Portugal is the westernmost country of mainland Europe and one of the very popular tourist destinations in Europe, thanks to its rich history and unique culture. The country has kept its current borders longer than any other country in Europe. Tourists are often spoiled for choice when visiting Portugal as there is so much to see and enjoy. From diverse landscapes and beautiful beaches to stunning historical architecture and some of the finest golf courses in the world, Portugal can be an endless array of wonders. In this blog, we will feature 12 of Portugal’s most popular historical attractions. These dozen timeless wonders truly reflect the 900 year history of the country.
- Convento do Cristo
The Convent of Christ is an ancient monastery located in the town of Tomar, about 135 km north east of Lisbon. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was constructed in the mid 12th century in the typical Manueline style of architecture, defined by rich ornate designs depicting maritime sculptural themes. Several renovations and extensions were done by artists and architects in the following centuries. The original church inside the complex was inspired from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. It has an intricately decorated façade and an elaborate pinnacle. The distinct style of this architecture is evident from every angle and corner making it one of the most unique structures in the whole of Portugal.
- Bom Jesus do Monte
Bom Jesus do Monte, translating to Good Jesus of the Mount, is a sanctuary near the city of Braga, about 50 km north east of Porto. It is not only one of the most important places of pilgrimage in Portugal, but also renowned for its architectural style, thus making it popular with pilgrims and tourists alike. The highlight is undoubtedly the monumental Baroque stairway that rises to a height of 116 m to the basilica on the hilltop. The spectacular geometric design with ornate artwork gives the sanctuary a unique look. Around midway up the stairway, check out the statues which depict the five senses. The final section of the stairway, at the very top, visitors are greeted by the statues of the Three Virtues — Faith, Charity, and Hope. By tradition, pilgrims were required to climb this staircase on their knees! However, those who want it easy and want to give the climb a pass can take a ride to the top.
- Palacio da Bolsa
The Palacio da Bolsa, loosely translating to Stock Exchange Palace, is a grand architectural gem that is located in the historical center of the city of Porto. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was constructed in 1850 although it took several artists and another 60 years — until 1910 — to complete the interior decoration! The grandeur of these decorations reflect the rising fortunes of the city during that period. Some of the rooms are still used by the local government to entertain state guests. There are several rooms in the palace like the Assembly Room and the Golden Room, but the highlight is the Arab Room with its stunningly crafted gilded walls and dome. Tours of the palace are available to the visiting public.
- Silves Castle
The Silves Castle is located in the Algarve region of Portugal, about 30 km northwest of the beach town of Albufeira. Declared a National Monument of Portugal, this hilltop castle was built by the Moors in the 12th century, replacing an ancient Roman fortification from 201 BC. Silves Castle, today, remains as one of the best preserved Moorish architecture in Portugal and a symbol of the Moorish domination in this region. This impressive castle, made of sandstone and wood, overlooks the town on the slopes and foot of the mountain. You can enjoy a tour of the castle as well as have beautiful panoramic views of the surrounding scenery from the castle premises.
- Palacio de Mafra
The Palace of Mafra is located in the town of Mafra, about 28 km from the city of Lisbon. This magnificent palace was completed in 1755 after 38 years of construction. Declared a National Monument in 1910, the palace was a finalist in the list of Seven Wonders of Portugal. Built in a fusion of Italian neoclassical and Baroque styles of architecture, the Palace of Mafra was originally intended to be a monastery to mark the birth of a royal child. But a rising fortune of the royal coffers triggered a more grandiose plan, resulting in one of the most impressive palaces of Portugal. Public tours are available of the palace, as well as the basilica, monastery, and church. The palace is also home to stunning wooden library with some of the most important literary collections of Europe.
- Roman Temple and Se of Evora
The small town of Evora is located about 137 km east of Lisbon. It is home to some of the finest ancient and medieval architecture in the country. The highlight is undoubtedly the ruins of the Roman Temple that date back to the 1st century AD. Dedicated to Emperor Augustus, the landmark is easily identified for its 7.68 m high Corinthian columns. Located next to the Roman Temple is the Se Cathedral. Completed in the mid 14th century, the cathedral is one of the most important examples of Gothic and Baroque architecture in Portugal. Such is the legacy of these sites that Evora is listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Castelo de Sao Jorge
The Saint George Castle is located on a hilltop in the Baixa neighborhood of Lisbon. It is the most notable historical landmark and one of the major tourist attractions of the city. The earliest fortification on the hilltop dates back to the 2nd century BC but the present structure that we see today was commissioned by the Moorish king Afonso Henriques in 1147. The castle was severely damaged in an earthquake in 1755 and was subsequently renovated to its present form. The palace complex has several Moorish foundations including the Alacova Palace. You can have spectacular panoramic views of the city of Lisbon from the castle complex.
- Igreja dos Clerigos
The Clerigos Church, translating to the Church of the Clergymen, is located in the city of Porto. The highlight of the church is its 75.6 m high bell tower, the Torre dos Clerigos. This Baroque church and tower, once the tallest structure of the region, remain as one of the most prominent landmarks of the city. The church was constructed in the mid 18th century and has a narrow but elegantly designed façade. The construction of the 6-tier tower was done between 1754 and 1763. You can climb the 240 steps of the tower to have panoramic views of the Porto city.
- Castelo de Guimaraes
The Guimaraes Castle is located in the town of the same name, about 57 km north east of the city of Porto. The town is renowned for its historical architecture which has earned it a place in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The highlight of Guimaraes is certainly the castle, which was originally built by Mumadona Dias in the 10th century but got its present look from renovations and extensions done in the 13th century by Henry of Burgundy. Located on a hilltop, this magnificent fortification features in the Portuguese Coat of Arms and is one of the most iconic landmarks of the country. Located just next to the castle is the Sao Miguel Church where Dom Afonso Henriques, the first monarch of Portugal, was baptized.
- Mosteiro dos Jeronimos
The Jeronimos Monastery is located in Lisbon, just a block away from the River Tagus. This magnificent grand structure was completed in 1601 after nearly 100 years of construction! This building remains as one of the finest examples of the Manueline style of architecture. Saint Jerome is featured in various places throughout this former monastery through sculptures, paintings, and stained glass. The interior is very richly designed and is home to several royal tombs. The monastery premises also house the National Archaeological Museum and the Maritime Museum. The Jeronimos Monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with the neighboring Torre de Belem.
- Torre de Belem
Also known as the Tower of St Vincent, this is one of the most iconic landmarks of Lisbon. This limestone fortified tower was completed in 1521 on an island in the River Tagus. A subsequent redirection of the river after the devastating 1755 earthquake linked that island to the mainland. The Torre de Belem is listed as one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with the neighboring Jeronimos Monastery. It is one of the most loved architectural symbols from the Age of Discovery — a period in the history of Portugal that resulted in its numerous naval expeditions across the globe.
- Pena National Palace
The Pena National Palace is a stunning architectural wonder that seems straight out from a fairytale book. It is certainly one of the most colorful palaces in the world. Set on a hilltop in the Sintra Mountains, about 28 km west of Lisbon downtown, the palace is one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was completed in 1854 in a Romanesque Revival style of architecture. The interior of the palace was designed to serve as a summer residence for the royal family. The Pena National Palace is set amidst lush greenery which adds to its visual charm.
Originally posted 2017-03-29 06:46:41.