Perched high atop a rugged hill 25km west of Coimbra, glowering Castelo do Montemor-o-Velho dominates the surrounding marshland. Whether seen from a distance or from atop the castle walls themselves, it’s easy to imagine this site as an early Reconquista bastion.
Today you can walk the crenellated battlements and survey lush rice fields lying alongside the Rio Mondego far below. Inside little remains but part of the ruined Paço das Infantas (Princesses’ Palace), built by Afonso Henrique’s aunt Urraca, and the beautifully tiled Igreja de Santa Maria de Alcáçova, a small Romanesque church with 16th-century Manueline touches. It conserves some 18th-century wall paintings. The site’s strategic importance as a fortification dates back at least two millennia.