Where are the 7 Wonders of Portugal? Finding UNESCO World Heritage Sites

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7 Wonders of Portugal

The 7 Wonders of Portugal

UPDATE: In 2007 the new Seven Wonders of the World were announced. They represented both natural and man-made wonders that one would imagine being on this extraordinary list.

Portugal took on the challenge of developing its own version of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. Beginning with a list of 749 possibilities, which eventually narrowed down to 21, the final seven were chosen.

It should be no surprise that these monuments are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, meeting strict criteria and offering historical and cultural value. They are important to the Portuguese identity, breathtakingly beautiful, and national treasures. If you are wondering which are the Seven Wonders of Portugal, wonder no longer.

The 7 New Wonders of the World were officially named in 2007. These are all man-made structures or monuments and are located throughout the globe. They are Chichen Itza in Mexico, Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, the Great Wall of ChinaMachu Picchu in Peru, Petra in Jordan, the Taj Mahal in India, and the  Colosseum in Italy.

On my trip to Spain and Portugal in 2019, I was lucky enough to see six of the seven Wonders of Portugal. I finished the list this year by visiting the Castle of Guimarães just north of Porto. Although I knew it would be spectacular, it was amazing to see the town of Guimarães. It was a great day trip from Porto, and I highly recommend it.

The other six monuments are either in the Portuguese capital or within a two-hour drive from Lisbon. Centrally located, most are easy day trips for any traveler visiting Portugal.

It is hard to pick favorites, but the three monasteries stand out: The Convent of Christ in Tomar, the Monastery of Batalha, and the Monastery of Alcobaça. Individual tickets are €10 and well worth the price. Set aside 90 minutes to 2 hours to tour and be ready for some amazing photographs.

Belém Tower, 1521 – Santa Maria de Belém, Lisbon

7 Wonders of Portugal - The Belem Tower
Belém Tower

Located in Lisbon, the Belém Tower, also known as St. Vincent Tower, is the gateway to Lisbon and served as a point of departure from and arrival to Portugal. From here, many Portuguese explorers left to conquer the world. It symbolizes Europe’s Age of Discoveries or Age of Exploration, when the old world discovered the new.

Beside the tower is the beautiful and imposing Monument to the Discoveries – Padrão dos Descobrimentos – dedicated to all those explorers. It represents a three-sail ship ready to depart, with sculptures of important historical figures.

Monuments to the Discoveries Padrao dos Descobrimentos Lisbon Portugal
Monuments to the Discoveries – Padrão dos Descobrimentos – Lisbon, Portugal
Map of Countries colonized by Portugal Tower of Belem Lisbon Portugal
World Map of colonial countries throughout the globe
Maps of Portugal Discoveries Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO
Maps of Portugal Discoveries Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO

There are 33 figures, including Henry the Navigator, Vasco da Gama, Magellan, Saint Francis Xavier, Prince Ferdinand, King Alfonso, and several other notable Portuguese explorers, crusaders, monks, and cartographers. You can also see a world map documenting the routes to all the countries the Portuguese discovered and colonized over the years.

Jerónimos Monastery, 1502 – Santa Maria de Belém, Lisbon

Jeronimos Monastery Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO. jpg
Jerónimos Monastery Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO

Crossing the plaza and the street, you will find the beautiful Jerónimos Monastery, built in the stunning Portuguese Manueline style. Also considered Portuguese late Gothic style, Manueline architecture incorporates maritime elements (coral, barnacles, carved seaweed, and algae) and representations of the discoveries brought from the voyages of Vasco da Gama and Pedro Álvares Cabral.

The Jerónimos Monastery replaced the church dedicated to Santa Maria de Belém, where the monks of the military-religious Order of Christ assisted seafarers in transit.

Jeronimos Monastery Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO 1
Jerónimos Monastery Photo Credit: DownshiftingPRO

Built from taxes imposed on the colonies for importing spices, the revenue financed St. Jerónimos and Batalha Monasteries.

Pena National Palace, 1838 – Sintra, Lisbon

Sintra Palace - 7 Wonders of Portugal
Pena Palace in Sintra, Portugal

Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995, Pena Palace was originally built as a church—Our Lady of Pena—after an apparition of the Virgin Mary. King Manuel I commissioned a monastery. Following the devastating 1755 earthquake, King Ferdinand II rebuilt Pena Palace as a summer palace for the royal family. Construction started in 1840 and would take 45 years to complete—the rest of the King’s life.

