Almeida today is a quiet town near the Portuguese-Spanish border, surrounded by charming countryside, where you breathe the clean air of the plateau.
But from 1296 when king D. Dinis took it by force, and up until the 19th century, this peaceful historical village was a fort that suffered prolonged sieges. Its walls and bulwarks make it one of the most interesting fortresses in the world, where it is possible to observe the ‘hexagon’ technique of King Louis XIV of France’s military engineer, Vauban.
Each angle of the polygon forms a lance-shaped bulwark, and amongst these stand other smaller ones, the ravelins. According to 17th and 18th century war tactics, this star-shaped configuration made it possible to use crossfire.
At certain points you will be able to see a good deal of the irregular 12-pointed structure.
In 1810, the French general Massena laid siege to Almeida, which resisted valiantly for 17 days. It only capitulated because the munitions store blew up (due to the carelessness of one soldier), killing five hundred men from the garrison and destroying the original medieval castle. The terms of surrender were signed in the guardroom at the São Francisco gates, where the tourist office now is.
Even if you are not a specialist in military history, you should not miss the original walk round the 2,500 metres of the bulwark parapets, following in the footsteps of the soldiers who used to patrol this magnificent monument.