5 famous castles in Portugal to visit

Almourol Castle, Portugal / Wikimedia commons
Almourol Castle, Portugal / Wikimedia commons
25 September 2019, Redaction

There is no better time than this time of year to discover the history of Portugal. The cool weather and the bare ground create the perfect setting to visit the ancient architectural wonders. You may have already heard of Guimarães castle, but here are five other Portuguese fortresses that you should visit as soon as you have the opportunity.

Check out this list of Portuguese castles and plan your next holiday in Portugal around the fascinating history of this country.

Arraiolos Castle

Façade of the Castelo de Arroiolos / Wikimedia commons
Façade of the Castelo de Arroiolos / Wikimedia commons

On the outskirts of Évora, in the heart of the Alentejo region of Portugal, is a tiny village called Arraiolos. This village, famous for its gastronomy and handmade carpets, also presents us with an unusual monument.

The Castle of Arraiolos is one of the few circular castles in the world. It is located at the top of the São Pedro hill, and has a 360-degree view of the Alentejo horizon. Inside the castle is the Igreja Matriz do Salvador church, which has an interior decoration consisting mainly of frescoes.

Also, in the region is the Évora Monte castle, the Viana do Alentejo castle and the Monsaraz castle. If you're planning to visit the best Portuguese castles, these three are can't be missed.

Leiria Castle

The Castelo de Leiria seen from Encarnação / Wikimedia commons
The Castelo de Leiria seen from Encarnação / Wikimedia commons

When it comes to history, Leiria has it all. Not only because of the hydrographical basin of the Lis River, which is one of the areas with the highest density of archaeological finds in the country, but also because of its medieval history.

The Leiria castle is the city's main attraction and receives more than 50,000 visits from tourists every year. Its history tells of several battles that have defined the Portuguese borders over the years, and its architecture continues to be the studied by historians.

Elsewhere in the district of Leiria, Óbidos deserves a special mention. Protected by the ancestral walls of the local castle, this picturesque town is well worth a visit to discover its amazing history, and you can stop for a delicious glass of ginjinha liqueur while you’re there.

Marvão Castle

Castle gardens / Wikimedia commons
Castle gardens / Wikimedia commons

The historical importance of the village of Marvão is mostly due to its rocks, and since the Roman era it has been considered an essential strategic point. The Serra de São Mamede Natural Park is in this region and on the northern slope of the mountain is the Marvão castle.

Built in an area of unparalleled beauty, the real attraction of this Portuguese castle is the spectacular medieval village surrounded by its walls. Relatively close to Marvão is the parish of Alter do Chão, which also has another castle that shares the same name.

Tomar Castle

Castle of the Knights Templar and the Convento de Cristo / Wikimedia commons
Castle of the Knights Templar and the Convento de Cristo / Wikimedia commons

For a castle in Portugal near Lisbon, go to the town of Tomar where you can visit one of the most impressive monuments in the country – a Templar castle in Portugal that is joined to the most famous national convent. Construction of the Tomar castle began in 1160 and has stood out since then thanks to the architectural innovations of the Knights Templar. At the same time, they built the Convent of Christ, considered a masterpiece in terms of the Manueline style of Portuguese late Gothic architecture.

This castle is just one of the many built on the Tagus Line during the Reconquista period. Of the remaining castles that still stand today, the Almourol castle stands out. It was built on an island in the Tagus River, creating an epic image that you can’t afford to miss.

São Jorge Castle

Façade of the Castle of St. George, Lisbon / Wikimedia commons
Façade of the Castle of St. George, Lisbon / Wikimedia commons

While it is a cosmopolitan city, Lisbon also has a lot of history and the Castelo de São Jorge, or Saint George’s Castle, represents the medieval history of the capital. This castle, named in honour of the patron saint of knights and crusaders, who is also the patron saint of England, stands at the top of the city's hills and rewards its visitors with the best views of the city.

Conquered by Don Afonso Henriques in the 12th century, it would become the royal residence a century later, thus becoming one of the most important monuments in Lisbon. When you plan your visit to the Portuguese capital, don't miss out on what is possibly the most famous castle in Portugal.

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