Most interesting wonders of Portugal
Below are listed the most amazing natural and man made landmarks of Portugal.
- Pedra da Mua dinosaur tracks – Setúbal. Rich collection of dinosaur footprints from the Upper Jurassic period. It is possible that part of the tracks were left by a herd of dinosaurs.
- Pedreira do Galinha dinosaur tracks – Santarém. Site of well preserved dinosaur trackways from the Middle Jurassic. These are some of the best available tracks with the impressions of feet and hands in great detail. In total here are some 20 tracks over the distance of 140 – 150 m.
- Vale de Meios dinosaur tracks – Santarém. Site of exceptionally well preserved dinosaur trackways from the Middle Jurassic with dozens of trackways.
Other natural landmarks
- Benagil’s Sea Cave – Faro. Unusual natural rock formation – a cave with natural arches and large hole in the roof. Half of the cave is under the sea – thus across the enormous cave is running a beautiful beach.
- Gruta do Almonda – Santarém. Longest known cave in Portugal. Total length of known passages exceeds 14 km.
- Nazaré waves – Leiria. Here are forming giant waves due to the fact that here starts Nazaré Canyon – giant undersea canyon which is up to 5 km deep. Waves are up to 30 m tall.
Man made landmarks
- Almendres Cromlech – Évora. Largest megalithic site in Iberian peninsula, consisting of impressive circular stone settings and separate menhirs. Stones ornamented, developed in 5000 – 4000 BC.
- Great Dolmen of Zambujeiro – Évora. One of the biggest megalithic structures in Iberian peninsula, built in between 4000 – 3000 BC. Structure includes up to 8 m tall pillars and 7 m long coverage slab, now broken.
- Menir da Meada – Portalegre. 7.15 m tall menhir, the largest menhir in Iberian peninsula.
Other prehistoric and antique sites
- Abrigo do Lagar Velho – Leiria. Rock shelter where 24,000 years old remnants of a Cro-Magnon child (Lapedo child) were found. It is possible that he was a hybrid of humans and Neanderthals.
- Castro of Zambujal – Lisbon. Prehistoric fortification, built in the early 3rd millenium BC and also later. Some walls of fortress are up to 4 m tall up to this day.
- Citânia de Briteiros – Braga. Well preserved hill fort from Iron Age (Castro Culture), inhabited since the Bronze Age. This settlement was similar to a small city in the 2nd – 1st century BC, now the ruins take the area of about 24 hectares.
- Conímbriga – Coimbra. Remnants of a large Roman settlement, enclosed with some 1,500 m long stone wall. Settlement evolved since the 9th century BC (Castro culture). Romans gradually took over the town in the 1st century AD and it was important regional center. Destroyed in 465 – 468 AD by Sueves.
- Escoural Cave – Évora. Cave – site of Paleolithic settlement, burials and rock art. Already 50 000 years ago this cave was inhabited by Neanderthals. First drawings were made 40 – 10 thousand years BC. Most of rock art (paintings and engravings) was created in the late Neolithic – Chalcolithic ages, when cave was turned into cemetery and there was fortified settlement in the front of it. As new passages are discovered, more drawings are discovered as well.
- Prehistoric Rock-Art Sites of the Côa Valley – Guarda. Thousands of engravings in the rocks of Côa valley. These drawings have been created since the Paleolithic period (22 – 10 thousand years old), here are depicted humans, geometric figures and animals – bovines, horses and others. Engraving continued also in later times, up to the 20th century. One of the biggest sites of Paleolithic art in the world. Engravings are found in 28 sites.
Historical cities and towns
- Évora – Évora. Well preserved medieval city, with part of fortification walls around it. Here are numerous medieval structures including a fountain in Renaissance style (1570), Jesuit college (1559) and numerous other structures.
- Guimarães – Braga. Historical city – a place where the contemporary nation of Portugal was born in the 12th century. Numerous medieval buildings have been preserved.
- Lisbon Baixa (Baixa Pombalina) – Lisbon. One of the first earthquake resistant, planned cities with a rectangular grid of streets. This beautiful city area was built after the 1755 earthquake and includes many innovations in urban planning.
- Marvão – Portalegre. Historical town with fortifications on the top of prominent granite hill. Beautiful views open from the town.
- Monsaraz – Évora. Fortified medieval town, built in the top of hill. Settlement here has existed since the Neolithic. Current planning was shaped mostly in the 13th century. Most of the buildings in this town have historical values.
- Porto historical centre (Oporto) – Porto. Beautiful historical city at the right bank of Douro River. City evolved since the Roman times and most likely gave the name to country of Portugal. The unique cityscape is defined by steep slopes at Douro, densely built historical structures, nearby ocean and impressive bridges.
- Sintra – Lisbon. Historical town in beautiful hills. In Sintra are located numerous beautiful buildings – numerous palaces and estates. Most impressive ones are the Pena National Palace, Castle of the Moors and the Sintra National Palace.
- Belém Tower – Lisbon. Fortified tower at the medieval port of Lisbon, part of a defense system at the gateways of the Tagus River. Built around 1515 – 1519 in the Late Gothic (Manueline) style.
