Most beautiful castles near Lisbon, Portugal
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15 most beautiful castles near Lisbon, Portugal

If you are looking for the most famous and stunning palaces and castles near Lisbon, then you have come to the right place. Portugal is rather famous for its fairytale castles with amazing views and splendid palaces with gorgeous architecture.

Luckily for all of us, many of those bucket-list castles are located in close proximity to the Portuguese capital. Starting from medieval-time defensive structures to splendid 20th-century masterpieces, there is a castle and palace for every taste.

We spent a couple of months traveling around Portugal and exploring every corner this country had to offer. In this blog post, you will find all the most beautiful castles near Lisbon with photos, descriptions, and exact locations on Google Maps. Happy exploring!

Read more >>> 33 most famous Lisbon Instagram spots (+map!)

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1. Pena Palace

Things to do in Sintra, Portugal - Pena Palace Instagram spots in Sintra

Pena Palace (Palácio Nacional da Pena) in the small town of Sintra is probably the most visited tourist attraction in Portugal and one of the most famous European castles!

The 19th-century fairytale castle is also a national monument and was voted as one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal by the public.

The charming Romanticist palace sits on top of a hill in Sintra municipality near Lisbon making it the perfect destination for an easy day trip from Lisbon. The palace is famous for its colorful appearance which makes it look like it came straight out of a Disney movie.

Sintra, Portugal-red tower view at the National Palace of Pena - best Instagram spots in Sintra
Things to do in Sintra, Portugal - Pena Palace Instagram spots in Sintra

Fun fact! Pena National Palace was built on the site of an old monastery. When King Ferdinand II of Portugal married Queen Maria II in 1836, he wanted to build a summer residence for the family and fell in love with this place in Sintra.

So he bought the convent as well as the surrounding area and started building a palace. Today you can actually distinguish between the two parts of the palace – the red part is the old monastery, but the yellow and blue is the new building. 

Sintra, Portugal-yellow and blue wall at the National Palace of Pena - best Instagram spots in Sintra
Things to do in Sintra, Portugal - Pena Palace Instagram spots in Sintra

King Ferdinand not only ordered the building of the Palácio da Pena but also a large park around it. The exotic park includes diverse trees and plants from all corners of the Earth including North America, China, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand!

The unique climatic conditions up on the mountain (not too cold, not too hot) are very suitable for the exotic foreign plants. It is also very common to see a big cloud of fog surrounding the palace when the humidity arrives from the ocean nearby.

The Pena Palace is a must-see spot to visit in Sintra, so I would highly recommend visiting this place first thing in the morning before it turns into chaos with long lines and crowds, or go there right before closing. And buy your tickets online!

Things to do in Sintra, Portugal - Pena Palace Instagram spots in Sintra
Things to do in Sintra, Portugal - Pena Palace Instagram spots in Sintra

How to get to Pena Palace? It is not allowed to drive up there by private vehicles. You can get there by bus #434 which leaves from Sintra train station (you can buy tickets from the driver), by tuk-tuks (price is the same as the bus), or by authorized taxi.

If you feel like it, you can also hike up there but it will take 45 to 60 minutes of hiking uphill so it is not the easiest hike. You need to arrive at the entrance to the park before your designated time slot because it will take another 15 minutes to hike to the palace!

Sintra, Portugal-view of the National Palace of Pena - best Instagram spots in Sintra

We went to the Pena Palace first thing in the morning and as soon as we arrived at the palace, we started exploring the outside squares and corners. Normally the visit goes to the inside rooms and halls and then you exit the palace and explore the outside of it.

We did it the other way round and this is how we got photos without people and managed to skip crowds because everyone was queueing to get inside the building first. We just walked past the queue and explored the outside first.

You have to enter the palace rooms no later than 30 minutes after your designated time so after 20 minutes of exploring the outside we were right in time to enter the palace. The inside was narrow and packed with people and tour guides.

My favorite place in Pena Palace was the inner square next to the red Clock Tower. Not only does it have incredible panoramic views over the West Coast of Portugal, but it also offers countless photo opportunities! See all the best photo spots in Sintra and Pena Palace here!

