Contemplating the staggering views from Santarém’s Portas do Sol atop the old town walls, it’s easy to understand why Roman, Visigoth, Moorish and Portuguese armies all wanted to claim this strategic stronghold above the Rio Tejo. Dom Afonso Henriques’ storming of these heights in 1147 marked a turning point in the Reconquista and quickly became the stuff of Portuguese national legend.
A group of beautiful Gothic buildings recalls Santarém’s glory days, though it was quickly eclipsed by Lisbon. These days, the traditional centre with its venerable stores and workshops still functioning amid a general air of genteel decay makes it worth a visit, as do the heart-lifting vistas. What it lacks in accommodation options it makes up for with its atmospheric restaurants.