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Nestled in the hills of central Portugal, lies the charming village of Monsanto. With its winding cobbled streets, whitewashed houses, and stunning panoramic views, Monsanto is a hidden gem that should be on every traveller’s list.

What makes Monsanto truly unique is its fascinating blend of nature and architecture. This historical village in Portugal is built on a steep hill, its buildings carefully crafted to fit in with the natural landscape. In fact, many of the houses here are built directly into the rocks, with boulders forming part of the walls and roofs.

This unique architectural style has earned Monsanto the title of “the most Portuguese village in Portugal,” and it’s not hard to see why. Everywhere you look, you’ll see the traditional schist and granite houses, often adorned with brightly coloured flowers and decorative tiles. So let’s take a look into the best things to do in Monsanto and why you might just recognise it, if you’re a fan of Game of Thrones!

KM’s From Lisbon
Film Location
Hours Minimum

Where is Monsanto?

To find Monsanto on the map, you’ll have to zoom in – a lot. Located in the Castelo Branco region, almost on the Spanish border, it’s a spot tourists are unlikely to stumble upon during a road trip between Lisbon and Porto – unless they’re extremely lost.

How To Get To Monsanto, Portugal?

A common question that’s asked is how far far away is Monsanto from Lisbon? So let’s break it down. The village of Monsanto is about 280km (3 hours) from Porto, and 270km (just under 3 hours) from Lisbon, making it difficult – if not impossible – to reach by public transport. This means visiting Monsanto is reserved for those road tripping Portugal with their own car, or rental car. You could get a taxi, but that would add a hefty extra cost onto your day trip in Monsanto.

Where To Park In Monsanto, Portugal?

Being such a small historical village in Portugal, it’s not surprising that parking here is very limited. I’ve marked on the map below two options for parking in Monsanto, we’ve always been able to park in the one closest to town (there’s public toilets nearby too) whenever we’ve arrived before lunchtime. If you’re arriving later in the day, or have a large motorhome or truck, you might want to consider parking slightly out of town and walking in as turning space is pretty nonexistant if its busy with traffic.

House of Dragons Filmed in Portugal?

You might be surprised (or not – once you’ve visited) to hear that the village of Monsanto was also a filming location for House of Dragons. The funny thing is, when we first visited the show hadn’t aired yet and we commented on how much it reminded us of Game of Thrones. Watching House of Dragons, even with the CGI and movie magic the place just felt familiar. Low and behold, a quick google told us that yes, Monsanto was a film location for House of Dragons. How cool is that?

Watch what the cast of the show have to say about the area and keep reading to find out more about the things to do in Monsanto, Portugal

A Quick History of Monsanto, Portugal

When we moved back to Europe from New Zealand, we were really looking forward to being surrounded by the rich history that runs through this part of the world. Monsanto is a great embodiment of this!

Life in the Monsanto region dates all the way back to the Palaeolithic period, with remains being found by archeologists showing the presence of Lusitans, Roman, Visigothis and Arabs from prehistory right up to the heart of the middle ages.

In 1165 the first King of Portugal, Afonso Henriques, conquered Monsanto from the hands of the Moors and was then donated to the Knights Templar as a thank you for their help during the siege.

You can read more about the Moors and Islamic culture in Portugal here

The famous Monsanto castle was constructed by the Knights Templar and the fortress continued to grow in strength through the decades. Thanks to its location, it served as an important foothold during the Spanish Succession between 1701-1714, playing a crucial role in preventing the Spanish from advancing into Portugal.

Over the years, the castle and fortress have been left to ruin but the town of Monsanto continues to hold on to its heritage and the history that surrounds it. In 1928 it received the title of ‘most Portuguese village in Portugal’ – with the replica trophy standing proud on the top of its clock tower – and in 1995 it was declared one of the “12 most historic villages in Portugal”. So when someone asks if Monsanto is worth visiting – my answer is always yes, purely for the history and architecture here.

Visiting Monsanto Village, Portugal

If you’ve decided to visit Monsanto while road tripping Portugal, you can quite easily tie it in with visits to the other historical villages in the area such as Castelo Novo or Idanha-a-Velha, or, do as we did and spend a whole day wandering around the boulders of Monsanto.

Whichever you decide to do, make sure you factor in enough time to walk up to Monsanto Castle for the spectacular views from the top.

Things to do in Monsanto, Portugal

By now, you know that the village of Monsanto is extremely rich in history so, with that in mind, most of the things to do in this historic village of Portugal centre around the old buildings and beautiful scenery:

Chapel & Gate Of The Holy Spirit (Capela do Espírito Santo do Monsanto)

Constructed in the 17th Century, this catholic temple is quaint and reminded me a lot of the Church Of The Good Shepherd in New Zealand. Such a simple structure, but the fact it’s still standing all these years later is incredible. Next to it is The Gate Of The Holy Spirit, or also known as Saint Sebastian’s Chapel, which was originally one of the main entrances into the historical village.