Location: Palácio Nacional da PenaEntrance ticket

2. Quinta da Regaleira

Sintra, Portugal-Quinta da Regaleira palace in Sintra-Best Instagram spots in Sintra

Designed by an Italian architect, the spectacular Quinta da Regaleira or Regaleira Palace is one of the landmark tourist attractions in Sintra. It is a stunning early 20th-century palace with vast gardens, lakes, fountains, and underground passages.

Romantic-style palace stands out with its Gothic-style pinnacles, towers, and gargoyles. While the Pena Palace with its colors looked fun and princessy, the moody and dark grey Quinta da Regaleira kind of feels more like the villain’s castle you see in cartoons.

Sintra, Portugal-Quinta da Regaleira palace in Sintra-Best Instagram spots in Sintra
Sintra, Portugal-Quinta da Regaleira-The Regaleira Chapel

The spectacular palace incorporates a beautiful mix of Gothic, Renaissance, Manueline, and Roman styles making it a perfect place for photos in Sintra. Amongst all the palaces and castles near Lisbon, this is definitely one of my favorites!

However, I can safely say that Quinta da Regaleira is truly famous for only one thing – the Initiation Well (also called the inverted tower). There are actually two wells, however, only the bigger one has this photogenic spiral staircase with 23 niches inside the wall.

Sintra, Portugal-Initiation Well at Quinta da Regaleira
 Initiation Well in Regaleira Palace in Sintra

The Initiation Well is one of the most famous Instagram spots in Sintra! It was never used as a water source but instead served for spiritual ceremonial purposes. When you go to the well, you will enter it at the top and then walk down the staircase.

At the bottom of the staircase, you will enter underground tunnels. The main tunnel leads outside but there is one tunnel branch at the beginning that leads to the bottom of the second well called the Unfinished Well. Do check it out before exiting the caves!

Sintra, Portugal-Initiation Well at Quinta da Regaleira
Sintra, Portugal-Quinta da Regaleira-Terrace of the Celestial Worlds and Reservoir

Besides the Initiation Well, there are many other cool spots to explore! After visiting many palaces and castles in Sintra, I can safely say that Quinta da Regaleira gardens are easily the most extravagant and luxurious of all the properties we visited!

The terraced gardens feature beautiful viewpoints, lakes, scenic benches, towers, fountains, statues, and bridges, as well as a chapel and a large collection of plants, bushes, and trees. Almost got lost in the winding network of paths, haha!

Sintra, Portugal-Quinta da Regaleira palace in Sintra-Best Instagram spots in Sintra
Sintra, Portugal-Quinta da Regaleira-Watchtower at Leda's Grotto

We visited Quinta da Regaleira in early November, bought our tickets in advance, and arrived at the entrance 30 minutes before opening time, so we could be the first ones to enter. When the palace opened, the line behind us was already massive!

Quinta da Regaleira palace is located very close to Sintra Historic Center so it is easy to reach by foot. We stayed in Sintra town not too far away so we just walked here. It’s an easy walk and only goes slightly uphill, but you can also catch a tuk-tuk or a taxi.

Location: Quinta da RegaleiraInitiation Well

3. Palace of Monserrate

Sintra, Portugal-balcony and gardens of the Palace of Monserrate

Amongst all the palaces and castles near Lisbon, the majestic Palace of Monserrate in Sintra stands out as one of the most gorgeous ones in terms of architecture. The unique palace was built in the middle of the 19th century.

Book now >>> Monserrate Palace and Park Skip-the-Line Ticket

Today the Palace of Monserrate serves as the perfect example of Sintra romanticism. The credit for creating this masterpiece goes to an English merchant Francis Cook who created this vision by mixing elements of Gothic, Indian, and Moorish styles.

Sintra, Portugal-balcony and gardens of the Palace of Monserrate
Sintra, Portugal-balcony and gardens of the Palace of Monserrate

The palace features romantic archways and overlooks the natural beauty of the gardens and forests surrounding the palace. It is part of the Sintra Cultural Landscape which, unsurprisingly, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Despite the unique exterior, I do think that the most iconic part of the Palace of Monserrate is the inside. Although the palace is rather small compared to other palaces and castles in Sintra, it is packed full of dazzling beauty.

