Sleeping in a medieval castle by the Sado river

Composite Alcácer

One hour away from Lisbon, you can stay in an historical hotel that occupies a medieval castle with wonderful views of the Sado river and the rice fields of Alcácer of Sal. It is a place where people have gathered since the Iron Age to worship the gods above.

For more than 2,000 years, people came to Alcácer do Sal to farm the land, tend to herds of sheep and goats and produce salt on the marshes of the Sado river. The Sado made it all possible, its waters bestowed fertility on the land and carried boats loaded with agricultural products to far away lands. Underneath the pousada there are remnants of Greek pottery and Egyptian jewelry, foreign luxuries purchased with the fruits of the Sado river.

In the 2nd century BC, Alcácer was conquered by the Romans who made it a center for the production of wool and salt. With their penchant for grandiose names, the Romans named the city Salacia Urbs Imperatoria.

In the 6th century AC, the Visigoths conquered the territory that is now Portugal. But life did not change in Alcácer until the moorish conquered the city in the middle of the 8th century AC. They built the caste and made the town an important trading outpost.

The first king of Portugal, D. Afonso Henriques, conquered Alcácer in 1160. But the moors fought back and it was only in 1217 that Alcácer became a permanent part of the Portuguese territory. The castle was then converted into a monastery occupied by the order of Saint James.

In the 17th century, the old monastery was adapted to welcome the nuns of Saint Claire of Assisi. The new building was called the Convent of Her Lady of Aracaeli.

The Pousada is a magical place. Every window frames a beautiful landscape. Every step reminds us that we are on hallowed ground. But hard decisions have to be made: should we stay by the spacious hotel pool relaxing or go see the gorgeous beaches of the coast of Alentejo?

Here’s a link to the pousadas’ website. You can find a large collection of photos of the pousadas at

8 thoughts on “Sleeping in a medieval castle by the Sado river

  1. …well, that’s not a very difficult decision to make; I’ll stay long enough to do some poolside lounging AND some exploring. One worry though; there was no mention of food!! And from everything that I’ve read so far about Portugal, gourmet food abounds even in the most humble of environments.Please advise…

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  2. I enjoyed reading about Alcacer. I was brought up ‘south of the river’ (Tagus) and I have fond memories of hitchhiking to the Algarve in the early 70s and stopping at Alcacer for breakfast/brunch. As far as the history of the town goes, I’ve forgotten a lot of what I have learnt at school and it was good to re-visit it. I have never stayed at that particular pousada and it sounds great! The beaches are amazing (or at least, they were, 40-something years ago…). As for food, there will be plenty of restaurants to explore in Alcacer and if you’re driving, you could go to Setúbal, where you will eat really good fish and shellfish.

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