Sights to see in the Algarve: Castelo de Alcoutim

By admin | | Posted in: Pine Cliffs

Welcome to our series of blog posts on sights to see in the Algarve in Portugal! In order to help you plan your ideal holiday, in our previous posts we explored the geography of the Algarve and highlighted the top tourist destinations as well as some other excellent places to visit during your trip. In this blog post, we’re going to explore one of the area’s most popular historical attractions: the Castelo de Alcoutim, a fourteenth-century castle with stunning views and a rich past.

The Castelo de Alcoutim (castle of Alcoutim) is a medieval castle in the southeast of the Algarve. Built in a position of strength on a hilltop next to the San Marcos river, the castle commands a powerful presence and offers visitors incredible views of the surrounding landscape.

Though the current castle was built in the fourteenth century, some of the walls date back to an ancient fortress built in the Neolithic period, and a Lusitanian castro may have even been situated on the castle’s current site between the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods. The Phoenicians came to the region regularly during the tenth century BCE and may have used the site as a trading post. They were followed by a short-lived Greek colony in the eighth century BCE, as well as Celtic and Carthaginian settlements.

By the second century AD, Alcoutim had become a blossoming trading centre with a well-established port. Rome soon conquered the town and dubbed it Alcoutinium, and transformed the fortress at its centre into a military base, and the town grew into one of the most economic and politically important areas in the region. Alcoutinium was then taken over by the Alans in 415, after which mineral exports ceased and the port and city fell into disuse and ruin. The Moors arrived in 715, renaming the town Alcatâ, but even this new infusion of life could not return the town to its former glory as a popular trading centre.

By the time Rome conquered the town in the second century AD, Alcoutim had blossomed into a rich trading centre with a well-established port. With the Romans came a new name — Alcoutinium — and the fortress at the city’s centre soon became a vital military base, transforming the town into one of the most politically and economically important areas in the region. However, after the Alans took over Alcoutinium in 415, mineral exports dropped drastically and the port lost its importance in international trade. The city and fortress fell into disrepair, and even the arrival of the Moors in the eighth century could not revitalise the economic prosperity of the town.

Today the dramatic castle is ringed with luscious gardens, and is well worth a visit both for its stunning views and rich history. Inside the castle visitors can find the Núcleo Museológico de Arqueologia (archaeological museum), which features historical artefacts from the castle as well as an exhibit on Islamic board games.

Opening hours: 9.30am-7pm  Apr-Sep, 8.30am-4.30pm Oct-Mar.