Sintra, Portugal-Park and Palace of Monserrate - rooms and hallways

As you enter the palace, you will have the opportunity to explore two floors connected with a staircase. The rooms upstairs are less impressive than downstairs where you can observe an exotic mix of architectural styles.

One of my favorite places in the Palace of Monserrate is the hallway lined with golden Moorish-style arches decorated with carved elements and details (photo above). This picture-perfect hallway is one of my favorite Instagram spots in Sintra!

Sintra, Portugal-Park and Palace of Monserrate - rooms and hallways
Sintra, Portugal-Park and Palace of Monserrate - rooms and hallways

Another one of my favorite places inside the Palace of Monserrate is the Music Room (you will recognize it by the piano in the room). It is a circular room with arch-shaped windows and a stunning flower-resembling decoration on the ceiling!

In the center of the palace, there is a round fountain. This space is not only connected to hallways and rooms but it also has an open ceiling connected to the second floor. Once you climb up to the second floor, you can have a great overview of the fountain.

Sintra, Portugal-Park and Palace of Monserrate - rooms and hallways
Sintra, Portugal-Park and Palace of Monserrate - rooms and hallways

Another not-to-miss place when visiting the Palace of Monserrate and one of my favorite hidden gems in Sintra is this mystical place hidden inside the Park of Monserrate – ruins of an old chapel already overgrown with trees and plants.

There is this one unique archway (photo below) that makes for a perfect backdrop for a cool photo. The roots of a giant tree have grown around and in front of an archway creating a scene of a sea monster capturing its prey with its tentacles. Can you see it?

Sintra, Portugal-Park and Palace of Monserrate, old ruins of a Chapel

The whole palace felt like a magical fairytale. No wonder it is amongst the most amazing wedding venues in Portugal. Entry to the palace and the garden costs 8 EUR and I recommend buying tickets online before your visit.

This is one of the rare tourist attractions in Sintra where you are allowed to drive to by private vehicles (there are a few parking spots at the entrance). We rented a car and went there on our own. You can also get there by taxi or by bus from Sintra train station.

Location: Palace of MonserrateEntrance tickets

4. Castelo dos Mouros

Sintra, Portugal-Castelo dos Mouros, Moorish Castle Instagram spots in Sintra

Sintra is full of magical places and Castelo dos Mouros or the Moorish Castle is one of them. This medieval castle that was built during the 8th and 9th centuries by the Moors is amongst the coolest castles near Lisbon.

Book now >>> Castle of the Moors Fast Track Ticket

Castelo dos Mouros was then conquered by the first king of Portugal, Afonso I of Portugal also called Afonso Henriques, in the 12th century. It is, in fact, a medieval fortress as it was built as a strategic military structure.

Although the name suggests otherwise, you won’t see much of a castle today – all you can explore during your visit are 450-meter-long massive stone walls with multiple defensive towers built on large rock formations. But it is pretty cool nevertheless!

Sintra, Portugal-Castelo dos Mouros, Moorish Castle Instagram spots in Sintra
Sintra, Portugal-Castelo dos Mouros, Moorish Castle Instagram spots in Sintra

When visiting the Castle of the Moors, definitely walk around the whole perimeter of the walls. They offer some of the best views over Sintra-Cascais Natural Park and Sintra Mountains. Fingers crossed for a clear day and blue sky on the day of your visit!

The walls offer many photo opportunities where you can take an iconic medieval photo of the castle walls as well as the beautiful views over Sintra. It helps if you can arrive in the morning but this castle is not as crowded as the famous Pena Palace.

Sintra, Portugal-Castelo dos Mouros, Moorish Castle Instagram spots in Sintra
Sintra, Portugal-Castelo dos Mouros, Moorish Castle Instagram spots in Sintra

If you walk to the Southern end of the castle walls, there will be a defensive tower overlooking the South side of the mountains. It is the perfect spot for a photo of the nearby Pena Palace – you can see it rising high up in the distance (see photo above)!

Tip! If you arrive at the Moorish Castle early in the morning, know that the entrance to the castle is located a good distance from the main road! You have to enter the gate and walk about 350 meters to the actual entrance to the castle (exact location below).

