Castelo de Elvas Castle
The small but highly fortified castle of Elvas (Castelo de Elvas) is possibly Portugal’s most battle hardened castle having survived numerous sieges and battles over its long turbulent history. Elvas castle was constructed purely for defense and not as plush royal residences, so expect thick solid walls, high battlements and a solid keep but there are few decorative architectural features.
The solid walls of Elvas castle
As the Castelo de Elvas is positioned on the highest point of the city the battlements provide great panoramic views over the surrounding landscape and deep into the Spanish heartland.
Castelo de Elvas
The castle lies to the north of the town and there are many traffic signs directing visitors to the castle. Elvas castle and battlements are open every day from 9:30 until 13:00 and from 14:30 until 17:30. There is an entrance fee of €1.50 to walk the battlements but this is only suitable for active visitors due to the steep and narrow stairs.
The inside the Castelo de Elvas
The castle along with the whole of Elvas has a very low-key approach to the tourist trade and this method does compliment the traditional and noncommercial atmosphere of Elvas but some tourists may feel that information is severely lacking.
Highlight of Castelo de Elvas
The main draw of the castle are the amazing views from the top of the battlements. These views stretch out over the northern fortification of Forte de Graça and east over the rolling plains into Spain.
Elvas Castle History
The original castle was constructed during the Roman era as a fortified garrison along the main trade route towards the coasts of Portugal. After the demise of the Romans the castle slipped into ruin until the revitalisation of the region by the North Africa Moors between the 6th and 8th century, who re-built the castle on the present day site.
The view from Elvas castle, in winter so everything looks green!
The castle was briefly captured from the Moors in 1166 by the Christian crusades that liberate the majority of Portugal. Elvas was on the front line of the Christian-Muslim frontier and over the next 90 years the castle was recaptured and subsequently lost by the Moors. The town and castle were final abandoned in 1230 after the Moors discovered their prize city of Merida (in Spain) was under attack from Alfonso IX and they rushed to the other city's aid. The early 12-13th Portuguese nobility understood the importance of Elvas and vastly improved the defenses and expanding the walls around the town.
The castle was at the for front of the Portuguese restoration wars fought between 1384 to 1387 and the fort sustained significant damage from the multiple conflicts. The castle was further expansed during this era with the construction of the main keep that provided a high point for the long range artillery. Elvas castle was again on the front line during the war of Spanish succession and was captured twice by the Spanish French alliance in 1706 and 1712. The third war Elvas castle was involved in was the Peninsular Wars of the 19th century with the French, under the lead of Napoleon, over running the castle. The combine Portuguese and English siege of the castle drove the French out in 1808 and the castle was the base for the Portuguese insurgency.