Seventy five miles (120km) north of Portugal's capital is the little town of Alcobaça which lies in the valley of the two rivers which are the source of it's name; Alcoa and Baça. Although the town has it's own charm Alcobaça's claim to fame is the mighty medieval Monastery which dominates the town centre. Alcobaça's Monastery or Royal Abbey of Santa Maria is one of the finest examples of early Gothic architecture in Europe. It was commissioned by Afonso Henriques, Portugal's first king, in 1153 following his victory over the Moors during the Christian Crusades in central Iberia. In recognition of the importance the religious orders had during Henrique's Reconquista and their involvement in establishing the Portuguese state Alfonso dedicated vast tracts of land to them. For their part in the conquest of Santarem in 1152 AD Alcobaça was given to the Cistercians to colonise and defend. The Cistercian Order held custody over their vast estate and oversaw the workings of local villages. They boosted agriculture by introducing new techniques and agricultural products which turned out to be a lasting characteristic of this area which is still today one of Portugal´s main fruit producing regions.
King Afonso Henriques instructed the founder of the Order of Cistercians, the French abbot Bernard of Clairvaux, to supervise the construction of the Monastery. Building on the monastery began in 1178, following the model of the abbey of Claraval, the Order’s mother church in France. Building of the monastery fulfilled a vow Afonso Henriques had made following the Christian reconquest of Santarém, which had been fiercely defended by the Moors.
The first construction built on this site was the first Gothic church built on Portuguese soil, however only the Gothic portico and the rose window remains of the original façade. Everything else on the façade was dramatically altered during the 17th and 18th centuries when the twin bell towers were also added. The two figures either side of the portico are São Bento and São Bernardo.
Upon entering the church you'll notice the grandiose central nave is barren of any adornments and radiates a sense of elevation and spirituality. The layout is of a Latin cross and, as typical with Gothic churches, it has a very high ceiling. At 20 metres the lateral aisles of the nave are as high as the central one, which together with the relative slenderness of the church and large length conveys an impression of monumentality. Alcobaça remains, after 800 years, the largest Portuguese church. Inside are the resting places for the ill fated royal lovers Dom Pedro and Dona Inés who are located within the transept. Their marvellously decorated tombs are carved facing each other and inscribed with the phrase "Até ao fim do mundo…” or “Until the end of the world…” The church takes about 20 minutes to walk around and entrance is free. Entrance to the Sacristy is through an ornate Manueline doorway and down a corridor with ribbed vaulting. The original Sacristy was replaced following the 1755 earthquake.
Built into the New Sacristy, the Reliquary Chapel is of superb beauty and is dubbed the “Mirror of Heaven” by Reynaldo dos Santos. It was built between 1669 and 1672 by the Abbot Constantino de Sampaio. Built on a octagonal layout it's interior is entirely covered with gilded wood carvings which is illuminated with great effect by the diffused light pouring into the room through a skylight in the cupola ceiling.
Immediately to the left inside the church is the Hall of Kings (Sala dos Reis) which today serves as the ticket office for the monastery. The room dates from the 17th century and the walls are adorned with azulejo tiles depicting the siege of Santarém, Dom Afonso's vow, and the founding of the monastery. Standing on their pedestals half way up the walls are the statues which give the room it's name. Carved by the monks themselves the statues represent virtually every king of Portugal up until Dom José, who died in 1777.
The monastic buildings were erected shortly after the construction of the church. For the most part they're stark and austere, reflecting the Cistercian belief in simplicity. For a small entrance fee a visitor can experience the simple life of a monk and explore the complex. The hub of the monastery are the cloisters which were built during the reign of King Dinis, (Claustro de Dom Dinis) most likely between 1308 and 1311. As one of five sets of cloisters the King's cloisters were designed by Domingo Domingues and Master Diogo. The Cloister of King Dinis I are also known as the Cloister of Silence because it was where monks would spend their time reading or in quiet contemplation.
The lower floor is one of the finest Medieval cloisters in Portugal, between the buttresses thin twined columns create three arches crowned with a rosette. The upper floor however was later added during the reign of Manuel I (1495-1521) and was designed by Diogo and João de Castilho. As part of the cloisters there is a Gothic Fountain Hall which contains an elegant early renaissance water basin, decorated with renaissance motifs including the coat-of-arms of the monastery.
The original kitchens were demolished to make way for the Afonso VI Cloister in the 17th century, the only surviving relic of the medieval kitchens is a Romanesque door. The current kitchen is located next the Refectory. It's centrepiece is a 18 metre tall chimney suspended on eight pillars. The fireplace was designed to roast a whole ox. The chimney is covered in glazed tiles which also adorn the interior walls. Water from the river Alcoa supplies a water basin to the rear of the room. The kitchen is a surprising display of opulence in contrast to the stark living quarters of the monks and the abstinent nature of the Cloister of Silence.
Next to the kitchens the Refectory is a large cavernous vaulted chamber where the monks would eat in silence. The western wall contains an arched staircase leading to an elegant pulpit from where passages from the Bible were read out to aid the monks digestion.
