This was supposed to be a list of just ten castles, but in a country with hundreds of fortifications, that turned out to be impossible. So here is a selection of the 20 most impressive castles or fortresses in Portugal, many of them built more than a millennium ago by the Moors, and others between the 12th and 15th centuries to defend the country from invasions from the other Iberian kingdoms. Many of these buildings are more imposing than beautiful, but all are remarkable. Most are now ruins of works that were once magnificent, while others have been restored to become inns or museum spaces.
Castle of the Moors
The fortress is located near Lisbon. The fortress walls and towers are well preserved. According to various assumptions, the castle was built in the 9th or 10th centuries. It was erected by the Moors during their conquests in the Iberian Peninsula. In the course of subsequent wars, he repeatedly passed from hand to hand, from Muslims to Christians. At the beginning of the 19th century, the fortress was destroyed and rebuilt. Tinkoff All Airlines Best travel card. Fly for free, even if you rarely travel.
National Palace of Pena
Pena National Palace, or Pena Castle, is located in Sintra, about 30 km from Lisbon. This is the first palace built during the Romantic era in Europe. Pena Palace is a national monument of Portugal, listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, as well as in the list of Seven Wonders of Portugal. This is one of the most must-see places for a tourist in Lisbon, along with Sintra itself and its other attractions. The terraces of the palace overlook the green valley, the medieval castle of the Moors; in clear weather, you can even see the Bridge of April 25 and the Statue of Christ, and in cloudy weather, it feels like the palace is floating in the clouds.
Castle of St. George
The castle was erected on a hill in the historic center of Lisbon. The whole city can be seen from here. The fortress was captured many times and changed owners. Here were the residences of the Crusaders, Moorish emirs, Romans and Visigoths. And in a later period, until the 16th century, the castle was the residence of the king of Portugal. Towers, walls and some other buildings have survived to this day.
It was erected in the XIII century for protection from Spain. In 1232, the king of Portugal presented the castle to the Knights Templar in gratitude for the military support. After the collapse of the Order of the Crusaders, Monsarash was given to the Order of Christ. A large-scale restoration was carried out under his leadership. In the 19th century, the district center was moved to a village far from the castle. Monsaras lost its significance and was abandoned. The walls, towers and peaceful buildings inside the fortress have been preserved.
Afonso I the Great founded a fortress on the site of an old Roman and Visigothic fortification to fight the Arabs. Due to its proximity to Lisbon, the fortress became popular among the Portuguese nobility. An earthquake in the middle of the 18th century damaged the castle, after which it began to fall into desolation. Walls, towers, bastions, inner halls and numerous mosaics have survived to this day.
The castle was built to protect the nearby monastery from Muslim attacks in 959. Initially, it was just a small keep, surrounded by walls. But in the XIII century, Guimaraes was significantly fortified. In the 15th century, the castle became of little importance, so prison was organized here. Only in the 19th and 20th centuries, Guimaraes was taken under the protection of the state and restored.
Castle of Marvão
The fortress was erected on a rock at an altitude of 865 meters above sea level. There is a village behind the fortress walls. The first settlement here was founded by the Romans, presumably in the 2nd century BC or later. The exact date of the construction of the fortifications is unknown. After the Reconquista, when royalty was established in Portugal, Marwan was regularly strengthened. The castle has been completely preserved to this day and has become a popular attraction.
In 1194, there was a region between the Zêzere River and the Tagus River, called Guidintesta, donated to the Prior of the Order by D. Sancho I, D. Afonso Pais, to build a castle there. Belver was one of the main strongholds during the period of the Christian reconquest. Its strategic location prevented further incursions to the north when the Tagus was a border area between Christians and Muslims.
A small town north of Lisbon developed under the protection of the Templar castle. After the disappearance of the Order of the Crusaders, Tomar and the Convent de Cristo Castle passed to the Knights of the Order of Christ. In 1347, the order made the settlement their main residence. Churches and an aqueduct were erected here, the castle was significantly fortified. Since the Middle Ages, the walls, many towers, the church, and the inner buildings of the Convent de Cristo have been preserved. Tinkoff All Airlines Best travel card. Fly for free, even if you rarely travel.
Castle of Viana do Alentejo
In fact, it is accredited that in 1470 possibly there would still be no castle or nearby in the town. In 1478, D. Afonso V sent a letter to the municipal council of Viana, about the possession of the mayor’s office, in which he referred a request to “make a fortification in said town for its defense.
Built-in a dominant position on the old part of the village, framed in an urban area. It is small in size, with a slightly irregular pentagonal plan, with strong cylindrical towers at the vertices. Four of the towers have similar characteristics, in plastered brick masonry and rectangular openings at the level of the walkway with a conical roof. On the other hand, the southwest tower is larger, topped by decorative merlons and a hexagonal campaign tower.
