I have discovered Alcobaça by chance, while I was looking for a cheap but posh hotel in Central Portugal. I was planning to be in the area for the Chocolate Festival in Obidos. If you like chocolate and small towns you need to visit Obidos during this festival!
For the average traveler in Portugal, Alcobaça is a town in the middle of nowhere with, no touristy attraction, a stop point merely, in the way of something more interesting!
Well.. I am here to advocate for this little town, and explain you why you must visit this area, as much as you would want to visit Nazare, Obidos or other more famous spots. It will change your vision on Portugal completely. In a good way!
Where is Alcobaça & how do you get there?
Alcobaça is a small town located in Leira district, in the Central region of Portugal, on what we call the Silver Coast. Just a little detour away from Lisbon, if you want to visit a small but very pleasant and Portuguese town, this would be your perfect weekend getaway destination from Lisbon.
Being situated in the valleys between the rivers Alcoa and Baça, this is how the town got its name. The town is mostly known today for the Monastery of Alcobaça, built in the 12th century, that is a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
You can get there by car, there are about 100 km between Lisbon and Alcobaça. Also you can take a bus from Lisbon, the price would be around 10 euros/person/one way. Usually I would recommend the train, but there is no direct train from Lisbon or from Algarve to Alcobaça, but maybe is from where you are staying.
In all cases, when you visit this area I recommend you to come by car, to be able to move freely around and visit other locations that are just minutes away by car from Alcobaca.
Weather wise, we visited the area in April and the weather was quite nice, not to hot, not to cold, but in summer time this part of Portugal is getting really hot. So maybe if you have trouble with that, just visit in off season.
Where to stay in Alcobaça
These accommodations I talk about in this article are very good also if you want to visit Obidos, Nazare, Batalha or any other town in the area.
I have discovered that is best not to stay right in the town that you want to visit, but a little remote.
You have 2 advantages from doing this:
- you discover “a place in the middle of nowhere”, that you would not visit otherwise
- you get more cheaper and good accommodation for your money.
The best place you can stay in Alcobaça, to really get the feel of this area in Portugal, and what this place has to offer, is Your Hotel & Spa Alcobaça.
You will find here the perfect country side hideaway with an outstanding spa & pool. The restaurant on site will serve you a breakfast and dinner to remember, at very decent prices despite the high level of service.
I talk more about our experience at this hotel in this article.
I just love this place! Been here twice already.
If you want more places in the area where you can stay, while you explore the Center Portugal, I come across these hotels that look good. In these places I never, stayed, just thought they worth a look:
Price per room per night: from 75 euro
We initially wanted to stay here, but the hotel was booked! And we are talking about April, not the high season. So another thing you should do in Portugal is book your stay well in advance.
If you feel adventurous and want to go in a spurr of a moment, you might find accommodation at very high prices or at very low standards.
This hotel is on my list
Price per night per room: from 95 euro
This hotel has the rooms named after famous love stories, like Dom Pedro and Dona Ines, Adam and Eve or Don Quixote and Dulcinea. Of course, they have also “standard rooms”. At hotels like these, the prime attraction is the Spa and you must try it!
On their site you can also find different special packages depending on the season, like: Digital Nomads offer or Family getaway pack.
You come to these hotels to enjoy the Spa
What to visit – the perfect day in Alcobaça
We really came in the area for the Obidos Chocolate Festival and to visit Nazare, and all the more “famous places”. We discovered Alcobaça as a place deserving of its own place on the map of fame.
A lot of guides will show you that you can visit Alcobaça, Nazare and Obidos in one day, but I am not that kind of traveler. Well… if you are really in a hurry and with no plans to return to Portugal, than yes, by all means, book one of those. But otherwise, especially if you are staying in Portugal for a longer period, take it slow!
Start your day early and with a good breakfast at your hotel.
Head into the main square of Alcobaça where you will find the famous Monastery or Royal Abbey of Santa Maria. It was founded in 1153 on the land donated by Dom Afonso Henriques, the first King of Portugal.
Spend a while here admiring every corner and try to match the historic information you learn here with other places that you visited, in other countries. I always think something like: so when this was happening in Portugal, this means that in France…. and this means that in England … it’s fun, at least for us!
Take you time to find out more about the dark love story between Pedro and Ines, and about how all the courtiers were obligated to pay homage to a dead corpse…aaa, queen, I mean queen! Just look the whole story in the Monastery.
An adult ticket cost 6 euros. If you happen to be here in the first Sunday of the month, the entrance is free. Also, if you are visiting other monuments in the area, you can buy a combined ticket for 15 euro/person who will give you access to other sites like the Convent in Tomar, Batalha Monastery etc. More informations on their site.
We have actually been to Tomar, and this is another day trip I fully recommend, especially if you are a Knights Templar’s fan, like we are.
Monastery or Royal Abbey of Santa Maria. Picture made in April 2022.
Depending on how much you spend in the Monastery, before going for lunch, explore the little cobbled streets, walk around, take a look into the souvenir shops. Don’t buy anything chinese, buy something made in Portugal.
Then head to lunch! My recommendation will be to try the Portuguese way and have your lunch at one of many little cafes situated right in the main square. All have a great view to the Monastery.
Of course, if you want to go for something more fancy, go to Restaurante Antonio Padeiro, who was recommended by the Michelin Guide. More info about this restaurant you can find on this site.
The cuisine and confectionery in this region were heavily influenced by the local monasteries and convents. So after lunch you must pay a visit to the most famous pastelaria in the area, Pastelaria Alcoa. At this pastelaria (bakery) the recipes were written by nuns some centuries ago and you can’t skip eating something cooked like they use to do it ages ago!
You cannot miss this pastelaria, as is situated also in the main square, facing the Monastery. We took home some of the sweets, the most I liked was the apple tart, really special. Maybe you think “an apple tart is an apple tart and nothing more” but this was something from another world!
In the afternoon you can take a stroll on foot to see the ruins of the Castle. It’s not much to walk and it will give you the opportunity to see even more of the town.
Or, instead, you can visit the Museu Do Vinho de Alcobaca. It’s the biggest and most complete Portuguese wine museum. The museum is in an old winery built in 1896 by Jose Eduardo Raposo Magalhaes, a man born in Alcobaca. His objective was to develop the wine-growing in the region using the newest technology available at the time. The ticket cost 4 euro/person.
In the evening go back to the hotel and before dinner head to the spa for a well deserved massage or maybe just a dip in the pool.
Finish the evening with a dinner at your hotel and a glass of wine from the region. Ask the waiter, he will surely have a good recommendation for you.
This “perfect day” is in great part a recreation of our own day(s) spent in Alcobaca.