Marvão is a mountain village of 3,000 people (2019) in Alentejo perched on a quartzite crag of the Serra de São Mamede.
Marvão's (/mɐɾˈvɐ̃w/, muhr-VUHNGOO) name is derived from an 8th-century Muwallad rebel, named Ibn Marwan. Ibn Marwan, who constructed the Castle of Marvão, likely on the site of an earlier Roman watchtower, as a power base when establishing an independent statelet ("emirate", duchy) covering much of modern-day Portugal during the Emirate of Cordoba (884-931 CE). The castle and walled village were further fortified through the centuries, notably under Sancho II of Portugal (13th century) and Denis of Portugal.
The village has generated significant tourist interest: it was included in the 2003 book, 1000 Places to see Before you Die. Nobel prize-winning author José Saramago (1922-2010) wrote of the village "From Marvão one can see the entire land.... It is understandable that from this place, high up in the keep at Marvão Castle, visitors may respectfully murmur, 'How great is the world.'"
The company Rede Expressos makes a daily direct connection between Lisbon and Marvão with several stops, including Portalegre and Castelo de Vide. The bus departs from Lisbon at 07:30, arriving at Marvão at 11:50. On the return trip the bus departs from Marvão at 15:50, arriving in Lisbon at 20:15.
There are also local buses between Marvão and Portalegre among other villages and towns but they are infrequent
There are no trains between Lisbon and Marvão.
The village is completely walled and there is a short ridge across the top from the castle to beyond the church.
- 1 Marvão castle, ☏ . Daily 10:00-19:00. The medieval castle was mostly built after 1299, and features many characteristic features of a crusader-era castle: a tall central keep with raised entrance on the first floor; a series of lower, outlying turrets (some semi-circular); high-placed arrow-slits; open spaces to aid the sheltering and assembly of villagers and troops; a well, and huge rain-collecting cistern to supply water to both keep and the wider castle in the event of siege; bent entrances (both on the village and castle gates) to slow down invaders in the event of breached gates; a series of narrow killing zones (notably, in the triple gate on the village-side of the castle); extensive crenellated battlements and curtain walls that enhanced the natural defences provided by the escarpments of Marvão's rock. Adult €1.50, child 0-12 free.
- 2 Roman ruins of Ammaia (in the Serra de São Mamede Natural Park). These are the ruins of an ancient Roman city. The settlement was probably founded at the end of the first century BC. It was an important urban center due to its location and the exploitation of mineral and natural resources in the region, such as quartz and gold. It was abandoned during Arab rule. At Quinta do Deão there is a Sítio Museum where the most interesting finds in Ammaia are on display. In 2019, an amphitheater was found in Ammaia, 60 metres wide.
An annual international classical music festival, under the artistic direction of German conductor Christoph Poppen, was launched in Marvão in July 2014. The village also hosts an international film festival, Periferías, in August each year. Other annual festivals in Marvão include 'Al-Mossassa'- a celebration of the town's Moorish past, held jointly with the Spanish city of Badajoz (also founded by Ibn Marwan) - in early October, and a chestnut festival in early November.
- 1 Pousada Marvão, Rua 24 de Janeiro 7, Santa Maria de Marvão, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Two village houses have been comfortably converted into the Pousada do Marvão - Santa Maria, a small hotel.
- 2 Dom Dinis Marvão, Rua Dr. Matos Magalhães 7, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Pension Casa D Dinis is at the top of the village and one of the nearest buildings to the castle. They own a snack bar just across the road. Very friendly.