Located next to Tomar, on an island on the Tiju River, the castle controls one of the most important waterways in Portugal. The exact date of construction is unknown, but fortifications were built here already in the 1st century. Later, Almourod was rebuilt by the Templars, but in the XIV century it was abandoned. In the 19th century, the castle was restored. And in the middle of the 20th century, Almourod became the residence of Salazar. The castle is perfectly preserved, with a picturesque view of the Tiju River from its walls.
Castle of Montemor-o-Velho
The castle was built in the 8th century, and later a town of the same name arose nearby. Montemore was one of the most important defensive structures of the municipality of Coimbra. The fortress was rebuilt many times, and in the 13th century it became a royal residence. Later, a church was built on the territory of Montemor-o-Velho, which has survived to this day.
The first fortifications appeared here even before the Roman conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. The Romans used the fort to protect the road that passed nearby. In the 13th century, the first buildings of the castle were given a modern look. The castle has preserved the towers, the donjon and the Princess Tower, where, according to legend, the princess lived, who was waiting for the knight from the campaign.
Castle of Alcoutim
The construction of Alcoutim Castle began during the reign of D. Dinis, in the 14th century, to defend the border and control trade on the Guadiana River. Its military function continued until 1878, when the walled enclosure started to function as a “butcher shop”, still under the responsibility of the war ministry. In the year 1960, the monument underwent consolidation and restoration intervention by the Directorate-General for National Buildings and Monuments (DGEMN). From 1992 onwards, the City Council undertook a project to revitalize the castle, which resulted in its classification as a Building of Public Interest by Decree of 30 November 1993, and in the first archaeological surveys inside the enclosure, with the construction of the Museological Nucleus of Archeology. It also houses the exhibition of Islamic games boards “Timeless Games”.
Belém Tower Castle
One of the main symbols of Lisbon is located at the mouth of the Tijou River. The Belém Tower was built in 1521 by Francisco de Arruda. The castle is dedicated to the discovery of the sea route to India by the navigator Vasco da Gama. The fortress served as a defensive structure, a powder warehouse, a customs point, and a prison. The fortress is made in the traditional Portuguese Manueline style, so thousands of tourists visit the Belém Tower, also because of its architectural value.
Castle of Penedono
Castelo Branco Castle is a medieval castle in the town of Castelo Branco in the Castelo Branco district of Portugal. One of the most important castles that protected the Tagus valley.
During the Reconquista on the Iberian Peninsula, the region was recaptured from the Muslims in 1165 and donated to Afonso Henriques 1112-1185 by the Templars with the condition of its settlement and protection. At the beginning of the reign of Sanshu I 1185-1211, the terms of donation were revised in 1198, and half of the area was transferred to Fernando, the king’s third son. In 1214, Fernando again handed over the village and its fields to the Templars in the person of their master in Portugal Pedro Alvites, and Pope Innocent III ordered to transfer half of the church income in the region to the construction of the castle in 1245.
Castle of Santa Maria da Feira
The castle is located on a hill overlooking the entire Feira Valley. Thanks to this, Santa Maria da Feira remained a military center for a long time. In the 13th century, the first defensive fortifications were built here. In 1251, the fortress became state property. The fortress walls, towers, bastion, chapel, and some residential buildings have been preserved on the territory of the castle. Tinkoff All Airlines Best travel card. Fly for free, even if you rarely travel.
Castle of Leiria
The small town on the Lish River was founded during the time when Portugal belonged to the Romans. Later it was captured by the Moors, and from the 12th century, a castle was erected here, which became the residence of the Pope in the 15th century. Until the 13th century, the fortress protected the townspeople from the attacks of the Moors, and after that it lost its significance and was preserved as an architectural monument. All the fortifications, castle walls and internal buildings have survived to this day, including the Church of the Lady of Our Pity.
In 49 years, peace was concluded here between the Lusitanians and the Roman Empire. The first fortifications in the city were built in the 3rd century. The village survived after the capture of Portugal by the Moors, and during the Reconquista, it changed hands many times. In the 19th century, the castle suffered serious damage during the invasion of Napoleon and the Lisbon earthquake. The fortress walls, internal buildings, keep and towers have been preserved in good condition.
Castle of Castelo de Vide
The castle was built in the 13th century. Due to its strategic position near the border with Castile, Castelo di Vidi was regularly expanded and completed. During the Portuguese War of Independence, in the middle of the 17th century, the castle was most extensively modernized. At the beginning of the 19th century, the castle was destroyed and abandoned, but the walls and fortress towers have survived to this day.
Porto de Mos Castle
The village is located near Leiria. The castle attracts tourists not only for its historical value, but also for its unusual architecture. Tapered tower roofs are rare in Portugal’s castles. Like Leiria, Porto de Mos defended itself against the attacks of the Moors. Nowadays, numerous celebrations and excursions are organized in the castle, and the fortifications are regularly restored.
Castle of Evoramonte
The castle was built in the XII century, during the Reconquista. After the complete capture of the Iberian Peninsula by Christians, the fortress served to protect the state border of Portugal. Evora Monte was significantly damaged by an earthquake in the 16th century, but due to its importance, the castle was soon rebuilt. By the 19th century, the fortress had lost its need and was empty. Walls, towers and internal buildings have survived to this day.
