The most beautiful cities in Central Portugal and 3 more reasons to go here!

We can list 100 reasons why you should visit Central Portugal, or Centro de Portugal! Central Portugal offers a wealth of beautiful cities waiting to be discovered. From the historical charm of Coimbra to the enchanting streets of Aveiro, and from the artistic elegance in Obidos to the natural beauty of Serra da Estrela, each of these cities has something unique to offer. In this blog, you'll find answers to the question: What is there to do in central Portugal?

What are the most beautiful cities in Central Portugal?

There are, of course, a tremendous number of beautiful cities in Portugal, but a significant portion of these cities is located in Centro. Some cities are so exceptional that several of their attractions have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Located on the Atlantic coast is the beautiful city of Aveiro. There is a lot to experience in Aveiro, including a boat trip in a moliceiro (a traditional gondola) and the Convento de Jesus. A typical snack that must be tasted is the ‘ovos moles’.

Near the border with Spain, you’ll find this beautiful city with a historic center. In the city, you’ll discover Jardim do Paço Episcopal, a beautiful garden near the 18th-century monastery. The city is known for its traditional embroidered bedspreads. Other attractions include Castelo Branco (the castle), Francisco Tavares Proença Júnior Museum (textile museum), or visit the natural water park Piscina Praia.

Coimbra is a beautiful city to spend a day exploring. You can walk from the lower town (Baixa) to the upper town (Alta), encountering numerous shops and restaurants along the way. There are various historical landmarks, with the University of Coimbra standing out. The university houses the stunning Joanine Library. For more information, you can continue reading here.

Fatima is the most important pilgrimage site in Portugal. Thousands of pilgrims and tourists visit annually. There are various attractions in Fatima, but just walking around is an experience. If you’re there, be sure to visit the Sanctuary of Fatima, the Sanctuary Museum, or the Basilica. For detailed information, you can continue reading here.

Guarda is a historic city with ancient city walls, medieval buildings, and a variety of churches. The highlight of Guarda is the Guarda Cathedral. Due to its lengthy construction spanning over 2 centuries, you’ll find various architectural styles. Also worth visiting is Juderia, a beautiful Jewish quarter. Furthermore, the Castle of Guarda, the Igreja de São Vicente, and the Capela de Nossa Senhora do Mileu are definitely worth a visit.

Leiria, a city bursting with cultural diversity, introduces you to a colorful blend of traditions and events. Taste the local cuisine, experience traditional festivals, and embrace the lively atmosphere. Leiria is a celebration of Portuguese culture at its best, and it’s the perfect place to immerse yourself in local traditions. Leiria is renowned for its ‘Leitão à Bairrada,’ roasted suckling pig, a local delicacy.

Tomar, with its picturesque views and historical significance, offers a peaceful escape. Explore the Convento de Cristo, an architectural masterpiece reflecting the history of the Templars. Tomar invites contemplation and tranquility, making it the perfect place for travelers seeking a calming experience. For detailed information, you can continue reading here.

Accommodation in the region

Our Quinta with a small-scale campsite and various rental apartments and studios is located in the center of Central Portugal. The perfect base for a delightful vacation.

UNESCO World Heritage

As mentioned above, there are several attractions that have also been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Below, you will find three in the vicinity.

The Alcobaça Monastery was founded in 1153 by King Afonso Henriques as a gesture of gratitude for the victory of Christian forces over the Moors. The monastery played a significant role in the medieval history of Portugal.

The monastery is a beautiful example of Gothic architecture in Portugal, boasting an imposing size and impressive details such as decorated portals and rose windows.

Within the monastery lie the tombs of King Pedro I of Portugal and his beloved Inês de Castro. The story of their tragic love is a famous episode in Portuguese history and is associated with the Alcobaça Monastery.

The Monastery of Batalha, officially known as the Mosteiro da Batalha (Monastery of Batalha), is a Gothic structure located in the town of Batalha.

Founded in 1386 by King João I of Portugal as a thanksgiving for the victory of Portuguese forces in the Battle of Aljubarrota (a battle against Castilian troops), the construction of the Monastery of Batalha spanned several centuries and was completed in the 16th century.

The Monastery of Batalha is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture. The facade is richly adorned with statues and detailed ornaments. The interior features stunning vaults, chapels, and tombs.

The monastery houses the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, commemorating Portuguese soldiers who lost their lives in World War I.

The Convent of Christ in Tomar is a historic monastery complex in Tomar.

The Convent of Christ has a rich history and was initially constructed as a medieval castle, the Castelo dos Templários (Castle of the Templars), in 1160. Later, it was transformed into a monastery by the Order of Christ.

