7 Wonders of Portugal you must see
Scientists and historians have compiled a classic list of the seven ancient wonders of the world. Different countries make their own rankings of amazing places. Here and Portugal has such a list of seven wonderful places. In front of you is a plan for at least a week.
1. Jerónimos Monastery, Jerónimos
Jerónimos Monastery on the outskirts of Belém
The Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Monastery of Mosteiro dos Jerónimos) is located in Lisbon, in the suburb of Belém. This monastery is considered to be the greatest monument of Portugal. The openwork architectural complex is called “a hymn to the Manueline style”.
The first stone of Geronimos was laid in 1501, under the direction of Diogo di Boitac. Architectural fashions changed, the project was handed over to new architects. Construction was completed in the XVII century, and in 1755 the monastery safely survived the great Portuguese earthquake. In the XIX century there was a reconstruction.
The exterior and decoration of the monastery church is dominated by the Manueline and Plateresque styles, and features of Mannerism are preserved. The great Vasco de Gama is buried in Jerónimos. Read more about the monastery →
2. the Tower of Belém
The Tower of Belem – a historical symbol of Portugal
The graceful Torre de Belem stands above the Tagus River, opposite Jerónimos, and forms a unified ensemble with the lace facades of the cloister. The 35-meter high fortress of Torre de Belem was built in 1515-21. It served as a defensive fortress for Lisbon harbor and as a landmark for sailors leaving their home shores. The Belém Tower has become a symbol of Lisbon and a UNESCO-worthy example of the Manueline style.
In the 19th century the romantic fort was restored with an artificial lake around it. The top was equipped with an observation deck and inside there was a museum. Today Torri di Belen is accessible to tourists. Learn more about the tower →
3. the Monastery of Batalha
The abode of Santa Maria da Vitoria was not called Mosteiro da Batalha for nothing. It was built in honor of the famous “battle” – the Battle of Aljubarrot (1385). The victory over the Castilians meant a lot to João I and the whole Portuguese kingdom. The king vowed to build a grandiose monastery and kept his promise.
The monastery of Batalha is a combination of late Gothic and Manueline style. Construction, begun in 1386, was long: fifteen architects took on the project, succeeding one another. The Abbey survived a natural disaster, a military invasion and oblivion. The restoration began in 1840. It lasted until the beginning of the last century, but it was not fully completed: the rotunda-shaped pantheon, called Capelas Imperfeitas (Unfinished Chapels), was left without a dome. Read more about the monastery of Batalha →
4. The Monastery of Alcobas
The Cistercian abbey founded by Afonso Henriques in 1153 was the first Gothic monastic complex in Portugal. The Abbey of Saint Mary (Mosteiro de Santa Maria de Alcobaça) expanded over the centuries, acquiring features of different styles of architecture. The monastery cathedral was built in Gothic style, but the main façade was reconstructed in the 18th century and acquired Baroque features. The cloister is in the Manueline style.
In the basilica there are two tombstones from the 14th century: the sarcophagi of Pedro I and of the dead unrecognized queen, Inês de Castro. The carved white marble tombstones set in the transept of the monastery church are considered an outstanding work of Portuguese Gothic art and a monument to the king’s great love. Read more about the monastery of Alcobaça →
5. Obidos Castle City
Obidos Castle – “City of Kings” (photo: Francisco Aragão)
The jagged stone walls on a green hill look like an illustration to a romantic fairy tale. Beyond them lies Obidos, a medieval fortress city, a former royal residence and a national monument.
The first walls began to be built in the 12th century. Each ruler until the end of the 14th century built new fortifications. The fortifications and the palace were damaged by the elements in 1775, they were destroyed by Napoleon’s troops during the invasion of 1808.
