Situated in the tourist area known as the Planicie Dourada (the Golden Plain), close to the Spanish border, the town of Serpa has been under municipal government since the end of the 13th century. The earliest sign of human occupation dates back to prehistoric times, but it was mainly during the Roman period that the town was most intensively populated.
The historic centre harmoniously displays the town's past. Of the Moorish castle, rebuilt at the end of the 13th century and seriously damaged in 1707, only the ramparts remain. The footpaths which follow these walls provide uninterrupted views over the town and the surrounding countryside. Along the beautiful, paved streets, elegant 19th and 20th century bourgeois houses contrast with small low-built workers houses and their monumental chimneys. Serpa belongs to the Portuguese network of towns with historic centres.
Agriculture, sheep and pig rearing, as well as the production of cheese and cooked meats (quality certified) form the basis of the local economy.
The municipality of Serpa actively manages a variety of activities which favour the development of tourism with the object of preventing the abandonment of the town.
Along with a policy of diversifying economic and cultural activities, a project for the improvement of the living environment of the historic centre is conducted around three main axes:
- a better understanding of the built heritage and a study of its potential by the Heritage Bureau.
- the setting up of an urban rehabilitation project for the historic centre.
- the preservation and the promotion of buildings which symbolise the town's history.