With the declaration of the Republic in 1910, the palace became a museum, preserved as it was when the royal family lived there. The last Portuguese royal died in 1932 after his exile. Having no heirs, the royal line ended with King Manuel II.

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My mother and sister on the terrace
Pena Palace Detail Sintra Portugal @DownshiftingPRO
The intricate nautical details and blue tiles of the Pena Palace

Well deserving to be on the list of the 7 Wonders of Portugal, Pena Palace sits atop a mountain and is one of Portugal’s most popular tourist attractions. We drove up to the Palace, but in my opinion, it’s likely better to catch a bus in Sintra or go on an organized tour.

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Wall details of The Grand Hall
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Original torchbearer in the Grand Hall of Pena Palace

We were very fortunate to find a parking spot, though the drive up was on a steep, narrow, winding road. The drive can be tricky as you will encounter many tourists climbing, biking, busing, driving, and even walking up to the summit on the road. Even maneuvering around buses on steep hills is worth the effort, so I highly recommend the visit.

Óbidos Castle, 1195 – Óbidos, Leiria

Obidos Castle - 7 Wonders of Portugal
View from Óbidos Castle to Santuário do Senhor Jesus da Pedra

On our trip to Spain and Portugal, my mother, sister, and I all had the time to relax and slow-travel. We took our time. We had the luxury of deciding in the morning where we wanted to go that day. It was our journey of discovery. ⁠

We found ourselves in the tiny town of Óbidos, located an hour north of Lisbon. This walled town is on a hilltop, encircled by farmland and stunning scenery.

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The aqueduct in Óbidos

Just outside the wall is a medieval aqueduct, with other structural remains dating back to the Romans and Visigoths. Later, the Moors took over and continued the fortification of this town. ⁠

As you enter through a portal, you are on cobblestone streets accessible only on foot. With adorable shops, a church, and cafés, you will eventually find the massive Óbidos castle. The large stone fortress is unlike other Portuguese monuments as it has been converted into a luxury hotel. Unless you are staying there, you are unlikely to tour the castle. I have to admit, staying there would be a treat!

Walking towards the marketplace at the ramparts will give you a spectacular view of the terraced valley. The open-air theatre area hosts festivals, farmer’s markets, and theatre productions. You can walk on the ramparts, but be sure to show caution. Climbing onto the ramparts is not for the faint of heart, as there are no guardrails to keep you from falling, but it is still worth the view.

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The cobblestone streets of Óbidos

Although Óbidos Castle is not a World Heritage Site in Portugal, Óbidos – the city is a UNESCO City of Literature. Part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, the goal is to establish international partnerships in creative industries. Creative Cities was created to promote culture and art by showcasing creative communities.

Batalha Monastery, 1385 – Batalha, Leiria

Batalha Monastery - 7 Wonders of Portugal
Monastery of Santa Maria da Vitória, also known as the Monastery of Batalha

The Monastery of Santa Maria da Vitória, also known as the Monastery of Batalha, is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful examples of Portuguese and European architecture.

This dazzling architectural ensemble was born out of a promise the King, João I, made thanks to his victory at Aljubarrota, a battle fought against the Spanish on August 14, 1385. The victory assured him the throne and guaranteed independence for Portugal.

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Stain glass windows in Batalha Monastery – 7 Wonders of Portugal

The construction of the monastery took over 150 years to complete in various phases, which is why one can find both Gothic style (for the most part), Manueline style, and some Renaissance touches. This is a huge monastery with several alterations resulting in a vast monastic complex that today includes a church, two cloisters with annexed dependencies, two royal pantheons, the Founder’s Chapel, and the Unfinished Chapels.

The monument was in the possession of Dominican monks until the extinction of the religious orders in 1384. Then, it was incorporated within the Public Exchequer, and today, it is a cultural, touristic, and devotional Monument under the jurisdiction of IGESPAR, a national Monument also declared World Heritage in Portugal by UNESCO in 1983.