The urban ensemble of Obidos was rebuilt in the twentieth century. The Castelo de Óbidos has become a tourist center, a kind of museum. Behind the massive walls are snow-white houses, the temple of Santa Maria, ancient squares and museums. A hotel is open in the restored castle. Read more about Obidos →
6. The Royal Castle of Guimaraes
Guimarães Castle, birthplace of Portugal’s first king (Photo: Hector Terrer)
The Castelo de Guimarães, founded in 959, was the birthplace of Afonso I in July 1109. Originally there was a single donjon tower with a rectangular wall. Over the centuries the castle was expanded and became a strong defensive complex. In XV century Guimarainges for a long time abandoned: for the defense it was no longer suitable, and about the cultural heritage of the time people did not care.
In 1881 the castle was given the status of a monument, and later it was extensively restored, supplemented with stairs and a suspension bridge, and opened to tourists. Read more about the castle →
7. The Palace of Pena
On a hill above the fairytale town of Sintra stands the Palácio Nacional da Pena. The bright walls play with colors against the background of velvety greenery, the domes reflecting the sun’s rays. The exotic architecture of the castle is both astonishing and awe-inspiring.
On the scale of history, Pena can be called a “new-made”. In 1840 a grandiose castle with a romantic park was built on the site of an abandoned ancient monastery. It was commissioned by Ferdinand II and built by the German architect Wilhelm Eschwege. He combined Moorish and medieval knightly styles, and added Manueline features. Elements of the old monastery were also preserved. Today the Pena Palace welcomes tourists, and the interior rooms are also open to the public.
Check out my report on my visit to Pena Palace. See the report here →
7 Wonders of Portugal on a map
How do I organize my trip to Portugal?
Before I start telling you about the must see, a little bit of organizing. Using my Lowcost.pro service we can find the cheapest flights, for example tickets to Lisbon cost about 10 000 rubles.
Then we go to Hotellook and look for hotels along the route.
Travel between points by rented car (compare prices from local car rental companies on economybookings), or compose a route by public transport using my Ispaniagid Routes planner. At the end of the article you will find a map of all points.
The magic of Portugal – why to visit Lisbon, what Porto is famous for
As a child, every year a trip to the sea was associated with the best days of the year. All year long you anticipate two or three weeks at the Black Sea. It so happens that most people prefer “sea” tourism. Often you hear from a friend/colleague/relative the cherished phrase: “I want to go to the sea”, but for some reason you rarely meet a person who mentions “ocean” instead of the familiar “sea”. But the ocean is something worth seeing. The ocean has a special energy and power. And one of the countries, which can boast the presence of the ocean “next door” is hospitable and beautiful Portugal!
The capital of Portugal: Lisbon
The capital of Portugal is Lisbon. Lisbon has an atmosphere of freedom and happiness. Lisbon is meant to inspire. Lisbon is a “muse city” for artists. Once there, you will definitely want to return.
But what is the beauty of Portugal’s capital? Why is it worth to visit this city at least once in your life? What is its uniqueness? And does Lisbon have access to the ocean?
Lisbon – the “City of Muses” more
I cannot get tired of saying that Lisbon is a city meant to inspire. Walking along the waterfront of the river Tagus, you meet street artists selling their sketches of the main panoramas of the city, local musicians playing fado accompanied by a guitar. Walking a little to the left of Place de la Commerce, you notice an elderly man assembling unusual figurines of people from stones. He expertly places stone upon stone, finding a point of balance in a matter of seconds, obtaining the figure of a plump little man. Everywhere the energy of creation and creativity triumphs.
When planning a visit to Lisbon, it is worth remembering that the city is located on three hills. So it is important to take a pair of sneakers or other comfortable shoes, and high-heeled shoes should be left for a more suitable occasion. Walking around Lisbon is a real cardio workout, you have to go up and down. The city is filled with a lot of cobblestone stairs, so if it rains, you must be extremely careful not to slip and fall.
One of the hallmarks of Lisbon are the houses, the facade of which is lined with tiles called azulejo. There is a desire to capture every house with azulejo, due to the variety of house facades, patterns on the tiles. Originally, azulejo included two primary colors: blue and white. Now the famous Portuguese tiles can contain shades of other colors – green, yellow, red, brown and others. The facade of the first house is in mono-color, the second abounds in different colors, and the third is a picture of two men sitting at a table. A veritable abundance of color!
