Compiling this collection of Portugal landmarks has been a wonderfully varied journey. Join us as we explore stunning Algarve beaches, border castles, a Roman temple, the cliff once thought to be the end of the world, a village with houses made from granite boulders – and that’s before we even get to the capital, Lisbon.
Many of these landmarks of Portugal might not be as well-known as perennial favourites like Big Ben or the Eiffel Tower, but this virtual voyage is one of the most rewarding in Europe that you could make. We hope you enjoy it.
Famous Portugal Landmarks – Lisbon
1. Belem Tower
The Torre de Belem is one of the most famous landmarks in Portugal, a distinctive ornate white watchtower from the Golden Age of Discoveries.
It was built in the early 16th century to strengthen the defences of the Tagus estuary, and also became known as the departure point for the Voyages of Discovery. It’s the closest thing Portugal has to a national symbol, this Lisbon landmark featuring countless times in adverts enticing people to visit Portugal.
See Also: Things To Do In Belem, Lisbon
2. Monument To The Discoveries
Around 1 km upriver from the Torre de Belem stands a much more recent landmark of Lisbon, the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, or Monument to the Discoveries. It has a whiff of totalitarian architecture about it with its vast monolithic part-concrete slab, and indeed it was commissioned during the notorious Salazar dictatorship.
The row of statues on either side is of figures from the Age of Discoveries, including Prince Henry the Navigator and explorers Vasco da Gama, Ferdinand Magellan and Bartolomeu Dias.
Top Tip: Take the lift to the top of the monument for one of the best views in Lisbon.
3. Jeronimos Monastery Lisbon
The Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, or Hieronymite Monastery, is one of the most famous buildings in Portugal, and together with the nearby Belem Tower, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It is one of the high points of the Manueline architectural style, the Portuguese variant of late Gothic. The church and cloister behind it are magnificent, and the intricate sculpture, much of it with maritime and floral motifs, is outstanding.
Good to know: The monks were also responsible for the secret pasteis de Belem recipe, and you can sample these delicious Portuguese custard tarts at the bakery two minutes’ walk away.
4. Castelo de São Jorge
The Castle of St George is one of the best Lisbon landmarks, sitting atop a hill overlooking the Alfama district in one direction and the Baixa, Bairro Alto and river Tagus in the other. It’s a fine, sturdy castle, partly built by the Moors in the 11th and 12th centuries, which served as both a fortress and royal residence.
It was captured by Portuguese forces in the 1147 Siege of Lisbon. The Castle we now see was heavily restored in the 20th century, with many surrounding buildings cleared away. It’s the main feature of some of the best views in Lisbon, and also commands great views across the city.
5. Ponte 25 de Abril
The 25th April Bridge – named after the date of the 1974 Carnation Revolution – spans the Tagus, linking Lisbon with the suburb of Almada.
It is often compared to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and is painted in the same shade of orange. Its towers are 190 metres (624 feet) high, and it’s over 2 kilometres long. It’s overlooked by the famous statue of Cristo Rei – Christ the King – on the Almada side of the river.
6. Palacio da Pena Sintra
There’s something truly magical about the town of Sintra, an hour outside Lisbon, with several palaces, a Moorish castle, a monastery with cells made from cork and, most fanciful of all, the Palacio da Pena.
It’s an absolute riot of fantasy – not to mention finances – a catholic mix of styles from Moorish to Manueline and Gothic. It was built by Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg, consort of Queen Maria II, and it was one of the Portuguese royal family’s main residences until they were deposed in 1910.
It was voted one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal in 2006, and it’s undoubtedly one of the finest Portugal landmarks.
Famous Landmarks in Portugal – The Alentejo
7. Templo de Diana Evora
The Roman Temple of Diana in Evora, the gorgeous capital of the rural Alentejo region, is the oldest of our man-made Portugal landmarks, dating back to the 2nd century AD.
Yet remarkably it was forgotten for centuries, at one stage being incorporated into an abattoir. It’s now recognised for what it is, one of the finest Roman monuments in Portugal and the Iberian Peninsula.
Good to know: It also occupies one of the most beautiful squares in Europe, with a fine tiled church on one side and the towers of Evora Cathedral behind.
See Also: Things To Do In Evora, Portugal
8. Marvão Castle
The Castelo de Marvão is one of the most beautiful castles in Europe, occupying a high mountain ridge overlooking the plains of Extremadura in Spain.
One of the most impressive landmarks of Portugal, the castle in the Serra de São Mamede mountains was never taken by force, and was only ever captured once because the garrison was betrayed.
