs, lamb stew, fish soup and açorda (a bread-based dish that can be made with a variety of ingredients, the most popular being cod, cabbage, garlic and coriander). 

The gastronomy of Alcácer also excels in the conventual sweets – don’t miss the pinhoadas, honey cake, curd cheese queijadas, salatinos and the ‘pastel de feijão’.

alcácer do sal açorda
Popular Alentejo dish Açorda

To experience the authentic local lifestyle, consider visiting the bustling marketplaces where you can find an assortment of fresh produce, handicrafts, and souvenirs. Engaging with the warm and welcoming locals will undoubtedly enrich your travel or living experience.

The surrounding region also offers opportunities for outdoor activities and exploration. Nature enthusiasts can explore the stunning landscapes of the nearby Sado Estuary Nature Reserve, a haven for birdwatchers and eco-tourists.

What you can visit around Alcácer do Sal

After exploring all that Alcácer do Sal has to offer, it is worth it to drive around 30 minutes to discover the hidden pearls around the area.

Comporta 

Between the Atlantic Ocean and the estuary of the Sado River, lies the small village of Comporta – dubbed the ‘Portuguese Hamptons’ by the Financial Times. This is because of its luxury properties, hotels, restaurants and visitors. But despite the luxury side, Comporta doesn’t lose its Alentejo authenticity, maintaining a simple, serene, natural side. After all, three nature reserves are registered there. In other words: Comporta has something for everyone – charming corners, sunsets, rice plantations. It has movement, but it also has calm. And it’s definitely a must when staying at Alcácer do Sal!

comporta beach alcácer do sal
Comporta beach
Tróia

Although close to Alcácer, the only way to get to Tróia is by ferry or boat, which is an event in itself since it gives you the opportunity to witness the previously mentioned dolphins of the Sado river!

Then, the Peninsula itself feels like a paradise, engulfed in beautiful trees and dunes. The white-sand beaches with crystal clear water are one of the main attractions here. It is also known for being a more luxurious destination, but, just like in Comporta, you can still visit while on a budget just by skipping out on the fancier activities. It is one of our selected vacation spots in Portugal.

santa susana alcácer do sal
Santa Susana
Santa Susana

Over the years, Santa Susana has been consistently getting awarded the title of “most beautiful village in Alentejo“. It has only 200 residents and a peculiar history – it only became inhabited around the 50s, when a group of farmers came to Santa Susana for work and ended up staying and bringing their families because they loved it so much. For this reason, the houses are all similar. They are single-storey and whitewashed, with a blue bar on the windows and doors, and all have the same chimney. The residents take great pride in maintaining them, so definitely pay Santa Susana a visit to show your appreciation!

Is Alcácer do Sal worth it?

As you can see, Alcácer do Sal’s historical significance, coupled with its natural beauty and cultural richness, makes it a hidden gem worth exploring! Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or a curious traveller, this enchanting town and its surroundings promise an unforgettable journey through time and Portuguese heritage!

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