Coastal Portugal

Portugal enjoys over 580 miles of coastline. This travel guide shows you a handful of towns facing the North Atlantic Ocean and clustered around Lisbon. Their views are as lovely as their history is fascinating.

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1 Cámara Municipal Town Hall in Sintra, Portugal

The first thing you notice about the Town Hall of Sintra, called the Cámara Municipal, is the magnificent tower which is adorned with green and white glazed tiles and surrounded by four smaller spires. This Manueline style city hall first opened as an administration center in 1909.

Largo Dr. Virgílio Horta 4, 2710-592 Sintra, Portugal

2 Home Covered with Purple Lilacs in Sintra, Portugal

Sintra is a town of less than 400,000 people on Portugal’s west coast along the Atlantic Ocean. Its history can be traced back to prehistoric times and several remnants remain from the Middle Ages including palaces, castles, lush gardens plus delightful buildings like this one that is covered by vines and purple lilacs.

R. Dr. Alfredo da Costa 3 2710-523 Sintra, Portugal

3 Sintra National Palace in Sintra, Portugal

These two white chimneys lead to the kitchen of the Sintra National Palace, parts of which were built by King John I of Portugal in the early 15th century. It was further expanded and inhabited by Portuguese royalty until 1910 when it became a national monument and museum. It is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Largo Rainha Dona Amélia, 2710-616 Sintra, Portugal

4 Pena National Palace Queen’s Terrace in Sintra, Portugal

The Pena National Palace sits high on a hill overlooking the 500 acre Pana Park and the town of Sintra, Portugal. Some of the best views of this UNESCO World Heritage Site plus the valley below are from the Queen’s Terrace. On a clear day it is possible to see Lisbon which is 17 miles away.

Park and National Palace of Pena Estrada da Pena, 2710-609 Sintra, Portugal

5 Pena National Palace Triton Gate in Sintra, Portugal

This evil looking creature that is squatting in a claim shell over a bed of smaller ones is perched above the Triton Gate at the Pena National Palace. Apparently he symbolizes the creation of the world. He makes most castle gargoyles look tame.

Park and National Palace of Pena Estrada da Pena, 2710-609 Sintra, Portugal

6 Portuguese Coat of Arms at Pena Palace in Sintra, Portugal

The Portuguese coat of arms is framed by three towers with battlements and below an arch at the Pena National Place. Notice the seven castles that surround five dice-like symbols. The latter represent bezant coins which were first issued when Portugal became a kingdom in 1143.

Park and National Palace of Pena Estrada da Pena, 2710-609 Sintra, Portugal

7 Pena National Palace Entrance Gate in Sintra, Portugal

Follow these tourists through the front gate of the Pena National Palace. Built upon the ruins of a Hieronymites monastery that was destroyed during a 1755 earthquake, this summer palace for Portuguese royalty was started in 1840 by King Ferdinand II and completed the year he died in 1885.

Park and National Palace of Pena Estrada da Pena, 2710-609 Sintra, Portugal

8 Pena National Palace Romanticist Architecture in Sintra, Portugal

I have seen lots of castles and palaces during my travels, but I do not recall one like the Pena National Palace that blends Moorish, Islamic, Gothic, Egyptian and Renaissance styles and then decorates them with red, pink and yellow pastel colors. This eclectic style is called Romanticist.

Park and National Palace of Pena Estrada da Pena, 2710-609 Sintra, Portugal

9 Pena National Palace’s Features in Sintra, Portugal

Every little boy has built a castle in his imagination. The fantasy structure probably includes turrets, a drawbridge, ramparts, battlements, onion domes, towers, vaulted arches and plenty of gargoyles all majestically dominating a high hill. Portugal’s King Ferdinand II had the same checklist when he had Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege build the Pena National Palace during the 19th century.

Park and National Palace of Pena Estrada da Pena, 2710-609 Sintra, Portugal

10 Cruz Fort on Tamariz Beach in Estoril, Portugal

The full name of this fortress along Tamariz Beach is the Fort of Santo António da Cruz. It was created as a residence in the late 19th century by a wealthy man named João Martins de Barra. Apparently he built it for his terminally ill daughter but I am sure he also loved the wonderful view of the Atlantic Ocean.

R. Olivença 13, 2765-262 Estoril, Portugal

11 Cruz Fort Stone Wall and Colonnade in Estoril, Portugal

Imagine fighting an enemy from the battlements of this fort or running frantically beneath the colonnade during the height of an attack. Despite its medieval appearances and the fact that it was built upon the ruins of Antonio du Cruz fort, this Chalet Barros in Estoril, Portugal, only dates back to 1890.

R. Olivença 13, 2765-262 Estoril, Portugal

12 Ghoulish Figures Under Stone Arch in Estoril, Portugal

While traveling in Western Europe, the average tourist is easily awed by grand buildings such as cathedrals, castles, palaces, town halls, etc. What is often overlooked is their intricate ornamentation. An example are these two ghoulish figures under a stone arch with an eagle on its pediment. This is the Carriages of Santos Jorge. Located adjacent to the Estoril train station, Cavalariças de Santos Jorge was built in 1914 to be the horse stables of property owner António Santos.

