Palaces, manors and town halls in Portugal

Pena Palace

The Pena Palace stands on the top of a hill in the Sintra Mountains above the town of Sintra, and on a clear day it can be easily seen from Lisbon and much of its metropolitan area. It is a national monument and constitutes one of the major expressions of 19th-century Romanticism in the world. The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. It is also used for state occasions by the Pr ...
Founded: 1842-1854 | Location: Sintra, Portugal

Palace of Sintra

The Palace of Sintra is the best-preserved medieval royal residence in Portugal, being inhabited more or less continuously from at least the early 15th century to the late 19th century. It is a significant tourist attraction, and is part of the cultural landscape of Sintra, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. The history of the castle begins in the Moorish Al-Andalus era, after the Umayyad conquest of Hispania in th ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Sintra, Portugal

Palácio da Bolsa

The Stock Exchange Palace (Palácio da Bolsa) palace was built in the 19th century by the city"s Commercial Association in Neoclassical style. The Palácio da Bolsa is located beside the St Francis Church of Porto, which was once part of the St Francis Convent, founded in the 13th century. In 1832, during the Liberal Wars, a fire destroyed the cloisters of the convent, sparing the church. In 1841, Queen Mary ...
Founded: 1842 | Location: Porto, Portugal

Quinta da Regaleira

Quinta da Regaleira is an estate located near the historic center of Sintra. It is classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO within the 'Cultural Landscape of Sintra'. Along with the other palaces in the area such as the Quinta do Relógio, Pena, Monserrate and Seteais palaces, it is considered one of the principal tourist attractions of Sintra. The property consists of a romantic palace and chapel, an ...
Founded: 1904 | Location: Sintra, Portugal

Quinta do Relógio

Quinta do Relógio is an estate located near the historic center of Sintra. It is classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO within the 'Cultural Landscape of Sintra'. Along with the nearby palaces such as Seteais Palace and the Quinta da Regaleira next to it, it is considered one of the tourist attractions of Sintra. The property consists of a romantic palace and chapel, and a park. The estate, or qui ...
Founded: 18th century | Location: Sintra, Portugal

Porto City Hall

Porto City Hall with a monumental tower is one of Porto’s landmarks. Even though the construction started in 1920, it was not finished until 1957. The building consists of six floors. The clock tower, 70 meters high, is accessible by a staircase of 180 steps. The interior, made of marble and granite, is richly decorated.
Founded: 1920-1957 | Location: Porto, Portugal

Mafra Palace

The Palace of Mafra is a monumental Baroque and Neoclassical palace-monastery located 28 kilometres from Lisbon. The palace, which also served as a Franciscan monastery, was built during the reign of King John V (1707–1750), as consequence of a vow the king made in 1711, to build a convent if his wife, Queen Mary Anne of Austria, gave him offspring. The birth of his first daughter, princess Barbara of Braganza, prompted ...
Founded: 1717-1730 | Location: Mafra, Portugal

Belém Palace

Situated high up in gardens on a gently sloped hill, the Belem Palace is the official residence of Portugal"s president since 1910. It was built in 1559 and altered in the 18th century by King João V. In 1755 King Jose I was inside the palace where the Great Earthquake was felt only to a slight extent, and just like most buildings in this area, it wasn"t severely damaged. It still retains its richly furn ...
Founded: 1726 | Location: Lisbon, Portugal

Queluz Palace

The Palace of Queluz is a Portuguese 18th-century palace located at Queluz in the Lisbon District. One of the last great Rococo buildings to be designed in Europe, the palace was conceived as a summer retreat for Dom Pedro of Braganza, later to become husband and then king consort to his own niece, Queen Maria I. It served as a discreet place of incarceration for Queen Maria as her descent into madness continued in the ye ...
Founded: 1747 | Location: Lisbon, Portugal

Monserrate Palace

The Monserrate Palace is an exotic palatial villa located near Sintra, the traditional summer resort of the Portuguese court. It was restored in 1858 for Sir Francis Cook, an English baronet created Viscount of Monserrate by King Luís I. The design was influenced by Romanticism and Mudéjar Moorish Revival architecture with Neo-Gothic elements. The eclecticism is a fine example of the Sintra Romanticism, along with othe ...
Founded: 1858 | Location: Sintra, Portugal

Seteais Palace

The Seteais Palace is now a luxury hotel, restaurant and a tourist attraction included in the Cultural Landscape of Sintra, listed as World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The Seteais Palace was built between 1783 and 1787 for the Dutch consul Daniel Gildemeester, on lands granted by the Marquis of Pombal. The consul chose to build his house on the border of an elevation, from which the vast landscape around the Sintra hills co ...
Founded: 1783-1787 | Location: Sintra, Portugal

Palace of the Marquises of Fronteira

The Palace of the Marquesses of Fronteira was built in 1671 as a hunting pavilion to Dom João de Mascarenhas, 1st Marquis of Fronteira, who received his title from King Afonso VI of Portugal for his loyalty to the House of Braganza in the Portuguese Restoration War. The house and the garden have glazed tiles representing different themes such as battles or monkeys playing trumpets. The Room of the Battles has pane ...
Founded: 1671 | Location: Lisbon, Portugal

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Pembroke Castle

Pembroke Castle is a Norman castle, founded in 1093. It survived many changes of ownership and is now the largest privately owned castle in Wales. It was the birthplace of Henry Tudor (later Henry VII of England) in 1457.

