One of the oldest countries in Europe, it is no surprise that Portugal features hundreds of stunning castles and palaces. All around the country, along rivers, in islets, and mountains, Portugal’s palaces and castles represent the beautiful cultural heritage of Portugal. Each building has an interesting history behind it, dating back centuries, many of which have been proclaimed UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Let’s take a look at our 8 most beautiful castles and palaces in Portugal.
A romanticist castle in Sintra, the Pena Palace stands on top of a hill in the mountains, overlooking the town of Sintra. The 19th-century palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.
Visitors can wander around the castle, painted in multiple colors, and visit the beautiful greenery that surrounds it. Known for its Disney-like appearance, the Pena Palace is one of the most beautiful landmarks in all of Portugal.
Dating back to the middle ages, the palace was severely destroyed by the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755. The ruins of the palace were left destroyed for decades until King Ferdinand II acquired the monastery and restored it. After that, the Pena Palace became a summer residence for the Portuguese royal family.
Located on a hilltop in Santa Maria Maior, Castelo de Sao Jorge is a medieval castle that overlooks the historical center of Lisbon. The occupation of the castle dates back to at least the 8th century BC.
The castle’s construction has an interesting history. First, a small fortress was built by the Visigoths during the fifth century. It was made larger by the Moors in the eleventh century, who invaded the Iberian peninsula.
During the reign of Afonso I of Portugal in the twelfth century, it was altered and made into an official Royal Palace. It was then completely restored in 1938 by the dictatorship of Salazar as part of a commemoration of Portuguese patriotism and independence.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site in Sintra, Quinta da Regaleira is a romantic palace and chapel, featuring a royal-like park with lakes, wells, fountains, and more. Designed by Italian architect Luigi Manini in the 1800s, the design includes enigmatic buildings that are related to alchemy, masonry, and the Knights Templar. The design evokes, Roman, Gothic, Renaissance, and Manueline styles.
Also known as the Palace of Monteiro the Millionaire, the palace is nicknamed for its former owner, Antonio Augusto Carvalho Monteiro. However, it has had multiple owners across times. In 1997, the property was acquired by the Sintra Town Council after it had been owned by the Japanese Aoki Corporation which kept it closed to the public for over a decade.
Also known as the Convent of Mafra, the Palace of Mafra is a Baroque and Neoclassical palace in Mafra, 40 minutes away from Lisbon. The palace was made a National Monument of Portugal in 1910.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the palace was built during the reign of King John V in 1717. The King wanted to build a convent for his wife, Queen Mariana if she gave him children. After the birth of his first daughter, the construction of the palace began.
The construction lasted over a decade and more than 1,000 workers died during the build. The Palace contains a library with over 30,000 books, a large basilica, and more. The whole building covers 37,790 m2, featuring over 1,000 rooms.
Guimaraes Castle is a military fortification built in the 10th century to defend the monastery from attacks by the Moors. The castle is associated with the origins of Portugal as a nation and is one of the most emblematic in the whole country. The castle is located in Guimaraes, the birthplace of Portugal’s first sovereign, Afonso I of Portugal.
The small hill that the castle sits on is formed from garlic and surrounded by a small forest park which you can only access through pedestrian trails. On the Southern tower, you will find a bronze medallion of D. Afonso I. Close by you will also find a stunning Romanesquece Church and the Palace of the Dukes of Braganca.
Head to the hilltop fortress to visit the grounds. The castle is also one of the best places in Guimaraes, Portugal to take selfies and its surroundings are nice for walking and communing with nature
6. Monserrate Palace
The history of Monserrate Palace begins in 1540 when Friar Gaspar Preto order the build of a hermitage dedicated to Our Lady of Monserrate. Throughout the centuries, the palace fell into the hands of many such as the Mello e Castro family.
However, it was when Francis Cook, a 19th-century British industrialist visited the palace, he fell in love and transformed Monserrate Palace into what it is today. A palace representing romantic architecture with luxurious gardens with exotic species from all over the world, the Monserrate Palace was made a World Heritage Site in 1995.
In 1949, the Portuguese government acquired the property. In 2000, the management of the palace was handed over to Parques de Sintra. The property reopened in 2010, but was later restored and only reopened to visitors in 2016.
7. Castle of Almourol
Located in the middle of the Tagus river on top of a tiny islet of Almourol, the Castle of Almourol is one of the most special castles in Portugal. The reconstruction of the castle began in 1171, but the castle was already present in 1129 when the Christians arrived in Portugal.
The castle was built over a granite that is 18 meters in height and has an irregular rectangular plan. The interior of the castle features masonry doorways that link the various parts of the castle. It also features inscription stones that represent the history of the castle and its Christian mark.
Access to the castle and the islet of Almourol is free, but visitors must pay for an affordable boat ride across the river, the only way to reach the Castle Almourol.
8. Castle of the Moors
A hilltop medieval castle in Sintra, the Castle of the Moors was built by the Moors in the 8th and 9th centuries as an important strategic location during the Reconquista. In 1147, it was taken by Chrisitan forces.
The Castle of the Moors offers panoramic views of Sintra and allows you to see Mafra and Ericeira. The castle is built along a 450-meter permit on top of a cliff and is surrounded by vegetation, leading to a Romantic feel. The Moorish castle includes a chapel with an arched doorway that once was a place of worship for the Muslim population. Today, the chapel is decorated with animal motifs.
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