Following the dissolution of the Templar Order in the 14th century, the Order of Christ was established to take over the duties and properties of the Templars in Portugal. The Convent of Christ became the headquarters of this new order.

The most striking part of the monastery is the Charola, a round chapel that originally served as the sanctuary for the Templars. It features a blend of architectural styles and is adorned with religious symbols.

The monastery plays a central role in the annual Procession of the Order of Christ in Tomar, honoring medieval history and traditions.

The University of Coimbra, or Universidade de Coimbra, is one of the oldest universities in Europe.

Founded in 1290 in Lisbon and later relocated to Coimbra in 1537, the University of Coimbra is one of the oldest continuously operating universities in the world.

One of the most remarkable parts of the university is the Biblioteca Joanina, a beautiful baroque library known for its colonies of bats that protect the books from insects at night. The Torre da Universidade is an iconic symbol of the university, offering stunning views of the city of Coimbra.

The university also houses exquisite botanical gardens featuring a variety of plant species. These gardens serve both as an educational resource and a relaxing space for students and visitors.

One of the things to do: Visit Aldeias do Xisto

There are plenty of attractions in Central Portugal, but the slate villages, Aldeias do Xisto, should not be missed on your tour of central Portugal. If you were to visit all the villages, it would take you quite some time. Below, you’ll find a selection of the most beautiful villages.

Aldeias do Xisto

Piódão is nestled in the mountains of Serra do Açor. Due to its isolated location, the village has preserved its historical character and is a popular destination for tourists seeking tranquility and authenticity.

The village is home to the Museu do Piódão, a museum providing insights into the history, culture, and traditions of the region. It is a valuable stop for visitors wanting to learn more about the local lifestyle.

Benfeita is situated in the green and hilly landscape of Serra do Açor, a mountain range in Central Portugal. Benfeita is known for its rural and rustic atmosphere. It is a place where the traditional Portuguese way of life has been well-preserved, with rural houses and narrow streets.

Some parts of Benfeita have gained a reputation as eco-friendly communities. There are projects and initiatives focused on sustainability, environmental conservation, and community development.

Fajão is located amidst the mountains of Serra do Açor.

The surroundings of Fajão offer opportunities for exploring nature. There are hiking trails leading to beautiful viewpoints and natural areas, making it an ideal destination for hikers.

Three more reasons for a summer in Central Portugal

1. Go hiking!

Central Portugal boasts abundant nature and various natural parks where you can enjoy beautiful hikes. There are trails for every level of hiker, from beginners to advanced. You can explore on your own or follow one of the designated routes in one of the parks below.

The Serra do Açor extends over parts of the Coimbra and Castelo Branco districts. It is a part of the larger mountainous area known as the Serra da Estrela. It is a unique place, distinguished by the forest: Mata da Margaraça, and the waterfalls: Fraga da Pena.

Serra da Lousã is a beautiful mountain range in Portugal with rich nature and numerous hiking opportunities. There is abundant water in the form of rivers and waterfalls. Some of the trails include PR1 – Rota das Aldeias de Xisto, PR2 – Rota dos Castanheiros, and PR3 – Rota da Água e da Pedra.

The viewpoint Alto do Trevim offers stunning views of the natural area.

Serra da Estrela is the highest mountain range in Portugal and offers beautiful hiking opportunities. Some of these hikes include Geraldes to Lagoa Comprida, Covão d’Ametade, or Torre to Manteigas

Wandelen in Serra da Estrela
Serra de Estrela

2. Cycling and Mountain Biking for everyone

Cycling in the center of Portugal offers a unique experience, allowing you to explore beautiful nature, historical cities, and charming villages. Here are some suggestions for cycling routes and areas in central Portugal

The Ecopista do Dão is a former railway line transformed into a cycling path. It runs along the Dão River, providing a relaxed and picturesque route. You’ll cycle through vineyards, forests, and past historical bridges. The starting point is often in Viseu.

Tomar, with its impressive monastery, serves as an intriguing base for cycling routes. Explore the surrounding countryside, visit the Castelo de Bode reservoir, and enjoy the tranquility of nature.

Serra da Estrela is the highest mountain range in Portugal and offers beautiful hiking opportunities. Some of these hikes include Geraldes to Lagoa Comprida, Covão d’Ametade, or Torre to Manteigas.

3. Experience the piece

The central part of Portugal is perhaps one of the most tranquil regions in the country. A suitable place for your summer in Central Portugal. The area offers a blend of nature, culture, and delightful cuisine. You can make it as busy or as relaxed as you wish.