About the food
The food in Portugal is seafood, fish, vegetables, fruits. Flipping through a guidebook about Lisbon, you read about local Portuguese dishes such as bacalhau, caldo verde, feijoada, but residents are more likely to be found eating grilled fish along with fried potatoes than a dish from the guidebook. So the best thing for a tourist is to head to a small tavern that is popular with the locals, order fresh seafood with a glass of wine verde (trying wine verde is a must), and enjoy the pleasant atmosphere around.
About graffiti in Lisbon
Lisbon seems to have been taken over by street artists. Graffiti is everywhere: houses, streetcars, kiosks, even trains and funiculars are painted. But it’s not ugly vandalism – it’s the atmosphere of the city. There are streets and houses with works of art. At such moments, you feel that Lisbon is a museum of modern art in the open air.
Conclusions about Lisbon
You shouldn’t expect a classic all-inclusive vacation from Lisbon. It takes climbing stairs, walking at a steep angle, and feeling the pain of blisters on your right foot, but Lisbon is worth the effort to see it and experience the atmosphere of this wonderful city.
Portugal and the Ocean
But you will say, “Yes, Lisbon is extremely interesting, but what about the promised ocean? Why not a word about it?”. A little patience. As mentioned earlier, walking in the center of Lisbon you can only admire the Tagus River, which flows into the . *drum roll* ocean! Therefore, walking in the center of Lisbon you cannot see the ocean, but getting on the train, which is one of the most comfortable and developed modes of transport in Portugal, for 20 minutes you can get to the great and mighty Atlantic Ocean.
A little about Porto, the “northern capital” of Portugal
Another popular among tourists and not only in Portugal is Porto. The city is three hundred kilometers from the capital of Portugal. Porto sights of the historic center of Porto are included in the World Heritage List of UNESCO. Porto is not inferior to Lisbon. It is also visited by thousands of tourists every year. Many tourists prefer to combine both cities in one trip.
Porto is called the capital of the Portuguese north. Porto, like Lisbon, is located at the mouth of the river. Only not the Tagus River, but the Douro River. (For some reason I am reminded of the fish Dory, but not the point.)
I assume that for many people the city of Porto is known as the birthplace of port wine. But that’s not the only thing that makes gastronomic Porto unique. It is believed that the best restaurants in Portugal are located precisely in the “northern capital. And, by the way, according to many tourists, Porto is even “more interesting” than Lisbon. But concerning the question I will not argue. As the saying goes: “For taste and color there is no comrade”.
About other places in Portugal
Of course, Portugal is not only the two main tourist cities the capital Lisbon and Porto. Portugal is rich in special places – Sintra (a must visit), Coimbra, Lagos, Aveiro, Braga, Obidos (also a must visit), and the lovely spicy eternal spring of Madeira. Did you know that the increasingly popular Azores are also part of Portugal? “An archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean occupied by Portugal’s autonomous region of the same name,” is what Wikipedia says about Azores.
How to get to Sintra and to Obidos
Since I advised to visit these two cities. I will add how to get to Sintra and to Obidos from Lisbon.
You can get to Sintra by train, which leaves from the main station Rossio. You can not be too attached to the schedule, as the interval of movement is only half an hour. You can buy a ticket at the ticket office, in the terminal and in the mobile application Comboios de Portugal. Once there, I recommend taking the 434 tourist bus, which passes through all the main attractions. You can also combine a trip to Sintra with a visit to Cape Roca. (Western point of Europe, one of the most beautiful, but windy places, keep in mind!)
Obidos is a unique medieval town, which can also be easily reached from the Portuguese capital. To do so, take the metro station Campo Grande. Once out of the metro, find the bus Rapida Verde 788. You can also take the train, but the bus is about an hour and a half faster. Therefore, I recommend it.
Conclusions (briefly and concisely)
Portugal is a stunning and unique country with a concentration of natural and architectural attractions. If you have not even thought about and dreamed of a trip to this amazing country until now, now is the time!