Location: Castelo dos MourosEntrance to the castleEntrance Tickets

5. Sintra National Palace

Sintra, Portugal - Sintra National Palace

Although Sintra National Palace is not so well-known as some other castles and palaces in Sintra, I very much enjoyed our visit to this iconic place – considered the best-preserved medieval residence of Portuguese royalty in the whole country.

Book now >>> National Palace of Sintra and Gardens Fast Track Ticket

And do not mistake it with the famous Pena Palace! This one – Sintra Palace – is located inside the old town, but the one sitting on top of a hill is Pena Palace! Despite being less known, I’m glad we got to visit Sintra National Palace. There’s so much to see!

Sintra, Portugal - Sintra National Palace
Sintra, Portugal - Sintra National Palace

The royal residence stands out with its two gigantic conical chimneys rising above the palace’s kitchen into the skyline of Sintra. It is believed that the first foundation of the building complex was built in the 10th century making it the oldest palace in Portugal.

However, the palace as we see it today was built, shaped, and redesigned over the next centuries. Practically every king and queen of Portugal has spent some time in this palace leaving a rich mix of architectural and cultural heritage.

Sintra, Portugal - Sintra National Palace
Sintra, Portugal - Sintra National Palace

The palace is truly massive and most of what we see today was created during the 15th-16th centuries. For me, the place that stood out the most was Sala dos Brasões or Coat of Arms Room (first photo).

The impressive room is the most beautiful spot in Sintra Palace. It is a large 13-by-14-meter room proudly boasting walls covered with painted Portuguese tiles and a high golden ceiling with paintings of 72 coats of arms of Portuguese noble families.

I also loved The Swan Room as well as the inner courtyard with a nook full of beautiful Portuguese ‘azulejos’ tiles and paintings on the ceiling. If you have an extra hour to spend in Sintra, I recommend paying a visit to this historic palace!

Location: Sintra National PalaceEntrance Tickets

6. Castelo de São Jorge

Best Instagram spots in Lisbon - Castelo de São Jorge

To be honest, you don’t have to look far for iconic castles near Lisbon. When exploring the capital, it is impossible to miss the majestic São Jorge Castle sitting atop a hill right in the city centre.

It is one of my favorite places to see Lisbon from above as well as one of my favorite spots to watch the sunset in Lisbon. And, of course, one of my favorite photo spots in Lisbon – especially this window in one of the towers (photo above).

Best viewpoints and rooftops in Lisbon to see the city from above - Castelo de São Jorge
Best Instagram spots in Lisbon - Castelo de São Jorge

The fortifications of a castle that we see today date back a thousand years when they were built by the Moorish forces that had occupied the territory of Lisbon. However, there is evidence that humans lived on the castle hill as far back as the 8th century BC.

São Jorge Castle is one of the bucket list places to visit in Lisbon. During the Middle Ages, this site had a royal palace that was the residence of the kings of Portugal. As of today not much is left of the castle except the impressive defensive towers and walls.

Best viewpoints and rooftops in Lisbon to see the city from above - Castelo de São Jorge
Best viewpoints and rooftops in Lisbon to see the city from above - Castelo de São Jorge

Visit to the castle cost us 11 EUR per person which is a bit pricey to see the walls of a castle from the Middle Ages, but if you time it around sunset then you can get some magical golden views over the whole city. Plus there are smaller crowds in the evening!

As a castle it is not as impressive as some of those famous palaces in Sintra, however, if you don’t have much time to wander around Portugal, then this medieval time monument is, indeed, a great place to explore!

Location: Castelo de São Jorge

7. The Palace of Fronteira

Best Instagram photo spots in Lisbon, Portugal - The Palace of Fronteira

Hidden near Monsanto forest park is one of the most beautiful places in Lisbon – the Palace of the Marquesses of Fronteira. It is a stunning 17th-century palace with an expansive garden.

You can either visit the gardens on your own or join a guided tour of the inside of the palace. This palace is the perfect place to go if you wish to escape crowds and crave some hidden gems near Lisbon.

