The Castles of Algarve
On the southern tip of Portugal, you can find the Algarve, which is a coastal town with almost 500,000 permanent residents and countless visitors. All along the Algarve, you can find stunning beaches with golden sand and clear turquoise waters as well as some of the best views in Portugal.
Other great attractions in the Algarve are the castles. There are over a dozen with some of them along the beach. Since you cannot take your bags with you into the castles, it is best to leave them at a luggage storage facility. There are many in the Algarve including in the small Moorish town of Albufeira.
Castle of Paderne
Located in Paderne Parish, Albufeira, this ancient fortress was constructed in the late 1100s by the indigenous group, the Berbers. It is along a bend in the Quarteira River and is one of the original castles to adorn the shield on the Portuguese national flag.
This isolated castle is found on a hill over groves of carob, fig, and olive trees. Although it was heavily damaged in the 1755 earthquake, it is still almost whole with several walls, an entrance gate, plinth, and several towers. There is a pedestrian trail you can explore and a medieval festival every year in January.
Although the majority of the Loule Castle has been rebuilt due to damage, there are still a lot of original remnants of the structure from the 2nd century. It was occupied by the Moors in 715 but changed hands many times over the years. It was also heavily damaged by the earthquake in 1755.
Today, what remains is the main gate tower and three other towers that connect the walls. They are still in great condition and the courtyard is home to the Municipal Museum and Documentation Center. It is free to visit and a fantastic spot for some unique selfies.
Fort of São João do Arade
It may not be an official castle, but this fortress is in better shape than most of the castles and palaces from this time period. It was built in the 1400s by King John II and is still able to be visited on the outside, but it is privately owned so you cannot go in.
You can take a bus from town in just 10 minutes and spend your whole day here. It is actually built on a solid rock and has a huge walled garden that all withstood the 1755 earthquake. You can see the stunning fortress from the nearby Grande and Angrinha Beaches as well as from the Vila Castelo Park.
Castle of Lagos
Also known as the Ponta da Bandeira or Fortress of Nossa Sen Senhora da Rocha, this is another stunning fortress built by the Moors in the 8th century. Located right on the sea, the most recognized feature is the ornate Manueline-style window where Dom Sebastiao addressed his troops in 1578.
It was built to protect the town from raids by pirates and today it is a museum featuring the history of Portugal and the Age of Discovery. Inside, you can also see the shrine of St. Barbara and outside you can explore the garden and visit the Church of Santa Maria do Castelo.
This is one of the most well-preserved castles in the Algarves, The Silves Castle is a National Monument. It was built by the Moors back in the 7th century and is the largest of its kind in Algarve as well as the best-preserved Moorish fort in Portugal. In fact, the upper halls are still painted and decorated.
You can still visit the castle and walk through the sandstone walls to explore the ancient building and the exquisite views of the Arade Valley. The Castle offers some pretty amazing views over the town of Silves and Arade Valley.
Castle of Castro Marim
Built in the 13th century for King Denis, the Castle of Castro Marim overlooks the parish by the same name. It was part of the defensive line of the Knights Templar during the Portuguese Restoration War in the 1600s. Located at the mouth of the Guadiana River, the castle has some superb views.
The rectangular building is just across the river from Spain and is still in excellent condition as well. The bulwarks are in ruins but are still there and some of the connecting walls are gone but the architecture is outstanding. It is surrounded by a nature preserve but can still be visited.
Not far downriver from the Castle of Castro Marim on the San Marcos Tributary, the Castle of Alcoutim was constructed during the 13th century to protect Portugal from Spain. The medieval walls still stand, and the interior courtyard is still kept beautiful.
The castle is home to an archaeological heritage museum that covers the history from the Neolithic to the Modern Times. There is also an exhibit of Islamic board games from the Moorish period in another building. They are both open to the public every day except Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
There are many other castles and fortresses in the Algarve such as the Aljezur Castle from the 10th century, the Faro Palace and Walls from the Roman period, Santa Catarina Fortress from the 1300s, and the Joao do Arade Fortress from the 1600s. However, many of these buildings are gone due to the 1755 earthquake.