10 sacred places to discover Portugal’s religious heritage

Monastère des Hiéronymites

Discover the treasures of Portugal’s religious heritage by visiting the country’s remarkable holy sites.

Portugal, a country rich in history and spirituality, abounds in holy sites of unspeakable beauty. From majestic cathedrals to emblematic sanctuaries and picturesque churches, these sacred sites bear witness to the profound identity of this country on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal’s religious heritage offers you a unique opportunity to explore the depths of its faith and the architectural marvels that house it. The proof is in our selection of must-see holy sites in Portugal. Follow our guide for an extraordinary cultural and spiritual experience!

The Sanctuary of Fatima, the spiritual heart of Portugal

Visiteurs devant la basilique Notre-Dame du Rosaire de Fatima au Portugal

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The Sanctuary of Fatima is a world-famous Catholic pilgrimage site. Thousands of faithful come here every year to commemorate the apparitions of the Virgin Mary in 1917. A unique spiritual atmosphere reigns here. You can discover emblematic sites such as the Chapel of the Apparitions, the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary, the Monument of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Basilica of the Holy Trinity.

After a visit to the Shrine Museum, the history of the site and its importance in the Catholic faith will hold no secrets for you. But there are plenty of other places to visit, including the Museum of Sacred Art and Ethnology, the Wax Museum and the Museum of the Apparitions of 1917. A tour also awaits the most fervent to discover the places where the Virgin Mary appeared, such as Aljustrel, Loca do Anjo and Valinhos.

For an even more intense spiritual experience, take a 5-day tour of the Tagus Way from Lisbon to Fatima. Fatima is also accessible by bus from major cities. A symbol of Portugal’s religious heritage, the Fatima sanctuary is open every day. Celebrations are held on May 12 and 13, including a torchlight procession.

The Hieronymites Monastery in Lisbon’s Belém district

Le cloître du Monastère des Hiéronymites au Portugal

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This religious site, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the country’s most emblematic. Built in the 16th century, this majestic edifice is a masterpiece ofManueline architecture.

A stroll through the monastery church and its impressive cloister reveals all the history and spirituality of Portugal. Contemplate the elegance of the architectural details, sublimated by the artistic treasures on display. Then head upstairs to admire the tomb of Fernando Pessoa, the famous Portuguese writer.

The centuries-old beauty of this place is sure to amaze you. What’s more, the Hieronymites Monastery is within easy reach of the Belem Tower, the Monument to the Discoveries and the Carriage Museum. The Lisbon National Museum of Archaeology is just around the corner.

Visits are free all year round, as is admission to the church. However, there is an entrance fee for the cloister, except on the first Sunday of the month.

Lisbon Cathedral

Église Sainta Maria Maior au Portugal

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Every year, the capital attracts thousands of visitors to discover Portugal’s religious heritage. One site in particular arouses fervor: Lisbon‘s Santa Maria Maior Cathedral. Known as the Sé de Lisboa, this 12th-century edifice is one of the city’s oldest.

Its unique combination of architectural styles is a journey in itself. The enchantment continues as you climb to the top of the towers for a panoramic view of Lisbon. But your exploration is not limited to the main church.

It then leads you to a magnificent cloister rich in Roman, Moorish and medieval remains. And don’t forget the cathedral’s treasury: 4 rooms where you can admire costumes, jewels and relics from different eras. Visits are possible every day from 9am to 7pm (with special times for the cloister and treasure).

The Sanctuary of Good Jesus of Mount Braga

Escalier monumental du Sanctuaire de Bon Jésus au Portugal

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It’s impossible to talk about Portugal’s religious heritage without mentioning the Santuário do Bom Jesus do Monte in Braga! As soon as you arrive, your eyes will be captivated by themonumental staircase leading up to this holy site. Featuring 17 superbly decorated landings, it is also adorned with symbolic fountains, allegorical statues and sumptuous Baroque ornamentation. Each step transports you into a unique spiritual atmosphere.

At the summit, a majestic church overlooks the surrounding countryside. Step inside to contemplate Pedro Alexandrino’s 18th-century paintings. Every artistic detail testifies to the historical and cultural importance of this religious site.

To reach the Sanctuary of Bon Jésus, you have several options: a walk to enjoy the scenery to the full, or a drive up for a little more comfort. Or perhaps you’d prefer to climb aboard Portugal’s first funicular railway, installed in 1882!

Batalha Monastery

Portail occidental du Monastère de Batalha au Portugal

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Head for the Monastery of Batalha to explore another sacred site not to be missed. This Gothic edifice is a national treasure. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it too is one of the most beautiful holy places in Portugal’s religious heritage.

It immediately reveals a sculpted façade with intricate arches and superbly ornamented chapels. A glance at the royal cloister gives a glimpse of Portugal’s rich historical and artistic heritage. Inside the monastery is a pantheon where members of the Portuguese royal family are laid to rest, including King John I and his wife, Philippa of Lancaster. Soak up the spiritual atmosphere here.

