Sharing the Iberian Peninsula with Spain is the wonderful nation of Portugal. With unparalleled beaches and a mild climate, Portugal is a major vacation destination. It is also the perfect place to explore cities like Lisbon, Funchal and Averio. From magnificent wine to ancient architecture, Portugal is bursting with things to see, do, taste and admire. As you plan your upcoming itinerary, don’t forget any of these famous landmarks in Portugal.
1. Dom Luis Bridge
An iconic landmark in the city of Porto is the Dom Luis Bridge. The bridge leads away from Porto, spanning the waters of the River Douro. The bridge was built in the late 19th century, and it is made with stunning granite pillars as well as an iron framework. It is no wonder that the Dom Luis Bridge is so stunning, since it was built by Gustave Eiffel, the man who famously designed the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The bridge has two levels, but the best views are found on the upper level. Plus, there is pedestrian access on this level, letting you take in views over the river.
2. Benagil Sea Cave
One of the most breathtaking natural landmarks found in Portugal is the Benagil Sea Cave. The sea cave is actually a collection of caves found in Benagil, a small town on the Algarve. These incredible caves are on the water, but there is a natural skylight or oculus that looks up to the sky. That means you can kick back on a boat within the cave, or find a sandy cavern shore, and still get natural light streaming in. This is an amazing experience, and it can only be accessed by a boat or a paddleboard. Guided tours are the safest way to find and then enjoy the Benagil Sea Cave.
3. Pena Palace
Just minutes outside of Lisbon is the city of Sintra, where you’ll find the spectacular Pena Palace. The palace is the epitome of 19th century romantic design, although there are touches of Moorish architectural influence as well. Surrounded by lush green hills, Pena Palace is a place where bright yellow towers contrast with dark sculptures and decorative interiors. For opulence, peek into Queen Amelia’s apartments, where gold and pink dance in incredible luxury. There are exhibitions devoted to stained glass, furniture and paintings, making the palace an all-day adventure.
4. Obidos Castle
In the small town of Obidos in Eastern Portugal, the castle is the highlight. Obidos Castle and its medieval walls surround most of the old city, securing its vantage point on a hilltop. Built in the 8th century and majorly remodeled in the 13th century, this is a truly historic destination and a former Roman settlement. For the last 60 years, Obidos Castle has been a private inn. That means that you can spend the night, getting a taste of castle life for yourself. Many of the rooms have been refurbished, but they retain a style reminiscent of the past.
5. Jeronimos Monastery
Outside of Lisbon in the area known as Belem is the Jeronimos Monastery. Dating back to the Papal commission in the 15th century, this monastery replaced an even older church structure built before it. Jeronimos Monastery was originally the home for Hieronymite monks, but it later became a tomb for members of the Portuguese royal family. Today, the structure is appreciated for its grand design as well as the important international meetings that are held within its walls. If you’re an architecture enthusiast, then be on the lookout for key elements like the double-story cloisters, the elephant sculptures on the sarcophagi and the stunning azulejos tiling found in the refectory.
6. Castle of Sao Jorge
The Castle of Sao Jorge, or St. George’s Castle, is an ancient structure found on a hilltop overlooking the city of Lisbon. Parts of the castle date all the way back to the sixth century, although it wasn’t until the 12th century that it served as a royal residence. Visiting the Castle of Sao Jorge is far more than just touring ancient rooms and bedchambers. You can also climb some of the 18 towers to enjoy amazing views, or you can walk right on top of the ancient ramparts. There are beautiful gardens, an onsite restaurant and even an underground archeology museum.
7. Alcobaca Monastery
The town of Alcobaça is home to the Alcobaça Monastery, an ornate Roman Catholic structure founded in the 12th century. The monastery was built on the request of King Alfonso I, and it is considered to be one of the most beautiful religious buildings in the country. The Gothic monastery has a definite French influence, although it was French troops that famously looted the building in 1810. Today, the Alcobaça Monastery is absolutely worth a visit. You can admire the newer Baroque towers added on in the 18th century, see the decorative vault in the sacristy or see some of the famed tombs. Even the monastic kitchen is an engineering feat, and it is worth a tour.
8. Belem Tower
Torre de Belem, or Belem Tower, is one of the most striking landmarks in the country. Constructed on the banks of the Tagus River back in the 16th century, the tower can clearly be divided into two unique sections. The first is the medieval keep, the tower that is clearly reminiscent of centuries past. There is also the more modern bulwark, where cannons could be shot by the Portuguese military. The interior has sculptural vaulted arches, a number of religious statues and an interesting mix of chapels and military fortifications. Tours are offered multiple times each day, allowing you to explore the tower in full.