The best castles in Portugal to visit

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Marvão Castle
16 September 2021, Redaction

Autumn 2021 is just around the corner and this season is one of the best times to discover the history of Portugal. The cooler weather and the bare ground create the perfect setting to visit the ancient architectural wonders on offer in the country, where these is much more to see than just beautiful beaches and coastline. If you are looking for original destinations in Portugal this autumn, then this list of the best castles in Portugal to visit is perfect for you.

You may have already heard of Guimarães castle, one of Portugal's best known fortresses, but here are 5 other must-visit Portuguese castles, so that you can plan your next holiday in Portugal around the fascinating history of this country.

Arraiolos Castle

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Façade of the Castelo de Arroiolos
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On the outskirts of Évora, in the heart of the Alentejo region of Portugal, is a tiny village called Arraiolos. This village is famous for its gastronomy and handmade carpets, but also presents visitors with a must-see monument, a castle.

The Castle of Arraiolos is unique because it is one of the few circular castles in the world. It is located at the top of the São Pedro hill and at a height of 410 metres and has a 360-degree view of the Alentejo horizon. Inside the castle is the Igreja Matriz do Salvador, a historic church which has decoration consisting mainly of frescoes.

And there is a list of castles in Portugal in this region. Here you can also visit the castles of Évora Monte, Viana do Alentejo and Monsaraz. If you're planning to visit the best Portuguese castles, then these three aren't to be missed.

Castle of Leiria

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The Castelo de Leiria seen from Encarnação
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When it comes to history, Leiria is full of surprises. 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 Castle of Leiria is the main attraction in the city. Its history tells of numerous battles that have defined the Portuguese borders over the years, and its architecture continues to be the studied by historians to this day. The castle has recently undergone restoration work and guided tours are now available from Tuesday to Saturday between 10am and 2pm.

Elsewhere in the district of Leiria, Óbidos also deserves a special mention and is fully open for visits. 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, or even head to its famous chocolate festival.

Marvão Castle

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Castle gardens
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The historical importance of the village of Marvão is mostly due to its impressive rocks, and since the Roman era it has been considered an essential strategic point. This imposing castle is found in the Serra de São Mamede Natural Park. In an area of unparalleled beauty with stunning natural surroundings, the real attraction 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 worth visiting that shares the same name.

Tomar Castle

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Castle of the Knights Templar and the Convento de Cristo
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If you're looking for a castle in Portugal near Lisbon, you need to visit the town of Tomar where you can visit one of the most impressive monuments in the country.  Here, you can visit this unique Templar castle in Portugal, as well as the most famous convent in the country, a must-see destination for any history lover.

Construction of Tomar Castle began in 1160 and has stood out since then thanks to architectural innovations by the Templars. 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 that were built on the Tagus Line during the period of the Reconquista. Of the remaining castles that are still standing today, Almourol castle stands out as a must visit. It was built on an island in the Tagus River, creating a breathtaking image that you can’t afford to miss on your next trip to Portugal.

São Jorge Castle

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Façade of the Castle of St. George, Lisbon
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While it is a cosmopolitan city which is becoming more and more modern, Lisbon has lot of history to tell and the Castelo de São Jorge, or Saint George’s Castle, represents the medieval past of the capital. This castle, named in honour of the patron saint of knights and crusaders, Saint George (also the patron saint of England), stands at the top of the city's hills and delights its visitors with the best views in Lisbon.

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

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