Alcobaça Monastery, 1153 – Alcobaça, Leiria

Alcobaça Monastery - 7 Wonders of Portugal
Alcobaça Monastery

The complex of Alcobaça Monastery is one of the most notable and best-conserved examples of Cistercian architecture and spatial philosophy. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site of Portugal in 1989.

Alcobaça was the last abbey founded in St. Bernard’s lifetime and the first wholly Gothic building in Portugal. The abbey was founded in 1153 when King Afonso Henriques donated the land to Bernard of Clairvaux (St. Bernard). These monks were reformers and broke away from the Benedictines as they sought to return to an agricultural and labour-focused life.

The Tomb of Pedro I with his statue of angels Alcobaca Monastery Portugal @DownshiftingPRO
Tomb of King Pedro

Construction work on the building as we see it today only began in 1178 and lasted several decades. The church, 100 metres in length, is Portugal’s largest Gothic religious structure.

Ines of Castro murdered mistress of Pedro I in Alcobaca Monastery Portugal @DownshiftingPRO
Ines de Castro

Don’t miss the tombs of King Pedro I and his mistress (and Queen—a title granted to her posthumously) Ines de Castro. Once King Pedro’s first wife died giving birth, he lived openly with his mistress, Ines de Castro.

After many years and three children, Pedro’s father, King Alfonso IV, had Ines murdered. Once Pedro succeeded his father to the throne, he had the murders killed and his beloved exhumed and crowned Queen posthumously.

Castle of Guimarães, 10th century – Guimarães, Braga

Castle of Guimaraes Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO 1
Castle of Guimarães Photo Credit: DownshiftingPRO

Castle of Guimarães is the only site we did not see on our trip and I think that means we will just have to return. One of the best things is that you can take a virtual tour of the castle. If there is positive about this world pandemic is that there are many monuments, cities and UNESCO World Heritage sites which have developed virtual tours.

The Castle of Guimarães is the principal medieval castle in the municipality Guimarães, in the northern region of Portugal. It was built under the orders of Mumadona Dias in the 10th century to defend the monastery from attacks by Moors and Norsemen.

Palace Duques de Braganca 1 Photo Credit DownshiftingPR O

The castle is a military fortification grounded primarily in the late Romanesque period, and elaborated during the early Gothic epoch of Portuguese architecture. Its area is delineated by walls forming a pentagram, similar to a shield, that includes eight rectangular towers, military square and central keep.

Originating in the foundations of a Roman structure, from the writings of Alfredo Guimarães, it was later elaborated on the French model, in its current form of a shield, with reduced central yard and difficult accesses. It includes several Gothic characteristics, owing to its remodelling in the end of the 13th century when the keep and residences were constructed (possibly over pre-existing structures). (Notations from Wikipedia).

7 Wonders of Portugal
7 Wonders of Portugal1
7 Wonders of Portugal2

Armchair Travel & Virtual Tours

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Margarita Ibbott is a travel and lifestyle blogger. She blogs about travel in Canada, the United States and Europe giving practical advice through restaurant, hotel and attraction reviews. She writes for DownshiftingPRO.com and other online media outlets.

9 thoughts on “Where are the 7 Wonders of Portugal? Finding UNESCO World Heritage Sites”

  1. What beautiful places! It is easy to see why they were named the 7 Wonders of Portugal! I love UNESCO World Heritage sites because you can always guarantee you’re going to see something special! I especially love the look of Pena National Palace – I love how colourful and whimsical it looks! I’m definitely adding all of these to my Portugal bucket list! Thanks for the great guide!

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  2. Wow. These places look so amazing! Clearly I need to get back to Portugal! Would especially love to visit the Castle of Guimarães, frlm the 10th century!

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  3. Wow, the National Palace is so beautiful. I’ve never been to Portugal but it always looks so colorful, and from these sites there seems to be a lot of history. What a great guide

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  4. Great post! I never knew there were seven wonders of Portugal. I have only been to Belem Palace, so guess I need another trip to Portugal in the future to see the rest 🙂

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  5. I’ve only been to Portugal once, when I did the Caminho Portugues last year — walking 240km from Porto to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Although I only saw a small portion of Portugal, I fell deeply in love with it. I would really love to visit again and see all these other places you mentioned here. Judging from your pictures, I think I’d love Sintra.

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