The dormitory is a similar large gothic vaulted room where the monks slept, except for the abbot who was allocated his own quarters. The dormitory was originally divided into individual cells however the partitions were demolished during the 1930's.
The Chapter House is where the monks gathered to discuss daily matters concerning the monastery. Proceedings started each day with a chapter read from the Rule of St Benedict. The entrance to the Chapter House is through a romanesque portal with two similar windows on each side. The room is now filled with baroque statues created by the monks for the main chapel of the church.
Low Season: 09h30 - 18h00, High Season: 09h30 - 19h00.
Adult: €6.00, Combined Ticket: Alcobaça, Batalha, Convento de Cristo: €15.00, Concessionary: €3.00, Child under 12: FREE, Sundays up to 14h00: FREE.
Lisbon Card: FREE
Mosteiro de Alcobaça, 2460-018, Alcobaça, Portugal.
39° 32' 54.2"N | 08° 58' 48.2"W | +351 262 505 120 | email@example.com
There are plenty of various types of eateries in close proximity of the Monastery.
There are public toilets outside the Monastery.
There is free car parking right side of the monastery (facing it).
The Monastery has access ramps to the ground floor for persons with reduced mobility, enabling them to visit the Monks' Room, King Dinis Cloister, Chapter House, Refectory, Kitchen and Church. Access to the Monastery for people in wheelchairs is made through a side door at Praça Afonso Henriques, which provides direct access to the Monks' Room. Please inform the Monastery reception desk for reduced mobility access or book in advance.
Alas there's nothing much left of this castle which has truly been battered by the ill fates of history. The walls which can be seen today dates from thr 12th Century re-build following the Reconquista. It replaces an earlier 6th Century Moorish fortification which didn't survive repeated Christian onslaught. Located on an ideal strategic point upon a crest of a hill over looking the town. Following the hand over of the region to the Cistercian order the monks used the slopes of the castle to grow grapes and thus kickstarting the towns wine making heritage. Since then it's suffered four separate earthquakes and pillaging of it's stones by locals. Some re-building work did take place in the 1950's and today seven square turrets and a Moorish watchtower, known as "Torre dos sete sobrados" still survive. It is for the view from this vantage point which remains the best reason to visit. A climb here is rewarded by amazing vistas over the Monastery and town below.
The National Wine Museum is located in an former winery built by José Raposo de Magalhães who was a pioneer in wine production in the Alcobaça region, on lands once owned by the Monastery. As soon as Magalhães acquired the winery he set about modernising grape cultivation and applying cutting edge 19th century wine production techniques. The region attained fame, credibility and wealth from it's quality wines both nationally and abroad. When the phylloxera pandemic occurred, Magalhães replanted Alcobaças vines using grafts from France. The National Wine Museum is Portugal's largest such museum. The collection amounts to over 8,500 artefacts related to oenology and associated crafts. Visitors can see portable presses, barrels, historic labels, bottles, farming tools and copper stills, collected from across the country. The insightful tour will take you through the cellars and distillery before ending with a wine tasting.
Tuesday - Friday: 09h00 - 11h30/14h00 - 17h00, Weekends: 10h00 - 12h30/13h30 - 16h00,
Adult: €2.50, Concessionary Disabled, Student, Youth card & OAP: FREE
Rua de Leiria Olival Fechado, Alcobaça, Portugal.
39° 33' 08.0"N | 08° 58' 38.9"W | +351 262 582 750 | firstname.lastname@example.org
There's another monastery close by in the village of Cós and is one of the largest Cistercian nunneries in Portugal. It's somewhat grim and dilapidated exterior hides true gems inside. The Abbot of Alcobaça founded the Monastery of Santa Maria Cós in the 13th Century and quickly became one of the most important monastic complexes in the region and the most important monastery for Cistercian nuns. It's original construction began in the 12th century, sometime after Alcobaça, as a place for widows who wanted to lead a monastic life. As it grew in importance it was enlarged between 1558 and 1670. The lavish interior is fine early Portuguese Baroque including a wooden boxed ceiling, 17th and 18th century azulejo tiles and gilded altars. The ten azulejo tile panels depicts scenes of Saint Bernardo de Claraval (Clairvaux)l's life, a promoter of the Cistercian order. A gilded screen remains which was once used to separate the cloistered nuns from the ordinary folk. The monastery was declared Building of Public Interest in 1946 and has undergone much restoration work since.
Tuesday - Saturday: 09h30 - 12h30/14h00 - 18h00, Sunday: 14h00 - 18h00, Monday: CLOSED. | FREE
6 Rua de Santa Rita 2460 Coz, Alcobaça, Portugal.
39° 35' 54.3"N | 08° 57' 20.5"W | +351 262 582 750 | email@example.com
Solar da Cerca do Mosteiro is a renovated historical house which is run as a guest house only 150 yards from the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Monastery of Alcobaça. This charming property has a seasonal outdoor pool and terrace.
The property features accommodation in apartments and as well as rooms, all come with a private bathroom and a TV. The apartments include a kitchen, dinning area, living room and farm views. Free WiFi is provided throughout the house.
