In 2007, Portuguese people were given the chance to choose the seven wonders of Portugal from a selection of 21 National Monuments around the country. The contest was supported by the Ministry of Culture and it became the unofficial bucket list for travelers coming to Portugal for the first time.
Tower of Belém
This is probably the most famous monument in Portugal. Located in Lisbon, the Tower of Belém was built in the early 16th century by King D. Manuel I to protect the entrance of the Tagus River but because of the incredible beauty of the structure, also to impress visitors and show the power and wealthy of the Portuguese during the beginning of the Age of Discoveries.
The architecture style is very unique and it was known as the Portuguese Gothic but later historians named it “Manueline Style” (because of the king’s name). It’s a richly ornate architecture style, with sculptures and details related to maritime, nature and religious elements, carved in limestone. It has influences from different styles, such as Gothic, Mudejar, Renaissance and Plateresque.
The Tower of Belém was included in UNESCO’s World heritage Site list in 1983 and is one of the most visited sites in Portugal.
The second wonder of Portugal located in Lisbon, the Jerónimos Monastery took 100 years to be ready and was idealized by king D. Manuel I. He wanted to be buried in the premises and the church became the mausoleum for his decedents. The monks living in the monastery should provide help and host sailors in need. The massive structure was also built in Manueline Style and is considered to be one it’s finest examples.
The church is one of the most beautiful ones in Europe, with its richly decorated pillars and ceiling. By the altar and on both sides, you’ll see the tombs of the members of the Dynasty of Avis (the dynasty that ruled Portugal between 1385 and 1580).
At the back there are another two tombs. One belongs to Vasco da Gama, the most famous navigator in Portuguese history and the other one belongs to Luís de Camões, the most important Portuguese Poet, author of the epic poem “Os Lusíadas”.
The Jerónimos Monastery was included in UNESCO’s World heritage Site list in 1983.
Located in Sintra, an UNESCO Cultural Landscape Site, the Pena Palace is characterized as being the first palace in Europe built in Romantic Style. In 1838, Kind Ferdinand II (who was married to the Portuguese Queen D. Maria II) acquired an old monastery and all of the surrounding lands and started the transformation of its remains into his personal Palace.
The construction took place between 1842-1854 and the king intervened on matters of decoration, suggesting vault arches, medieval and Islamic elements to be included and the main façade. It has some similarities with some other famous constructions in Lisbon with the mix of Arabic, Indian, Gothic and Manueline styles.
The park area has over 200 hectares of uneven terrain. It has trees from all over the world and it has a labyrinth system of paths and narrow roads connecting the palace to the many points of interest.
Located in the municipality of Alcobaça, the largest church in Portugal started to be built in 1178 by the first king of Portugal, D. Afonso Henriques, who donated the lands of the surrounding areas to Cistercian monks after the conquest of the region from the Moors.
The main church was completed in 1223 but additional features were added over the centuries and totally remodeled in the Baroque Style in the 18th century, except for the doorway, that remains in the original Gothic style. It was included in UNESCO’s World heritage Site list in 1989.
Inside the central nave of the church are the tombs of King Pedro I and Inês de Castro, who were responsible for the most famous love story in Portuguese history. They lay feet facing each other so that come Judgment Day, the first thing they would see when reawake was their beloved one.
The Batalha Monastery was built in 1386 to celebrate the victory of the Portuguese army over the Castilians in the Battle of Aljubarrota in 1385. With a mix of Gothic and Manueline architecture, this massive complex was added by UNESCO to its list of World Heritage Sites in 1983.
Construction lasted over two centuries, spanning the reign of seven kings (from 1386 to 1517) and by the imposing construction, it seems money wasn’t a problem but in the end, the monastery was never finished.
The highlights of the complex are the Founder’s Chapel, a Royal Pantheon where the main tombs are the ones of King João I, his wife D. Philippa of Lancaster and their four sons, the most famous one being Henry the Navigator, the father of the discoveries, the Unfinished Chapels, the Chapter House and the Royal Cloister.
Castle of Óbidos
The historical area and the castle are located inside an ancient wall that was originally built by the Moors in the 8th century and the castle as we see today was largely built by King D. Dinis I in the 14th century. To wonder around its streets with whitewashed houses with terracotta roofs and cobbled alleyways makes you feel like you’re back to the Middle Ages.
One feature you shouldn’t miss is the Porta da Vila, the main gateway to the village with its wonderful tiles and the opportunity to try the famous Ginjinha de Óbidos, a famous liquor made out of “ginja”, a sour cherry typical from the region, infused in aguardente (fire water), sugar and cinnamon.
Castle of Guimarães
The only wonder located in the North of Portugal. Guimarães is known as the birthplace of Portugal and its first King, D. Afonso Henriques. It was the first capital of the country and its castle is one of the finest in Portugal. It was built in the 10th century on the top of a hill, overlooking the town.
The main purpose of the castle was to be used as a place of refuge, where the local population and the monks from a monastery close by could hide in case of an attack from the Castilians or the Moors.
Guimarães historical centre is listed an UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001, in recognition for its "exceptional well-preserved and authentic example of the evolution of a medieval settlement into a modern town" in Europe.