Convent of Christ in Tomar

Tomar is a remarkable cultural city in Portugal. It was also where the Knights Templar was once based. The Knights Templar, which used to be one of the most affluent and most powerful Catholic military orders in European history, was established to fight battles for guarding sacred sites. It owned numerous headquarters in Europe, and the Convent of the Knights Templar of Tomar, which was transferred to the Knights of the Order of Christ in 1344 and became its convent, was one of them.

Built in the 12th century, the convent stood as a monument symbolising the Reconquest. It is an architecture of Romanesque, Gothic, Manueline and Renaissance style, exuding a solemn aura. In 1983, the convent was inscribed to the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage. Soon after the Knights Templar dissolved, the Portuguese branch was turned into the Knights of the Order of Christ. It served as an essential base for supporting Portuguese voyagers during the Age of Discovery in the 15th century. Right before you walk inside, you may have already been impressed by the delicate carvings on the Manueline style entrance. The interior of the church is magnificently decorated with paintings on walls and ceilings, which is truly awe-inspiring. The convent is delicately built, with many decorative details to be explored on such as windows and the main cloister. While you are admiring its architectural beauty, it may remind you of the heyday of the Knights Templar.

Castle of Guimarães

There are numerous majestic and mesmerising castles in Portugal. Yet, only one can claim to be “the mother of Portuguese castle” - the Castle of Guimarães in the northern region. The famous historical city Guimarães is honoured as “the birthplace of Portugal”, which makes it an excellent starting point for your historical journey of Portugal.

The Castle of Guimarães, which is among the earliest castles built in the country, was erected in the 10th century. Its establishment mainly served as a guard to the monasteries in the city against attacks from Norsemen and Moors, the regional powers from Scandinavia and North Africa respectively, as religion was the centre of life for Portuguese by then. Both the Norsemen and Moors were known for their fierceness. Therefore, the city walls were built to be thick and towering so that it made the city easy to hold yet hard to attack. The design became a future reference for many fortresses, and even the image of castles commonly seen in fairy tales.

The Castle of Guimarães, together with buildings such as the Church of São Miguel do Castelo and the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza are prominent historical heritage in the Historic Centre of Guimarães, showing visitors the history of Portuguese architecture during the 15th to 19th century. You can tell from the sentence “Aqui Nasceu Portugal” (Here, Portugal was born) engraved on the city wall at the entrance of Guimarães that the ancient city carries remarkable historical significance.

Park and National Palace of Pena

Not far from Lisbon on the top of a hill in the Sintra Mountains in the town of Sintra, stands a vivid palace with impressively eye-catching yellow, red and grey façades. It is one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal, and is hailed as one of Europe’s most enchanting castles.

The history of Pena started in the Middle Ages when it stood as a chapel. Later, King Manuel I ordered the construction of a monastery on this site, which was unfortunately reduced to ruins after being severely damaged by lightning and an earthquake that occurred shortly afterwards in the 18th century. It was not until the 19th century that the then king turned the remains of the monastery into a palace as a summer residence for the royal family.

The Pena Palace was constructed into a Romanticist castle, a prevailing style in the 19th century, by a German architect. It is an intentional mixture of styles of Neo-Gothic, Neo-Manueline, Neo-Renaissance and Neo-Islamic, which is truly an eye-opener. It offers you a glimpse of the royal family’s glamorous life by visiting the Royal Dining Room, the Noble Room and their kitchen, as well as admiring their gorgeous painted walls and numerous royal collections. Then, you can embrace the stunning view of the town of Sintra from the tower. It would occur to you as if the clock was turned back, and you were the king of the country.

The Sanctuary of Fatima

Our Lady of Fatima possesses a prestigious position in the hearts of the Catholics in Portuguese-speaking regions such as Portugal, Brazil and Macao. For example, there is the Our Lady of Fatima's Parish named after the Our Lady of Fatima Church in Macao. She has been revered as the patron saint of many churches. Processions of Our Lady of Fatima are held every year.

Our Lady of Fatima is a Catholic title for the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1917 in Portugal, three shepherd children claimed to see the Marian Apparitions on the 13th day of five consecutive months in the parish of Fatima. The lady was seen more brilliant than the sun. She divulged to the children three secrets, and told them to say the Holy Rosary daily in order to obtain peace and the end of the war. Soon after the miracles, thousands of people were drawn to Fatima by the reports, where the visitations were witnessed, longing to see for themselves the Blessed Virgin Mary. On the 13th October of the same year, a massive crowd of almost 100,000 people saw the apparition as promised, which became known as the "Miracle of the Sun". The Catholic Church officially recognised these apparition events as “worthy of belief” in 1930. Churches across the globe have been looking into the Marian Apparitions for insights. To commemorate the visitations, Portugal turned where they took place into the Sanctuary of Fatima by erecting the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary, the Chapel of the Apparitions, a monument to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and more Catholic buildings. Every year on 13th May and October, this destination for pilgrims welcomes a million Catholics to come to pray, and witness processions of Our Lady of Fatima.

Peneda-Gerês National Park

Golden mountains, green forests and majestic lake scenery are commonly seen on oil paintings featuring landscapes in Europe. These amazing sceneries do not simply appear in the creations of artists, but also in the Peneda-Gerês National Park at the northern boundary of the country.

The Peneda-Gerês National Park, a nature reserve established by the government in 1971, is the only national park in Portugal. The natural environment is thus kept pristine. It serves as a perfect home for different animals, such as Iberian ibexes, western roe deer and Iberian wolves, and plants such as European yew and Spanish chestnut. Located amidst mountains with the Lima River flowing through, the park boasts captivating scenery that draws a ceaseless stream of visitors every year. Apart from landscapes, there are signs of early human settlements, including dolmens (a type of single-chamber megalithic tomb) dating back to the prehistoric period, Roman bridges built by ancient Romans, hundred-year-old warehouses for crops and more. If you come during fall days, the golden forest will be so dreamy as if you were walking into an oil painting.