For guests staying in the rooms without kitchenettes there is also a shared kitchen, where guests can prepare their meals. The property features an on site bar with an outdoor lounge area. Located within natural surroundings, the Solar da Cerca do Mosteiro has an orange grove, a vegetable patch and a garden. Bike hire and car hire are available at this property and the area is popular for cycling and hiking.
3 Rua Dr. Francisco Zagalo, 2460-041 Alcobaça, Portugal.
39º 32" 60.1' N | 08º 58" 59.8' W | +351 262 505 310 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Surrounded by lush gardens only 200 yards from the Alcobaça Monastery, this elegant boutique hotel is situated in a historic mansion. It features a Spa and Wellness Centre and free Wi-Fi in public areas. Rooms at the Challet Fonte Nova have parquet floors and elegant furnishings. They include floor-to-ceiling windows and come equipped with air conditioning, cable TV, and a private bathroom with hand painted tiles.
In the morning, the hotel serves a buffet breakfast with fresh fruit and homemade cakes. There is also a bar in the basement that serves regional wine and has billiards and board games. Guests can enjoy a relaxing massage, or take a walk through the gardens and visit the koi pond. A car hire service is also available for guests. Free private parking is possible on site.
8 Rua da Fonte Nova, 2460 - 042 Alcobaça, Portugal.
39º 32" 44.8' N | 08º 59" 07.4' W | +351 262 598 300 | email@example.com
Set in a privileged spot among natural surroundings, Your Hotel & Spa is located 2.8 miles from the historical town of Alcobaça. It offers modern accommodation, a seasonal semi-Olympic-sized outdoor swimming pool, extensive spa facilities a short drive from Nazaré Beach. The accommodation at Your Hotel & Spa Alcobaça is decorated with modern-style furnishings and are air conditioned. Each one overlooks the gardens, the outdoor pool, or the golf course.
International cuisine and specialties from Portugal's Estremadura Region are served at the hotel's restaurant. Guests can also enjoy drinks and refreshments until late, thanks to the in house bar. Complimentary leisure facilities include an outdoor swimming pool, WiFi access, charging electrical vehicles and private parking. Bike rental is also available on site. A variety of health treatments are available at an extra charge, including hydrotherapy and massages.
8 Rua da Fonte Nova, 2460 - 042 Alcobaça, Portugal.
39º 31" 08.5' N | 08º 56" 59.9' W | +351 262 505 370 | firstname.lastname@example.org
An excellent dinning experience be it for lunch or dinner. From appetisers through to dessert the Portuguese cuisine with a modern twist here is constantly superbly cooked and well presented. The portions are as generous as the smiles from the staff. Located just out of town in Bemposta high up on the hill overlooking Alcobaça, eating at O Cabeço is a feast for eyes too. The decor is vibrant and modern yet well thought out and the atmosphere is always friendly and welcoming. Prices are very reasonable considering the fine dinning experience. Highlights on the menu are the Tuna, Octopus Cataplana, and the house style Iberian pork. If you have room for dessert then you will be spoiled again for choice. O Cabeço has become very popular so to avoid disappointment its best to call and make a reservation.
Tuesday - Saturday: 12h30 - 14h00/19h30 - 22h00, Sunday & Monday: CLOSED
65 Rua Dona Elvina Machado, Alcobaça 2460-521, Portugal | 39º 33' 52.4" N | 08º 58' 45.9" W
+351 914 500 202 | email@example.com | Website | Facebook
Tucked away in a lane away from the main square and crowds this great little restaurant is the restaurant the locals know as the place to go. The service is typically warm and friendly and portions are very generous. Meals start when a waiter brings a selection of appetisers for you to choose from, at a small fixed price per head. Main courses are local fare cooked to perfection, look out for their Açorda dishes.
Daily: 12h00 - 15h00/19h00 - 23h00
27 Rua Doutor Maur Cocheril, Alcobaca 2460-032, Portugal
39º 39' 33.8" N | 08º 49' 28.3" W
+351 262 582 295 | firstname.lastname@example.org | Facebook
That ol' gourmet burger craze kicked off in Portugal a few years ago and the Portuguese do it very well. This burger-bar is ideal if you want something quick, cheap, cheerful yet tasty. Casual as you like with great friendly staff. Their choice of homemade burgers, including vegetarian and vegan options, are served over two floors as well as on the outside seating. There are other tempting things on the menu such as soups, salads and devilish desserts.
Daily: 12h00 - 15h00/18h00 - 23h00
49 Rua Frei António Brandão, 2460-047 Alcobaça, Portugal
39º 32' 50.7" N | 08º 58' 55.7" W
+351 262 582 295 | Facebook
Alcobaça is 72 miles (116km) North of Lisbon Portela Airport
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To drive to the Monastery of Alcobaça by motorway: from Lisbon or Leira take the A8, exit Alcobaça/Nazaré/Valado dos Frades. Then take the national route EN 8-5 to Alcobaça.
Latitude - 39º 32' 50.7" | Longitude - 08º 58' 55.7"
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Take the urban train service (comboios urbanos) to Lisbon's central train station Rossio.
Rede Expressos run regular services to Alcobaça from Lisbon Sete Rios coach station and takes about two hours.