This episode of our World Landmarks series focuses on the famous landmarks in Portugal. Portugal is one of the most popular destinations globally. Beautiful cities, lovely beaches, and captivating natural sceneries captivate millions of tourists worldwide to travel to Portugal every year.
Planning a trip to Portugal? Here you’ll find everything you need to know before traveling to Portugal!
Here, we will explore the most famous natural and human-made landmarks in Portugal, from the Douro Valley and Geres National Park to the Monasteries, Castles, and anything else. If you want to learn more about the country, have a look at the things Portugal is famous for and the 30 fun facts about Portugal.
So, without further ados, let’s analyze the most popular Portuguese landmarks.
Famous landmarks in Portugal – Lisbon
Located on the banks of the Tagus River in Belem, Lisbon, the Jeronimos Monastery is the symbol of the Portuguese Age of Discoveries – the golden age of Portuguese history. Annually, it is visited by more than a million people making it one of the most popular landmarks in Portugal. Possibly the most famous landmark in Portugal
The construction of this Portuguese Landmark was long, taking more than 100 years, in the 15th and 16th centuries. Built in a Manueline style, it is considered the highest exponent of this style and the most beautiful monastic structure in the country.
Belem is the Lisbon region where the ships used to depart during the age of discoveries. As one of the most historical and monumental areas, it has some beautiful buildings where the 300-meter intricate facade stands out. However, when visiting Belem, we strongly suggest entering the Monastery and visiting its Manueline church, the 16th-century cloister, the old bookstore, and even the monks’ refectory.
Officially, this monument is named Santa Maria de Belém Monastery and has been a UNESCO heritage site since 1983. Naturally, it was also selected as one of the seven wonders of Portugal.
Relatively close to Jeronimos Monastery, we find another iconic Portuguese landmark, the Belem Tower. Constructed between 1514 and 1519 with a defensive purpose, the tower is now famous for its beauty and historical relevance.
As it was built at about the time of Jeronimos Monastery, it shares with it the Manueline style. Originally the Belem Tower was built on a small island in the Tagus River. Today the tower is on the banks of the river.
Despite being constructed with a defensive utility, the tower is adorned with nationalist motifs, particularly the Portuguese coat of arms and several Crosses of the Order of Christ. Besides this, it also has several animals, knots, ropes, and even Moorish elements.
S. Jorge Castle
São Jorge Castle (Castle of Saint George) is another famous Portuguese landmark in Alfama, Lisbon. It is an almost imperative stop while visiting the Portuguese capital. Located on the top of the highest hill in the city, it provides some of the best views in Lisbon.
Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in Europe, its castle has existed for at least 2000 years. The first fortress dates from the 1st century BC, but it was rebuilt several times by various peoples and has received different names. What we can see today is predominantly medieval, but most of the walls and towers are from the 20th century when the last renovation was made. Prior to that, the castle was in bad shape.
São Jorge Castle is fun to wander around. It is possible to walk on the walls, there are beautiful lookouts to the city and the river, guided tours to the castle, and a particularly interesting archaeological ruins tour where you can see the castle’s different eras, pre-Moorish, and Christian eras.
Baixa Pombalina is the name of Lisbon’s downtown, characterized by long straight streets forming a grid pattern. It is the heart of Lisbon and features neoclassical buildings in wide avenues and plazas.
This modern Lisbon was completely rebuilt after the disastrous earthquake of 1755, which originated with a tsunami and multiple fires. Lisbon was completely destroyed after that day and needed to be reconstructed. Marquis of Pombal was the man in charge and decided to build Lisbon similarly to the European cities of the time, particularly Vienna, Austria.
Baixa Pombalina features several important buildings and plazas that could be considered landmarks, such as Augusta Arch and Street, Rossio and Comercio Plazas, and Santa Justa Lift. Naturally, Baixa Pombalina is one of the best zones in Lisbon, with numerous hotels, bars, cafes, restaurants, and shops.
Pena Palace, Sintra
Constructed on the top of one of the mountains in Sintra, only 30 km from Lisbon, Pena Palace is the crown jewel of Sintra’s monuments. With its strikingly colorful exterior contrasting with the lush green surroundings of the Sintra Natural Park, it awakes feelings of mystery, discovery, and charm.
