Here are the best things to do in Monsanto, the most Portuguese village in Portugal. With its granite houses, some of them built inside or under big boulders, Monsanto attracts plenty of visitors who crave to step back in time by walking the narrow streets of Monsanto.
Monsanto has records of human presence dating back to the Old Stone Age so it kind of looks like it is frozen in a time capsule. Made me think of the famous TV show The Flintstones and how Monsanto looks exactly like the place they would have lived in!
We spent two days in this tiny village of less than a thousand inhabitants, discovering all the best things to do in Monsanto. In this blog post, you will find all the places with photos, descriptions, and locations on Google Maps. Happy exploring!
1. Climb up to the Castle of Monsanto!
The Castle of Monsanto – a medieval castle built in the 12th century – is one of the most iconic castles in Portugal! It sits on a hilltop 763 meters (2,503 ft) above sea level.
Unfortunately from the castle itself, not much has been left as it suffered partial destruction as a result of an explosion in the magazine powder keg.
Today you can access the castle territory for free. There are three inner courtyards with three walls and four defensive towers. You can actually climb up the walls and walk around the perimeter.
Inside the walls, you will notice a water cistern as well as The Chapel of Nossa Senhora do Castelo. From the castle walls, you will get amazing views overlooking the village of Monsanto and the surrounding area. Sunset views are especially amazing!
Location: Castle of Monsanto
2. Spot the filming location of the TV series ‘House of the Dragon’!
One of the best things to do in Monsanto for us was exploring the surrounding area of the castle. There are so many cool spots, ruins of past buildings, large granite boulders, and scenic views over the surrounding area.
One of the hidden gems in Monsanto is located behind the castle of Monsanto. There is a small area surrounded by piles of granite boulders – almost feels like a Stonehenge-type place for rituals.
Probably thanks to this impressive look, the TV series House of the Dragon filmed a couple of scenes right in this location. Namely, Daemon and Rhaenyra’s wedding was filmed here on a foggy day as well as Rhaenyra’s coronation (see photo of the scene).
The coronation scene was on a clear day and you can exactly recognize each boulder and where everyone was standing. If you are a fan of the popular TV series, you might like this hidden gem in Monsanto.
3. Explore the ruins of the roofless church and the remains of the mountain chapel!
As I mentioned, the surrounding area of the castle was one of my favorite places to explore. There are two spots that are must-see locations in Monsanto. One of them is the roofless church – Igreja de São Miguel.
You can see the church as you climb up the hill towards the castle. And you can see the roofless structure if you climb on the walls of the Monsanto castle. It is a 12th-century church with its bell tower located on a small rocky outcrop just a few meters away.
Another cool place to visit around the castle is the remains of the São João chapel. Not much is known about the chapel. The remains of decorations in the rubble tell that the chapel was already there in the 16th century.
Today you can only see the triumphal arch which is a result of a recent reconstruction. However, the best thing about this place is the panoramic views over the surrounding area. We happened to walk there at sunset and the sky was glowing. Quite beautiful!
4. Find the best mountaintop viewpoints and see the village from above!
Considering the fact that Monsanto sits on a hill, one of the best things to do in Monsanto is looking for some very scenic viewpoints. Some of the best views we saw were from the surrounding area of Monsanto Castle.
You will find one of the viewpoints as you walk out of the village towards the castle. There is a massive boulder and the viewpoint will be further down the path on your right, but the way up to the castle will be on your left. Just follow the sign ‘Miradouro’ (location below)!
Another one of my favorites was from the Eastern walls of Monsanto castle next to the Geodetic Mark of Monsanto. You can almost see the whole village far below your feet and the view is quite magnificent!
Probably my favorite spot is only for adventurers with comfortable shoes as it requires summiting a huge boulder (Boulder viewpoint location below). For normal people (haha!), I recommend walking to the Torre do Pião tower – the whole village is very well visible!
If you are lucky to get to Monsanto during sunset, then I highly recommend waiting for the sun to set from one of the spots up on the hill. The view was unforgettable. However, it will be beautiful during the day as well.
5. Take a look inside the boulder cave – The Gruta!
One of the most typical houses in Monsanto is the Gruta or the Cave. It is a small shelter squished between two colossal granite boulders and displays a traditional way people built houses here by often using the big boulders as walls, floors, or ceilings.
The Gruta house is open and you can take a look inside. There is nothing really to see, but it is a fun place to stop by. If I had to choose a house for The Flintstones, this would be the Flintstone House in Monsanto, haha!
