There is something very romantic about visiting and exploring castles and palaces, right?! Maybe it’s that feeling of running around picturing yourself hundreds of years ago as a princess. And the castles in Portugal do exactly that. Visiting a castle is the best way to travel back in time while digging into the past by absorbing the history and architecture of past fortresses. In this post, I will share the most beautiful Portugal castles.
The castles in Portugal were not only royal residences. They served more as fortifications that had the function of watching over and protecting the people. For this purpose, they have high towers that provide spectacular views.
Also, Portugal is one of the oldest countries in the world and one of the protagonists of the Age of Discoveries and Navigation, which means it was involved in quite a few wars and battles that were sometimes fought across its castles and fortresses.
So, you can imagine that there have been hundreds of Portuguese castles throughout its history, but not all of them are still standing or visitable today. However, there are interesting ruins and some very beautiful castles you should include in your Portugal itinerary.
The 15 most beautiful castles in Portugal
The castles in Portugal are spread across several regions in the country and are true monuments. Entering them is a way to go back in time and imagine what it was like to live there, besides the many battles that have been fought within their walls.
So, are you ready to travel back in time and explore the 15 most beautiful castles in Portugal? Here is a list of my favorite ones.
Located in the northwest region of Portugal, Guimarães Castle is where much of the country’s future was planned. In fact, legend has that there is where the first king of Portugal, Dom Afonso Henriques, was born!
The castle was built in 968 by order of Mumadona, Countess of Galacia so that the citizens would have a place of refuge from the attacks of the Vikings. The castle also protected the region and the local monastery from enemy invasions.
Open every day from 10 am to 6 pm, an adult ticket to visit the castle costs only 2 euros! And although the interior visit is quite fast, the exterior structure of Castelo de Guimarães and all its surrounding area, with the Church of São Miguel and the Paço dos Duques de Bragança, is very beautiful.
The main postcard of Guimarães, the castle stands on a hill in the historic center of the city. The city’s old town is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site not only because of its beauty but also for its national significance.
Castelo do Penedono
Also known as Magriço Castle, the Castle of Penedono is an excellent example of a military fortress in the district of Viseu. The medieval town of Penedono claims its place in a stunning landscape, enriched by strong and impressive contrasts between the Douro Demarcated Region and the Serigo Mountains.
The oldest reference to the Castle of Penedono dates back to the year 960 when it was donated to Dona Flámula, but it is believed that its origin is even earlier. In fact, it is not known for sure when the castle was built!
Featuring unique features, including its triangular shape presenting Romanesque traces, the castle has been under several restoration works. Inside the walls, you can still see the cistern and the roundabout.
But the best thing you can do in the castle is, without a doubt, to climb up to one of the windows and look out over the houses. From the top of its 3,000 ft, this construction dominates the landscape imposing itself naturally in fantastic scenery.
The castle is open Monday through Friday, from 9 am to 6 pm; Saturday, from 10 am to 6 pm; and Sunday, from 2 pm to 6 pm. And as a bonus, admission is free!
Castle of Santa Maria da Feira
The Castle of Santa Maria da Feira is a very complete military structure, with towers, ramparts, and a chapel inside the fortification.
This is another great example of medieval military architecture in Portugal where the use of its defensive features was dated between the 11th and 16th centuries. The construction is so uniquely mystical that it became a top attraction in Aveiro, one of the most beautiful coastal towns in Portugal.
The castle is open for visitation all year round from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10vam to 6:30vpm for only 3 euros a ticket, which allows you to visit the chapel as well. And, to better understand its long history, a video contextualizing its construction is shown right at the beginning.
And, do you want a hot tip?
If you can, choose to visit it between July and August. This is when one of Portugal’s most important medieval attractions takes place there: the Medieval Journey in the Land of Santa Maria, a festival for history lovers. This is one of the main medieval-themed events in the country when the whole city goes back in time…
Castelo de Leiria
You will probably notice that many of Portugal’s castles are mostly made up of ruins, which I think makes them even more interesting.