Best Instagram photo spots in Lisbon, Portugal - The Palace of Fronteira
Best Instagram photo spots in Lisbon, Portugal - The Palace of Fronteira

The palace is still the private residence of the Marquesses of Fronteira however you can buy tickets for guided tours to the inside of the palace or buy tickets to walk around the gardens. We only visited the gardens and it was very much worth it!

The gardens feature a pond with swans, fountains, numerous sculptures, and benches to sit on. The whole area is full of decorative bushes and blooming plants. But the central piece of the garden is the blue wall next to the pond.

Best Instagram photo spots in Lisbon, Portugal - The Palace of Fronteira
Best Instagram photo spots in Lisbon, Portugal - The Palace of Fronteira

The blue wall has stairs on both sides where you can climb up to the upper part of the wall. It is lined with statues of the Kings of Portugal. The whole wall is blue and decorated with glazed tiles.

There were many places decorated with Portuguese azulejos in the territory of the palace including benches in the garden as well as the palace wall. great to see typical Portuguese architectural elements incorporated into the palace!

Best Instagram photo spots in Lisbon, Portugal - The Palace of Fronteira
Best Instagram photo spots in Lisbon, Portugal - The Palace of Fronteira

Hidden in the corner of the garden you will find a special chapel. It is covered with stones, shells, and broken porcelain and glass. It was my favorite place in the gardens. The area is full of picture-perfect corners where you can get some unique photos!

We had a rental car so we got there on our own but if you don’t rent a car, it is also very easy to reach by public transportation as there are metro and train stations as well as bus stops close by. And you can always take a taxi.

Location: The Palace of Fronteira

8. Queluz National Palace

Palaces and castles near Lisbon in Portugal - Queluz National Palace

The glamorous 18th-century Queluz National Palace is amongst the last major Rococo buildings designed in Europe and served as a residence and a retreat for many different members of the Portuguese royalty.

Although it was built as a place for leisure and recreation for the Portuguese royal family, at times it became an official residence for some members of the monarchy. Today Queluz National Palace is a member of the European Royal Residences Network.

Palaces and castles near Lisbon in Portugal - Queluz National Palace
Palaces and castles near Lisbon in Portugal - Queluz National Palace

The Palace of Queluz is often referred to as the ‘Portuguese Versailles’. Founded by Queen Maria I and King Pedro III, the palace displays an abundance of extravagant architecture. Of all the Portugal’s palaces, this is amongst the most beautiful ones for sure!

I loved wandering around the halls, corridors, and rooms of the extravagant palace. The architecture here was truly majestic! My favorite places inside the palace were the Ballroom, the Hall of Ambassadors as well as Sala das Mangas gallery with tiled wall panels.

Palaces and castles near Lisbon in Portugal - Queluz National Palace
Palaces and castles near Lisbon in Portugal - Queluz National Palace

However, it is especially known for its majestic gardens, including the famous Fountain of Neptune. The gardens feature statues, terraces, fountains as well as a cascade, the first artificial waterfall to be built near Lisbon.

Queluz National Palace is located in Sintra municipality just a 20-minute drive away from Lisbon making it one of the best historic sites to visit near Lisbon! Entrance tickets to the palace cost 10 EUR per person. Worth it!

Location: Queluz National PalaceEntrance tickets

9. Mafra National Palace

Palaces and castles near Lisbon, Portugal - Mafra National Palace

Mafra National Palace is a crown jewel amongst all the palaces and castles near Lisbon. Located in Mafra city about a 40-minute drive away from Lisbon, this incredibly massive palace with a basilica and a monastery is quite a sight to see!

This monumental royal palace is one of the largest ones in Portugal. Built back in the 18th century, this Baroque and Neoclassical palace is an iconic attraction listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Palaces and castles near Lisbon, Portugal - Mafra National Palace
Palaces and castles near Lisbon, Portugal - Mafra National Palace

The palace complex includes 1 200 rooms, halls, and 156 stairways as well as a large library with over 30,000 rare books. The library is actually famous for housing bats which protect the books from insects.

The central part of the building is a basilica with the royal palace stretching to both sides of it. The impressive facade is 220 meters long. However, behind the main facade hides a monastery with cells for about 300 monks.