House of Fernando Namora & His Old Doctors Office

Just up from The Chapel Of The Holy is the house of well known writer and doctor Fernando Gonçalves Namora (1919-1989) who spent part of his life living in the historical village. If you continue down the street you’ll find his old doctor’s office where he worked between 1944 and 1946.

Church Of The Holy Saviour - Parish Church of Monsanto.

Another beautiful historic building in the village of Monsanto is the parish church, or Church Of The Holy Saviour, located on the edge of town. It is thought that this church was originally built between the 15th and 16th century, with renovation work happening during the 17th and 18th century - including the decorative additions to the facade.

Marquess of Graciosa Manor, Andrade Manor

What is now the tourism office, was once a grand manor house for the Andrade family in the 17th/18th centuries. Located in the centre of the historic village of Monsanto, Andrade Manor is a great example of architectural design from that era, with granite stone being used for both structural and design elements. You have to admire the detailing in the rails of the 2nd floor balconies too, much nicer than most we see in modern day buildings!

Lucan Tower, The Clock Tower (Torre de Lucano)

This is easily the most popular of the things to do in Monsanto, after Monsanto Castle of course, and possibly one of the most photographed buildings in Monsanto too. Since being named Portugal’s Most Portuguese Village, this 18th Century bell tower has become an icon of the town and rightly so. It can be seen from all angles of Monsanto and when photographed from higher ground you can see the replica silver rooster standing proudly on top!

Monsanto Cave

Did you know pigs live in caves? Well, in Monsanto they did. This delightful artificial cave was created in the crevices of two boulders and originally used as a ‘Furda’, or stone shelter, for local pigs. Nowadays it’s one of the best things to see in Monsanto and acts as a reminder of how resourceful people past and present have been in this area.

Monsanto Castle

One of the highlights of visiting Monsanto is exploring its network of narrow alleys which wind their way up the hillside toward Monsanto Castle. As you climb higher, you'll be rewarded with stunning views of the surrounding countryside, including the Serra da Estrela mountain range.

The Monsanto Castle was built by the Knights Templar and is thought to have been built on top of an ancient Arab fortress. As with everything here the Monsanto boulders, which were too difficult to carve or move, find themselves integrating with the historic architecture forming sections of the castle walls

Inside the castle you’ll find some more really well preserved buildings but the most impressive thing, in my opinion, is the incredible view you get from all angles.

Santa Maria do Castelo Chapel

A modest 18th Century chapel that sat in ruins inside the castle walls for quite some time. After extensive renovations, it’s now an iconic landmark of Monsanto. While it’s mostly close to tourists, you can still capture some beautiful photos for your scrapbook (they’re still a thing, right?!) by climbing the castle walls to include the broad valley as a backdrop.

Inside the castle you’ll find some more really well preserved buildings but the most impressive thing, in my opinion, is the incredible view you get from all angles.

Parish of St. Michael (Ruínas da Igreja de São Miguel)

Ruins inside ruins. The Parish of St. Michael was once a populated village that sat snug inside the lower castle walls from the 12th Century. It was eventually abandoned as the area expanded, and the village that we know and love today was developed. Left standing today are the Bell Tower, the Necropolis, and the Chapel.

Where to stay in Monsanto

Given the heritage status of Monsanto, the area is protected from changes or remodelling and therefore is home to very few tourist shops or chain hotels. Instead, you'll find plenty of boutique cafes, family style B&B's and the occasional artisan shop which only adds to the charm of this historical Portuguese village!

The main hotel in Monsanto is Monsanto GeoHotel Escola, located in the centre of the village it’s a handy place to park yourself if you want to spend more than a day ticking off things to do in Monsanto.

If you hadn't heard of this village before, is it on your Portuguese bucket list now? Will you be visiting for the Monsanto house of dragons locations, the views, Monsanto castle or all three? I'd love to hear about which of these things to do in Monsanto you're looking forward to the most so let me know in the comments!

Was House of Dragon Filmed Here?
Yes! The whole of Monsanto Castel and the top of the hill features throughout as 'Dragon Stone'
Do You Pay To See Monsanto Castle?
No! All of the things to do in Monsanto that are listed in this post are free and dog friendly!
Can You Take Dogs To Monsanto?
Yes! It's all open to the public, you can take your dogs to Monsanto castle & throughout the village. Cafes, hotels and shops will all have their own rules though.
What Is The Weather Like In Monsanto?
The summers are warm dry & mostly clear. The winters are cold wet & partly cloudy.
Hey!Who are we?
We’re Dec + Leah! Welcome to our little slice of the inter-web where we’ll bring you stories straight from the road, plenty of wildlife photography and maybe even a little rant or two.
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