And the Leiria Castle is no different. Sitting at the top of a hill, this medieval castle is a must-see, both for the history it preserves and for the viewpoint that it is.
This medieval castle had its construction under King Afonso Henriques (12th century) and features a Romanesque/Gothic style. Some of the structures that can be seen or visited within the walls include the Four-century Royal Palace, the Keep, the Santa Maria da Pena Church, the space of the old Collegiate Church, and medieval granaries.
The Castle of Leiria is easily accessible. With a 2.10 euro ticket per adult, the castle is open for visitation daily from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm during winter and until 6:30 pm during summer.
Also, I strongly recommend you plan a bit and download the official city app, which has a good audio guide to learn about Leiria’s history.
Castelo de Ourém
Near Fátima and in the district of Santarém, the Ourém Castle is visible from the road and from all over the town since it sits high above the city itself at the top of a hill. Although small, the town of Ourém is very important because it was the landmark of the burgh in the Middle Ages.
Curiously, this is another castle which we do not know when or how it was built. But it was conquered from the Moors in 1136 by D. Afonso Henriques, after which the castle became known as Paço dos Duques.
With a triangular shape and towers at the ends, the castle houses a cistern its center, still fed by a beautiful fountain. In the northern part of the castle are the Igreja da Colegiada and a baroque pillory.
Overall, great work has been done by the town to present a rehabilitated castle and the scenery from the towers is a 360 dramatic viewpoint. Just be aware that the castle is not so easily accessible since the hill is so steep it can be difficult to climb to the top.
The castle is open for visitation from Tuesday to Sunday, from 9 am to 5 pm.
Convento of Christ – Tomar Castle
Did you know that in Tomar there is a fabulous and imposing monument listed as a UNESCO world heritage site?
It is no wonder that one of the must-sees during your visit to Tomar is without a doubt the great and imposing Convento de Cristo. Its construction began in 1160 and it is without a doubt one of the most famous landmarks in Portugal.
What is most interesting about it is that it was built within the walls of Tomar Castle, at the highest point of the city. Therefore, when you visit the Convent, you must visit the castle and its beautiful garden as well.
The construction of the castle was intended to ensure the completion of the defensive line of access to Coimbra.
The entire area is very well taken care of, making the walk through the gardens very pleasant. I recommend spending at least 2 hours visiting the complex. The highlight of the visit is the charola which was a private oratory of the Templars, and the cloister of D. João III.
Tomar Castle is open from 9 am to 5:30 pm during winter and until 6:30 in summer. The individual adult ticket costs 6 euros but for 15 euros you can visit Alcobaça and Batalha Monasteries as well.
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Close to Tomar is another architectural gem, at least for castle lovers. The castle of Amourol is becoming more and more popular and for a reason.
Being located in the middle of nowhere in central Portugal makes the castle even more charming. Between roads and streets, you will find a little piece of the Tagus River and there, the formation of a small island where the castle stands tall overlooking the river.
Interestingly, Almourol Castle was once a military base for the Order of the Knights Templar which means it used to be very important for the protection of Tomar.
Although historians do not know exactly when this medieval castle was built, the construction was likely erected around 1129.
After the Knights Templar was disbanded in the 14th century, the castle was abandoned and revitalized in the 19th century. Today the site opens its doors for visitors and events.
If you wish to visit it, you will need to take a short trip of a few minutes on a small boat. It is simple, very simple. But it is also magical!
The castle is open for visitation daily from 10 am to 5.30 pm. An individual ticket costs 6 euros and includes the guided boat trip as well as the entrance to the castle.
Castle of Marvão
Is the Alentejo on your travel itinerary? Well, then take note: to visit Marvão is to get to know one of the most beautiful towns in Portugal. Located on top of a quartzite ridge in the Serra de São Mamede Natural Park, Marvão is a fortified town with narrow streets and houses at the foot of the castle.
You can find Castelo de Marvão sitting right at the Spanish border. The castle can be seen for miles thanks to its pole on one of the highest points of the Serra de São Mamede.
