Campo Maior became part of the Portuguese territory during the reign of King Dinis, who ordered the town to be fortified in 1310.
According to legend, the town got its name when the heads of three families decided to settle together for greater protection, and one of them exclaimed when they discovered a clearing in the brushwood: «This is the bigger field (campo maior
After an explosion at a gunpowder magazine destroyed the citadel and killed more than one thousand people (1732), it was decided to build the macabre but fascinating Chapel of Bones (Capela dos Ossos
, 1766), entirely lined with the bones of the victims inside.
Campo Maior is known for its traditional festivals, namely the famous People's Festival (Festas do Povo
): all the population works all year round to make paper flowers.
The event was always held in September; now, only «when the people decide» (and this may mean several years of pause), but it is worth seeing the town transformed into a gay and colourful garden when this happens.
Campo Maior is also proud of lodging the largest industrial zone of the Iberian Peninsula for roasting coffee, and this led to the opening of the Coffee Museum (1994), telling the story of this drink which is perhaps the most loved by the Portuguese.
Another site to visit is the Religious Art Museum, installed at Chapel of Our Lady of Carmel (1801) and displaying objects of artistic and cultural interest.
As for the local gastronomy, the county suffered some influence from Spain, visible in dishes such as the soups of dog-fish and of tomato and the pork and chickpea stew, or in sweets such as almond and pumpkin tarts.