Pena Palace was the conception of Fernando II. Completed in 1854, it is dubbed the greatest example of romanticism in Portugal and is considered one of the world’s significant examples of 19th-century Romanticism.
Preceding Neuschwanstein in Germany for 30 years, Pena Palace is considered the first modernist palace in Europe. The construction of the Palace used a mix of neo-gothic, neo-Islamic, neo-renaissance, and neo-Manueline styles, as modernist buildings typically did.
The Palace was awarded one of the seven wonders of Portugal, and since 1995 it’s been a UNESCO world heritage site. Naturally, it is one of the most visited landmarks in Portugal.
Quinta da Regaleira
Also located near the historic center of Sintra, Quinta da Regeleira is one of the most popular and insta-friendly landmarks in Portugal. Together with Pena Palace, Monserrate Palace, and the Moors Castle, it has been an element of the UNESCO Heritage Site “Cultural Landscape of Sintra since 1995. Sintra has a lot of beautiful landmarks.
The Regaleira Palace’s main building is marked by its exuberant gothic pinnacle, gargoyles, capitals, and remarkable octagonal tower. Beautiful and luxurious gardens, lakes, grottos, and several enigmatic constructions surround it. Maybe the most famous is the Initiation Well, usually called the “upside-down” tower.
Quinta da Regaleira and its palace are intriguing, evoking Roman, gothic, renaissance, and Manueline styles. Some buildings have enigmatic symbols related to alchemy, money, knights, templar, and the Rosicrucians.
It is said that it is a place to see, contemplate, and, above all, feel. It is not enough to read about it or see pictures, you need to be there.
Portugal’s Famous Landmarks – Porto and the North
Casa da Música / House of Music
Casa da Música is the most recent Portuguese landmark on this list. Designed by the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas it opened to the public in 2005. Initially, it was supposed to open to mark the year when Porto was the European Capital of Culture, 2001, but the construction was delayed several years.
The design of Casa da Música has been internationally acclaimed and compared to the Guggenheim in Bilbao, one of Spain’s most famous landmarks. It is also considered one of the most important concert halls of the last 100 years.
The building has a unique shape of an asymmetrical polyhedron, covered in plaques of white cement and large undulated or plane glass windows. Located in Boavista, it is a nine-floor building that contrasts with the neoclassical order of the surrounding avenues and squares.
Ribeira and D. Luis Bridge
Ribeira is Porto’s historical district by the Douro River. It is famous for its colorful houses on the hill and lined along the river. From Ribeira, you can see the Port wine caves in Gaia on the other side of the Douro River and the D. Luis I Bridge.
The view is lovely and a pleasant place to sit down and have a nice drink. This is one of the best areas to stay in Porto, full of hotels, hostels, bars, restaurants, and everything you would expect. Close by, you have Casa do Infante, the stock market palace, Porto’s Cathedral, and the iconic D. Luis Bridge.
Inaugurated in 1886, D. Luis I Bridge is Porto’s most iconic bridge. With 395 meters long, 8 meters high, and two overlapping iron decks, it is considered the largest forged iron bridge in the world. It was designed by an Eiffel disciple (Theophile Seyrig) and is both an iconic view and a great lookout. We strongly suggest climbing to the upper deck, crossing the river, and enjoying the views.
Located in the heart of Porto, the Clerigo Tower is possibly the most famous landmark in Porto. Constructed in the 17th century, this baroque tower is 76 meters tall, making it the highest building in downtown Porto and one of its most striking attractions.
The Clérigos tower is part of the Clerigos church, which was supposed to have two towers, but only one was constructed. Despite being arduous, we strongly recommend climbing to the top of the tower. After 240 stairs, you’ll reach the top and see one of our favorite lookouts in Porto as you get a fantastic panoramic view of Porto.
If you only want to see the Clérigos Tower, the best option is to go to Cordoaria Gardens and Oliveiras Gardens. Both are ideally located to appreciate the tower and church. Oliveiras Gardens is particularly nice as it has a lovely terrace where you can enjoy the sun and the views.
Combining nature and human ingenuity, the Douro Valley is one of the most notable landscapes in Portugal. The region is characterized by the scenic terraces constructed to make use of the soils and sun-faced slopes of the valley for agricultural production. The perfectly lined vines along the steep slopes make gorgeous views and the ideal backdrop for taking insta-friendly photos.
