Last updated: 10/25/2022
Discover Alcobaça, a city in northern Portugal that is full of culture and history and also home to a famous World Heritage Site.
THE CITY OF ALCOBAÇA
Alcobaça is a small Portuguese town in the district of Leiria that has around 7,000 inhabitants. It is the seat of the municipality of Alcobaça, with about 55 thousand inhabitants. Located less than 100 km from Lisbon and 90 km from Coimbra, the city is crossed by the rivers Alcoa and Baça, which gave rise to its name. The famous Alcobaça Monastery, its most important attraction, is classified as UNESCO World Heritage since 1989.
A LITTLE OF HISTORY…
The area where Alcobaça is located was occupied by the Romans and, later, dominated by the Arabs. After the reconquest, King Afonso Henriques donated the lands of Alcobaça to the Cistercian monks in 1153. This year marks the foundation of the village of Alcobaça. The monks, in addition to their religious activities, taught agricultural techniques and introduced new cultures, creating an agricultural region that remains one of the most productive in Portugal to this day. In 1755, the city was greatly affected by an earthquake and suffered a great flood, receiving help from the Marquês do Pombal. In the 19th century, during the French invasions, the Monastery of Alcobaça was looted. With the extinction of religious orders in 1834, the Monastery of Alcobaça was sold. The elevation of Alcobaça to the category of city took place only in 1995.
HOW TO GET THERE AND GET AROUND ALCOBAÇA
Being in the city, the best way to get around is on foot. The historic center of the city is relatively small and super pleasant to walk around. However, some of the attractions mentioned are further away, requiring a car or Uber to access them. Check below which are the main options to reach the city of Alcobaça.
- CAR: A good option is to take a trip with a rented car to Aveiro, so you can stay as long as you want.
- BUS: For those who want to go by bus, there is a Express Network which takes 1h50 minutes and leaves from Lisbon Sete Rios to Alcobaça. It costs between €9 to €12 and there is a bus every 4 hours.
- EXCURSIONS: One of the most popular ways to get to the city is by joining a tour from Lisbon. It is an excellent option for those who want to explore several places in one day without having to worry about public transport or renting a car. Check out some options below and click for more information.
WHAT TO DO IN ALCOBAÇA
To help you plan an amazing visit to Alcobaça, we've put all the information on the interactive map below. Attractions are in blue, tips for shopping and restaurants are in red and hosting and other important points in black. Then check out more details about each of the attractions:
Built from 1178 and inaugurated in 1252, the Royal Monastery of Santa Maria de Alcobaça, better known as the Monastery of Alcobaça, is the first completely Gothic work built in Portugal. The construction was done by the monks of the Cistercian Order, a reformed Benedictine Catholic monastic order who wear white religious robes. In 1834, the monks were forced to leave the monastery due to the extinction of all religious orders in Portugal. In 1989, he entered the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and, in 2007, was elected as one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.
The monastery is formed by a church next to the medieval sacristy. erected with a Latin cross plant, the church is formed by a central nave and two side aisles. At 106 meters long, the church is one of the largest Cistercian abbeys in the world and follows an austere architecture. Currently, the facade of the church is a mixture of Gothic and Baroque styles. In the center of each side of the transept are the tombs of D. Pedro I and his beloved D. Inês de Castro, placed face to face, remembering the love affair they had that ended tragically in Coimbra (Read more: Coimbra: Quinta das Lágrimas and the tragedy of Inês de Castro).
OTHER HIGHLIGHTS OF THE MONASTERY
- CHAPEL OF SAINT BERNARDO: This chapel, located on the south side of the transept, has a sculptural group representing the “Death of São Bernardo”, one of the best works by monks from Alcobaça from the 17th century. On each side of the chapel are buried Kings Alfonso II and Alfonso III.
- ROYAL PANTHEON: This room was built in the 18th century in neo-gothic style, being the oldest architecture in this style in Portugal. The Royal Pantheon has the 13th century tombs of two queens of Portugal, Urraca of Castile (married to King Alfonso II) and Beatriz of Castile (married to King Alfonso III).
- SACRISTY: The sacristy was built in the Manueline style at the beginning of the 16th century, but had to be rebuilt after the earthquake of 1755. The corridor leading to the sacristy, covered by a Manueline vault, and the sacristy portal survived the quake. The portal is framed by intertwined branches that bear the coat of arms of Portugal.
- ROOM OF THE KINGS: This room, located next to the entrance to the church, features a series of statues from the 17th and 18th centuries representing the kings of Portugal. The walls are decorated with blue and white 18th century tiles that tell the story of the Monastery of Alcobaça, since its foundation.
- BEDROOM: The dormitory is a large Gothic room where the monks slept together. Only the abbot was allowed to have his own room.
- REFECTORY: The refectory was the room where the monks had their meals every day. As they ate, one of the monks read aloud passages from the Bible from a pulpit, which in Alcobaça is embedded in one of the walls.
- CLOSURE OF SILENCE: This is one of the largest medieval Cistercian cloisters in Europe. The second floor of the cloister, in Manueline style, has twisted columns and was built in the early 16th century.
- CHAPTER ROOM: This room, where the monks met to discuss the daily affairs of the monastery, was the most important room after the church. The entrance to the house is through a Romanesque-style portal with two similar windows on each side. The room is now filled with Baroque statues created by the monks for the church's chancel.
- KITCHEN: The monastery kitchen was built and tiled in the mid-18th century. The central chimney is huge, supported by eight iron columns.
