Beautiful cities

Centuries-old and active town

In the 10th century a morish village was founded at the junction of the rivers Alcoa and Baça: Alcobaça. Alcobaça is a pleasant village, well known for the Monastery of Alcobaça (Real Abadia de Santa Maria de Alcobaça), one of the most magnificent gothic monuments in the country.

It all started when King Afons I promised to give some land to saint Bernard if he would succeed in conquering the city of Santarém from the Moors. He succeeded in 1147, and in 1178 the Cistercians started building the monastry, and finished it some 45 years later. Soon it became the most important cistercian monastry in Portugal. The complex is one of the first gothic constructions in Portugal. It is partly open to the public.
In the church lie the remains of Pedro I and Inês de Castro. Their love story is the most famous story in Portugal. Their tombs face each other, so that when they both rise on judgment day, the first thing they see will be each other.

In Alcobaça you can visit the museum of Raul da Bernarda: an exhibition of earthenware made by the company of Raul da Bernarda & Filhos.

 

Events

Every year many exhibitions, concerts, etc. are organised in Alcobaça. To name a few:

  • Cister Música (June, July)
  • Feira de São Bernardo (August)
  • Doces e Licores Conventuais (November)
     
Townmap

 

The most important university city in Portugal

Started as a Roman settlement, Coimbra is home to the University of Coimbra, the oldest academic institution (14th century) in the Portuguese-speaking world and one of the oldest in Europe.

A number of wellknown Portuguese people were born in Coimbra, like the poet Francisco Sá de Miranda (16th century) and sculptor Machado de Castro (18th century).
Poet Luis de Camões and the saint Santo António studied in Coimbra.

Before seizing the power over the country, Salazar was professor in economics at Coimbra’s university.

Scenic location

Coimbra is picturesquely situated at the river Mondego. A walk through the city is very worthwhile. Most attractions are so close to eachother that you can get a very good impression of the city in just one day. The old city centre is on top of a very steep hill, so a walk to the university buildings on top of the hill can be a bit exhausting. You can get a city map at the tourism office.

There are lots of things to see and do in Coimbra, for detailed information it’s best to bring a travelguide.

But whatever you do, you must see the main building of the Universidade de Coimbra, with the Biblioteca Velha (university’s library, 1728) as undisputed highlight.

www.uc.pt/en

Stunning city with castle in the valley of the river Lis

On top of a hill, in the centre of Leiria, you can find the remains of the Castelo the Leiria. It was built around 1135, and in the 16th century it was transformed into a renaissance palace. Parts of the castle were renovated in the 20th century.

It is one of the most beautiful castles in Portugal. It is even part of the country’s coat-of-arms.

The historic city centre of Leiria spreads between the castle hill and the river Lis.

Other sites in the city are:

  • The Sé cathedral, renaissance style
  • Museu do Seminário (seminary’s museum): exhibition of old azulejos (Portuguese tiles), wood carvings, sculptures, and 16th century paintings
  • Igreja da Misericórdia
  • Nossa Senhora da Encarnação: pilgrims church
  • Igreja do Espirito Santo
  • Moinho do Papel do Lis: an old paper mill with a museum about the craft of making paper
  • Museu de Imagem e Movimento MIMO: museum of image and movement
  • Jardim de Luis de Camões (garden)

 

Templars left Tomar an impressive castle

Tomar is located east of Fátima, in the valley of the river Nabão. Already from quite some distance you can see why Tomar is so famous: the templar castle and convent (Castelo dos Templários and the Convento do Cristo) on top of a hill. This is the main monument of the city and one of the most important in Portugal. It is a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Other places of interest

  • On the main square, the Praça da República, with a statue of great master Gualdim Pais, is the church Igreja de São João Baptista. The main aspect of this 15th century late-gothic manuelino church is the manuelino belltower with octagonal top and pyramid shaped peak.
  • Not far from the square you can find a 15th centrury synagogue in the former jewish quarter. There are not many synagogues left in Portugal, this one is one of the few that remained.
    The museum Luso-Hebraico 'Abraão Zacuto' is still small, but will be enlarged to be a cultural and religious centre. Next to the synagogue the ritual baths (mikveh) from the 15th century were excavated.
  • The 16th century chapel Ermida de Nossa Senhora da Conceição is a very good example of early renaissance.
  • Igreja de Santa Iria, also a renaissance chapel. Every year at the end of the month October is the Feira de Santa Iria, to commemorate the holy Irmé/Irene. She was a nun who lived in Tomar. The munk Remigo killed her and threw her body in the river Rio Tejo. Her body was found in Santarém.
  • Igreja de Santa Maria dos Olivais, the mother church of the order of the templars. This early gothic church was built in the 12th century, but was renovated quite a few times since then. Almost every master of the order was buried here.

Festa dos Tabuleiros

Every 2-3 years (the people of Tomar decides when the next one will be) there is an important festival, the Festa dos Tabuleiros.

The organisation of the festival is in the hands of the 'Brotherhood of the Holy Ghost', founded in the 14th century by queen Isabel, the Rainha Santa. This brotherhood gave bread, wine and meat to the poor. The party is on for 4 days and has fireworks, music, dance, and other folklore acivities. The main event of this Festa is the spectacular procession on Sunday. Fourhundred youg men accompany fourhundred young women in a procession. The women have a “tabuleiro” on their heads (board or basket) which carries 30 loafs of bread. The tower can weigh up to 15 kilos, and often has the same height as the women. On one of the squares you can see an example of a 'tabuleiro'.

Tomar area

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