Alcobaça, Portugal - What to see, where to eat and where to stay
Where is Alcobaça
Alcobaça is located in the Central region of Portugal, on what is referred to as the Silver Coast. Close to the surfers Paradise of Nazaré, the picturesque town of Obidos and the larger town of Caldas das Rainha and only approximately 100 km north of Lisbon.
The name is derived from the rivers Alcoa and Baça.
Though referred to as a city the actual centre is quite small and there are only approximately 15,000 inhabitants.
It is one of those cities that you really cannot miss, and because the historical centre is so small, you could easily stop for lunch and enjoy your time there or use the area as a base for exploring this stunning area of Portugal.
Things to do in Alcobaça
Although the Monastery is the main feature of the town, there are little cobbled streets with shops selling traditional goods and souvenirs, if you take the time to walk around, you will find some fantastic cafes and see some wonderful buildings.
One of the best things to do in Alcobaça is to just sit at one of the many pavement cafes and enjoy a lunch in the main square. Each cafe gives you a fantastic view of the monastery.
Other notable sites in Alcobaça include:
Museu do Vinho de Alcobaça, built by José Eduardo Raposo de Magalhães,
Castelo de Alcobaça, the castle ruins overlook the town Mosteiro de Santa Maria de Cós built in the 12th century for widows and rebuilt in the 1600s, it became a centre for the Cistercian nuns.
Alcobaça monastery history
Alcobaça has a tragic, romantic history. The story begins with king Afonso Henriques ordering the construction of a church to commemorate the conquest of Santarém from the Moors in 1147.
The original building continued to evolve into one of the most significant gothic monuments in Portugal. It was 60 years later King Dinis built the main cloister and the Monastery was consecrated in 1262 and listed as a World heritage site in 1989.
The imposing structure has a dark side, and this is where the romantic tragedy is revealed. To prevent further wars, Pedro (the son of King Afonso IV) was married to Constanza, a Princess from Castille, even though he was actually in love with Inés de Castro. Constanza died shortly after the marriage and Dom Pedro escaped with Inés.
Believing Inés was a threat, King Afonso IV had Inés murdered.
Following the death of Afonso, Pedro declared he had married Inés and had her body exhumed and her embalmed corpse seated on the throne wearing a crown.
All the courtiers were instructed to pay homage to his queen and true love. Legend states that Pedro went on to find the murderers and ripped out their hearts with his own hands as punishment.
Their ornate tombs can be found in the Monastery, next to each other, so they will always be together. The love story and father/son conflict has inspired more than 20 operas.
Entrance to the main aspect of the monastery is free, but if you would like to tour the entire monastery tickets can be purchased for a cost of 6€ (price correct at 2019).
However, a Combined ticket/the Heritage Route (Alcobaça, Batalha, Convent of Christ): can be purchased for €15. Click here for details
When to visit Alcobaça
Alcobaça is a city you can visit at any time of the year, although in the main summer season you will be part of the tourist crowd. If you visit off season you are still likely to enjoy pleasant weather, but you will be able to visit and take photographs without the crowds. parking will also be much easier.
Photo credit: HOLIDAY-WEATHER.COM
How to get to Alcobaça
The easiest way to visit Alcobaça is by car, however, ensure that your sat nav is fully updated as some roads are now pedestrianised. There is a car park close to the monastery and main town square, though this car park does become full, quite quickly. Alternatively, there is a very large car park just outside the historical centre and it is a short walk to the area. You also get to see a little more of the buildings, but beware, this bit may look pedestrianised, it is not.
If you are travelling from Lisbon, there are no direct trains, the easiest route is to get a train to Caldas das Rainha and then use a bus.
There are direct buses from Lisbon, but these can take 2 hours.
Another way to visit is to use a tour guide. Click here for a selection of tours to Alcobaça
Where to eat in Alcobaça
Alcobaça has a large selection of cafes and restaurants, from small pavement cafes serving coffee and pastries to Michelin reviewed restaurants such as Restaurante António Padeiro - Alcobaça
If you choose to eat in a restaurant, we do recommend that you check the opening times and make a reservation to avoid disappointment.
Where to stay in Alcobaça
If you are looking to stay in Alcoabaca there are a selection of hotels and villas, we would recommend Casa Gameos, which is a modern built villa with swimming pool and suitable for 2 families or a large group, as well as a couple.
However, if you would like to stay somewhere close by, we would recommend looking at the selection of accommodation provided by portugalholidays4u.com where you can choose from villas, B&B’s, apartments and glamping options.
Places to visit close to Alcobaça
Alcobaça is a great place to visit or to use a base for a holiday on the Silver coast of Portugal.
If you are looking for more amazing architecture you can visit Tomar, with the UNESCO world heritage site of Convento do Cristo.
Caldas das Rainha where you can find some amazing examples of the famous Azulejos and shopping to suit all tastes.
A visit to the Quinta dos Loridos, where the impressive Bacalhôa Buddha Eden - the largest oriental garden in Europe, can be found.
If you enjoyed this article, you may enjoy the articles below:
The top 10 reasons to visit the Silver Coast of Portugal
Top 10 reasons to visit Central Portugal
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Shilpa Garg "Alcobaça seems like such a quaint lil place. The architecture of the monastery and the ornate tombs look fascinating and so is its history. It is amazing to know through your posts that Portugal has so much to offer to visitors. Thanks for sharing!"
Richa MIna "It seems like a small rusticntown with cobbled streets and less crowd. I love places that are full of heritage and tales but are not crowded. The tombs are so beautifully carved I love the pics of monastery too."
Modern Gypsy "Alcobaça looks like a beautiful place with a lot of history! I love the architecture of the monastery, and what a beautifully tragic, yet macabre, history it has! The carving on that tomb is also magnificent. I love visiting old monuments and seeing the intricate work that has gone into them!"
Gwen Serrotti "I just love Monasteries! The Monastery is beautiful but what a tragic story. It is always so interesting to to read the history that surrounds such beauty. Thank you for your amazing posts. I am so inspired to visit your beautiful country."