Pembroke Castle stands on a site that has been occupied at least since the Roman period. Roger de Montgomerie, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury founded the first castle here in the 11th century. Although only made from earth and wood, Pembroke Castle resisted several Welsh attacks and sieges over the next 30 years. The castle was established at the heart of the Norman-controlled lands of southwest Wales.

When William Rufus died, Arnulf de Montgomery joined his elder brother, Robert of Bellême, in rebellion against Henry I, William's brother and successor as king; when the rebellion failed, he was forced to forfeit all his British lands and titles. Henry appointed his castellan, but when the chosen ally turned out to be incompetent, the King reappointed Gerald in 1102. By 1138 King Stephen had given Pembroke Castle to Gilbert de Clare who used it as an important base in the Norman invasion of Ireland.

In August 1189 Richard I arranged the marriage of Isabel, de Clare's granddaughter, to William Marshal who received both the castle and the title, Earl of Pembroke. He had the castle rebuilt in stone and established the great keep at the same time. Marshal was succeeded in turn by each of his five sons. His third son, Gilbert Marshal, was responsible for enlarging and further strengthening the castle between 1234 and 1241.

Later de Valence family held Pembroke for 70 years. During this time, the town was fortified with defensive walls, three main gates and a postern. Pembroke Castle became de Valence's military base for fighting the Welsh princes during the conquest of North Wales by Edward I between 1277 and 1295.

Pembroke Castle then reverted to the crown. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the castle was a place of peace until the outbreak of the English Civil War. Although most of South Wales sided with the King, Pembroke declared for Parliament. It was besieged by Royalist troops but was saved after Parliamentary reinforcements arrived by sea from nearby Milford Haven. Parliamentary forces then went on to capture the Royalist castles of Tenby, Haverfordwest and Carew.

In 1648, at the beginning of the Second Civil War, Pembroke's commander Colonel John Poyer led a Royalist uprising. Oliver Cromwell came to Pembroke on 24 May 1648 and took the castle after a seven-week siege. Its three leaders were found guilty of treason and Cromwell ordered the castle to be destroyed. Townspeople were even encouraged to disassemble the fortress and re-use its stone for their purposes.

The castle was then abandoned and allowed to decay. It remained in ruins until 1880, when a three-year restoration project was undertaken. Nothing further was done until 1928, when Major-General Sir Ivor Philipps acquired the castle and began an extensive restoration of the castle's walls, gatehouses, and towers. After his death, a trust was set up for the castle, jointly managed by the Philipps family and Pembroke town council.

Architecture

The castle is sited on a strategic rocky promontory by the Milford Haven Waterway. The first fortification on the site was a Norman motte-and-bailey. It had earthen ramparts and a timber palisade.

In 1189, Pembroke Castle was acquired by William Marshal. He soon became Lord Marshal of England, and set about turning the earth and wood fort into an impressive Norman stone castle. The inner ward, which was constructed first, contains the huge round keep with its domed roof. Its original first-floor entrance was through an external stairwell. Inside, a spiral staircase connected its four stories. The keep's domed roof also has several putlog holes that supported a wooden fighting-platform. If the castle was attacked, the hoarding allowed defenders to go out beyond the keep's massive walls above the heads of the attackers.

The inner ward's curtain wall had a large horseshoe-shaped gateway. But only a thin wall was required along the promontory. This section of the wall has a small observation turret and a square stone platform. Domestic buildings including William Marshal's Great Hall and private apartments were within the inner ward. The 13th century keep is 23 metres tall with walls up to 6 metres thick at its base.

In the late 13th century, additional buildings were added to the inner ward, including a new Great Hall. A 55-step spiral staircase was also created that led down to a large limestone cave, known as Wogan Cavern, beneath the castle. The cave, which was created by natural water erosion, was fortified with a wall, a barred gateway and arrowslits. It may have served as a boathouse or a sallyport to the river where cargo or people could have been transferred.

The outer ward was defended by a large twin-towered gatehouse, a barbican and several round towers. The outer wall is 5 metres thick in places and constructed from Siltstone ashlar.

Although Pembroke Castle is a Norman-style enclosure castle with great keep, it can be more accurately described as a linear fortification because, like the later 13th-century castles at Caernarfon and Conwy, it was built on a rocky promontory surrounded by water. This meant that attacking forces could only assault on a narrow front. Architecturally, Pembroke's thickest walls and towers are all concentrated on its landward side facing the town, with Pembroke River providing a natural defense around the rest of its perimeter.