R. Olivença 14A, 2765-262 São João do Estoril, Portugal

Dilapidated Building in Estoril, Portugal

If you have spent any time on my website, you know my camera is attracted to gorgeous architecture from around the world and the United States. Then, every once in a while, I will find a dilapidated building like this one. Despite its scars from neglect and decay, there remains a hint of its prior glory. It is always sad to see an old building waiting for its fate with a wrecking ball.

13 Palácio Estoril Hotel in Estoril, Portugal

If you remember the 1969 James Bond movie “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” then you will remember this five-star Palácio Estoril Hotel where 007 orders his martini shaken not stirred. It is also where the famous British agent saves Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo (played by Dianna Rigg), then romances and marries her. Unfortunately, at the end of the film, she is shot in his Aston Martin car. In reality, this hotel was the host of many displaced European royalty during WWII.

Hotel Palácio Estoril Rua Particular, 2769-504 Estoril, Portugal

14 Original Casino Royal in Estoril, Portugal

Estoril, Portugal, is a small beach town of less than 30,000 people that claims to have inspired the first James Bond book. Perhaps it’s true because this famous casino, the largest in Europe, was visited by German and English spies during WWII, plus a long list of kings, dignitaries, celebrities and the wealthy. In short, you are looking at the original Casino Royal.

Av. Dr. Stanley Ho, 2765-190 Estoril, Portugal

Portuguese Architecture in Estoril, Portugal

The history of Portugal dates back to the New Stone Age, particularly along the Atlantic coast. Through the millenniums its architecture has been influenced by the nations that have conquered and settled there up through when Portugal became a world power during the 15th and 16th century. As a result, you’ll find buildings that reflect this history, including those with Gothic, Renaissance, Romanesque, Brogue, Neoclassical and Manueline features. You’ll also find the simple yet elegant examples like this one in Estoril.

15 Pousada of Dona Maria in Queluz, Portugal

During the 18th century, Queen Maria and her husband, Peter III, began construction of their summer palace in Queluz, Portugal, and also had this pink building designed to house their servants and guards. It is now one of 44 historic hotels in Portugal under the management of the Grupo Pestana Pousadas.

Largo Palácio de Queluz 2745-191, Queluz, Portugal

16 Pousada of Dona Maria Clock Tower in Queluz, Portugal

Torre do Relógio is the name of this 18th century clock and bell tower on a pink, Baroque building. It used to be the annex of the National Palace of Queluz which was nicknamed the Portuguese Versailles. The vibrant structure is now a luxury hotel in Queluz, Portugal.

Largo Palácio de Queluz 2745-191, Queluz, Portugal

17 Torre de Belém in Lisbon, Portugal

In the early 16th century, King Manuel I ordered a fortification to be built along the Tagus River to protect Lisbon from invasion. This 100 foot, limestone tower with exquisite turrets, canon portholes and the hexagon bastion on the right was finished in 1519. The Torre de Belém’s unique architectural style is named Manueline after the Portuguese king. The Tower of Belém failed twice during battle and was later used as a prison.

Av. Brasília & Av. Torre de Belem 1400-038 Lisboa, Portugal

18 Monument to the Discoveries Detail in Lisbon, Portugal

During the Age of Discovery, which occurred from the early 15th century through the 16th centuries, Portugal was a leader in global naval expeditions across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. In celebration of the 500th anniversary of Henry the Navigator’s death, a 151 foot monument was created in the shape of a ship bow overlooking the Targus River. These are three of the 33 statues of knights, queens, explorers, scientists and other figures from this era.

Avenida Brasília, 202, Santa Maria de Belém, 1400-038 Lisboa, Portugal

19 Historic Alfama District of Lisbon, Portugal

This elevated view is the Alfama district and, back in the 8th century, it used to comprise all of Lisbon which is the oldest city in Western Europe. Today, this capital of Portugal has a population of about 2.7 million and has an extensive network of financial, industrial, maritime and multinational companies.

Castelo de S. Jorge R. de Santa Cruz do Castelo, 1100-129 Lisboa, Portugal

20 Castelo de São Jorge’s Tower in Lisbon, Portugal

If only this watch tower could tell about the history it has seen. It is part of the Castelo de São Jorge which dates back to the 10th century. However, at least ten nationalities of people have built fortifications on this same hill overlooking Lisbon, Portugal, since the 6th century B.C.

Castelo de S. Jorge R. de Santa Cruz do Castelo, 1100-129 Lisboa, Portugal

21 Moorish Encirclement at São Jorge Castle in Lisbon, Portugal

During the 8th century, the Moors dominated Portugal along with Spain and Southern France. Before Lisbon was liberated in 1147 during the Second Crusade, the Muslims built defensive walls called Cerca Moura. Some of this Moorish Encirclement still stands. About three hundred years later, the citadel was dedicated to Saint George who is the warrior saint.

Castelo de S. Jorge R. de Santa Cruz do Castelo, 1100-129 Lisboa, Portugal

22 Lisbon Cathedral Main Portal in Lisbon, Portugal

This portal leads into the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. Mary Major or more commonly known as the Lisbon Cathedral. Construction on this Roman Catholic church began soon after Portugal regained its independence from the Moors in 1147. Since then it has suffered extensive damage from three earthquakes, the worst one in 1755. Sé Cathedral was rebuilt during the 20th century.

Largo da Sé, 1100-585 Lisboa, Portugal