Top Tip: Marvão village, just below the castle, is also well worth seeing, its ancient whitewashed houses huddled together on narrow streets barely wide enough to accommodate a small hire car. Well worth an overnight stop to experience the quiet and isolation in this remarkably beautiful spot.
See Also: Marvao Portugal Guide
The hilltop village of Monsaraz is one of the most beautiful places in Europe. It’s a walled village with a castle at one end, consisting of two long streets with a few connecting alleyways.
The Portuguese and Moors fought over it in the early Middle Ages, and much of what survives dates from the Renaissance and Baroque periods (15th to 18th centuries).
As time passed Monsaraz was left behind, with more locals moving to the growing town of Reguengos de Monsaraz, 20 km to the west. Monsaraz became a time capsule, its obscurity and remoteness its saving grace.
Good to know: Unsurprisingly it was voted the most beautiful village in Portugal a few years ago.
See Also: Monsaraz – A Charming Hilltop Village
10. Barragem do Alqueva
The Alqueva lakes below Monsaraz were created by the damming of the Rio Guadiana, which in places forms the border with Spain.
They are just to the east of Monsaraz village – step outside the village walls and you get a superb panorama of the lakes, which look at their best at sunrise. The road to Mourao crosses the lakes, which are a great spot for watersports or a picnic.
11. Amoreira Aqueduct Elvas
The border town of Elvas has two of the best landmarks Portugal has up its sleeve, yet it’s way off the beaten path in rural Alentejo province. Elvas’ strategic position meant it needed strong defences against Spanish incursions.
The vast Amoreira Aqueduct – essentially a giant fortress carrying water – was built in the late 16th and early 17th centuries to supply Elvas with water in the eventuality of a siege. It constitutes a UNESCO World Heritage site along with the town’s awe-inspiring fortifications – it’s one of the great Portugal landmarks, and deserves far more visitors than it gets.
See Also: Portugal Road Trip – The Alentejo
Portugal Landmarks – The Algarve
12. Cape St Vincent Lighthouse
Cape St Vincent – Cabo de São Vicente – is the south-westernmost point of mainland Europe, in a wave-blasted corner of the Costa Vicentina in the wild western Algarve. In ancient times this was the end of the known world, when nobody knew what lay beyond the horizon behind which the sun set each day.
It’s a wonderfully evocative Portuguese landmark, the clifftop lighthouse looking out over the horizon. In the 15th century, Prince Henry the Navigator instigated the Portuguese Voyages of Discovery in nearby Sagres.
13. Ponta da Piedade, Lagos
The Ponta da Piedade – whose name translates as the Point of Piety – is one of the most striking natural Portugal landmarks. It’s a small headland to the south of the town of Lagos, with two superb beaches on its eastern side – Praia Dona Ana (see below) and Praia do Camilo. There are also dozens of sea stacks and stunning rock formations, with archways and grottoes to explore.
Top tip: Take a boat trip to see the best of it from water level, though the views from above are pretty marvellous too.
See Also: Things To Do In Lagos Portugal
14. Praia Dona Ana Beach Lagos
Praia Dona Ana was once voted the most beautiful beach in the world, and it makes the top 3 of our selection of most beautiful beaches in Europe.
It’s just outside the resort town of Lagos, one of the busiest on the Algarve, and just off the road down to the aforementioned Ponta da Piedade. It’s one of the most sublime stretches of sand we’ve ever seen, with some breathtaking rock formations just offshore.
See also: Lagos Portugal Beaches – 8 Amazing Lagos Beaches To Visit
15. Praia da Marinha
One of the best beaches in the Algarve, this magnificent beach near Alvor is full of spectacular rock formations – a double sea arch, caves, stratified cliffs and rock stacks everywhere you look. It’s relatively undeveloped, making a visit all the more enjoyable.
See Also: 22 of the Best Algarve Beaches
16. Silves Castle
The ancient city of Silves was capital of the Kingdom of the Algarve for over 600 years, and was occupied as far back as the third century BC by the Romans. The red sandstone castle was the work of the Moors, who held it for around 400 years and strengthened it after briefly losing it in the late 12th century.
Much of what you see dates from this time. The nearby medieval Cathedral – albeit with a few Baroque flourishes – is also well worth a visit. The city is one of the most fascinating places to visit in the Algarve, the biggest reason to tear yourself away from the nearby beaches.
Portugal Landmarks – Central Portugal
17. Sanctuary of Our Lady, Fatima
Three shepherd children are said to have witnessed a series of apparitions of the Virgin Mary in 1917, transforming this small central Portuguese village to one of the biggest Catholic pilgrimage destinations in the world. It now receives up to 8 million pilgrims each year.