Considered the oldest regulated wine region in the world, it is also a UNESCO heritage site since 2001. The whole region is huge but very homogeneous, though if we had to choose a specific area to visit, it would be the Amarante and Lamego region.
This area has a fabulous landscape and is accessible in several ways. It is possible to enjoy it on a cruise from Porto or Amarante, on a train ride through the valley to Pocinho, close to the border with Spain, and by a car driving through the region’s winding roads. Several tours include wine tasting and visiting the vineyards.
The Guimarães Castle is where Portuguese history begins. This was the setting of one of the most significant battles in Portuguese history. One that led to the independence of Portugal from Castille.
Constructed during the 10th century to defend the city from attacks from Vikings and Moors, it was expanded several times until becoming a major Portuguese landmark. After the invention of cannons, it was abandoned for centuries, and only in the 20th century was it restored to today’s look.
This is one of the most impressive and well-preserved castles in Portugal. Plus, it is one of the most meaningful in Portuguese history and culture. We advise you to climb the fortifications, imagine the battles fought in this place and watch the city from above.
Bom Jesus do Monte, Braga
Located close to Braga, the Bom Jesus do Monte sanctuary is one of the most beautiful landmarks in Portugal. Constructed during the 18th century, the sanctuary comprises a church, a staircase with a via sacra, a park with a beautiful forest, a funicular, and several hotels.
The sanctuary is one of the most beautiful places in Portugal, but the most striking element is the 500+ steps granite staircase. With a drop of 116 meters and three flights of stairs – Staircase of the Portico, Staircase of the Five Senses, and Staircase of the Three Virtues – it is one of the most symbolic places in northern Portugal.
The image of the granite steps with white painted walls is one of the most popular postcards in the country. In 2019 it was declared a UNESCO heritage site, confirming its relevance in Portuguese and Global heritage.
Other famous landmarks in Portugal
Mafra National Palace
Located in Mafra, relatively close to Lisbon, and perfect for a quick day trip, Mafra National Palace is an exceptional monument constructed in the 18th century. Since 2018, it has been a UNESCO heritage site together with the Ba.silica, Convent, Cerco Garden, and Hunting Park.
With over 1,200 rooms, it is an enormous and fascinating building commissioned by King John V that took only 13 years to build. It is a fine example of Baroque architecture and includes an exceptional collection of artwork, tapestries, and furniture. It includes a massive library, several chapels, and even a hospital. The central courtyard is impressive, with its grand archways and ornate decorations.
Yet, the real highlight of the palace is the library, usually called Joanina Library. Considered one of the most beautiful in the world, it houses over 40 000 books, including rare manuscripts and incunabula. The library room itself is breathtaking, with gilded decorations, floor-to-ceiling shelves, and frescoes depicting the history of science and literature.
The grandeur and beauty of Mafra Palace are breathtaking and provide a fascinating insight into Portugal’s rich cultural heritage, making it one of the must-see landmarks in Portugal for anyone who enjoys art, architecture, or history.
Óbidos is one of the most picturesque and traditional villages in Portugal. Entirely surrounded by medieval walls, the village of Óbidos is a maze of streets and whitewashed houses. It is a pleasure to walk around and enjoy the small squares, the Manueline details, the intricated windows, and its magnificent and well-preserved castle.
Built on top of a small hill, the village has several historical monuments and is well preserved. The scenery in Óbidos is stunning and, therefore, very popular with tourists. Naturally, Óbidos is one of the most beautiful places in Portugal, and its castle and walls are one of the most popular and famous landmarks.
Coimbra’s central institution and most popular tourist attraction, the University of Coimbra, is also one of Portugal’s most important historical landmarks.
This historic site, consisting of the University and the Royal Palace courtyard, was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2013. Its construction spans several centuries, from D. Afonso Henriques in the 12th century to the 16th century.
One of the most prominent features of the University of Coimbra is Paço das Escolas, the central location of the institution. This area boasts several remarkable structures, including the Manueline Portal, the tower, the Latin road, the railway gate, and access to the Capela de S. Miguel and the exquisite Joanina Library.
