Fri. Jun 21st, 2024

Are you looking for the best places to visit in Central Portugal? You’re at the right place.

Here’s the best Central Portugal travel bucket list that includes the region’s 8 best places to visit.

Central Portugal is a beautiful region with UNESCO sites, historic landmarks, and breathtaking natural beauty. 

Sadly, it is often overlooked in favor of its more famous counterparts, Lisbon in the south and Porto in the north.

But not anymore. In this epic Central Portugal guide, we will explore all the amazing places you can visit in Portugal’s Centro Region. 

Best Places to Visit in Central Portugal


Coimbra University, one of the best places to visit in Central Portugal
The historic Coimbra University is one of the best places to visit in Central Portugal.

Once the medieval capital of Portugal, Coimbra is home to one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Europe, the Coimbra University. 

Coimbra University is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a beautiful representation of stunning baroque architecture. 

Be sure to check out the university’s grand Joanine Library, the Royal Palace of Alcovaca, and the medieval Cathedral of Santa Cruz. A guided tour with a knowledgeable local is the best way to explore the university and gain interesting insights.

Once you have finished touring the university, feel free to wander through the narrow streets of Coimbra, filled with vibrant student life. See beautiful street art, enjoy Fado music and feast on local food.

Stroll along the Mondego River and enjoy gorgeous city views from the Pedro Ines Bridge. 

If traveling with your family, you will enjoy a trip to Portugal dos Pequenitos, an open-air Portuguese miniature park. 

If you’re a fan of Roman history, the Roman ruins of Conimbriga are just a few minutes away from the city center.

The most convenient way to reach Coimbra from Lisbon is to take a train from Santa Apolonia or Oriente stations. The journey takes less than two hours.


Obidos Portugal
Obidos is a colorful medieval town in Central Portugal.

The charming walled town of Obidos is straight out of a fairy tale. 

Filled with cobblestoned streets and colorful houses adorned with flowers, this cute Central Portugal town is one of the country’s most beautiful places to visit.

A well-preserved medieval fortress encircles the town.

You can stay in the castle hotel for a night or climb up the fortress walls for stunning views of the city’s terracotta rooftops and vine-covered walls. On the other side, you will see miles upon miles of green fields in the heart of the Portuguese countryside.

Don’t miss trying Obidos’ local cherry liqueur, ‘Ginjinha,’ which is usually served in a chocolate cup.

Obidos is also one of UNESCO’s Literature City. So, make sure to explore the local bookshops along the cobbled pathways.

Obidos hosts various festivals throughout the year, the most famous being its traditional Medieval Fair and a Chocolate Festival.

Obidos is easy to reach by car and bus. It is just an hour from Lisbon, making a day trip to Obidos a preferred getaway.

Visit Obidos on this wonderful full-day guided tour from Lisbon. I love this tour because it lets me see other Central Portugal gems such as Batalha, Fatima, and Nazare.

✦ Related ReadHow to plan a memorable Lisbon to Obidos day trip?

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Monastery of Alcobaca

Monastery of Alcobaca
The Monastery of Alcobaca is a magnificent UNESCO heritage site.

Central Portugal has some of the most beautiful Portuguese monasteries, including the Monastery of Alcobaca.

Dating to the 12th century, the Alcobaca Monastery is a tribute to the Cistercian order and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The monastery was commissioned by the first Portuguese king, D. Afonso Henriques, and is one of Portugal’s largest and oldest Gothic cathedrals.

The remarkable nave and cloisters of Alcobaca Monastery are great examples of Cistercian Gothic architecture. 

In the transept of the monastery, you will also see the ornately carved marble coffins of King Pedro I and his love, Ines de Castro, who was brutally murdered by Pedro’s father.

The Monastery of Alcobaca has unique rooms, including a Hall of the Kings, a kitchen, and a refectory.

There’s a bit of Pedro-Ines in everything Alcobaca, even beyond the monastery walls. Stroll by the Alcoa River to check out ceramic art pieces depicting the Pedro-Ines love story and shop for cute Portuguese souvenirs in the local markets.

You can reach Alcobaca within a 1.5-hour drive from Lisbon on the A8 and IC1 roads.

✦ Pro Tip: Book your Alcobaca Monastery Guided Tour here.

Monastery of Batalha

Monastery of Batalha
Batalha Monastery is a stunning example of Portuguese Gothic architecture.

Batalha is home to another beautiful Portuguese monastery, the Monastery of Santa Maria da Vitória or the Monastery of Batalha.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site today, the Batalha Monastery was built to commemorate the 1385 Battle of Aljubarrota.

