UNESCO Heritage in Portugal


Thanks to its rich history and its lasting cultural development, Portugal appears to be a place that gives abundant scopes for sightseeing tours and a great many opportunities to visit historic sites. Many spots were recognized and highly evaluated by UNESCO organization, which included them into the World Heritage List. In practice, since 1983, fourteen sites of a historic and a natural significance has obtained such a status.

Initially, there were four incredible sites added that preserved their importance as historic monuments of 12-16th centuries. Angra do Heroísmo on the Azores was established by the members of Bartolomeu Dias’s expedition in 1478. The central part of the city is an entire assembly of an old-fashioned and a classical architecture; the core place is a local library, where the most precious and worthful books from some private collections are enclosed for public attention. The Convent of Christ in Tomar town (12th century) was a true cenobite of the Order of Knights Templars and its mightiness and beauty astonish visitors till nowadays. The construction continued nearly five centuries, which led to the appearance of Tomar town around. Another site of religious importance is Batalha Monastery; John I of Portugal made a vow to Our Lady to erect the monastery if his army gains over uppermost Castilians. In result, his victory was a true miracle in Portugal and the monastery was started in 1386. The most incredible place in Lisbon is a set of Jerónimos Monastery (1450) and Belém Tower (1521) that were also a gratitude to Our Lady for exciting Henry the Navigator’s voyage. It was initiated by King Manuel I, which is why the architecture appears to be the brightest example of the late Manueline-style. 

In 1986 the historic part of Évora City was added to the UNESCO List. Specifically, it is one of the oldest settlements recorded on the Portuguese lands; it was founded in 1166. The numerous historic sites, including temples and cathedrals, fascinate with a variety of styles and rich decoration. It is appropriate to note Diana Temple, Tower of the Five Shields, Cathedral of Évora (13th century), Saint Francis Church (16th century), Roman Temple of Evora and Aqueduct of Silver Water.

Alcobaça Monastery was acknowledged by UNESCO in 1989. It was founded by Afonso I of Portugal, the first monarch of the country, in 1153. In practice, it was also the first Gothic-style project; being originally constructed as a royal vault, it was enlarged and decorated by other monarchs during the next centuries.

One more city was included to the World Heritage in 1995. It was Sintra, which was founded in the 11th century. The lifetime of the city began in the 8th century, when the Castle of Moors was constructed; it is preserved to date. The other architect marvels are associated with Moors’ conquest and their exile by Portuguese. Sintra can boast of several magnificent and beautiful palaces, some of which are of national importance – Pena, Quinta da Regaleira, Seteais, Monserrate and Sintra National Palace

The international fame of Porto goes without saying; it was included to the UNESCO List a year later. Buildings of local historic part date back to the 4th century, and, therefore, an influence of Romans and medieval knights is not surprising, but it delights an eye of visitors. The superiority and power of Porto lasted during many ages till nowadays. The visual image of antique Porto won’t be completed without Porto Cathedral, Church of Cedofeita (12th century) and lots of museums performed in the ancient manner.

Portugal is also a place of prehistoric history, the evidence of which is in Côa Valley. The rock-art signs were discovered there in 1992; most of the inscriptions feature of different animals, both known-to-date and extinct. The oldest image is about 20 thousand years old.

Madeira is a natural marvel of the whole country. Its Laurisilva, local subtropical forests, was appreciated by UNESCO in 1999. In particular, the important role of the area is preconditioned by the existence of the original flora, comprised of laurel species mainly. Due to the massive deforestation in the previous centuries, the small areas of Lautisilva are strongly protected now.

In 2001 two Portuguese cultural sites were added. It is related to Alto Douro, the main wine region in Portugal. It is famous for the introduction a port wine to the world in the 18th century. The second place is Guimarães in Braga’s neighborhood. This town is also called “the cradle of Portugal”: here the independence of Portugal from Leon was proclaimed and, in addition, it has experienced all the changes of Portuguese cultural and architect trends. 

The other winery area was recognized in 2004 – the Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture (the Azores Islands). The lifetime of vineyards has started in the 15th century, as they were established in the volcanic areas. The spot also features different protective measures that facilitate successful wine-making, including barriers and bars (from marine waters and winds) distributed around the island. 

The last site, included in 2012, is Garrison Border Town of Elvas and its Fortifications. As one could guess, it was of high military importance. Practically, since the date of its founding in 1299 it has survived over many historic events, being located on the border with Spain. Its bastions and forts preserved their mightiness and originality of architecture.