* Forte da Graça (Elvas): As Portugal battled to regain its independence from Spain in the 1640s, the border town of Elvas held a key position on the road from Madrid to Lisbon. To fortify it, they brought in a German military architect, who built the biggest fort of its type in the world. A massive series of defensive walls and ditches circle the pretty, whitewashed town. The city fortifications and the aqueduct ensuring the inhabitants could get water even during a siege are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
* Casa de Mateus (Vila Real): Familiar around the world to fans of the rosé wine that bears its name and image on the label, this is the most beautiful of the baroque manor houses scattered around the wine lands of northern Portugal. The reflecting pool out front perfectly duplicates the white-and-gray stone facade with its double staircase and decorative spires, partly the work of the great Italian architect Nicolau Nasoni in the 1740s. It’s surrounded by
delightful formal gardens.
* Palácio de Mafra (Mafra): This was originally supposed to be a convent, but King João V decided he’d spend some of his Brazilian gold-mine riches expanding it. The result is a monster-size mix of church and royal residence covering an area bigger than seven football fields. Completed in 1755, its vast yellow-painted facade dominates the little town of Mafra. Inside, the royal apartments and old hospital are well worth visiting, but the real treasure is the rococo library lined with almost 40,000 books dating back to the 14th century. UNESCO declared it a World Heritage site in 2019.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.