Castelo de Elvas
The Castle of Elvas (Castelo de Elvas) in Eastern Portugal has an interesting history. It was never a royal residence, but was a frontier garrison which witnessed battles and sieges over its long history. There was once a Roman garrison here and later the Muslim forces who occupied the region until the 12th century built a fortress on the site of the present day fortifications. They left in 1230 and from then onwards, this strategically important fortress, close to the Spanish border, was fought over heavily during the 12th and 13th centuries and subject to significant rebuilding and fighting in the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries.
In 1658-1659, Elvas was besieged by the Spanish and the inhabitants also suffered an outbreak of the Black Death. Until the start of the 19th century the fortress was on the frontline during the wars between Spain and Portugal. In 1807 Napoleonic troops took the fortress, although a year later, a combined effort by Portuguese and English troops won Elvas back from the French. A few years later, in 1811, Wellington used the fortifications here as a base for his attack on the Spanish in Badajoz.
The castle and star-shaped fortifications surrounding the town that we see today were mainly built during the 17th century War of Restoration (against Spain). These are one of the best-preserved fortifications in Europe and visitors exploring the towers, halls and breath-taking battlements, can easily imagine what life must have been like for inhabitants during the fortress's tumultuous past.
The castle is at the highest point of the town and the battlements offer splendid views of the surrounding plains.
Elvas Castle is open daily, apart from major bank holidays, between 9.30 and 5.30, although the castle closes around lunchtime.