The summit was a perfectly natural defense against enemies in its heyday in the 12th century is mainly used to track enemy forces from Valencia de Alcántra in Spain.
Today, you can walk around the incredibly preserved ramparts and walls, explore the beauty of the castle’s manicured gardens, and enjoy the panoramic view of two stunning fields.
To get there, you will drive through the roads of the Serra de São Mamede Natural Park, which would already be a delightful drive.
The entrance to the castle costs a symbolic 1,50 euros and it is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm.
Can you imagine an entire medieval town inside the walls of a castle, just like in the old times? Well, this is Óbidos!
And since the entire city is part of the castle, it should also be entirely explored. The good news is that this can be done in a single day and on foot!
Located 50 miles from the capital city of Lisbon, Óbidos’ streets have medieval buildings that remind us of the 12th-century, so you will find an architecture of walls made of stones and a village with a Middle Ages look. It is, to say the least, a different experience for the tourist who likes history.
The castle itself is best known for its role as King Dinis‘ wedding gift to his bride Dona Isabel. Of Roman origin, the castle was reformed by the people who settled in the region: Arabs and Christians.
Interestingly, the visitation of the castle is a bit different than at the other castles in this list. The main reason is that, unlike the other castles, Óbidos Castle was transformed into a four-star hotel of the Pestana group.
So, the only way to visit it is to stay at the hotel. Those who choose the building’s inn as their accommodation can eat and sleep in the castle itself and each room has a QR code at the entrance, where you can learn more about the castle’s past rulers.
But, it is also possible to walk along the castle walls free of charge. Reaching 42 ft in height, the walls offer an incredible view of the medieval period features of the picturesque town.
National Palace of Pena
The Pena National Palace is probably the most famous castle in Portugal! Or are you going to tell me that the Sintra castles have never stirred up images of that joyful red and yellow castle?
Because of its reputation, history, and beauty, the palace was named one of Portugal’s Seven Wonders in 2007.
The structure was once a monastery that King Fernando III purchased and expanded from a Moorish structure to become the Portuguese court’s summer retreat.
The palace, which was a strong proponent of 19th century Romanticism, still preserves all of the previous century’s decorations, transporting visitors back in time.
A third construction surrounds the two wings, with a fantasy castle, a drawbridge, watchtowers, and various tunnels.
The park that surrounds the palace is 85 hectares of verdant walkways, fountains, and structures that are just as astonishing as the castle itself. Not to mention the Countess of Edla’s Chalet, which is also located there.
You may take roughly 3 hours to explore it due to its vastness, richness of features, and even the amount of tourists.
However, I recommend simply viewing the palace’s exterior because the inside may be a bit boring, to be honest. Plus, the outdoor area, with all of the terraces and amazing views from all perspectives, is the main attraction anyway.
The admission costs 14 € per adult and includes access to both the palace and the castle grounds. The palace is available to the public from 9 am to 6 pm, every day.
Now, this is my favorite castle in Portugal!
Also high up in Sintra, near the Pena Palace, is the Moorish Castle. This is actually a ruined castle nestled among the lush forests of the Sintra Mountains.
The Moorish Castle marks the time of Arab domination in the region and dates back to the 10th century. It has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the most famous landmarks in Portugal.
The Castle of the Moors has a very interesting history in addition to its spectacular view. With time, the castle’s status as a protective fortress faded, and by the 15th century, the only people living there were Jewish immigrants.
The government had little interest in the previous military base, and the castle was largely abandoned once the Jews were exiled from Portugal. However, King Fernando II, obsessed with art, theatre, bohemia, and the Middle Ages, sought to transform the entire town of Sintra by ordering the renovation of the castle.
It is surrounded by a wild garden, which the visitor walks through before reaching its walls. The castle itself consists of a wall that runs along the hill, with high stone towers.
The journey is tiring, but worth every moment of the way. Because it is really high up, the view extends all the way to the Atlantic Ocean on a clear day.