Paço das Escolas is often considered the city’s hallmark due to its architectural splendor, providing picturesque views of the Mondego River and the lower city.
Convent of Christ in Tomar
The Convent of Christ in Tomar is one of Portugal’s most famous and popular landmarks. Founded in the 12th century by the Knights Templar, it was a stronghold of the order until it was dissolved in the 14th century.
When the Portuguese Templars were turned into the Knights of the Order of Christ, the Convent of Christ and the Castle of Tomar became its headquarters. This Portuguese landmark was central in several moments of the country’s history.
Like many other Portuguese monuments, the convent’s architecture is a fascinating blend of styles. In this case, it includes Romanesque, Gothic, Manueline, and Renaissance. One of the highlights of the Convent of Christ is the “Charola,” a circular church featuring exquisite frescos and a stunning wooden ceiling.
However, the most famous feature is probably “The Chapter Window,” an ornated window that has been called “the most complex and exuberant window in the world” and represents and illustrates the pinnacle of the Manueline style.
While visiting the convent, it is also possible to explore several cloisters and the castle walls and towers, which offer stunning views of the surrounding countryside and the nearby Nabão River.
Batalha Monastery showcases Portugal’s rich cultural heritage and artistic traditions. A visit to this remarkable landmark is a must for anyone interested in history, architecture, or art. The region has many grand buildings that made this list, but if you only have time to visit one, I would suggest Batalha Monastery.
Located in Batalha, about 1 hour from Lisbon, it is perfectly situated for a convenient day trip from Lisbon or as a stop on a Porto to Lisbon itinerary. When entering the monastery, one is struck by the scale and beauty of the building. The Gothic, Manueline, and Renaissance styles blend seamlessly, and the intricate details make it one of the most impressive buildings in Portugal.
The central cloister is particularly impressive, with ornate columns and arches that create a sense of grandeur and elegance. However, our favorite feature is clearly the imperfect chapels featuring incredible attention to detail that is simply breathtaking. They were never finished, but they are perfect just the way they are.
Built to commemorate the decisive victory against Castile in the Battle of Aljubarrota, the construction took over a century, starting in 1386 and ending in 1517, spanning the reign of seven kings. In 1983 it was recognized as a world heritage site by UNESCO.
Alcobaça Monastery is another stunning piece of medieval architecture in Portugal’s central west region. Founded in 1155 by Afonso Henriques (the first king of Portugal), it was constructed through the centuries, from the 12th to the 18th century. In 1989 it earned its UNESCO World Heritage site status because of its historical and cultural importance.
The dominant architectural style is Gothic, and the interior church features intricate stonework, stunning stained glass windows, and impressive vaulted ceilings.
The highlights of a visit to Alcobala monastery include the breathtaking church, the serene cloisters (one of the most beautiful in Portugal), and the royal tombs, all of which offer a glimpse into Portugal’s rich cultural heritage.
However, the most popular feature is undoubtedly the ornate tombs of King Pedro I and his lover Inês de Castro. Their love story and associated legends are some of the most well-known in Portugal. Besides the associated mystical status, the tombs are breathtaking and probably the most ornate in Portugal.
Bones Chapel in Evora
Evora’s city center is a UNESCO heritage site, and it’s full of impressive landmarks, including Evora University, the Roman Temple, Giraldo Square, and the Cathedral. However, the most iconic is possibly the small and sinister bones chapel – exactly because it’s such a macabre and peculiar monument.
Located next to the St. Francis Church, the Bones is a small interior chapel built in the 17th century that would be completely unnoticed if it wasn’t for its gory interior walls. The church’s interior is completely covered and decorated with human bones and skulls.
Three Franciscan monks used about 5000 corpses exhumed from Evora’s medieval cemeteries. They have been arranged in a variety of patterns o create a bizarre and supposedly symbolic interior.
Going to this Portuguese landmark is a very different experience than any other on this list. It is supposed to convey a message of temporariness and fragility of life. This is more obvious when we read at the entrance the following: “We bones that are here, for yours we wait.”
Portugal Landmarks – Islands
Laurel Forest of Madeira
The laurel forest in Madeira, also known as Laurissilva, is the subtropical native forest of Madeira Island. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1999 as it is an outstanding relic of the previously widespread laurel forest that used to cover much of southern Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.