They all converge on the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima, which consists of two large churches – the Basilica of the Rosary, with a 65-metre tower and wide portico at one end, and the later Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity, the 5th largest church in the world.
Good to know: There is also the original small Chapel of the Apparitions, where the first vision is said to have occurred.
18. Convento de Cristo, Tomar
The medieval Convent of Christ in Tomar is one of the best churches in Portugal to visit. It was a base for the Order of the Knights Templar in the 12th and 13th centuries, and after they disbanded it was taken over by the new Order of Christ.
It’s a feast of Gothic, Manueline and Renaissance architecture, some of the finest in Portugal, and it’s been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983.
19. Batalha Monastery
Also known as Batalha Abbey, this stupendous late Gothic church was built by the Dominicans, with part of it serving as the mausoleum of the Aviz dynasty which ruled Portugal for over a century.
The nave is similar to that of Westminster Abbey in effect, its narrowness making its 100-feet high vault seem higher than it is. The Monastery wasn’t completed – be sure not to miss the astonishing Manueline doorway to the Unfinished Chapels outside the main body of the church.
20. Monsanto Village
The Spanish border region is a happy hunting ground if you’re seeking out the famous landmarks in Portugal. The village of Monsanto, in the Beira region north-east of the town of Castelo Branco, is one of the most picturesque villages in Portugal, its houses hewn and hacked out of hard local granite.Some of them have an almost haphazard, quirky charm, with enormous boulders incorporated into their walls.
Good to know: It was once voted the ‘most Portuguese village in Portugal’, and the prize, a silver cockerel (galo de Barcelos) still roosts atop the local tower.
21. Schist Villages Near Lousã
There are 27 schist villages (aldeias do xisto) in the region around Lousã in central Portugal. They are all partly built from the distinctive schist rock, a mixture of mudstone and shale with variable amounts of mineral grain.
Most of these villages are remote, and the best way to see them is to follow walking trails between them. Many of them are set in spectacular mountain scenery, and one of them, Talasnal, is on our Europe bucket list.
Portugal Landmarks – Northern Portugal
22. Dom Luis Bridge, Porto
This iconic twin-deck bridge spans the river Douro, linking the Ribeira district of the city with the famous port houses of Vila Nova da Gaia on the south side.
The upper deck – 60 metres above the river – is now reserved for pedestrians and Metro trains and commands a great view over the city. Amusingly, I have walked the full length of this bridge, but can’t really claim to have seen it, with heavy drizzle and fog reducing visibility to barely ten metres. Nonetheless, it’s easily one of the most famous Portugal landmarks.
23. Guimarães Castle
The Castelo de Guimarães has a special place in Portuguese hearts as it’s regarded as the birthplace of the nation, the ‘Cradle of Portugal’. It was originally built in the 10th century as a bastion against attacks from enemies as diverse as the Moors and Normans.
It’s believed that, in 1111, Afonso Henriques, who was to become the first King of Portugal, was born in the Castle. Tha Castle survived for a further 400 years before falling into ruin for the best part of 500 years. It’s now a National Monument and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.
24. Bom Jesus do Monte, Braga
Bom Jesus do Monte – literally ‘Good Jesus of the Mountain’ – is a pilgrimage shrine and church just outside the northern city of Braga. It’s one of the most famous Portugal landmarks, with an ornate Baroque stairway lined with statues, crowned by the pilgrims’ destination, the twin-towered church at the summit. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2019.
25. Sistelo Terraces, Peneda Gerês National Park
One of the most intriguing Portuguese landmarks lies in the far north of the country, on the fringe of the glorious Peneda Geres National Park. During the 16th century, several series of terraces were dug into the mountainsides to make more cultivable land available and take advantage of the rich fertile upland soil. They are one of the most beautiful landscapes in Europe, and the best of them are to the east of the village of Sistelo.
The newest Portugal landmark on our list only opened the day before I wrote this article. The 516-metre long Arouca Footbridge is the world’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge, carrying walkers 176 metres (576 feet) above the Rio Paiva, a tributary of the larger Rio Douro to the north.
It passes the Aguieiras Waterfall and crosses the dramatic Paiva gorge, and is part of the Arouca Geopark, just to the east of the town of Arouca, an hour south-east of Porto.
David Angel is a British writer and photographer who has been travelling and photographing Europe for over 25 years. His work is regularly featured in worldwide media including the BBC, the Guardian, the Times and the Sunday Times.
I hope you enjoyed this guide on the most famous landmarks in Portugal
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