Castle of Alcácer do Sal
In the 8th century, a small settlement was founded and fortified on the Sadu River during the Muslim conquest. Later, in the XII century, a castle was erected here. During the Reconquista, the first king of Portugal, Afonso I the Great, tried to capture the fortress with a detachment of only 60 soldiers but was defeated and wounded. Here, Muslim uprisings regularly broke out, suppressed by the Catholic order of Santiago. By the 15th century, the castle had lost its military significance and became a place of holidays and celebrations.
The castle of a rare circular layout was built on the hill of St. Peter at the beginning of the 14th century. Due to the constant wind at the top of the hill, life in the fortress was not comfortable. The inhabitants were kept in Arraiolos by force, but even with such measures, in the 17th century the castle was completely abandoned. In 1755 it suffered from an earthquake, and during the cholera epidemic in 1833, the fortress became a mass grave. Walls, towers and internal buildings, including the church, have survived to this day.
In the 10th century, the first defensive structures were built here. In 1031 the village became independent from the Cordoba Caliphate, but soon Mertola was taken by the ruler of Seville. Later, the castle was repeatedly passed between Muslim rulers. After the Reconquista, Mertola passed to the Order of Santiago. By the 18th century, the castle lost its significance, but in the 19th century the development of the region resumed. The keep, walls, towers and internal buildings have been preserved in the fortress.
Castle of Alter do Chão
The Roman fort was built here in the II century, but the modern castle appeared only in the XIV. The fortress changed owners many times from various royal dynasties. During the Portuguese War of Independence, Alter do Shan was captured by Spanish troops. In the XX century, the castle was sold to private hands. The fortress walls and towers, the donjon, the commandant’s house and other buildings have survived to this day.
The castle was built during the capture of Portugal by the Romans. From the VIII century it was captured by the Moors, and after the Reconquista passed to Portugal. The city and the fortress are of strategic importance due to their location on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. In front of the entrance to the castle, there is a statue of Afonso III, who became famous in the wars with the Moors. The ruins of internal buildings, towers and walls have been preserved on the territory of the fortress.
The castle is located in the eastern part of Portugal and was founded after the Reconquista. It was of strategic importance due to its proximity to the border with Spain, but was soon abandoned and destroyed. Some residential buildings, fortress walls and towers have been preserved here. Most of them are in a dilapidated state, but there are also reconstructed ones, for example, the local church.
The first fortifications were built here in the 4th century BC, under the guidance of Roman architects. Later, Visigoths and Moors settled here, and after the Reconquista – Christians. Most of the buildings were rebuilt by Christian architects in the 12th century, after which the castle was handed over to the Order of Santiago. Due to its strategic location near Lisbon, Palmela has survived to this day in excellent condition.
Castle of Castelo Rodrigo
The castle is one of the oldest in Portugal. Presumably, it was founded in the 5th century BC. From the 5th century until the period of the Reconquista, there is little evidence of the fortress’s fate. After the 13th century, Castelo Rodrigo was used in the internecine wars and the Portuguese War of Independence. Most of the buildings have survived to this day in ruins.
The first fort was built here by the Romans. Later, the building was fortified by Muslims. During the Reconquista, Serpa passed from Muslims to Christians several times. And after the establishment of peace on the peninsula, he was transferred to the Avis Order. Also, the fortress was actively used during feudal fragmentation and internecine wars. The towers, aqueduct, barbican and internal buildings have been preserved here.
Castle of Abrantes
The city was founded in the XII century, and during the Reconquista, a castle was erected. Abrantes is located next to the Tagus River, one of Portugal’s main trade routes. It was most actively used during the period of fragmentation and during the War of Independence. Due to its strategic location, the castle has been kept in good condition. Fortress walls, towers, and internal buildings have survived to this day.
Castle of Ourem
The castle was built on the site of a Moorish fortress in the 12th century. Ouren is considered one of the most beautiful castles in Portugal, although it is not popular with tourists. After the Reconquista, the castle was transferred to the Catholic Church, and in the 16th century, it became a royal residence. The old castle is the best-preserved, and the building of the king’s residence is in disrepair. Gardens are laid out on the territory of the fortress, the walls offer a picturesque view of the valley.
Castle Fortress of Almeida
Walled City After the end of the Reconquista, the castle was reconstructed. Later, Almeida became a stronghold for Portuguese attacks on the territory of neighboring Castile. The fortress was expanded during the War of Independence. And during the Pyrenean Wars, Almeida was destroyed by the explosion of a powder warehouse. The ruins and medieval castle walls have survived to this day.
Castelo De Elvas
Muslims began building fortifications here. In the 8th century, the first fortress walls were erected. Since the 13th century, Elvas has been regularly modernized and completed, and in the 18th century, the construction of the bastion was completed here. The system of forts in Elvas is one of the largest in the world. There are two main forts to the north and south of the main bastion, but there are many more fortified structures around the castle. The walls of the bastion, internal buildings, and forts of Elvas are perfectly preserved.