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, alo ...
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

Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.