Portugal is a small country in size, but rich in history and tradition. During the 14 and 1500’s, Portugal was a major force in exploration and one of the most powerful countries in the world. Notables such as Ferdinand Magellan and Vasco de Gama journeyed all over the known world. Thus, it is no wonder that there are numerous sights in the country which can be considered "wonders." Here are my choices for the best seven.
1. Pena National Palace, Sintra. This extravaganza is, like Neuschwanstein in Germany, a combination of several artistic styles. The blend turns out to be especially pleasing. It served as a summer palace for Portuguese rulers and, although it is still used occasionally for state functions, it is primarily a tourist attraction.
2. Sintra National Palace, Sintra. This white mansion dates to the 15th century and was a royal residence for centuries. Notable rooms include the Arab Room, the Swann’s Room and the Pegas’ (magpie’s) Room.
3. Padrao dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries), Belem parish, Lisbon. This concrete edifice commemorates Portugal’s contribution to world exploration. It is designed as the prow of a ship with a number of statues representing famous Portuguese pioneers, including Henry the Navigator (leading), Vasco de Gama, Ferdinand Magellan, and others.
4. Castle of Saint George, Lisbon. This crenulated fortress dominates the highest hill in the capital city of Lisbon. Fortifications have been present here since the 2nd century AD, and retaking this castle from the Moors was the goal of one of the Crusades. Castle grounds also held a royal palace which is now in ruins.
5. Belem Tower, Belem parish, Lisbon. This fortification, built to commemorate Vasco de Gama’s expedition, has become the symbol of the city, and, together with the nearby Jeronimos Monastery, has been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. It dates to the early 1500’s and marks the entrance into Lisbon’s harbor.
6. Church of Saint Francis, Porto. This Gothic structure which was begun in 1383 has a marvelous Baroque interior that distinguishes it as one of Portugal most important Medieval sites and has been recognized as a World Heritage Site.
7. Castle of the Moors, Sintra. Its prominent location at the top of a hill overlooking Sintra, and its somewhat intact walls which make it seem impenetrable, make this ruin a major tourist attraction. The views of the Pena Palace (see #1 above) and the Sintra National Palace (see #2 above) from here are tremendous.
Other sites considered: