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Fortaleza de Peniche

Discover the dramatic history of this 16th-century fortification, which was transformed into a political prison in the Estado Novo period and now houses a museum.

Fortaleza de Peniche (Peniche Fort) is a remarkable structure and an icon of the city. Constructed by Dom João III in the 1500s in a bid to protect the portside city from seafaring invaders and marauding pirates, the fort is an imposing military complex and a landmark on the peninsula’s coastline. Learn about the region’s fascinating history when you visit the Peniche City Museum (Peniche Museu Municipal) situated within the fort walls. Find out about the fort’s extraordinary stories of political prisoners and jailbreaks.

The fort rises up from the jagged cliffs, merging seamlessly with the coastline. Admire the imposing star-shaped architecture of the 16th-century ramparts, hewn from local stone. Spot the Santa Bárbara Chapel and the Sentinel Tower within the fort complex. Built during the same time as the forts at Consolação Beach and the S. João Baptista fort on the Berlenga Islands, Fortaleza de Peniche protected the old walled city from sea attack.

Enter the fort complex to find the Peniche City Museum. Inside, there is a series of exhibitions that detail a twist in the fort’s history. During the Estado Novo (New State) period, Fortaleza de Peniche was used to detain political prisoners who rebelled against the dictatorial regime. 

In 1960, the fort set the scene for one of the most dramatic jailbreaks in Portuguese history. Learn about how a group of political prisoners made their escape. One of the escapees was Álvaro Cunhal, the communist revolutionary and major opponent of the Estado Novo. Explore the solitary confinement cells and the prison yards of the old jail. Continue exploring the museum to find exhibitions dedicated to the Peniche peninsula region.

Fortaleza de Peniche is located on the southern side of the Peniche peninsula, near the mouth of the city’s harbor. It is less than a 5-minute drive from the city center. The fort complex is closed on Mondays.


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