For someone coming through the town gates for the first time, the feeling can only be one of awe. Get ready to enter a living museum.
The small size of this national monument of schist and lime reveals such architectural and cultural coherence that it transports us back to the Middle Ages, with the advantage that we can rely on modern amenities, such as the restaurants that serve real pearls of Alentejo gastronomy.
The journey in time continues outside the walls, where there are remains from all historical periods, including megalithic monuments. In the surrounding area there is a pre-Roman rupestrian necropolis. Monsaraz is one of the oldest towns in the south, and over the centuries it had a decisive role as part of the defence system against the Spaniards.
As you breathe in the history, visit the castle and its keep. Walk along a few lanes, and their proud old houses, until they meet in the Rua Direita. This will lead you to the sixteenth-century Church of the Misericórdia. Don't miss the Igreja Matriz (Parish Church), the Church of Santiago, the sixteenth-century cistern and the famous fresco of 'The Good and the Bad Judge' in the Audience Hall.
Wonder at the views over the plains, of the Guadiana, which marks the frontier and the Alqueva dam. And make sure you stay a night in Monsaraz: the lights and shadows give it unforgettable aura.