When you think of things to do in Portugal, you don’t always think of castles. Portugal instead tends to conjure up images of utterly beautiful beaches, dramatic jagged coastlines, delicious little pastries, intricately designed tiles and even architecture unlike anywhere else in Europe but never really this whole idea of beautiful castles in Portugal. (Places like the UK tend to get the credit for that instead.) 😁
That would be a mistake though. Portugal literally has hundreds of beautiful castles dotted all over the country. In fact, if you decide to go ‘castle hopping’ in Portugal, you could be at it for several weeks (or even months) trying to see them all.
To that end, we’ve put together 19 of the most beautiful castles you need to see when you visit Portugal – a couple of which you might have heard of, many of which will be new to many a traveller’s itinerary in Portugal but all of which are absolutely worth visiting!
1.) Pena Palace
Let’s start off with the most popular one of them all – Pena Palace. This colourful castle set atop a hill in Sintra is as fairytale looking as they get. From the sound of it, Pena Palace sounds like it is a “palace” but is, in fact, a Romanticist castle – the main difference between palaces and castles being that palaces tend to be predominantly places of residence while castles tend to have a defensive function (Palaces are also signs of wealth and so tend to typically be “newer” than castles).
When you visit Pena Palace (and you can see all about it here), be sure to check out all the other amazing sights in Sintra and if you’re unsure what’s worth knowing when you visit Sintra, check out our post here.
2.) Castle of Santa Maria da Feira
This castle is one of those places that just leaves an indelible impression on your once you see it! It’s arguably one of the best-preserved castles in Portugal and with the relatively close proximity to the beautiful cities of Porto and Aveiro is worth coinciding a visit with a trip to one of those cities.
3.)The Castle of the Moors
Also based in Sintra, this hilltop castle is actually one of the best views of Pena Palace and of Sintra as a whole. The Castle so impressive, it’s one of the top UNESCO World Heritage sites to see in Portugal. The Castle is just a short walk from Sintra’s Pena Palace and so a visit to one should ideally be tied into a visit with the other.
4.) Castle of Montemor-o-Velho
Castle of Montemor-o-Velho is a castle so old, it’s older than Portugal is a nation. It’s also one of the most impressive places to visit in Portugal due it’s long, interesting and sometimes violent history as a battleground between the Christians and Muslims looking to rule Portugal. The sheer size of the castle makes it worth setting aside a fair amount of time to explore and enjoy.
5.) Guimarães Castle
This iconic castle is spot almost 1,000 years ago where the Battle of São Mamede was won by Alfonso, resulting in the independence of Portugal. Alfonso, post-victory, went on to become the first King of the Nation ergo why this Castle is now known as the birthplace of Portugal.
Actually, after that Battle, he became Prince of Portugal and it was only after the Battle of Ourique down South, where he defeated the Moors that he became the unanimous King of Portugal. Anyway, long story short – there’s a long and rich history behind this castle making it a fascinating place to visit in Portugal.
6.) Castle of Tomar
The Castle of Tomas was actually built by the Knights Templar and is an important place to visit in Portugal, not just for the Castle itself, but for all the other stunning architectural beauties around it – most popular of which is arguably the Templar-built Covent of Christ.
7.) Castle of Óbidos
This is one of the most impressive castles to visit in Portugal and is set with a beautiful village of Obidos which is perfect for exploring while simultaneously taking in the castle with you. This is easily a place you can spend a fair bit of time in so when you do decide to visit, set aside some time to not only enjoy the castle but the settlement of Obidos as well.
8.) Castle of Abrantes
This castle was one of the key place in the reconquest of Portugal from the Moors and as such is an important historical site to visit in Portugal. This spot in Abrantes has always been of importance to the region and is the reason why there’s been an important structure here (including the castle) in some form for thousands of year. Totally worth visiting, even if for the fascinating insight into Portuguese history.
9.) Castle of Almourol
Set on the banks of the Tagus River, the picturesque castle is best seen from the opposite side of the river and even better so at sunset. The Castle is part of the reconquest castles of Portugal and is heavily influenced by the Knights Templar who rebuilt it after its destruction almost a thousand years ago.
10.) Sao Jorge Castle
This castle is hard to miss when you visit the capital city of Lisbon! Sitting atop a hill, with fortifications dating back over 2,000 years, the castle served as the ancient seat of power in Portugal for over 400 years and is now one of the top spots to visit when you’re in the city. Check out more photos from the Castle in our post here.
11.) Castle of Evoramonte
This Gothic Castle has been home to everyone from the Romans to the Moors over the course of time and is particularly iconic as the spot where a peace treaty was signed, ending the civil war in Portugal (in 1834).
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Interested in beaches instead?
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12.) Castle of Aljezur
This medieval castle is more ruins than it is a full castle with the multitude of grand rooms worth exploring but the view from up here of Aljezur, the beautiful green countryside and the surrounding villages makes this absolutely worth a visit.
13.) Castle of Bragança
This medieval castle, located in the middle of an equally medieval town is the perfect place to spend an afternoon – or perhaps even a whole day! The medieval town is reason in itself to visit this beautiful part of Portugal and the Castle just adds to the appeal of Bragança.
14.) Castle of Esporão
This is one of the smaller castles to visit in Portugal -in fact, it’s more of a tower than a castle but it’s absolutely worth popping into, even if briefly as its a unique symbol or Portugal’s progression from the Middle Ages to the Modern age and looks nothing like any of the other beautiful castles.
15.) Castle of Marvão
The village of Marvao is one the gorgeous little places to visit in Portugal with a history spanning several millennia and a castle that is just the perfect icing on the cake! The Castle is a brilliantly preserved Medieval castle with a beautiful garden to match and that obligatory stunning view of the village of Marvao from the castle.
16.) Sabugal Castle
On the border with Spain lies Sabugal Castle – one of the lesser visited of the many beautiful castles in Portugal but one that is definitely worth visiting. This castle was the negotiations grounds for the borders years ago (although the layout of Europe looked very different back then).
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17.) Castle of Mós
This beautiful castle is one of the lesser known Portuguese Castles and has gone through several periods of changes having being reconstructed after being destroyed in several earthquakes. This, compounded with the occupancy of the castle by different ruling parties, have led to the castle having a rather unique look and feel over time.
18.) Castle of Leiria
This Medieval castle is located in one of Portugal’s less popular yet absolutely beautiful cities called, you guessed it, Leiria.
The Castle here actually once served as the home to the King and Queen of Portugal and with its prime position overlooking the city is a spot absolutely worth checking out when you visit.
19.) Castle of Penedono
This Medieval castle is set within an equally picturesque medieval Parish and although you’d probably struggle to find much else to do around here when you visit, the Castle alone is reason itself to visit Penedono.
Honourable Mention: Monserrate Palace
Monserrate Palace is one of the less-known sights to see in Sintra but is one of the most impressive. This intricately designed villa used to be the summer home of the Portuguese court and is set amidst an expansive and rather impressive park. It would actually be included with the above if it weren’t for the fact it’s actually a palace and not a castle.