Marvao, Portugal is considered one of the most spectacular villages in the country. Set up on top of a hill with a protection wall, white houses and a castle, this historical location offers splendid views of the region. Below is my guide to help you plan your visit.
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Why visit the village of Marvao in Portugal? Video
Marvao is one of the most impressive villages in Portugal.
- a hilltop location
- white houses
- a castle
- fortified walls
- stunning views of the region
Below is a short video to give you an idea of what a visit can look like:
It is one of the top things to do in Portugal.
More photos and details after the planning tips.
Planning Tips - Marvao, Portugal
How to get to Marvao
- In the Alentejo region, at the Eastern frontier with Spain, roughly aligned with Obidos
- Lisbon to Marvao - 2h45 drive
- Porto to Marvao - 3h15 drive
- The region is sparsely inhabited, so you will see only trees for a long time before reaching the village.
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Visiting Marvao Castle & Village
- Being further away from Lisbon and Porto than other villages, it is less crowded
- Do not enter with your car the village narrow alleys if you are not sleeping in the village
- Wear good shoes to walk the cobbled streets and wander on the walls
- In November, one weekend gets the town very busy because of the Marvao Chestnut Festival
Accommodations in Marvao
- WHERE I STAYED - I had selected Dom Dinis, a very charming hotel at the top close to the castle - you can read my reviews on my Portugal accommodations article or check availability and prices
- CENTRAL and HISTORIC - Estalgem de Marvao - Casa de Campo is located in the heart of the village in a historical house. It has a nice patio to relax before or after your walk. Check photos and prices
- OUTSIDE THE WALL - FAMILY/GROUP - if you need more space, you can rent villas in the vicinity of Marvao such as Quinta d'Abegoa only only 5min drive from Marvao. Check photos and prices
Arriving at the village
Marvao is really perched on top of the hill. There is a large car park near the gate entrance which is very practical. If you are not spending the night in Marvao don't drive inside the village. The streets are narrow, and parking spaces are limited!
Marvao Portugal has become famous because it was listed in the New York Times bestselling book 1000 places to see Before your Die.
Not sure if it deserved to be on that list, there are many beautiful villages in Portugal, but the white houses, small churches and views are certainly worth the visit.
As you can see below, it is not the most photogenic village from the distance - Compared to Obidos, for example where the town is spread downhill.
Inside the town, you can find a miniature representation of the hill, the village, the wall and the castle. Not as good as flying over it, but it helps you get an idea of the lay of the land. It is really like an eagle nest perched at almost 900 meters.
Best views from the village
My favorite view of the place is from the top of the town on the castle garden side, from the wall. This was just next to my hotel the Dom Dinis. I love how you can see the fortification mixing with the rocks of the hill.
It offers stunning views of the Sao Mamede Mountains. The village is actually located in the Natural Park Serra de Sao Mamede.
Built during the 13th century by King Dinis, the Marvao Castle sits slightly higher than the village at one end of the hill. As we will see further in the article, it can be visited. But the best view is from the outside, with the well-maintained labyrinth garden.
Visiting Marvao - streets, gates & white houses
It is really enjoyable to wander the old streets of Marvao and feel the rich history behind those walls.
You enter the village of Marvao Portugal via the Rado Gate (Porta de Radao).
The Marvao Wikipedia page has a lot of information about the history of Marvao Portugal but here are a few facts about Marvao:
- Less than 15km from the Spanish Border
- First castle was built in the 8th century and held strong until the 12th century (when the Moors were pushed back)
- On a clear day you can see all the way to the Estrela Mountains. It is a really strategic location with 360° views of the land
- Militaries stayed established in Marvao from the Middle Age to the 19th century when the revolts started.
There are not that many streets, so you can really explore them all and discover the Marvao castle from different angles.
Along the cobbled streets, you can discover churches, the old town hall, the Governor's house...
The Churches of Marvao
As you tour the old streets of the Marvao village, you will discover churches of various shapes.
Igreja de Santiago
At the top of the village, at the opposite end from the castle, you can visit Igreja de Santiago. It is one of the oldest parishes belonging to the Order of the Hospital, later known as Order of Malta. It was renovated in the 17th and 18th century with a Baroque Chapel of marble and glazed tiles.
Climb on the rock behind it for some great views
Igreja de Santa Maria
At the top of the stairs, the oldest catholic church of Marvao stands quietly. It is now the home of archives from the region and a small museum presenting religious art, archeology and ethnography pieces.
Igreja do Calvario
The Calvario Church is quite surprising as you tour the village. It is a polygonal temple built in 1904
Exploring the Marvao Castle
The Marvao Castle (Castelo do Marvao) as it stands today was mostly built under Dom Dinis in the 13th century.
Located at the highest point on the plateau, it overlooks the whole village and controls the entry. As you can see it has medieval austere granite walls.
In the middle is a tall central keep tower and many defensive features including the triple gate to create killing zones.
There is not much to see in the castle apart from more views. But one of the most interesting features of the Marvao Castle is the cistern. Close to the entrance you can walk down the steep staircase to access the vast area. It allowed to keep water for 6 months in case of an attack.
Fortification walls of Medieval Marvao
The whole village is surrounded by a fortification wall. You can climb on it at various points, but it is nothing like walking the walls of Obidos.
Outside the wall
On your way down, outside of the wall of the Marvão Village, you can stop at the motorhome parking. There you can have nice views of the villages and discover the church and Convent of Nossa Senhora da Estrela with its painted stones from the 16th century.
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