Portugal is a fascinating southern European country that’s located west of Spain in the Iberian Peninsula. It’s a relatively small country with a population of just over 10 million inhabitants and Portuguese is the main language. Due to its geographic location, diverse groups of people have passed through, settled, or invaded the country throughout its long history. The Romans, Carthaginians, Celts, Visigoths, and Moors have all left their mark in Portugal. And the result of this is reflected in the country’s culture and architecture.
There are many stunning landmarks and castles that adorn the Portuguese countryside, which remind one of a bygone era. And the best part is that many of these buildings are well-maintained and travelers visit these every year. It’s always fun walking through the cobbled pathways and stairways that were once trodden by royal members and fearsome warriors. Now, let’s step into this historical and fantastical world by exploring 8 of the finest castles in Portugal.
1. Explore The Castle of the Moors in all its medieval glory
During the 8th, the Moors conquered a large part of the Iberian Peninsula. They would often build fortified castles in important strategic positions on all conquered lands. This is one of the first castle fortresses the Moors built in Portugal and is aptly called Castelo dos Mouros (The Castle of the Moors or Moorish Castle).
It’s built on top of the Sintra Mountains and is so well fortified that it resembles the Great Wall of China to the casual observer. It was constructed in this manner to withstand attacks from all directions. Around 1147, it was taken over by Christian armies after the fall of Lisbon. Nowadays, this medieval castle is classified as a national monument and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Castle of the Moors
Address: Castelo dos Mouros, 2710 Sintra, Portugal
Website: The Castle of the Moors
2. Embark on a small island adventure at The Castle of Almourol
There’s a small island located right in the middle of the Tagus River, but what makes it truly stand out is the gorgeous Castle of Almourol that’s built there. The castle is constructed from sandstone and has been standing there for almost two millennia, which is quite impressive considering that it doesn’t seem heavily weathered. Its location is of strategic importance as it was an ideal position to regulate shipping activity on the river.
The Castle of Almourol
Address: Praia do Ribatejo, Almourol, Portugal
Website: The Castle of Almourol
3. Discover the stunning National Palace of Pena
One shouldn’t travel to Portugal without visiting the National Palace of Pena at least once. After all, this is the country’s most famous castle and truly leaves an impression given its exclusive blend of Manueline and Moor architecture. It’s perched on top of a hill next to the town of Sintra and is yet another national monument that’s recognized by organizations such as UNESCO.
National Palace of Pena
Address: Parque e Palacio Nacional da Pena, Estrada da Pena, Sintra, Portugal
Website: National Palace of Pena
4. View the unfinished gem known as the Castle of Dona Chica
Castelo da D. Chica, também referido como Castelo de Palmeira, Casa da Chica ou Palácio de D. Chica, localiza-se na freguesia de Palmeira, conselho de Braga, distrito de mesmo nome, em Portugal.Posted by Amarildo Talamasca Martins on Thursday, 21 January 2016
While many of the castles in this list are well-maintained heritage sites, there are a few exceptions. The Castle of Dona Chica is something of an anomaly because it was originally built as a private residence during the 19th century. Unfortunately, a lack of funds prohibited further construction of the building, which sported a traditional neo-romantic aesthetic. Visitors may not enter the premises, but they can view the unfinished castle from afar.
Castle of Dona Chica
Address: Rua do Poente 10, Palmeira, Braga, Portugal
5. Visit one of Lisbon’s most memorable landmarks, the Belem Tower
Belem Tower is part and parcel of Lisbon’s character, as this tower provided protection against invading forces. It’s a 16th-century construction that has had a tumultuous history, even serving as a prison at one point. Nowadays, plenty of tourists and history buffs flock to the tower to admire its stunning architecture.
Address: Av. Brasília, Lisbon, Portugal
Website: Belem Tower
6. Come close to the heart of Portugal at Guimarães Castle
This medieval fortress is located in northern Portugal and has been home to Count D. Henrique who was the father of the first king of Portugal. In fact, this castle is considered the birthplace of the Portuguese nation and therefore an important landmark of historic importance. The architecture is particularly noteworthy due to its pentagonal shape and eight imposing crenelated towers.
Address: Rua Conde D.Henrique, Guimarães, Portugal
Website: Guimarães Castle
7. Take a romantic break at Castle of Obidos
The magnificent castle of ObidosPosted by Spain & Portugal Travel Connection on Friday, 18 September 2015
It’s quite uncommon to come across a Portuguese castle that’s been converted into a hotel. That’s why the Castle of Obidos is rather unique, as it’s a wondrous castle that retains its past edifice but functions as a romantic getaway. Not bad for a fortified castle that’s been around since the days the Romans roamed these lands.
Castle of Obidos
Address: Pousada Castelo de Óbidos, Paço Real S/n, Óbidos, Portugal
Website: Castle of Obidos
8. Glimpse 12th-century innovation at the Castle of Tomar
We’ve all heard about the amazing feats of the Knights Templars and their many bases of operation in southern Europe. The Castle of Tomar was one of their castles in Portugal and was innovative for its time due to its large rounded towers. They used this castle to protect the country against the Moor invasions. Once the Knights Templars were purged from the European continent. The Castle of Tomar was used by Portugal’s King Manuel.
Castle of Tomar
Address: Convent of Christ, Colina do Castelo, Tomar, Portugal
Portuguese castles in a nutshell
The Iberian Peninsula and especially Portugal boast some amazing castles that just aren’t available in other parts of the world. It’s also great that many of these castles are taken care of and are recognized as important national landmarks and heritage sites. Anyone visiting Portugal should make a point of visiting these castles to make their trip more entertaining and educational.
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