Batalha monastery is open all year round, except on certain public holidays. Admission to the main church is free. However, we recommend that you buy a ticket for a full tour of the monastery. Allow around 2 hours to fully enjoy your visit.

Alcobaça Abbey

Façade du Monastère Santa Maria de Alcobaça au Portugal

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If you’re a lover of Portugal’s religious heritage, how about visiting a royal monastery listed as a UNESCO World HeritageSite? Located in a charming town, Alcobaça Abbey is a church built in the 20th century. It harmoniously combines Gothic and Romanesque styles.

Once inside, you’ll be immediately struck by the grandeur of the space. Its sobriety is broken only by the works of art adorning the walls. The royal tombs of King Peter I of Portugal andInés de Castro also work their magic. They still seem to whisper captivating, romantic tales. Their lives have inspired many poets and writers.

Finally, explore medieval outbuildings such as the refectory, dormitory, chapter house, cloister, kitchen and kings’ hall. They are all invitations to plunge into the fascinating history of this spiritually-charged site.

Mafra National Palace

Vue aérienne Palais national de Mafra

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Just 30 km from Lisbon, the National Palace at Mafra is an impressive Baroque monument. This majestic palace, built in the 18th century by King John V, took 13 years to complete between 1711 and 1724. An architectural feat that will leave you speechless with its 1,200 rooms and surface area of over 37,000 m2.

The Palace Basilica, inspired by St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, contains a priceless treasure: 6 organs, testifying to a strong musical tradition. The palace also houses one of Portugal’s largest libraries, with a rich collection of books and manuscripts.

Its special feature is the presence ofa colony of bats. Every night, they are released to feed on the butterflies and other insects that covet the shelves, helping to preserve the precious books.

The Basilica and Palace are open daily from 9.30am to 5.30pm, offering the chance to immerse yourself in the history and spirituality of this exceptional site. Don’t miss the chance to visit this jewel of Portugal’s heritage, especially as entry is free with the Lisbon Pass.

The Sanctuary of Christ the King, a jewel in Portugal’s religious heritage

Statue du Sanctuaire du Christ-Roi au Portugal

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Located in the municipality of Almada, the Sanctuary of Christ the King is just outside the city of Lisbon. It’s a bus ride away, but well worth the effort. This impressive monument is one of Portugal’s most beautiful religious monuments.

Its monumental 28m statue, inspired by the famous Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janero, was inaugurated in 1959 on Pentecost Day. Standing on its pedestal, it rises to a height of 100m and weighs over 40,000 tonnes. Its serene gaze is hard to resist.

The Sanctuary of Cristo Rei is one of Portugal’s three most important pilgrimages, alongside the Sanctuary of Fatima. Inside, you’ll find chapels, stores and a room dedicated to Pope John XXIII. For an unforgettable experience, plan your visit and enjoy the spectacular panoramic view over the region from the top of the monument.

Porto Cathedral

Vue sur la cathédrale et le Pilier du monument de Porto

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Looking for a must-see during your stay in Portugal? Let yourself be tempted by a visit to Porto’s majestic Cathedral (Sé Catedral). It’s one of the city’s oldest and most important churches.

Its medieval architecture transports you back in time. Built in the 12th century, the building bears witness to Porto’s intense history. Perched on a hill, this marvel of Portuguese heritage offers panoramic views over the city and the Douro River.

Its imposing exterior is adorned with a magnificent rose window, pointed arches and many other remarkable architectural details. The interior, meanwhile, invites you to take in the magnificent works of art, sculptures, azulejos and frescoes decorating the walls.

Don’t forget to visit the Casa do Cabido. This adjacent building watches over the cathedral’s treasury of precious liturgical objects and sacred works of art. Listed as a national monument, Porto Cathedral and its cloister are key players in the history and spirituality of this fascinating city.

The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Sameiro

Sanctuaire marial de Notre-Dame de Sameiro au Portugal

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This selection of holy places in Portugal’s religious heritage would be incomplete without the Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha. If you’re interested in history and spirituality, a visit to this monastery is sure to delight you. This superb monastery in the city of Coimbra was built in 1314, by order of Queen and Saint Elisabeth of Aragon.

Stroll through the cloister and church. Admire the gilded wooden altarpieces, the Mannerist paintings, the Gothic stone sepulchre of the Holy Queen and the 76 pulpits of incomparable beauty. The Santa Clara Monastery is also home to the Machado de Castro National Museum, one of Portugal’s most important art museums.

It protects a rich collection of works, from sculptures and paintings to archaeological and historical objects. Finally, from the top of this hilltop monastery, you’ll have a front-row seat to immortalize the panoramic view of Coimbra and the surrounding area.

You’ve just left your mark on the sanctuaries, cathedrals, chapels… of Portugal! Tell us which monument attracts you most, and don’t hesitate to share your suggestions for places to visit in the comments section!