Batalha Monastery is a masterpiece of Portuguese Gothic architecture with distinct Manueline influence. 

Inside the chapel, you can see the tombs of King Joao I and his wife, Queen Phillipa. Other notable Portuguese kings, including Prince Henry and the Navigator, are also buried here.

Be sure to visit the Unfinished Chapels or the Imperfect Chapels (accessible from the outside), absolute masterpieces of the Manueline style. Covered with carvings of nautical ropes, anchors, and armillary spheres, the Unfinished Chapels symbolize Portugal’s Age of Discovery.

You can reach Batalha Monastery from Lisbon via the A8 highway. The drive takes 1.5 hours.

✦ Pro Tip: The best way to do this is to combine Alcobaca and Batalha in a day trip from Lisbon, Leiria or Coimbra.

Roman Ruins of Conimbriga

House of Fountains at the ruins of Conimbriga
The majestic House of Fountains in Conimbriga is a well-preserved Roman villa with many intact mosaics.

If you’re a history buff, you’ll enjoy a trip to Conimbriga, a hidden gem in Central Portugal that was also one of the largest Roman settlements in the region.

Conimbriga ruins are extensive, complete with Roman baths, mansions, a forum, an amphitheater, and an aqueduct. 

The highlight, however, is Conimbriga’s well-preserved mosaics that give you rich insights into the life and culture of the Roman Empire. The floor mosaics at the House of Fountains and the House of Swastika are totally unmissable.

The archeological site also has a small museum with many interesting artifacts on display.

Conimbriga ruins are just 15 minutes from Coimbra, the UNESCO-listed university town. You can drive or take the Condeixa-a-Nova bus from Coimbra to Conimbriga.

For a more immersive experience, sign up for this 4-hour guided tour of the Conimbriga ruins.


Fishing village of Nazare in Portugal
The beautiful fishing village of Nazare in Central Portugal.
Image courtesy: Taromon from Getty Images via Canva Pro

Looking for some beach time? Nazare in Central Portugal is the best place to be.

Once a tiny fishing village, Nazare has become a popular beach destination known for its colossal waves, which attract surfers worldwide.

If you’re not into surfing, don’t worry. Nazare has a lot of culture on offer.

You will encounter fishermen mending nets and women who still wear the traditional seven skirts of Nazare, apparently one for each day of the week.

For a stunning overview, ascend the cliffside via the funicular to Sitio, the upper part of the village, and witness the breathtaking beauty of the Portuguese coast meeting the Atlantic Ocean. 

Other highlights include the Lady Nazare Shrine and Joaquim Manso Museum.

You can get to Nazare from Lisbon by car (1.5 hours) or train and bus (2 hours).


Leiria market

Want to visit a lesser-known but beautiful city in Central Portugal? Head to Leiria.

With a long and storied history and a strategic location in the middle of the Lisbon-Porto highway, Leiria has many amazing things to do.

The Leiria Castle is the most iconic attraction here. Perched atop a hill, it offers the most stunning views of Leiria town.

Every year in August, the castle hosts an exciting Gothic music festival called the Entremuralhas. 

Do not miss the beautiful Leiria Cathedral and the Museum of Leiria housed in a former convent.

Explore the Jewish quarter of Leiria and visit some important landmarks, including the Misericordia Church, which was once the Jewish Synagogue, the Painter’s House, and Rodrigues Lobo Square.

This excellent Leiria walking tour lets you see the castle and the city from close quarters.

The best part about Leiria is that it is close to Fatima, Alcobaca, and Batalha monasteries, making it the perfect place to stay and visit these beautiful Central Portugal places on day trips.

To get to Leiria from Lisbon, take a train from Lisbon’s Sete Rios station. The journey takes around 2 hours. You can also drive to Leiria from Lisbon – it is a 1.5-hour drive.

✦ Pro Tip: Book this Leiria Walking Tour and Batalha Monastery Tour for an immersive experience.


The rocky village of Monsanto in Central Portugal
The medieval village of Monsanto has houses carved into boulders.
Image courtesy: LuisPortugal from Getty Images Signature via Canva Pro

If you’re looking for an unusual but charming place to visit in Central Portugal, Monsanto fits the bill.

Often dubbed the “Most Portuguese Village of Portugal,” Monsanto is known for its unique architecture, in which manmade structures are harmoniously integrated into the natural landscape.

Houses are ingeniously constructed between gigantic granite boulders, and narrow streets are paved with stone, weaving through the village to the castle. Apparently, Monsanto still looks the same as it looked in medieval times.

Its distinctive architecture and ancient charm make Monsanto one of Portugal’s best places to visit.


By Lala