Almourol Castle is one of the most beautiful castles in Portugal and, without a doubt, the one with the most unique setting. Situated in the middle of the Tagus River, Castelo do Almourol is on a small granite island surrounded by water on all sides, creating an enchanting visual effect.
Located in Praia do Ribatejo, in the municipality of Vila Nova da Barquinha, a little below the mouth of the Zêzere, the islet of Almourol is made up of a granite outcrop 310 meters long, 75 meters wide, and 18 meters high.
The castle was part of the well-known defensive line controlled by the Templar order during the Reconquest, giving it even more charisma and romanticism. With more than 100,000 annual visits, it is one of Portugal’s most famous landmarks.
In this article, we will explain how to visit Almourol Castle, exploring its history and architecture, in addition to what to see and schedules and prices.
History of Almourol Castle
Almourol Castle is one of the most enigmatic monuments in Portugal, but also one of the most interesting due to its long and intricate history. So long that it is not known precisely when it started.
Although there is not much archaeological evidence, there is believed to be a primitive castro on the islet of Almourol. The Romans later conquered it, and some historians believe that the current castle’s base has features that date back to that period.
In the 3rd century, it was conquered by the Alans and Visigoths, and later in the 8th century, it fell into Muslim hands, like the entire Iberian Peninsula.
During the reconquest, Almourol was conquered by D. Afonso Henriques, becoming part of Portugal until today. However, the first Portuguese king handed over Almourol and the entire region to the Templar order, which would be responsible for populating and defending it.
At this time, the castle was constructed more or less to its current shape—meaning, with typical Templar architecture – high walls reinforced by towers, a quadrangular plan, and a keep. According to the plaque at the main entrance, the works ended in 1171 and were ordered by Gualdim Pais.
With the end of the Templar order in 1311, the castle was handed to the Order of Christ, but this structure lost importance over time. The famous earthquake of 1755 seriously destroyed the castle, leaving it abandoned.
Finally, the castle underwent works again in the 19th century, and in 1910 it was considered a national monument. During the 20th century, new interventions were carried out; in the 21st century, the last improvement works were carried out on the Castle, leaving it in its current state.
How to go to Almourol Castle
The best way to go to Almourol Castle is by car. Access is relatively easy to the pier, and you can park there easily as it has a large car park. It should be noted that access to the pier is only via the north bank of the Tagus, so it is necessary to go to Praia do Ribatejo.
It’s about 130 km from Lisbon, which takes just under 2 hours. You should take the A1, then the A23 exit at Praia do Ribatejo towards Tancos, and you will be there in no time. If you come from Porto or Coimbra, the route will be similar, as you should take the A1 from north to south and follow precisely the same route.
If you decide to go by car, you can take the opportunity to discover other attractions and destinations in the region, such as Torres Novas, Tomar, and Vila Nova da Barquinha, where the Almourol Castle interpretive center is located.
If you want to visit the Almourol Castle by public transport, it is also possible, but not so easy as there are no direct trains. So, from Lisbon (It can be Santa Apolónia or Oriente), you should take the train to Entroncamento. There you must change to the regional train that goes to the Beira Baixa line.
The Beira Baixa line passes right in front of the castle, but you’ll have to get off at Tancos or Almourol and do the rest on foot. From Tancos, it is about 2 km, while from Almourol just over 1 km. If you don’t mind walking, it will be a fun adventure, and the historic Beira Baixa line is quite beautiful. Depending on the trains and transfer times, it should take between 2 and 2 and a half hours.
How to visit Almourol Castle
Visiting the castle of Almourol is much easier than it might seem at first. Once we arrive at the car park, we must go to the pier and queue for the boat. There is a boat that makes the short trip between the north bank of the Tagus and the islet.
The ticket for the boat and the castle is the same, and you can buy it at the entrance of the boat, so you don’t have to worry about it or buy it in advance. Besides, it only costs 4 Euros per person, which is quite cheap if we think it includes the return trip by boat and entitles you to visit the interpretation center in Vila Nova da Barquinha.
The trip is short – it takes less than 5 minutes, and as the river is calm, there is no issue either. After arriving at the pier on the island of Almourol, it is time to explore the island and the Castle. Visiting time is about 40 minutes, so we should return to the pier 40 minutes after arrival.
From the pier to the castle, it is naturally a short walk that involves climbing some stairs until we reach the walls, the main door, and the interior of Almourol Castle.
In the castle, we can explore the exterior and interior of the same, including the Alambor, the entrance door, the living area, the walls, and their towers. It is possible to climb the walls and some towers, from where you have a beautiful view of the Tagus and neighboring villages.
Going around the walls completely is impossible, but you can walk a bit on them. Always with great care as there are no safety fences and the height is considerable. Finally, we advise you to go up to the top of the keep, where you have a phenomenal view.
After visiting the castle, if you still have time, you can go for a walk around the rest of the small island and return to the pier to return.
Who can visit Almourol Castle?
Castelo de Almourol is an ideal destination for almost any one, including families, children, and the elderly. It is not a physical activity but a mystical place that gives wings to anyone’s imagination, especially children.
On the other hand, the castle is not accessible for people in wheelchairs or with limited mobility. Access to the boat and the stairs to and inside the castle makes it impossible.
Best time of year to visit Almourol Castle
Any time of the year is an excellent time to visit the castle. However, bear in mind that during the winter or periods of flooding on the Tagus River, access to the castle may not be available, so visits are not made.
In addition, the experience can be considerably different depending on the time of year and week, as the castle is a popular summer destination. While in mid-season and during the week, you can have the castle almost all to yourself, on a high-season weekend, it’s natural for many people to be there.
Where to stay when visiting Almourol Castle
As we mentioned above, Almourol Castle is about 2 hours from Lisbon, so it can be perfectly visited as a day trip. If you are thinking about staying in Lisbon, we suggest you check out our article that explores the best neighborhoods to stay in Lisbon.
For those who want to stay close to the castle, we suggest Quinta Ribeiro Tanquinhos. This accommodation is less than 2 km from the Castle and has a swimming pool (in summer), garden, bar, and very comfortable rooms. The quality-price ratio and the breakfast are excellent. See here for prices and if it’s still available.
If you want a cheaper option, there is also a youth hostel in Tancos.