Fortaleza de Sagres

sights / Military

Fortaleza de Sagres information

Sagres , Portugal
+351 282 620 140
adult/child €3/1.50
Opening hours
9.30am-6.30pm Apr, 9am-8pm May, Jun & Sep, 9am-8.30pm Jul & Aug, 9am-5pm Oct-Mar
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Blank, hulking and forbidding, Sagres’ fortress offers breathtaking views over the sheer cliffs, and all along the coast to Cabo de São Vicente. According to legend, this is where Prince Henry the Navigator established his navigation school and primed the early Portuguese explorers. It's quite a large site, so allow at least an hour to see everything.

Inside the gate is a huge, curious stone pattern that measures 43m in diameter. Named the rosa dos ventos (literally, a pictorial representation of a compass), this strange configuration is believed to be a mariner’s compass or a sundial of sorts. Excavated in 1921, the paving may date from Prince Henry’s time but is more likely to be from the 16th century.

The precinct’s oldest buildings include a cistern tower to the east, a house, and the small, whitewashed, 16th-century Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Graça , a simple barrel-vaulted structure with a gilded 17th-century altarpiece. Take a closer look at the tiled altar panels, which feature elephants and antelopes.

Many of the gaps you will see between buildings are the result of a 1960s spring clean of 17th- and 18th-century ruins that was organised to make way for a reconstruction (later aborted) that was to coincide with the 500th anniversary of Henry’s death.

It's a great walk around the perimeter of the promontory, information boards shedding light on the rich flora and fauna of the area. Don't miss the limestone crevices descending to the sea, or the labyrinth art installation by Portugal's famous sculpture-architect Pancho Guedes. Near the southern end of the promontory is a lighthouse . Death-defying anglers balance on the cliffs below the walls, hoping to land bream or sea bass.

At the time of research a huge, new and incongruously 21st-century visitors centre was being bolted together opposite the entrance. This will contain a gift shop, an exhibition centre and a cafe.