- Castle of the Moors – Lisbon, Sintra. Enormous medieval castle on the top of hill, overlooking Sintra. It was built in the 8th – 9th centuries by Muslims. Captured by Christians in 1147. Very impressive are the long outer walls of castle.
- Castle of Silves – Faro. One of the best preserved Moorish castles in Portugal. Castle has been here since the Roman times (the early 3rd century AD). Present castle was built mostly in the 12th – 13th centuries.
- Elvas star forts – Portalegre. One of the best preserved start forts in the world, the largest dry ditch fort in the world. Whole garrison town of Elvas is surrounded by sophisticated star fort, there are several more star forts on the hilltops around the town. Fortifications were built in the 17th – 19th century. Elvas itself is a beautiful, nearly intact historical town.
- Guimarães Castle – Braga. Impressive castle, built in the 10th century as a protection against the attacks of Moors and Normans.
- Monte Mozinho castle – Porto. Remnants of large, Roman built castle which was constructed in the 1st century AD. Castle was protected behind a system of three walls.
- São João Baptista Fort – Leiria, Berlengas Islands. Impressive fort which takes full area of small islet – former site of monastery. Fort was built sometimes around 1651 – 1678.
- Mafra National Palace and Basilica – Lisbon. Enormous palace – monastery, built in Baroque style in 1717 – 1730. During its construction this was by far the most ambitious project in the country, involving up to 45 thousand workers. Palace and monastery have more than 1,200 rooms, facade is 220 m long. Highlight of the palace complex is the gorgeous library in Rococo style.
- Monserrate Palace – Lisbon, Sintra. Summer palace of Portuguese court, rebuilt in Moghul style in 1858. Palace has Eclectic, sumptuous design.
- Palácio da Bolsa – Porto. Public building, built for representation purposes by Commercial Association. Exterior of palace has austere Neo-Classical style but the interior is exuberant. Built in 1842 – 1910.
- Pena National Palace – Lisbon, Sintra. Hilltop castle, for most part built in the 19th century, One of most beautiful and scenic castles in the world, built in Romanticism style. Beautiful park around the castle with numerous exotic plants, including numerous tree ferns from Australia and New Zealand.
- Queluz National Palace – Lisbon. One of the last great Rococo palaces in Europe, built in 1747 – 1792. Palace has exquisite, sophisticated interior, some rooms have exuberant ornamentation.
- Quinta da Regaleira and its gardens – Lisbon, Sintra. Ornate palace in Romantic style. Notable is the garden with numerous unusual structures – grottoes, wells, fountains and other structures. Garden architecture contains numerous references to mysterious symbols. There is extensive system of tunnels as well as two Initiation Wells which were used for mysterious rituals.
- Sintra National Palace – Lisbon, Sintra. Best preserved royal palace in Portugal, used from the early 15th century to the late 19th century. Notable feature of the castle are the tall chimneys of kitchen.
- Bom Jesus do Monte – Braga. Impressive shrine, built in Baroque style in 1722 – 1725 and later. Most impressive is the 116 m high stairway to the summit. On the top is built church in Neo-Classical style (1784 – 1834).
- Cathedral of Braga – Braga. Large, significant cathedral. Construction of the present building started in 1071 and in the later times cathedral has been rebuilt and extended. Now it unites Romanesque, Gothic, Manueline and Baroque styles.
- Cathedral of Évora – Évora. Massive Gothic cathedral, for most part built in 1280 – 1340.
- Chapel of São Pedro de Balsemão – Viseu. One of the oldest Christian churches in Western Europe, built in the 7th century (or later, in the 9th – 10th century) by Visigoths.
- Church of Santa Engrácia – Lisbon. Beautiful church in Baroque style, built in 1682 – 1712 and finished in 1966. In the 20th century the church was turned into a National Pantheon and many important personalities have been buried here.
- Church of São Francisco in Évora and Chapel of Bones – Évora. Gothic church, built in 1475 – 1550ies. Chapel of Bones is adorned with numerous human skulls and bones from some 5000 people. At the entrance is written in Latin: "We bones that here are, for yours await".
- Church of São Francisco in Porto – Porto. This Franciscan church has one of most decorated interiors in Europe. Gothic church was built in 1383 – around 1425. In the first half of the 18th century the interior was lavishly covered with gold embellishments in Baroque style.
- Clérigos Church and Torre dos Clérigos – Porto. Ornate Baroque church with separate bell tower which is 75.6 m high. The tower is one of symbols of city.
- Porto Cathedral – Porto. One of most important Romanesque buildings in this region of Europe. Cathedral was built in 1110.
- Sanctuary of Fátima – Santarém. Site where in 1916 took place apparitions of Virgin Mary. Apparitions repeatedly were seen by three local children. Now here is located an important pilgrimage site with enormous church – Basilica of Nossa Senhora de Rosário and other structures.
- Sanctuary of Our Lady of Remédios – Viseu. Impressive shrine with zig-zagging stairway, influenced by Bom Jesus do Monte. Built in 1750.
