Funchal’s first fortress was only built in the years 1529 to 1540 on a plea by the population of Funchal after a boat, moored in the harbour of Funchal, had been pillaged. But the construction completed until the second half of the 16th century was not really appropriate for all fortification needs and consequently it succumbed easily to the attacks of the French pirates in 1566. In the following years until up to the 19th century, many improvements, alterations and extensions to the original primitive construction were made so that the Palácio de São Lourenço that has survived until today, belongs to one of the best-preserved examples of Portuguese fortification from the 16th and 17th century.
In the beginning of its history the Fortaleza de São Lourenço served as residence for many captains and governors of the island and then it became gradually a national residential palace. It was classified National Monument in August 1943, now serving as residence for the Prime Minister of the Autonomous Region and the Military Command.
Today you will find in this fortress a permanent exhibition, which was organised by the Military Command and opened in July 1993.The exhibition is relating to history and development of the fortress. The National Palace within the fortress can be visited after previous appointment with the office of the Prime Minister.