Location: The Gruta
6. Grab a meal in a local restaurant and choose a local souvenir!
No visit to the most Portuguese village in Portugal can be complete without a meal at a local restaurant. There are only a couple of them so it makes it easy to choose.
I recommend going to Taverna Lusitana (in the heart of the village) or to Monsanto Café e Bistro as they have the highest ratings of all restaurants and cafés in Monsanto.
We went to Taverna Lusitana. They offer meals from the menu as well as toasts and some pastries that you might want for breakfast or a quick lunch.
They even have a small stone terrace outside above the street – such a relaxing place to sit down, relax, and enjoy a meal!
As for the souvenirs, there are many street vendors that put their art on display on the main street that goes along Taverna Lusitana further up the hill towards Monsanto Castle. You can’t miss them!
7. Try the famous cherry pastel de nata – pastel de cereja!
Cherry is one of the symbols in the neighboring area of Monsanto and the vast production of cherries made locals use their creativity and produce a unique local pastry – pastel de cereja!
It looks exactly like the famous pastel de nata pastry, but is filled with cherry filling instead of egg cream as is the case for the famous Portuguese egg tart. So pastel de cereja is a local pastry in Monsanto that you have to try while there!
We bought one at the same restaurant we visited – Taverna Lusitana, however, we saw pastel de cereja in other shops and cafés as well, so just ask around wherever you are in the village – you might find one of those unique pastries nearby!
8. Visit the iconic Torre de Lucano tower!
Torre de Lucano tower is the icon of Monsanto village and one of the best places to visit in the village. The tower dates back to the 15th century and is believed to be part of the village’s defensive walls serving as the watchtower.
If you visit today, you will see that the tower has a weather vane rooster on top. It was a gift to the village given by the government when Monsanto was voted as the most Portuguese village in Portugal in 1938.
The base of the tower is elevated. From there, you will see over the roofs of the village. Right next to the tower, you will notice the Igreja da Misericordia church built in the 16th century in a Mannerist architectural style.
9. Collect all the boulder houses in Monsanto!
There are a couple of iconic boulder houses – as I like to say – in Monsanto village. If you have some time to walk around the village and don’t know where to go, then I recommend visiting all the boulder houses in the village.
A Boulder house is a house where some parts – floor, walls, or ceiling – are replaced by a big granite boulder. We saw a couple of them in the village. One of the houses is a hotel Casa da Gruta located on Rua do Relógio street with a big boulder on the roof.
Another ‘Boulder house’ actually seems to be an abandoned chapel with a large boulder underneath as a floor for the chapel. You will stumble upon it as you walk the street up from the village towards the castle. It has a cross right next to it.
Another house worth checking out is the pigpen house – a place for pigs to shelter under a boulder roof. You will find pigpens or Furdas as you walk up the street towards the castle. As soon as you exit the village, the pigpens are on your left (location below).
Finally, one of the most iconic Boulder houses is the Petiscos & Granitos restaurant in the heart of the village. It has a large boulder standing on the roof. However, you won’t see it if you sit inside the house. The best view of the boulder house is from Miradouro do Forno viewpoint.
10. Enjoy the view from the iconic Miradouro do Forno viewpoint!
One of the best places to visit in Monsanto (and one of my favorite places in the village) is the Miradouro do Forno viewpoint! As I mentioned, from this viewpoint you get to see one of the most iconic boulder houses in Monsanto – Petiscos & Granitos restaurant.
Another reason for that is the view! This amazing viewpoint overlooks the red roofs of the village and as far as the eye can see into the vastness of Portugal. If you are just as lucky as we were, come here for the most magical sunset you have seen!
Location: Miradouro do Forno
11. Take a look at Igreja Matriz de São Salvador church!
Igreja Matriz de São Salvador is the main church of Monsanto and one of the first buildings you will walk by as you enter the village. It is dedicated to San Salvador and dates back to the 17th century.
The church was built in a Mannerist and Baroque architectural style. At the entrance, it has a perfect round arch and a rose window above it. On the day of our visit, it was not possible to enter the church, but definitely see for yourself and go inside if it is possible!
Location: Igreja Matriz de São Salvador
12. Walk through the iconic city gates!
There are two more spots worth a visit if you have time for a little walk through the village – the old city gates. Those are stone portals that served as entrance places to the village and were part of the fortifications.
Portas de Santo António gates are located on the West side of the village and sit right next to Santo António chapel – one of the two last remaining Portuguese Romanesque ruins. The gate is beautifully decorated with the coat of arms on top of the entrance.
