For a country not known for castles, it’s certainly got its fair share. Dotting the picturesque hilltops, overlooking the countries rivers and plains, there are many fine examples of Middle Age fortifications. Here are nine of our favorites:
São Jorge Castle
Without a doubt, São Jorge Castle is the most visited castle in Portugal. It’s hilly position in the centre of Lisbon offers commanding views across the capital and down to the Tagus River. The original fortification was built around 48 BC when the land was controlled by the Romans. The larger castle came after the defeat of the Moors in the 12th century, though it was completely restored in the 1920s.
One of the most accessible and attractive fortifications in Portugal, the Belem Tower lies in the historic district of the same name on the western side of the capital. Built on the banks of the Tagus River, the castle was used to fend off attacks from pirates during the 16thcentury. The dungeon and towers housed prisoners during the Spanish invasion.
The National Palace of Pena
One of Portugal’s most important monuments, the National Palace of Pena is unique due to its colourful appearance. It’s origins date back to the Middle Ages when a chapel was built on the hilly location near the town of Sintra. Later is was enlarged into a monastery and then finally a castle. The palace is an attractive blend of Gothic, Manueline and Moorish design. It’s one of the finest examples of 19th-century Romanticism in the world and considered one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.
Castle of the Moors
Castle of the Moors adorns a hilltop just north of Lisbon and has had an interesting history which has led it to become part of the UNESCO Sintra cultural landscapes. The fortification was built by the Moors during the 8th century and fell to the Portuguese Christians during the 12th century invasion of Lisbon. The infamous 1755 earthquake severely damaged the building but was pieced back together by Ferdinand II of Portugal during the 19th century.
Castle of Guimarães
Located in the north in what was once the first capital of Portugal, the Castle of Guimarães was used to defend a 10th century monastery from invading Norseman and Moors. Sitting upon a granite hill surrounded by forest, the castle is perfectly situated. While it isn’t confirmed, some believe the castle was the birthplace of the first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques. The strong fortification is made up of walls forming a pentagram and eight rectangular towers.
Castle of Evoramonte
After capturing the area from the Moors in the 12th century, King Denis ordered the fortification of the town. Originally built in a Gothic style, the castle was later enlarged in the Manueline style. Interestingly, the castle was used to sign the Concession of Evoramonte which ended the war between the Liberal forces of Queen Maria II and armies of Miguel of Portugal in 1834.
Castle of Óbidos
The Castle of Óbidos is one of the best-preserved castles in Portugal. While many of the castles have become abandoned ruins, Óbidos has been transformed into a magnificent hotel. The castle was built during the 12th century, but strengthened two hundred years later. Stone walls surround the pretty town of Óbidos.
Castle of Marvão
Another example of a well-preserved medieval fortress, the Castle of Marvão was initiated in the 8th century, but not completed until four hundred years later. Located in Alentejo, a region of northern Portugal near the Spanish border, the castle sits atop a mountain overlooking the plains below. The draw for many is the beautiful, seemingly tourist free medieval town that surrounds the castle.
Castle of Almourol
The Castle of Almourol sits atop an island in the Tagus River and serves as a reminder of the reconquest of Portugal during the Middle Ages. When Christians arrived in the 12th century, the castle was already standing and was placed under the protection of the Knights Templar. After the disbandment of the Order of the Knights Templar, the castle was abandoned until the 19th century when it was fully restored.