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Santiago do Cacém

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This land is a blend of maritime coast, pine forest and Alentejan inspiration. It is the country's second biggest municipality and its highest elevation is to be found in the Cercal hills at a height of 346 meters. From here one can see the vastness of the sea to the West. Those travelling in this region who are interested in handicrafts can find chairs and stools made of wood and wicker at São Bartolomeu da Serra and at São Domingos da Serra, saddlery at Santiago do Cacém and at Cercal do Alentejo, ceramics at Santo André and Ermidas Sado and woodwork and cork at Cercal do Alentejo.


Excavations at Castelo Velho (Old Castle) on a hill to the east of the present city, date human occupation of the region to pre-historic times. The settlement, dating from the late Neolithic, was fortified by the Celts (3rd and 2nd centuries BC) and subsequently Romanised. Under Roman occupation, Miróbriga grew up as an agricultural and livestock centre, complete with its spas, and its importance can be seen, for example, in its large hippodrome used for training and horse racing. Following the Germanic invasions of the 5th century the region lost importance, and the Moors built a new castle on a hill opposite that they called Cacém, probably in honour of an alcalde or sheriff. The Knights Templar took the fortress from the Moors in 1157, though they were to retake it and hold on to it until 1217, when Christians took it for good. King Afonso II confirmed his father's donation of the town to the Order of the Espatários or Gladiators.

Between 1310 and 1336 the castle was in the hands of queen Saint Isabel's lady-in-waiting and friend, the Byzantine princess Vetácia. It was then handed over to the Order of Santiago until 1594, when Filipe II donated it to the dukes of Aveiro who held on to it until 1759 when it passed into the hands of the Crown. King Manuel granted a charter to Santiago do Cacém in 1510.

Places of Interest

A small village of typically Alentejan architecture, its parish church standing imposing on the hill.
A village with an enchanting landscape located between Campilhas strem and the river Sado.
Barragem de Campilhas
A restful stretch of calm water providing excellent conditions for canoeing, windsurfing and angling.
Cercal do Alentejo
A town surrounded by interesting farms and estates. About 4 km away there is a spot providing excellent views over the Atlantic and the Serra da Mina.


Archaeological station of great importance. It is thought to have been a fortified Celtic settlement as from the 4th century BC and it was then largely Romanised after the 1st century AD. You can visit the ruins of the Shrine to Venus and Aesculapius, the Spa and the Hippodrome (1km away). The Baths, well built using marble and decorated with frescoes, would have served the local population and particularly the pilgrims visiting the Shrine. Though there is no sure information, it is thought that as from the 4th century AD the town began to decline gradually, in keeping with a similar process seen in other cities of the Empire,
it is thought that by the time of the Moorish invasions, which here took place about 712, the town had been abandoned, the population having moved to the nearby hill where the medieval castle now stands.

Santo André Lagoon & Beaches
Close by the sea lies the Santo André Lagoon, an excellent place for windsurfing. In addition to its wealth of fish, a large variety of water birds are also to be found. Those with a love for beautiful places just to "sit and think", can rest at will in this peaceful spot and enjoy the fish or eel stews which, of themselves, are a promise of marvellous gastronomic holidays. Then there are the beaches, with their fine white sands, several kilometers to stroll along.
São Francisco da Serra
A typical Alentejan village marked by its magnificent chimneys. The church and the ruins of Nossa Senhora do Livramento warrent a visit.

Visiting the City of Santiago do Cacém

The origins of the castle of Santiago do Cacém are rather curious, the result of the victory of a warrior princess over a fierce Moor called Kassen that took place on Santiago's (St James's) day. She therefore named it Santiago de Kassen, which, over the time, became Santiago do Cacém Rectangular in shape, ten towers and cubic turrets reinforce the halls. There is a superb view from the castle, whichever way you look. The parish church stands next to it, with its 19th century cemetery. It was put up on the instructions of the Order of the Gladiators when the settlement was donated to them during the 13th century. Of ancient construction, it has undergone significant alterations. During the 18th century the orientation of the church was altered ant it was given a new facade. The south side still retains its gothic portal. There is an outstanding 14th century gothic high relief depicting St. James fighting the Moors

A fortification of Moorish origin later rebuilt by the Christians. You can also visit the chapel of St. Peter, a 16th century construction standing on the castle slopes.
Parish Church
A church of gothic origin rebuilt following the great earthquake of 1755. Don't miss the notable Reliquary of the Holy Cross offered by the Byzantine princess Vetácia, and the gothic low relief offered to the princess by queen Saint Isabel.


Historic Centre
The old nerve centre of the city, with its steep, narrow streets, dominated by the Conde de Bracial Square. Located on the eastern slopes of the castle, its architecture constitutes a priceless heritage with its typical streets and emblazoned houses.
Conde de Bracial Square
An interestng, harmonious architectual ensemble with a pillory dated 1845 and several emblazoned houses.

Municipal Museum
The old gaol has been very well remodelled and it now houses the Municipal Museum with its wonderful archaeological collections - from Miróbriga, such as frescoes, in addition to other archaeological objects found by rural workers in their fields and donated to the Museum. There is also an ethnographic section that shows typical dwelling places of the region. You can view a common room furnished in the style of the 19th or early 20th century; a bourgeois room of the same period with furnishings from the old palace of the counts of Avillez; and, in another room, the beautiful porcelain, portraits, pottery, glass and crystal left by the family. Clothing and a rural kitchen complete these scenes from Alentejan life.

Municipal Windmill
Standing on a hill overlooking Santiago do Cecém, it was totally rebuilt by the town council. On days with a fair wind you can see the traditional milling of cereals.
Rio de Figueira Park
A park full of attractions for children and adults, laid out on the slopes leading up to the cstle. Swimming pool, tennis courts, volleyball and badminton, swings and roundabouts, multiple sports grounds and the pinewoods with their jogging and exercise tracks.


Local cooking is a fortunate combination of Alentejan traditions and of coastal produce. The fish stew and the eel stew, the game dishes, the pork and fried bread gaps, the Alentejan bread and coriander soup complete with its poached egg, and the cheese are just some of the dishes to be found in the region. As far as sweets are concerned, don't miss the alcomonias, those delicious cakes made using pine kernels, flour and honey. The wines from the Conquerors and Cebolal estates are notable


St. Mary's festival at Ermidas do Sado
(Last Sunday of Sept & 1st Sunday of April). At Ermidas do Sado the locals decorate the streets with colourful festoons on the occasion of the festival, with its bazaars, shows, dancing and religious ceremonies, which include a mass and the procession. The inspiration for the paper flowers, seen also in Campo Maior, on the other side of the Alentejo, lies in the local tradition of making cushions of paper artistically cut out and then stuffed with scrap paper.

Fair of the Monte - Santiago do Cacém - 1st weekend of September.
Santiagro Agricultural and Livestock Fair - last weekend of May.
St. Peters Fair - Cereal do Alentejo - June 29th - 30th.
New Fair - Cereal do Alentejo - 3rd Sunday of September.
All Saints fair - Cereal do Alentejo - November 1st .
Abela - July 25th and 2nd Sunday of October.
Alvalade - 4th Sunday of April and July.
Santo André Village - November 30th and December 1st.
São Domingos da Serra - last Sunday of May and penultimate Sunday of August.

HistoryPlaces of InterestThe City FestivalsGastronomy

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Santiago do Cacém