On the other side of the village, you will find Portas de São Sebastião – the Eastern access gate to the village. The gate is located right next to another chapel – Capela do Espírito Santo do Monsanto. You can actually climb up and stand above the gates like a guard from the Medieval times!
13. Visit the most beautiful house in Monsanto!
Or should I call it the Cat House? Casa de David is considered the most beautiful house in Monsanto. It is located right beside the main church of Monsanto – Igreja Matriz de São Salvador. So it is very easy to find.
The house is very narrow and has colorful doors, flower pots, and plants hanging around the entrance as well as other decorations like decorative cats and beautiful lanterns. The cute house is a rental property, by the way!
Location: Casa de David
14. Stop by Miradouro de Monsanto!
As a farewell to the magical Monsanto village, stop by Miradouro de Monsanto – one of the viewpoints overlooking the village. It is also a parking lot. If you arrive early, then you might have a place here, but it is full most of the time.
Miradouro de Monsanto overlooks the village from the side. It even has a couple of cannons in case you need to defend the village from attacks, haha!
There is a restaurant right next to the viewpoint where you can grab some pastel de cereja or other snacks before you leave this iconic village.
Location: Miradouro de Monsanto
15. Near Monsanto – visit Sortelha, one of the historic villages in Portugal!
Sortelha is one of the historic villages in Portugal. The village has a 12th-century castle built by Sancho I de Portugal – the second king of Portugal. Visiting the Historic Center of Sortelha feels like stepping back in time.
Sortelha is also called the ‘granite village’. All the streets, houses, and walls are made of grey stone. One of the coolest things is that you have to drive your car to the parking lot inside the historic center through a narrow stone gate. It was fun!
You can easily walk around the whole fortification in less than an hour. I probably saw two people there so I’m not sure if anyone still lives there. It felt a bit like a ghost town to be honest, which added to the feeling of stepping back in time.
Sortelha village is located only 1 hour away from Monsanto, so, if you have extra time, I recommend walking through the granite village. There is no entrance fee to the village or the castle!
Location: Historic Center of Sortelha
16. Near Monsanto – drive up to the highest point in continental Portugal, the Serra da Estrela mountains!
Serra da Estrela mountains – located just a 1h40min drive away from Monsanto, is the highest point in continental Portugal reaching 1993 at the highest point named ‘Torre’. It is not a distinct mountain but rather the highest place on a large plateau.
Driving up to Serra da Estrela mountain is a bucket list thing to do in Portugal. Especially because you can drive to the very top of the country by car – there is a paved road that goes through the mountains, including the highest point.
At the top, you will see a tower with a cross on top – the highest point in Portugal. There are also a couple of restaurants and souvenir shops where you can have a meal or buy some souvenirs.
Apart from some typical souvenirs like clothes, towels, socks, and keychains, one of the best things you can buy as a souvenir is, of course, food. We bought some Serra da Estrela chocolate as well as the famous Serra da Estrela cheese!
The cheese is made of thistle, sheep’s milk – the ones that are running around the mountain and along the mountain roads – and salt. The recipe is more than 2 000 years old, so definitely try it! It is soft and gooey and has a strong and interesting flavor (but in a good sense!).
We were lucky to happen to be on the mountaintop on a beautiful and calm day. The scenery is absolutely beautiful with amazing views of the mountains as far as the eyes can see. It was so peaceful and relaxing to just sit down and look at the view!
Location: Serra da Estrela
17. Near Monsanto – Covão dos Conchos spillway, the Eye of Portugal!
Deep in the Serra da Estrela mountains, just 10 kilometers from the highest point in continental Portugal is one of the most unusual hidden gems in Portugal – the bell-mouth spillway in an artificial lake Covão dos Conchos.
The spillway was built in 1955 as a way to divert water between two bodies of water and is part of the hydroelectric dam system of Serra da Estrela. However, from the looks of it, the circle with the black hole looks like a mouth to the center of the Earth!
Visiting this spillway is not a quick adventure. You have to park your car next to the water dam (location below) and then embark on a 4.5-kilometer hike to the spillway. The hike is quite easy, but definitely not drivable. The round trip will take about 2 hours.
Monsanto village in Portugal with its granite houses and massive boulders is truly one of a kind. I haven’t seen anything like it anywhere else in Portugal!
Thanks to being awarded ‘the most Portuguese village in Portugal’ it gets visitors from abroad and as well as from Portugal! Everyone wants to see ‘the Stone Age’ village!
I hope you enjoy your time in Monsanto and get inspired by what you see! And I hope my travel tips help make your trip to Monsanto even more fun and full of unforgettable memories!