World Heritage In Portugal (2023)

Do you want to visit the World Heritage in Portugal? Search no further, as I’ve rounded up a complete list of the World Heritage in Portugal. From Angra do Heroísmo to Tomar – not to mention Batalha and Lisbon – get ready to discover unique, beautiful, and jaw-dropping sites!

Nowadays, Portugal is the ninth country in Europe and the eighteenth country in the world with the most sites inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It accounts for a total of seventeen: sixteen sites of cultural interest and one site of natural interest!

So, do you want to know more about the World Heritage In Portugal (2023)? Keep reading!

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World Heritage in Portugal
World Heritage in Portugal

World Heritage in Portugal

1. Central Zone of the Town of Angra do Heroismo in the Azores (1983)

The Central Zone of the Town of Angra do Heroismo in the Azores was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1983, along with three other sites listed as World Heritage in Portugal: the Convent of Christ in Tomar; the Monastery of Batalha; and the Monastery of the Hieronymites and Tower of Belém in Lisbon.

Located on Terceira Island – one of the nine islands that make up the Azores Archipelago (and integrates the so-called Central Group) – the city of Angra do Heroísmo stands out for its magnificent military architecture, as exemplified by the Fort of São Sebastião and the Fortress of São João Baptista, both over 400 years old!

2. Convent of Christ in Tomar (1983)

The Convent of Christ in Tomar was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1983, along with three other sites listed as World Heritage in Portugal: the Central Zone of the Town of Angra do Heroismo in the Azores; the Monastery of Batalha; and the Monastery of the Hieronymites and Tower of Belém in Lisbon.

The Convent of Christ began to be built in 1160 and originally belonged to the Knights Templar. However, as the works lasted more than five centuries, the monument presents a mixture of different architectural styles: Romanesque, Gothic, Manueline, Renaissance, Mannerist and Baroque.

Read my complete guide to the Convent of Christ in Tomar, one of the sites listed as World Heritage in Portugal!

3. Monastery of Batalha (1983)

The Monastery of Batalha was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1983, along with three other sites listed as World Heritage in Portugal: the Central Zone of the Town of Angra do Heroismo in the Azores; the Convent of Christ in Tomar; and the Monastery of the Hieronymites and Tower of Belém in Lisbon.

Also called the Monastery of Saint Mary of the Victory, this monument is the result of the Portuguese victory over the Castilians in the Battle of Aljubarrota, which was fought on August 14th, 1385. Considered one of the best examples of Manueline architecture, it was elected one of the 7 Wonders of Portugal in 2007.

Read my complete guide to the Monastery of Batalha, one of the sites listed as World Heritage in Portugal!

4. Monastery of the Hieronymites and Tower of Belém in Lisbon (1983)

The Monastery of the Hieronymites and Tower of Belém in Lisbon was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1983, along with three other sites listed as World Heritage in Portugal: the Central Zone of the Town of Angra do Heroismo in the Azores; the Convent of Christ in Tomar; and the Monastery of Batalha.

Like the Monastery of Batalha, the Monastery of the Hieronymites and the Tower of Belém are linked to a crucial moment in the history of Portugal (in this case, with the Age of Discovery) and also became part of the 7 Wonders of Portugal.

Read my guide to the Monastery of the Hieronymites, one of the sites listed as World Heritage in Portugal!

5. Historic Centre of Évora (1986)

The Historic Centre of Évora (or Historic Center of Évora) was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1986. Like many other cities in Portugal, Évora‘s foundation dates back to the time of the Roman Empire, of which some ruins remain, such as the Roman Temple (wrongly called the Temple of Diana) and the Roman Baths.

In the 15th century, Portuguese monarchs began to spend long periods in Évora, encouraging the construction of royal and religious buildings: the Convent of Santa Clara, the Church of Saint Francis, and the Convent of the Lóios, among others. Currently, Évora is the capital of the Alentejo Region or Alentejo, one of the most touristy in the country.

6. Monastery of Alcobaça (1989)

The Monastery of Alcobaça was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1989. Its importance is due, above all, to the fact that it was the first large structure in Gothic architecture to be built in Portugal. Its works began in 1172 and were carried out by the monks of the Cistercian Order.