The ticket costs 8 euros per adult and is valid from 9 am until 6:30 pm.
Castelo de São Jorge
This is another Moorish castle in the form of preserved ruins, but instead of being located in Sintra, it is situated in the Portuguese capital. Yes, can you believe that there is an actual castle on top of a hill in the middle of Lisbon?
Towering over Lisbon and the Tagus River, São Jorge Castle was built in the 11th century by the Moors to serve as a defense.
With the conquest of Lisbon by King Afonso Henriques in the following century, it underwent adaptations in later centuries, gaining a Royal Palace inside.
The castle has survived many cultural transitions and even an earthquake! Today we see a castle full of life and activities for children and adults.
As it could not be otherwise, it has an incredible view over Lisbon, especially at sunset. This was my favorite time to visit Castelo de São Jorge.
During your visit, you are free to explore the ruins and the castle at your own pace. Be sure to check out all the towers, moats, courtyards, watchtowers, and iron cannons.
Individual adult tickets cost around 10 euros and the castle is open for visitation from 9 am to 7 pm.
Even though the Belem Tower is not exactly a castle, it was a very important fortress used to protect the entrance to the capital of Portugal.
In fact, the 98 ft tall tower is the country’s greatest architectural symbol. Together with the Jeronimos Monastery and the Monument of Discoveries, it forms the most visited trio in the entire country.
The Torre de Belém, or Torre de São Vicente, was built in the 16th century on the banks of the Tagus River. There it functioned as a fortress, with various types of medieval artillery.
Originally the tower stood on a base of stones in the middle of the river; today it is integrated with Belém Beach. Over time, it ceased to be a fortress and underwent transformations that made it a customs post, lighthouse, and even a dungeon for political prisoners.
Admission to the tower costs 6 euros per person and visiting hours are from 10 am to 5:30 pm from October to April and from 10 am to 6:30 pm from May to September.
Castle of Evoramonte
Located very close to Évora, in the Alentejo region, the Castle of Evoramonte has over 700 years of history. In fact, the entire town has many medieval tales to tell.
The parish of Évora Monte is divided into two very distinct parts: the medieval fortified village on top of the hill and the more modern part, down the valley.
The medieval walls were erected in 1306, by order of King D. Dinis, in the shape of a triangle. The Dionysian gates, with ogival arches at each vertex, endure to the present day.
Sitting on one of the highest points of the Serra de Ossa, the castle has a different shape from the others in the region and was built in stone masonry and granite stonework.
It has a square floor plan of 3 stories, with 4 circular turrets at the vertices. Its clean and simple style mixes elements of the Gothic style with the Italian-inspired Renaissance style. Its military function as the town’s defense is clearly evident, with gunboats and firing slots for the town’s guard.
The castle is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm.
Located in the southern region of Portugal, Silves Castle can easily be included in your Algarve itinerary. Located on top of a hill, it offers a good structure to receive visitors and brings genuine local references.
An example of this is its coating, all in sandstone, which gives the castle its reddish color and becomes an authentic portrait of that region.
Another interesting point is that this is one of the castles in Portugal that brings more references to its Islamic past, including local legends, especially since it is located in the last region that was reconquered by the Christians from the Moors, in the late 13th century.
The internal visit is very good, as you have the opportunity to walk safely along the walls, enjoy the garden that has different typical Algarve fruits, such as orange and fig, and see expressive archeological remains from before the Christian reconquest. You can also explore the castle’s towers, wells, and cisterns, which supplied the region with water.
Open from 9 am to 5:30 pm, the ticket is only 2.80 euros per person!
About the Author
I’m Camila, an Oceanographer from Brazil which is where my journey began. My studies have taken me to unique places around the world since I was a teenager. I found in my academic career the chance to come across different cultures and languages while working as a scientist. By having lived in several countries I have been able to share my experiences as a travel content writer for the last 4 years and I still have plenty more to tell. I have a great passion for the outdoors and animals, especially dogs and seals (which, let’s be honest, are basically sea dogs!).