It is believed that it is the largest serving laurel forest, and it is still 90% primary forest. Today, this type of forest can only be found in Madeira, the Azores, and the Canary Islands. It is characterized by its lush, green vegetation and its diverse range of plant species, but it is also home to many birds, reptiles, and other animals.
The laurel forest of Madeira is an ecological treasure and one of the highlights of any trip to Madeira, attracting tourists through its scenic hiking trails, levadas, waterfalls, and beautiful scenery.
Pico Mountain in Azores
Pico is one of the most impressive natural landmarks in Portugal. It is located in the Azores, the highest port in Portugal, at 2,351 meters (7,713 feet).
Pico is a relatively recent stratovolcano with 750 000 years. It is considered a dormant volcano, with its last eruption in 1718, over 300 years ago.
Despite being a hard climb, it is a popular destination for hiking and trekking enthusiasts as it is possible to go to the top on foot, but you need to register at the visitor center and go with a guide.
The lower part of the mountains and surrounding areas are also fascinating, with vineyards and lava fields. The vineyards are particularly well-known as they produce one of the most popular wines in Portugal (known as “verdelho”) and have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Sete Cidades Lagoon
The Sete Cidades lagoon in São Miguel, Azores, is one of Portugal’s most famous natural landmarks. This freshwater lake occupies about 4.5 km2 and has a maximum depth of about 30 meters, but its main feature is the double coloration of its waters.
Although it is just one lagoon, it is crossed by a low bridge, and on one side of the bridge, the water is green, while on the other, it is blue.
This unique characteristic of the Sete Cidades lagoon, combined with the beauty of the surrounding landscape, makes it one of the most beautiful natural landmarks in Portugal and a must-see destination in the Azores.
Natural Landmarks in Portugal
Peneda-Geres National Park
Located in the northernmost region of Portugal, by the Border with Spain, Peneda-Geres National Park is the only Portuguese National Park and a UNESCO Biosphere reserve.
The park is characterized by rugged terrain, with wide valleys, high mountain peaks, and verdant forests. It is one of the best places in Portugal to hike and explore nature.
Geres, as it is usually known, is home to many natural landmarks and attractions, including crystal clear mountain lakes, beautiful waterfalls, stunning lookouts, and obviously hiking trails. But there are also some lovely historic villages, with old monuments.
If you are planning to visit Geres National Park, have a look at your Geres Travel Guide, featuring the best attractions, where to say, and things to do.
Located in the municipality of Lagoa, next to Benagil Beach, the Algar is one of the main natural attractions in the Algarve. It is an icon and brand image of the Algarve in international magazines and, naturally, one of Portugal’s most popular and famous landmarks.
Formed by water and wind erosion, Algar de Benagil is a large dome-shaped cave with a hole in the ceiling that lets in sunlight and creates a stunning visual effect.
The vertical cavity, the two sea entrances forming the beach inside the cave, and the crystal clear water create an enchanting setting and the opportunity to take unique photographs. It is easily one of the most Instafriendly locations in Portugal.
This is truly a unique place in Portugal and the world. The cave can only be accessed from the sea by boat, kayak, or SUP. Many operators from Portimão, Benagil, and other small towns offer tours.
Located about 15 km from Peniche, the Berlengas archipelago is one of Portugal’s natural wonders. Blessed with incredible natural beauty, the Berlengas Islands is a National natural reserve, and it has been a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve since 2011.
As you gaze out at the vast ocean, the Berlengas may look like nothing more than a huge and arid granite rock. However, when we get closer, we see that it has unique fauna and flora, beaches with crystal clear (and cold) waters, ruins of a fort, and several natural caves that attract more and more tourists.
As one of the most beautiful nature destinations in Portugal, it is easy to see why the Berlengas are so appealing to nature enthusiasts and adventurers, but also to people who want to enjoy the views and beautiful sea.
To visit the Berlengas you have to take a boat from Peniche. The trip is often bumpy, but it is worth it. Usually, people visit the Berlengas as a day trip, and it is more than enough to visit the whole island and even do some snorkeling. However, if you want, it is possible to spend the night on the Island.
* Cover Photo by Lusoimages via Depositphotos