- Address: 2460-018 Alcobaça, Portugal
- Schedules: daily from October to March from 9 am to 6 pm | April to September from 9 am to 7 pm
- Single ticket: €6
- Sacristy Ticket: €2
- World Heritage Ticket: €15 (includes Alcobaça Monastery, Convent of Christ and Batalha Monastery) – valid for 1 year
2. ALCOBAÇA CASTLE
Alcobaça Castle is a medieval castle located on a hill 70 meters high. In 1147, it was rebuilt at the request of D. Afonso Henriques on the ruins of an old fortress, probably built by the Visigoths around the year 650. Between 1191 and 1195, it was damaged by the Moors, when they conquered the Iberian Peninsula. In the 12th and 13th centuries, King Sancho ordered the castle to be rebuilt so that the monks of Alcobaça could defend themselves from possible attacks. However, in 1422, a strong earthquake damaged the castle, which was restored two years later combining Romanesque and Gothic styles. In 1450, the Keep was rebuilt.
In 1755, the castle was destroyed again by an earthquake during the reign of D. Maria II. In 1952, the castle wall facing the monastery was rebuilt. Over time, the castle deteriorated and its stones were used to build new buildings. Currently, only its ruins can be seen. As the building is on top of a hill, the location offers beautiful views of the Alcobaça Monastery and surroundings.
- Address: R. do Castelo 35, 2460 Alcobaça, Portugal
3. GARDEN OF LOVE
This small garden, located behind the Municipal Library, is a green space that seeks to evoke the love between D. Pedro I and Inês de Castro. Located at the confluence of the Alcoa and Baça Rivers, Jardim do Amor offers a different experience for all forms of love. The garden has several wooden benches perfect for resting in the shade of the trees. In the center are the stone thrones of “Pedro and Agnes”, where you can sit down to take a picture. You can also buy a kit which includes two keys, a set of samples of the county's flavors (Ginja and Maçã de Alcobaça) and a small papyrus where you can write oaths of love that can be placed in one of the 700 safes built into the walls of Jardim do Amor. The kit costs €20 and can be purchased at the Alcobaça Tourist Office and in several local shops (see the list here).
- Address: 2460 Alcobaça, Portugal
- Schedules: daily from 7 am to 7:30 pm
4. GREEN PARK
Opened in 2019, Parque Verde comprises an area of 6 hectares that is located on the banks of the Alcoa River, consisting of a perfect leisure space to enjoy nature. The park seeks to preserve the old waterways to the Alcobaça Monastery. In the past, water was essential for monks to ensure their existence as an autonomous community. The Abbey was supplied with underground water, connected to the Alcoa River. The derivation of water from the Alcoa River was made for activities such as agricultural irrigation, motive power and cleaning of the monastery. The new Alcobaça park seeks to integrate sustainable actions, including the construction of pedestrian paths along the Alcoa River, from its source to its mouth.
This is one of the largest and most complete Portuguese wine museums in the country. The winegrower, José Eduardo Raposo de Magalhães, created the Adega do Olival Fechado, at the end of the 19th century. XIX, in Alcobaça. Later, in the 20th century, wine production gave way to a large-scale industry and a museum that seeks to preserve the memory of the modernization carried out in the 1940s. From the 1960s onwards, a set of collections of great historical and patrimonial value was being built and the closing of some warehouses allowed the installation of the most complete museum of Portuguese wine. The museum is the most complete in the country in terms of wine, with more than 10,000 pieces that involve enology, ethnology, traditional technology, industrial archeology, as well as graphic, plastic and decorative arts ranging from the 17th century to the present day.
- Address: 2460 Alcobaça, Portugal
- Schedules: Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm | closed on mondays
- Entrance: 4€
6. MONKS PARK
Opened in 2011, Parque dos Monges is a 24-hectare park that is located in Quinta das Freiras and is divided into 6 areas: Environmental, Zoo, Adventure, Thematic, Entertainment and Accommodation. The park seeks to recreate through tourist entertainment a place for visitors to exhibit and participate in activities that recreate the way of life of the monks of the Cistercian Order. The park offers school programs, team building, family activities, camping, glamping, among others.
- Address: RQta das Freiras N.º 10, 2460-089 Alcobaça, Portugal
- Schedules: daily from 10 am to 6 pm
This small place celebrates Raúl da Bernarda, the oldest ceramics factory in Alcobaça, founded in 1875, and which had a particular influence on Portuguese tableware design in the 1900s. a small collection of local costumes is also on display in the museum. The permanent collection displays pieces with more than 135 years of history and are displayed chronologically documenting the beauty, importance and wealth of Alcobaça's ceramic industry.
- Address: 2460 Alcobaça, Portugal
- Schedules: Wednesday to Friday from 10 am to 1 pm and from 2 pm to 5 pm | Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 2pm to 6pm
- Entrance: free
WHERE TO EAT AND BUY AT ALCOBAÇA
- Origins Restaurant (Portuguese cuisine)
- Outside Doors Restaurant (Portuguese cuisine)
- south wing (Coffee bar)
- MEAT (burger, vegetable options)
- Royal Bliss Gastrobar (Pub)
- António Padeiro Restaurant (meat, seafood)
- Saudade Wine-Bar (wine bar)
- Cafe Restaurant Trindade (Portuguese cuisine)
- House of Conventual Sweets (candy)
- Carla's Sweet Pastry (bakery)
- Alcoa pastry shop (bakery)
- Made in Alcobaça (Gift Shop)
WHERE TO STAY IN ALCOBAÇA
If you are going to sleep in the region, a suggestion is to stay in the city of Leiria, which is just over 30 km north of Alcobaça or the historic Óbidos, about 40 km to the south. Both have more hotel and restaurant options. See accommodation options in Leiria here and Óbidos in this link. There are few accommodation options in Alcobaça, but we have selected the best ones for you to check out below, divided by stars.
UP TO 2 STARS
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