Even so, the best elements of the Monastery of Alcobaça are the tombs of King Pedro I and Inês de Castro, the protagonists of the most famous (and tragic) Portuguese love story. Located in the south and north wings of the Church’s transept (respectively), they are true masterpieces of Gothic sculpture!

Read my complete guide to the Monastery of Alcobaça, one of the sites listed as World Heritage in Portugal!

7. Cultural Landscape of Sintra (1995)

The Cultural Landscape of Sintra was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1995. This classification includes the historic center of the town and part of the Serra de Sintra (Sintra Mountains), which is dotted with several palaces, villas, parks, gardens, etc. Here are the most important monuments of this UNESCO site:

Although this set of residences dates back to different periods, the vast majority were built in the 19th century, when Sintra emerged as a pioneer in European romantic art. Furthermore, it has become a reference in landscape architecture, inspiring gardens and parks throughout Europe!

Read my complete guide to the Cultural Landscape of Sintra, one of the sites listed as World Heritage in Portugal!

8. Historic Centre of Oporto, Luiz I Bridge and Monastery of Serra do Pilar (1996)

The Historic Centre of Oporto, Luiz I Bridge and Monastery of Serra do Pilar (or Historic Center of Porto, Luiz I Bridge, and Monastery of Serra do Pilar) were inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1996. Firstly, the Historic Centre of Oporto is a considerable area of the old city, which encompasses more than fifty buildings and structures, including centuries-old houses, palaces, churches, chapels, statues, and fountains. These are some of the best monuments to visit:

  • Church of Saint Francis
  • Church of Saint Ildefonso
  • Clérigos Church and Tower
  • Episcopal Palace
  • National Theater of São João
  • Palace of the Stock Exchange
  • Porto Cathedral
  • Primitive Wall and Fernandine Walls
  • Ribeira Square
  • São Bento Railway Station

As for the Luiz I Bridge, it’s one of the best-known postcards of Porto, in addition to having been elected one of the “Most Beautiful Bridges in Europe” by the European Best Destinations, in 2019. And the Monastery of the Serra do Pilar is the perfect viewpoint for admiring this entire UNESCO World Heritage property!

9. Prehistoric Rock Art Sites in the Côa Valley (1998)

The Prehistoric Rock Art Sites in the Côa Valley were inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1998. Interestingly, this is the only Portuguese property shared with another country. This is because UNESCO extended the classification in 2010 to include the Archaeological Site of the Siega Verde, in Spain.

Located on the banks of the Águeda and Côa rivers (two tributaries of the Douro river), this set of thousands of outdoor cave paintings is proof of human occupation in the Iberian Peninsula since the late Upper Paleolithic (22 000-10 000 BC)!

10. Laurisilva of Madeira (1999)

The Laurisilva of Madeira was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1999. So far, this is the only UNESCO site of “natural interest” – unlike the other sixteen UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Portugal, which are of “cultural interest”.

Laurisilva forests (or laurel forests) are a type of forest limited to the archipelagos of Madeira, the Azores, and the Canary Islands (the latter belonging to Spain). Currently, the Madeira Natural Park preserves the largest area of Laurissilva Forest in the world, hosting a unique number of species, between fauna and flora.

11. Alto Douro Wine Region (2001)

The Alto Douro Wine Region was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2001, together with another of the sites listed as World Heritage in Portugal: the Historic Centre of Guimarães (or Historic Center of Guimarães). Well, everyone knows that Port Wine is one of the most appreciated worldwide. But, what many don’t know is that this wine has been produced on the slopes of the Douro River for 2000 years!

Over an extension of almost 30,000 hectares, the award-winning Alto Douro Wine Region has become an important international wine tourism center, with numerous estates and wineries increasingly investing in this tourism sector.

12. Historic Centre of Guimarães (2001)

The Historic Centre of Guimarães (or Historic Center of Guimarães) was together on the World Heritage List in 2001, along with another of the sites listed as World Heritage in Portugal: the Alto Douro Wine Region. And it’s practically impossible to mention Guimarães without referring to the foundation of Portugal, achieve with the victories of King Afonso Henriques over the Castilians.