Palaces and castles near Lisbon, Portugal - Mafra National Palace
Palaces and castles near Lisbon, Portugal - Mafra National Palace

Visit to the basilica is free but there is an entrance fee of 8 EUR for the palace and the monastery. Visits happen individually however there is a fixed route that takes you through all the halls and rooms including the monastery and the famous library.

Palace of Mafra was the final residence of the last king of Portugal, Manuel II, who left the palace to go into exile on 5 October 1910 after it was announced that the monarchy was overthrown and Portugal was now a republic.

Palaces and castles near Lisbon, Portugal - Mafra National Palace
Palaces and castles near Lisbon, Portugal - Mafra National Palace

The palace is truly massive. I thought we would never get through that building in a day but somehow we managed to do that! Not my favorite palace in Portugal, but I’m glad I got to visit this place because of its historic importance!

If you decide to come here, just know that a visit to Mafra National Palace will not be a quick one! It took us somewhere between 1 to 2 hours at a quick pace. There’s just so much to see and you have to walk hundreds of hundreds of meters around the palace! Worth it though!

Location: Mafra National PalaceEntrance tickets

10. Castle of Óbidos

Óbidos, Portugal things to do-Castle of Óbidos

Visiting the glorious Castle of Óbidos is amongst the best things to do in Óbidos, Portugal. It is one of the most famous medieval castles in the country and is amongst the Seven Wonders of Portugal, the most iconic landmarks in Portugal.

Construction of the castle took place during the 12th and 13th centuries, but the castle and the fortifications were rebuilt, expanded, and renovated over the centuries that followed. The castle also suffered great damage during the 1755 Lisbon earthquake.

Óbidos, Portugal things to do-Wall of Óbidos

The castle is part of a defensive structure that consists of the castle, towers, and defensive walls that completely encircle the Óbidos Old Town and you can actually walk around the town walls like a town guard a couple of centuries ago!

You can climb on the walls using stairs near the Óbidos castle or next to the city entrance gate – Porta da Vila. The perimeter of the walls reaches more than 1500 meters (nearly a mile) and offers amazing views over the whole town!

Óbidos, Portugal things to do-Wall of Óbidos
Óbidos, Portugal things to do-Wall of Óbidos

Walking around the town walls was one of my favorite things to do in Óbidos! However, at times the path is rather narrow and there are no fences, so you have to be careful. In some places, the walls reach as high as 13 meters!

The path takes you along many defensive towers as well. I felt like a true knight guarding my town, haha! The town was fortified by the Moorish as far back as the 8th century, however, the walls were later restructured and rebuilt by the Portuguese.

Óbidos, Portugal things to do-Castle of Óbidos
Óbidos, Portugal things to do-Castle of Óbidos

Obidos Castle sits on a hill about 80 meters above sea level. The castle building mixes different architectural styles and has elements of Gothic, Manueline, Baroque as well as Romanesque architecture.

During the medieval centuries, this town and castle were favored as a residence by many Portuguese queens. The castle itself today is turned into a luxury hotel, so you cannot visit the castle as a tourist unless you book a stay there.

Óbidos, Portugal things to do-Wall of Óbidos
Óbidos, Portugal things to do-Wall of Óbidos

It is part of a hotel network in Portugal called ‘Pousadas de Portugal’ where historic state-owned buildings (like castles and palaces) are turned into hotels. Such castle hotels help the Portuguese government earn income to maintain these buildings.

Óbidos Castle also hosts medieval shows and activities. You can see the program at the entrance to the castle grounds, however, when we visited in August there must have been a lunch break as nothing was going on.

Óbidos, Portugal things to do-Castle of Óbidos
Óbidos, Portugal things to do-Castle of Óbidos

In any case, it looked like a fun place with medieval singing, different tools and arms, some food, and other activities. But we did get a typical Portuguese lemonade in a special clay pot in the shape of a castle tower. We got to keep it as a souvenir!

Visiting the castle and Óbidos was special! This small town is like no other in Portugal. In 1210, King Afonso II, the third king of Portugal, gave the title of this town to his queen, and ever since that moment, this town has had a special connection to Portugal’s queens.

Later in the 13th century, King Dinis offered Óbidos to his wife Isabel on the occasion of their marriage. Although it was part of her dowry (payment for the marriage), people love to romanticize the fact and call this town ‘a gift to the queen’! I say – let them!

Location: Castle of Óbidos

11. Castelo de Leiria

Castelo de Leiria medieval castle in Portugal

Leiria Castle is a beautiful and picturesque medieval castle built in the 12th century by the order of King Afonso I, the first king of Portugal, to protect, at that time, the Southern border of his country.

Throughout the centuries it has served as the residence for Portuguese monarchs and played a strategic role in the defence of the country. Today the iconic castle is accessible to the public and an entrance to the castle costs 2.10 EUR per person.

Castelo de Leiria medieval castle in Portugal
Castelo de Leiria medieval castle in Portugal

There are a couple of legends involving the castle – one of them claims that there is a dormant volcano under the castle that is responsible for heating the water in the hot spring.

Another legend says that one winter morning the queen left the castle to distribute bread to poor people in Leiria. When the king inquired about her plans and what she was hiding in her clothes, the queen said that there were roses.

Castelo de Leiria medieval castle in Portugal
Castelo de Leiria medieval castle in Portugal

So when the king seemed surprised that she would carry roses in January, the queen then revealed her clothes and there were indeed roses instead of bread that she had hidden there.

The Castle of Leiria is located in Leiria city just a 30-minute drive away from the coastal town of Nazaré and just a 1h 30min drive away from Lisbon. It is one of the best castles to visit near Lisbon for sure!

Each year Leiria hosts a Leiria Medieval Fair – a big medieval festival where the whole city is turned into a medieval-themed playground. One of the best places to be for history lovers!

Castelo de Leiria medieval castle in Portugal

If you happen to be around during those days, I highly recommend paying a visit to Leiria and the castle as everything will be beautifully decorated and there will be medieval celebrations throughout the city.

We happened to be there a day before the festival started so we saw different performances, everything in festive colors, and a city full of medieval markets and street food stands. Sadly, we could not stay longer, but it definitely looked quite fun.

Location: Castelo de Leiria

12. Castelo de Almourol

Castles in Portugal - the medieval Castle of Almourol

The Castle of Almourol is a medieval castle sitting on a small 300-meter islet in the middle of the Tagus River – the same river that flows through Lisbon and into the Atlantic Ocean.

The Almourol Castle was built during the 12th century to protect the Southern border of the Portuguese lands against the Moors. The small fortress was controlled by the Knights Templar, one of the most influential Catholic military orders.

Castles in Portugal - the medieval Castle of Almourol
Castles in Portugal - the medieval Castle of Almourol

It is believed that the castle was built on top of a military structure from ancient times that was later conquered by the Romans during the 1st century before our era. This makes it pretty special!

Visits to the castle are free however, to get to the castle, you must take a boat that costs 4 EUR for a road trip. You get about 40 minutes on the island before the boat arrives to pick you up. The boat trip takes only 5 minutes.

Castles in Portugal - the medieval Castle of Almourol
Castles in Portugal - the medieval Castle of Almourol

Visit to the Castle of Almourol felt like stepping back in time. The castle has high walls and defensive towers where you can climb up and get a great view over the Tagus River. Be careful as there are no fences protecting you from falling down the wall!

Although this is not amongst the most popular castles in Portugal I loved visiting such a hidden gem with such a rich and important history. People who protected this hilltop fortress created the foundation of the Portuguese nation as it is today.

Location: Castelo de Almourol

13. Castelo de Belver

Castles in Portugal - Castelo de Belver

The Castle of Belver is another military fortification from medieval times built on top of the hill in Belver village next to the Tagus River. Construction of the castle was finished at the beginning of the 13th century.

Tagus River, the same one that goes through Lisbon, was at that time the intended border between the Portuguese lands, stretching to the North of the river, and the Moorish territories that were to the South of the river.

Castles in Portugal - Castelo de Belver
Castles in Portugal - Castelo de Belver

Today there is not much left of the castle except for massive defensive walls (we could not climb the walls during the visit) and a large tower where you can walk inside and climb up to the top.

The tower features an exhibition about the history of this place and offers panoramic views over the Tagus River and the nearby village. Entrance to the castle territory costs just 2 EUR per person.

