Throughout the centuries, Portugal was endowed with remarkable figures, most of them associated with the history of Portugal. Equally important were the castles, which served to protect the country in the past and have contributed to make Portugal one of the most beautiful countries in terms of culture and connection to the past. In this article, we have selected the 5 best Portuguese castles to visit. But why are castles so important to the Portuguese?
The importance of castles then and now
Our castles, inspired by Roman constructions, were made with two goals in mind: to serve as a mean of surveillance and defence, and to accommodate and house the noble lord of those lands. In medieval times, the castles served their purpose successfully.
Nowadays, castles have lost their former roles and were allowed to decay, transformed into monuments or restored to serve other purposes. Regardless of their function, they are part of our history, our identity and remain as beautiful as always. We present to you our choice of 5 Portuguese castles that you should visit.
TOP 5 Portuguese Castles
1- GUIMARÃES CASTLE
This castle is probably one of the most iconic in Portugal, not only because it’s the symbol of the foundation of the Portuguese kingdom but also because it’s believed to be where the first king of Portugal, Dom Afonso Henriques, was born. It was built in the 10th century and its eight towers make it truly majestic.
2- Óbidos Castle
This charming castle with some cylinder and some square towers is one of the few in Portugal that was restored and converted into a hotel. It is made of marble and limestone and the Manueline windows add to its appeal. It is surrounded by one of the prettiest villages in Europe, with alleys and streets made of cobblestone.
3- The National Pena Palace
This famous castle, recognized by UNESCO as world heritage, is quite different from the standard. Its vibrant colours and the combination of Manueline and Moorish architecture styles are part of the charm and its beautiful façade can be seen from anywhere in the surrounding area. Perched on the top of the hill, this castle is a “must visit”, which is why we created this tour for you.
4- The Moorish Castle
Built around the 10th century, this castle is one of the oldest preserved fortresses in Portugal. It is surrounded by a high wall with some towers that climb its way along Sintra’s hills, reminding us of the Great Wall of China. Its privileged location provides a breathtaking view of the Pena Palace, the village and the Atlantic Ocean.
5- Belém Tower
Lisbon, Portugal’s most beautiful capital, is home to this castle that was built in the 16th century. An architectural masterpiece with blends of Islamic and oriental influences, it has distinctive characteristics and ornamentation never before seen in a construction built for military purposes. Initially built with the intention of protecting the capital from sea attacks, it has become an icon of the country’s land and sea domination.
Castles are landmarks in Portuguese history. While it’s true that nowadays most of the castles have deteriorated, some of them have been restored with other objectives. In this article, we only presented some of them although there are many other beautiful ones worth visiting. Keep in mind that while castles are a big part of Portuguese history, their surroundings as well as several other monuments also provide interesting insights about Portuguese culture. Should you have the opportunity, make sure you visit us, and everything that Portugal has to offer. And enjoy the trip!