In the Historic Centre of Guimarães, the many buildings and structures which still preserve typical Portuguese architecture from the 15th to the 19th centuries stand out. So, here are some of the must-see monuments on a visit to this site listed as World Heritage in Portugal:

  • Alberto Sampaio Museum
  • Church of Our Lady of Consolation and the Holy Steps
  • Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
  • Inscription “Aqui Nasceu Portugal” & Old Wall
  • Latito Hill (or Sacred Hill): Palace of the Dukes of Braganza, Guimarães Castle, and Chapel of São Miguel do Castelo
  • Oliveira Square
  • Saint James Square
  • Toural Square

13. Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture (2004)

The Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2004. After more than 30 years, this was the Azores’ second inscription on the UNESCO list – but now the property is located on Pico Island, also in the Central Group.

The second-largest island in the archipelago owes its name to a large volcano, which forms the highest mountain in Portugal. Since the 15th century, Pico‘s inhabitants have been building their houses, cellars, and corrals with black stone walls (of volcanic origin, of course), to cultivate their Verdelho Wine grape varieties.

14. Garrison Border Town of Elvas and its Fortifications (2012)

The Garrison Border Town of Elvas and its Fortifications were inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2012. But, in fact, UNESCO recognizes seven distinct locations within this property, which are the following:

  • Amoreira Aqueduct (the largest in the Iberian Peninsula)
  • Fort of Graça
  • Fort of Santa Luzia (and the covered way that connects it to the historic center)
  • Fortlet of São Domingos
  • Fortlet of São Mamede
  • Fortlet of São Pedro
  • Historic Centre of Elvas

The border town of Elvas was once the main stopover and passage between the two capitals of the Iberian Peninsula: Lisbon and Madrid. After the Restoration of Independence in 1640, Elvas began to be fortified with walls, barracks, and other military buildings, as well as chapels, churches, and monasteries.

15. University of Coimbra – Alta and Sofia (2013)

The University of Coimbra – Alta and Sofia was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2013. Did you know that the University of Coimbra is the oldest in Portugal? First established in Lisbon in 1290, it was permanently transferred to Coimbra in 1537!

Located on a hill in the old town, the University of Coimbra has some buildings that are specifically recognized by UNESCO and that you really can’t miss:

  • Botanical Garden
  • Joanine Library
  • Machado de Castro National Museum
  • Monastery (or Church) of Santa Cruz
  • Royal Palace of Alcáçova (or Palace of Schools)
  • “University City”

16. Royal Building of Mafra – Palace, Basilica, Convent, Cerco Garden and Hunting Park (Tapada) (2019)

The Royal Building of Mafra – Palace, Basilica, Convent, Cerco Garden and Hunting Park (Tapada) was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2019, together with one other site listed as World Heritage in Portugal: the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte in Braga. Again, this is a UNESCO classification that encompasses more than just a monument and location:

  • National Palace of Mafra
  • Basilica of Mafra (known for its six historical organs and two carillons with 98 bells, the largest carillon ensemble in the world)
  • Convent of Mafra (of the Order of Saint Francis)
  • Cerco Garden (typically Baroque garden, with a geometric design)
  • National Hunting Park of Mafra (the former royal hunting park)

In a way, it can be said that the Royal Building of Mafra is inspired by the Palace of Versailles. Conceived by King João V at the beginning of the 18th century, this magnificent palace was the symbol of monarchic power in Portugal, just as it was in France, with the courts of Louis XIV.

Read my complete guides to the Cerco Garden and the National Hunting Park of Mafra, two of the sites listed as World Heritage in Portugal!

17. Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte in Braga (2019)

The Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte in Braga was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2019, together with one other site listed as World Heritage in Portugal: the Royal Building of Mafra – Palace, Basilica, Convent, Cerco Garden and Hunting Park (Tapada). Inspired by Mount Calvary in Jerusalem, this “sacred hill” has several chapels alluding to the Steps of the Passion of Christ, arranged along three staircases.

In the monumental complex of the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus, you’ll also find statues of biblical figures, fountains with allegorical and astral meanings, the oldest hydraulic funicular in the world (in-service), a natural park, and a church raised to the category of Basilica in 2015!

Read my complete guide to the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte in Braga, one of the sites listed as World Heritage in Portugal!

Map of the World Heritage in Portugal

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