Castles in Portugal - Castelo de Belver
Castles in Portugal - Castelo de Belver

If you cross the river by a nearby bridge you can reach one of the most scenic swings in Portugal situated right on the banks of the Tagus River – Baloiço de Gavião. We spent some moments swinging and enjoying the panoramic view of the castle across the river.

Although there is not much to see in the castle, I did like exploring this hidden gem. We were almost the only ones visiting. Having all of this medieval fortress to ourselves made the visit extra special!

Location: Castelo de BelverBaloiço de Gavião

14. Castelo de Montemor-o-Novo

Evora, Portugal things to do - Castelo de Montemor-o-Novo
Evora, Portugal things to do - Castelo de Montemor-o-Novo

In case you are traveling to or back from Évora city to Lisbon, there is a cool place to stop by along that route – Castelo de Montemor-o-Novo. There are remains of a medieval hilltop village and castle with scenic views over the area.

It is believed that the construction of the castle started in the 13th century. The most notable thing about the castle is that Vasco da Gama finalized his plans for his famous sea voyage to India right here in this castle.

Evora, Portugal things to do - Castelo de Montemor-o-Novo
Evora, Portugal things to do - Castelo de Montemor-o-Novo

This was once a majestic castle with a village inside the fortress. However, over time it has all disappeared. Now you can walk around the remains of the castle, read about the past on information boards, and see the views from the hilltop castle remains.

The best part about it is that the entrance is free. You can walk around the area freely and explore everything you want to see. We went there on a hot day when nobody was around. It was a unique moment to be there next to the castle – a reminder of the past.

Location: Castelo de Montemor-o-Novo

15. Castelo de Monsaraz

Castelo de Monsaraz - medieval hilltop town in Evora district in Portugal
Monsaraz hilltop village is one of the oldest settlements in southern Portugal

Monsaraz is a village in Évora district near the border of Spain. It sits on a hill and is one of the oldest settlements in southern Portugal. The most important landmark in Monsaraz is the medieval castle – Castelo de Monsaraz.

Due to its strategic location near the border and its advantageous position on a hill, it was once an important stronghold during many military conflicts that the country has experienced over the centuries. Monsaraz was under the rule of many different forces.

Castelo de Monsaraz - medieval hilltop town in Evora district in Portugal
Watchtower of São Gens do Xarez
Castelo de Monsaraz - medieval hilltop town in Evora district in Portugal
The entrance gate to the village

The imposing castle dates back to the 14th century. Much of what was built back then has still remained to this day. Walking around this medieval village felt like a time machine transporting me back in time.

You can visit the Castelo de Monsaraz for free. From the top of the castle walls, you will get amazing views over the surrounding area, especially the Alqueva water reservoir – the largest artificial lake in Western Europe.

Castelo de Monsaraz - medieval hilltop town in Evora district in Portugal
 The inner enclosure is used as a bullring
Castelo de Monsaraz - medieval hilltop town in Evora district in Portugal
Porta da Vila, the main entrance gate to Monsaraz

There is not much left of the castle itself so the views over the area, climbing up to the defensive walls, and walking around them was the biggest fun we got. The inner enclosure of the castle today is used as a bullring.

I loved walking around the medieval village. It has whitewashed houses, narrow cobblestone streets, and stone defensive walls with only a couple of entrances, so you have to check where you can enter this fortification.

You can’t really drive inside the village, so you will have to park your car outside the walls and then climb up to the village on foot. See the parking location on Google Maps below. Monsaraz is a 50-minute drive away from Évora – a great detour if you have time!

Location: Castelo de MonsarazParking lot

Happy exploring!

Lisbon is a city like no other – rich in history, full of picturesque viewpoints, beautiful art, and colorful tiles! And, of course, it can get very tasty if you try those iconic pastel de nata pastries! I have been to Lisbon multiple times and I already can’t wait to go back.

I hope you enjoy your time in Lisbon as much as we did! And I hope you will get some travel inspiration from this blog post to make your trip to Lisbon, one of the oldest cities in the world, even more adventurous, fun, and exciting!

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Stunning palaces and castles near Lisbon, Portugal
Stunning palaces and castles near Lisbon, Portugal

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