Top 5 Portuguese castles you need to see before you die

These top 5 castles in Portugal will not leave you unimpressed.
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Visit them to travel back in time to see the era of the Reconquista and feel the power of the mighty Order of the Knights Templar.

5. Almourol Castle

Where: Islet of Almourol, Portugal's Central Region
Almourol Castle. Photo credits: Catarina Fonseca
One of the best medieval military monuments of the Reconquista and one of the best examples of Knights Templar influence, the castle of Almourol is believed to have been constructed on the site of a Roman outpost on a small island. To get there you will have to pay for a short boat-ride across the Tagus river.
Almourol Castle. Photo credits: Vitor Oliveira
In 1129 the castle which was known as Almorolan back then was seized by the Portuguese forces. It was later handed over to Gualdim Pais, the master of the Knights Templar in Portugal. Еxcavations carried out on site brought findings dating back to the Roman times: coins, millennium markers and Roman foundations.

4. Castle of Santa Maria da Feira

Where: Aveiro
Castle of Santa Maria da Feira. Photo credits: Jorge Lobo
The history of this medieval stronghold on a hill overlooking the Feira valley goes back to the Roman times as well. In the year 1000 the castle was captured by Arabs led by Al-Mansur. Christian forces managed to retake it but had to repel subsequent attacks. After Arabs' final defeat in the mid-11th century the castle was rebuilt.
Castle of Santa Maria da Feira. Photo credits: JFVP
The entrance is protected by a barbican, a moat and 4 towers. Inside there's a keep. The 14th century walls are fitted with cruciform battlements and embrasures. From the very start the castle evolved according to latest military trends. Imagine this - for the last 900 years a lawn near its walls has been the venue for a fair, which is now also a medieval festival!

3. The Moorish Castle

Where: Sintra
Moorish Castle
This fortress was founded in the 10th century when the Moors occupied the Iberian Peninsula. The Moors lived within the castle walls till 1147, when Sintra was seized by the Christian forces and handed over to Afonso Henriques, the first King of Portugal. The castle walls which are reminiscent of a giant dragon tail run up and down the hills and steep cliffs. Go there to enjoy unique views of Sintra, the iconic Palace of Pena and the Atlantic Ocean far away in the distance.

2. Convent of Christ and Tomar Castle

Where: Tomar
Convent of Christ in Tomar castle
The convent of Christ stands on a hill surrounded by the walls of the Castle of Tomar. It was founded in the 12th century by (guess who) Gualdim Pais, grand master of the Knights Templar. But very soon the convent found itself encircled by the armies of caliph Abu Yusuf al-Mansour. A century later Tomar became the Seat of the Templar Order.
It was also an integral part of its defense system against the Moors. When the Order was dissolved both the Convent and the castle were handed over to the newly-established Order of Christ, which promoted Portugal's maritime adventures. The Convent is absolutely authentic and is mind blowing – look at the intricate Manuelino stone carvings and kneel in front of the famous chapter house window and a round window with sails and ropes above it.

1. Guimaraes Castle

Where: Guimaraes
Guimaraes Castle. Photo credits: SergioPT
Built in the 10th century the castle of Guimaraes in Portugal's north used to defend a local monastery from Moors' attacks. The fortress stands on a small granite hill surrounded by the woods. This military fortification bears traits of late Romanesque and Gothic architecture. Look at the walls from above and you'll see a 'shield' with 8 rectangular towers and a central keep.
The castle was built on the Roman foundations. It was the official royal residence from 1139, when Portugal became independent from the Kingdom of León and it was the birth place Afonso Henriques – the first king of Portugal. Interestingly, a baptismal font where the king was said to have been baptized was found in the western sector of the castle. By the mid-19th c. local council was eager to pull it down and use its stones to repair roads. Thank God it did not happen.