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Discover Elvas: An amazing walled city of Adventures with lots of Stories to Tell

Elvas is my home, and I can tell you that it surprises the visitor, not only for the wealth and diversity of its past but also for the impressive state of conservation of its monuments. Set inside rings of walls,  Elvas’ past and present are a delight to welcome visitors from all over the world, who we hope can visit and contribute to the sustainable development of our town. 
Elvas is set on a hill close to the Spanish border, a few miles from Badajoz, it is a small, special place, but of real monumental value, especially for those interested in military architecture.  As Paco Bandeira wrote of his city: Elvas, oh Elvas, with Badajoz in sight.
Elvas is a great place to explore on foot and enjoy Alentejo wines and cuisine. There are many restaurants where you can taste the culinary traditions of the region. Each square and ancient street has its secrets to tell — and the walls offer amazing views. The central city street offers all kinds of local shops selling pottery, crafts and wines, you can explore the world of sugar plums — the famous sweet plums of Elvas so prized in centuries past- and still made according to tradition.
On June 30, 2012, the Border Barracks City of Elvas and its Fortifications were classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, as Elvas offers an exceptional example of a type of fortified construction illustrating several significant periods in human history. This was a proud day for us all — and a recognition of the spirit of historic preservation.
Elvas boasts of being the city with the largest number of fortifications in Europe: no less than seven bastions and two fortresses. If you look at them from the road, they will seem like two strong forts. But if you could see them from a bird's eye view, you would see that the walls of each one make up a perfect star. Today Elvas’s walls are the largest existing bastion fortification in the world. They include seven main components:
  • A historic center
  • The Belt of Muralhas Fernandina
  • The ring of 17th century Walls
  • The Amoreira Aqueduct
  • Santa Luzia Fort as well as the São Mamede de São Pedro and São Domingos Forts.
  • Graça Fort

Here are the highlights:
The original walls of Elvas are of medieval origin, when the first fortifications were built. And that is its strategic position, so close to the border with Spain and on high ground, making Elvas one of the most important bastions of Portugal for centuries.
The Castle of Elvas - is free to get in and it offers the best viewpoint of the city due to its height. If you want to enjoy one of the best views of Elvas, you have to visit it.
Elvas is crowned by the Santa Lucía Fort (Fortaleza de Santa Luzia) and the Nossa Senhora da Graça Fort,  one on each side of the city and without which it would be impossible to understand the historic importance of Elvas, the so called "keys to the kingdom.”
The Forte de Nossa Senhora da Graça was built on the remains of the hermitage, this fort dominates the city of Elvas from its highest point. It was built on the design of Guillermo de Schaumburg-Lippe, who the king D. José I and the Marquis of Pombal had commissioned to command the Portuguese army at the end of the 18th century. The result was one of the most impressive fortresses in Europe, and one of the few that can boast of never having been taken by an enemy force. This is a walled fort with four corners, surrounded by three defense lines, a 10-meter ditch and an octagonal tower that housed a chapel, the Governor's House and various barracks.
By the 20th century, this fortress would serve as a prison for the political prisoners of the Salazar regime.
The Fort of Santa Lucia is the second largest fortress in Elvas, and it still dominates the skyline with a central construction and a rectangular floor plan surrounded by four pointed bastions that give it, seen from the air, a star shape. With space for 25 cannons, the Fort of Santa Lucía has three moats and was defended by up to 400 soldiers
Elvas Military Museum has an open-air area where weapons and other objects related to the military world are exhibited. There are military vehicles as well as armaments to see.
The Amoreira Aqueduct is not Roman. The great aqueduct is surprising for its length and size when you see it for the first time. The aqueduct crosses a good part of the city and was built between the 15th and 17th centuries with the idea of ensuring the water supply of this city that had become a fortress on the Spanish border.
The English Cemetery is one of the best viewpoints of the walls and fields around Elvas and one of the oldest English cemeteries in Europe. Set at the base of the Castle of Elvas and guards the tombs of English soldiers who died fighting alongside the Portuguese and Spanish in the battle of Albuera, fought against the Napoleonic troops during the Peninsular Wars.
Elvas Republic Square has been the city center since the Middle Ages. Ringed by impressive buildings and churches, here you will find the Cathedral of Elvas.
* José Gama is an Alentejo tour guide.

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