Portugal’s architecture, like all aspects of its culture, is marked by the history of the country and the people that have settled and made their mark on the land. As well as the influence from the main European architectural styles such as Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Neoclassicism, Portugal also developed the Manueline style. This style came about during the 16th century and incorporates Gothic influences with maritime elements and representations of the discoveries brought from the voyages of Vasco da Gama and Pedro Álvares Cabral.
Discover some of the best examples of the Manueline style and the other architectural approaches that have made their way into Portugal’s landscape by checking out the list below, featuring some of the country’s most amazing buildings.
Belém Tower is a fortified tower located in Lisbon, Portugal. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the significant role it played in the Portuguese maritime discoveries during the Age of Discoveries era that took place from early 15th century to the early 17th century. The tower was commissioned by King John II to be part of a defense system at the mouth of the Tagus river and a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon.
Built in the early 16th century, it is one of the best examples of the Portuguese Manueline style, but it also incorporates hints of other architectural styles. The structure was built from Lioz limestone and is composed of a bastion and a 30-meter (98.4 ft) four-story tower. It has incorrectly been stated that the tower was built in the middle of the Tagus and now sits near the shore because the river was redirected after the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. In fact, the tower was built on a small island in the Tagus River near Lisbon’s shore.
Also classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with Belém Tower, the Jerónimos Monastery is a former monastery of the Order of Saint Jerome near the Tagus river. The monastery is one of the most prominent examples of the Portuguese Late Gothic Manueline style of architecture in Lisbon.
The construction of the monastery and church began on 6 January 1501, and was completed 100 years later. Built in a richly ornate style, there are complex sculptural themes present in the structure that incorporate maritime elements and objects discovered during naval expeditions, all carved in limestone. The monastery withstood the 1755 Lisbon earthquake without much damage: only the balustrade and part of the high choir were ruined, but they were quickly repaired.
The National Pantheon was originally known as the Church of Santa Engrácia, built in the 17th century. While it started life as a church, in the 20th century it was converted into the National Pantheon, in which important Portuguese personalities are now buried.
Construction of the building began in 1681 after previous structures had collapsed. The design was the work of João Antunes, royal architect and one of the most important baroque architects of Portugal. Construction proceeded from 1682 through until 1712, when the architect died. King John V lost interest in the project, concentrating his resources in the gigantic Convent of Mafra. The church was not completed until the 20th century, so that ‘Obras de Santa Engrácia’ (literally meaning Saint Engrácia's works) has become a Portuguese synonym for an endless construction project. A dome was added, and the church was reinaugurated in 1966. Famous people entombed at the National Pantheon include Presidents of the Republic Manuel de Arriaga, Teófilo Braga, Sidónio Pais, and Óscar Carmona, as well as various important poets and writers such as Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen, and Aquilino Ribeiro.
Palace of Sintra and Pena Palace
The Palace of Sintra, also called Town Palace is located in the town of Sintra, near Lisbon. It 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.
A short and steep bus ride away is Pena Palace, a Romanticist castle that stands on top of a hill in the Sintra Mountains above the town. Built between 1842 and 1854, the palace is one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal and is often used for state occasions by the President of the Portuguse Republic and other government officials. The palace was built using an intentional mixture of colorful, eclectic styles including Neo-Gothic, Neo-Manueline, Neo-Islamic, and Neo-Renaissance.
Conímbriga is one of the largest Roman settlements excavated in Portugal, and was classified as a National Monument in 1910. Located in Condeixa-a-Nova, it is a walled urban settlement, encircled by a curtain of stone structures approximately 4,900ft long. The settlement contains a forum, basilica, shops, thermal spas, aqueducts, and homes of various heights. The area now houses a visitor’s centre, which was constructed to display objects found by archaeologists during their excavations, including coins, surgical tools, utensils, and ceramics.
Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology
The Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology (MAAT) sits on the River Tagus in Lisbon and is one of Portugal’s most prominent examples of industrial architecture from the first half of the 20th century.
Designed by Amanda Levete Architects, it opened in 2016 and is covered in 15,000 white, three-dimensional ceramic tiles. The building boasts an undulating form that connects its grand rooftop terrace with the waterside promenade. The institution aims to present national and international exhibitions by contemporary artists, architects, and thinkers.
Convent of Christ
The Convent of Christ is a former Roman Catholic convent in Tomar. The complex is a historic and cultural monument and was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983. Built over five centuries, the Convent of Christ is a testimony to architecture combining Romanesque, Gothic, Manueline, Renaissance, Mannerist, and Baroque elements.
The Convent’s centrepiece is its 12th century rotunda, Oratory of the Templars, influenced by Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulchre Rotunda. It was built by the first great master of the Templars, Gualdim Pais, and was based on a polygonal ground plan of 16 bays including an octagonal choir with ambulatory. This is one of the typical "rotondas" of Templar architecture of which few examples are still in existence in Europe.
Serralves is a cultural institution located in Porto, and one of the most important in the country. It includes a contemporary art museum, a park, and a villa, each one an example of contemporary architecture, Modernism, and Art Deco architecture. The museum, designed by Álvaro Siza Vieira, is now the most visited museum in Portugal (more than 300,000 visitors per year) and one of the most relevant in the contemporary art circuit in Europe.
The 13,000sqm building, which includes 4,500sqm of exhibition space in 14 galleries, opened its doors to the public in 1999, with the old Casa de Serralves serving as the foundation's head office. In 2000, an auditorium was added. As with most of Siza's buildings, the furniture and fittings were also designed by the architect, including lighting fixtures, handrails, doorknobs, and signage. Materials include hardwood floors and painted walls in gesso with marble skirting in the exhibition halls and marble floors in the foyers. Exterior walls are covered with stone or stucco.
Castle of Silves
The Castle of Silves is a castle in Silves in the Portuguese Algarve. It's believed that the first fortifications were built upon a possible Lusitanian castro by the Romans or Visigoths. Between the 8th and 13th centuries, the castle was occupied by the Moors who expanded it, making it one of the best preserved Moorish fortifications in Portugal, resulting in its classification as a National Monument in 1910.
The castle consists of an irregular polygon implanted on a hilltop overlooking the community of Silves, comprising four towers and seven crenellated posts, linked by walls with ardaves. There are two gates, and alongside the principal gate is the guardhouse, constructed with a vaulted ceiling, and covered in tiles.
Another one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal, the Castle of Óbidos is a well-preserved medieval castle located in the municipality of Óbidos. D. Afonso Henriques, first King of Portugal, conquered the castle of Óbidos in 1148 and it’s been witness to various fights for the throne and political changes.
If you like the look of it, you can stay in it as the castle has now been converted into a luxurious hotel. There are 14 double rooms and 3 suites, 9 of which are located in the castle and 8 in a new wing. All rooms are named after Portugal’s Kings and Queens who have stayed in the town.