- Silves Cathedral – Faro. Significant Gothic structure. It is possible that initially here was Moorish mosque. Cathedral was built in the middle of the 13th century – 1470ies.
- Alcobaça Monastery – Leiria. Cistercian monastery established in 1153, enormous and beautiful complex of buildings, earliest example of Gothic architecture in Portugal.
- Batalha Monastery – Leiria. Beautiful structure of Dominican convent, built in Late Gothic style in 1386 – ˜1517. One of the greatest Gothic structures.
- Convent of Christ in Tomar – Santarém. Medieval fortification – religious building, constructed by Knights Templar sometimes around 1160 AD, their headquarters in Portugal. One of the best examples of Manueline style in architecture. Convent consists of a massive castle, round church and eight cloisters, all surrounded by fortification wall. Especially impressive and interesting is the round church – Convent church with its opulent interior. Knights Templar had profound importance on the Age of Discovery which to a large extent was started by Portugal.
- Jerónimos Monastery – Lisbon. One of most beautiful buildings in Portugal, Hieronymite monastery from 1450, built in 1552 in Manueline style, richly decorated.
- Monastery of Jesus of Setúbal – Setúbal. One of the earliest examples of the Manueline style (a kind of Renaissance architecture). Founded in 1490.
- Botanical Garden of the University of Coimbra – Coimbra. Gorgeous botanical garden, area 13 ha. This garden was set in 1772-1774 and contains numerous exotic plants which sometimes have reached significant size.
- Serra do Buçaco – Aveiro. Woodlands and park around a Carmelite monastery, which was founded in 1628. In the park grow hundreds of species of exotic trees which often have reached giant size.
- 25 de Abril Bridge – Lisbon. Enormous suspension bridge, built in 1962 – 1966. Bridge is 2,278 m long and has two floors. Design of this bridge is based on the design of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, US.
- Dom Luís I Bridge – Porto. Impressive metal arch bridge with 172 m long central span which was the longest in the world at the time of construction, in 1881 – 1887. Bridge has upper and lower decks. Total length is 385.25 m.
- Roman Bridge in Chaves – Vila Real. Rather well preserved Roman bridge, built at the end of the 1st century AD – early 2nd century AD. Bridge is 140 m long and has 12 arches.
- Vasco da Gama Bridge – Lisbon. Longest bridge in Europe, 17.2 km long and up to 45 m high. Built in 1995 – 1998.
- Águas Livres Aqueduct – Lisbon. 18 km long aqueduct, built in 1731 – 1748. Tallest arches are up to 65 m tall.
- Amoreira Aqueduct (Elvas Aqueduct) – Portalegre. Very impressive aqueduct, 6 – 7 km long and up to 40 m high. Aqueduct was built in the early 15th century – 1622.
Other man made landmarks
- Biblioteca Joanina – Coimbra. Ornate university library, built in Baroque style in the 18th century. Interior of library ir adorned with gilded and painted wood.
- Buçaco Palace (hotel) – Aveiro. Opulent building of a hotel in the woodlands of Buçaco. Hotel was built in 1888 – 1907 in Neo-Manueline style.
- Casa do Penedo – Braga. House built between two giant stones in 1972 – 1974.
- Domus Municipalis in Bragança – Bragança. Unusual structure in Romanesque style, built sometimes around 1250. According to some accounts it was built as a municipality hall with cistern below it.
- Lello Bookstore – Porto. One of the most beautiful bookstores in the world, rebuilt in its present shape in 1906. The sophisticated interior of bookshop is one of the most iconic examples of Art Nouveau style.
- Roman Temple of Évora – Évora. Remnants of Roman temple which was devoted to Diana, goddess of Moon. One of the most significant monuments of Roman and Lusitanian cultures. Built in the 1st century AD.
Described wonders of Portugal
The country at the far end of Europe has in many ways developed its own style. Portugal has especially rich cultural heritage, such as:
- Historical cities. Very interesting are the two metropolises of Portugal – Lisbon and Porto. Each of these cities demonstrates innovations in urban planning as well as a wealth of local cultural traditions. Nonetheless there are other very interesting historical cities – Sintra – the city of palaces, Évora, Guimarães and others.
- Palaces. For long centuries Portugal was rich colonial state and it shows in the ornate, rich architecture. Here are many fine palaces which demonstrate outstanding architecture, such as Pena National Palace – one of the most spectacular palaces in the world, Mafra National Palace or the mysterious Quinta da Regaleira.
Autonomous regions of Portugal
Featured: Batalha Monastery
Batalha Monastery is not just a monastery – it is a lot more than this, a monument to the unity of nation and union with England, an expression of the power of Aviz dynasty and above all – a wonderful monument of architecture and art.
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Portugal is your in-depth guide to this beautiful country. Explore the magnificent Jerónimos Monastery, sample some wine in Porto, and discover the best beaches, scenic routes, markets, and festivals the country has to offer.
Tour Lisbon’s cobbled lanes, cruise the Douro River, and soak up the sun on Algarve beaches: with Rick Steves on your side, Portugal can be yours!