If you are driving from Lisbon to the Algarve, you should definitely spend a day or two in the Alentejo region. A place we really recommend is Estremoz. From the 13th century castle, today a Pousada, one normally has a wide view over the city and the surrounding vineyards …
… unless the morning fog covers the surrounding countryside with its white candy floss.
Estremoz has excellent restaurants like the wonderful Alecrim with its innovative take on the traditional portuguese cuisine or Mercearia Gadanha which combines the restaurant with a superbly equipped wine and gourmet shop. More recently, Larau Restaurante has added a much needed fish and seafood dimension to the already excellent restaurant scene.
Every Saturday there’s a huge market with an improbable mix of antiques and local fruit and vegetables. Antique dealers come from as far as Lisbon or nearby Spanish towns to sell everything from colourful tinplate containers for olive oil to huge marble fountains. The meet with local farmers who traditionally come to town on Saturdays to sell their fresh products on the marketplace.
There are several excellent wine producers in and around Estremoz. For a premium wine try the excellent Quinta do Mouro. Júlio Bastos produces the excellent “Amantis” and “Dona Maria” wines, both red and white, as well as an excellent “Dona Maria Petit Verdot” and the more expensive Júlio B. Bastos wines. And Tiago Cabaços offers everything from the inexpensive “.com” to the award-winning “blog”. But if you go there, make sure you also try the wines made by Tiago Cabaços’ mother Margarida: “Monte dos Cabaços”, “Monte dos Cabaços Reserva” and the incredible “Margarida” (both red and white).