Castelo de Alcácer do Sal - Convento de Nossa Senhora de Aracaeli

Castle - Iron Age, Roman Period, Medieval Islamic Period, Middle Ages, Modern Age e Contemporary Period (159)
The oldest occupation nucleus of the city of Alcácer do Sal is located on a wide hill on the north bank of the River Sado, where the medieval castle is located. It shows evidence of a long diachronic occupation, in which the oldest being integrated in the Iron Age (7th century BC) and the most recent in the 19th century. The Iron Age occupation of the Alcácer do Sal hill is extensive and prolonged in time (from the 7th century BC to the 3rd/2nd-century BC). From this stage, traces of buildings and rectangular/squared compartments are identified, structured as streets, reflecting an urban planning of Mediterranean nature. One of its buildings stands out for its architectonic magnificence and artefactual specificity, possibly being a temple. The vast and diverse set of materials reveals local production, as well as elements from different Mediterranean areas, reflecting intense relationships with the western Phoenician world. During the Roman period (1st century BC - 3rd-century / 4th - 7th century AD) Alcácer do Sal becomes an important city (Salacia). In the Convent of Aracaeli area, traces of the Roman city forum were identified, as well as the Romanization of the outer temple (a rectangular building of impressive size), which is associated with the Eastern cults (namely Cybele). During the Islamic period (8th century late 12th/early 13th century), Alcácer do Sal (Al Qasr) stands as an important maritime and military city, hosting the construction of a castle and an imposing walled circuit. These defensive structures have several construction and reinforcement stages, following the political and social transitions of the Al-Andalus and the growing tension with the advance of the Christian conquest, which occurs definitely in 1217. In the area of the Convent of Aracaeli several buildings and negative structures (silos / pits) are identified, as well as materials from Islamic periods, mainly associated to the Almoravid / Almohad period. After the Christian conquest of Alcácer do Sal (reign of D. Afonso II), the city becomes the headquarters of the Order of Santiago in Portugal, maintaining its defensive and maritime vocation, with a significant reinforcement of the fortification system, roughly composed of 30 square shaped towers. In the modern and contemporary period (16th - 19th century), after the Alcácer do Sal castle started to gradually lose its military significance, the Convent of Our Lady of Aracaeli was founded (Our Lady of the Altar of the Sky) in the old facilities belonging to the palace of the Order of Santiago, destined to the Santa Clara de Assis nuns. This conventual community survived for roughly 300 years, until the extinction of its religious order (19th century). This convent presents a commanding structure, of great decorative sobriety, following the architectonic models of the end of 16th century / beginning of 17th century. From this building, only the four-winged cloister and the church's unique nave remains. The choice of the designation "Our Lady of Aracaeli" may be associated with the Christianization of a place that has played an important role for other religions (occupying an area belonging to an important pre-Roman and Roman temple and possibly the mosque in the Islamic period).


The Interpretative center - Cripta Arqueológica do Castelo de Alcácer do Sal - is located on the lower floor of Pousada D. Afonso II.

Visit conditions

Entrance with admission ticket


Opening hours: From September to June 09.00 - 12.30 14.00 - 17.30 From July to August 9.30 - 13.00 15.00 - 18.30 Closed: Mondays


    How to get there? Best practices

    Best practices

    Good practices when visiting archaeological sites

    To visit an archaeological site is to connect with our origins, to understand our path and evolution as a species integrated in the environment, and to respect and safeguard our heritage so that future generations can also visit and enjoy it.

    Walking the paths and enjoying the structures and archaeological pieces that survived over time, fosters the understanding of what is different, but also of what is common among different populations: basically, what identifies us as Homo Sapiens.

    More than just vestiges and ruins of the past, archaeological sites showcase our capacity for creative thought, adaptation, interconnection, comprehension and resilience. Without these traits we would not have been successful as cultural beings participating in an ongoing evolutionary process. These sites also allow to consider choices made in the past thus contributing for decisions in the present to be made with greater awareness and knowledge.

    Archaeological sites are unique and irreplaceable. These sites are fragile resources vulnerable to changes driven by human development. The information they keep, if destroyed, can never be recovered again.

    As such, the Directorate-General for Cultural Heritage (DGPC) invites all visitors to enjoy the beauty and authenticity of these sites, while helping to preserve them for future generations by adopting the following set of good practices:

    • Respect all signs; 
    • Do not try to access fenced areas; 
    • Do not climb, sit or walk on archaeological structures and remains; 
    • Respect areas where archaeological excavations are being carried out, not disturbing them; 
    • Do not collect materials or sediments;
    • Do not write or make graffiti on archaeological structures; 
    • Put the garbage in appropriate containers. If none exist, take the garbage with you until you find a suitable container; 
    • Leave the archaeological site as you found it; 
    • Do not drive bicycles or motor vehicles over archaeological sites; 
    • Respect and protect the plants and animals that live in the areas surrounding archaeological sites;
    • Report signs of vandalism or destruction to DGPC or Regional Directorates of Culture (DRC);
    • Share the visiting experience and the archaeological sites, as a way of raising awareness to their preservation and making them better known;
    • Do not buy archaeological materials and report to public security authorities, DGPC or DRC, if you suspect that archaeological materials may be for sale.

    Further information:

    AIA / ATTA (2013) – Guide to best practices for archaeological tourism. 

    Raposo, J. (2016) – Código de conduta para uma visita responsável a sítios arqueológicos. In Sítios arqueológicos portugueses revisitados: 500 arqueossítios ou conjuntos em condições de fruição pública responsável. Al-madan, 2ª série, p. 20 – 77. 

    DGPC contacts

    Phone: +351213614200 | Email:


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