This monastery is situated on the top of the mountain range of the same name, the Serra do Pilar, in Vila Nova de Gaia.
Commanding a magnificent, panoramic view over the entire quaysides of Porto and Gaia as far as the Arrábida bridge, as well as the historic centre of Porto, the Dom Luís bridge, the São João bridge and the Fontainhas area, this building is classified as a World Heritage site and building on it began in 1538. The construction was concluded in 1670 and then settled the Augustine friars from the Monastery of Grijó.
During the civil war and the famous siege of Porto, between 1832 and 1834, the liberal army was garrisoned in this monastery, and due to the constant attacks on it, the monastery was destroyed. However, in 1834, thanks to the creation of the Royal Brotherhood of Our Lady of Pilar and in 1925, the Group of Friends of the Monastery of the Serra do Pilar, the building was rebuilt.
Built in a circular shape typical of the Rennaissance, with a hemispheric vault surrounded by a narrow balcony, and circular cloisters with 36 ionic columns – the only example in Portugal – the Serra do Pilar Monastery is a World Heritage site since 1996.
This monastery was opened to the public in December 2012 as a northern Heritage building. Here, one can see films made of the four locations listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites (the historic centres of Porto and Guimarães, the highlands of the Alto Douro wine-producing region and the Foz Côa Arqueological Park). Here, you will also find a statue of the first king of Portugal, D. Afonso Henriques, and there are also guided tours conducted by an element of the army stationed here, that owns most part of this site.