Highlights of Central Portugal

Portugal highlights like Porto, Lisbon, the Algarve, the Duoro Valley, and the Azores Islands, make it a challenge to hit everything in between. Central Portugal (the space between Lisbon and Porto) is not to be slept through. Here you will find hidden gems that many have yet to discover. Medieval towns and coastal cities with historical and UNESCO sites, lovely beaches and private farmhouses, organic wineries and more mean it takes more than a day enroute to get to know Central Portugal. Here are a few of our clients’ favorite visits:

Along the Ria de Aveiro, or lagoon, lies the city of Aveiro, Portugal. Home to porcelain, paintings, a wealth of architecture and history, Aveiro has been called the “Venice of Portugal” for its colorful streets, canals, and gondola-like boats. The city’s architecture takes on an Art Nouveau style while the Aveiro Cathedral and Convent of Jesus represent more Romanesque and Gothic styles of architecture and the Aveiro Museum is home to everything from art to religion to archaeology. Just a short drive from Aveiro, head to Costa Nova Beach. This sandy Atlantic beach has picture perfect views with the colorfully striped homes that line the waterfront. Costa Nova also has a bustling boardwalk and fresh seaside dining. Both Aveiro and Costa Nova Beach make for a great day trip from Porto or a longer stay.

The former capital of Portugal, where travelers will find Baroque and Neo-Classical architecture, cathedrals, monasteries, botanical gardens, and the gothic ruins of Santa Clara-a-Velha. Coimbra is home to one of the oldest universities in Europe, as well as the unforgettable Joanina Library with a vast array of books dating back centuries. The Mondego River flows through this historic city giving it a scenic riverwalk. At the Santa Cruz Monastery, you will find the burial site of the first two kings of Portugal and stepping further outside Coimbra, you’ll find the site of the most impressive Roman ruins in Portugal. At the end of the day for those who stay, enjoy Fado music with a special operatic Coimbra flare that is native to the region.

Conveniently in the very center of Portugal, Tomar is historically significant when it comes to religion. Visit the Convent of Christ, a UNESCO World Heritage Site of Templar descent, featuring a wide array of architectural styles. Then, head to the well-kept Synagogue of Tomar to learn about the history of the local Jewish community. Additionally, the Aqueduct of Pegões still stands in Tomar from the 16th century and makes up a great part of the city’s landscape.

One of the most interesting villages, albeit touristy on weekends, the town of Óbidos embodies culture and literature. The medieval walls remain today and surround the town’s cobblestone streets. White houses, vibrant flowers, and azulejos, the ceramic tiles typical of Portugal, make up the town’s facade. The Castle of Óbidos has Moorish roots and today houses a luxury hotel. Óbidos holds distinction as a UNESCO City of Literature. The town honors its heritage with festivals throughout the year celebrating its Medieval roots and even has one dedicated to chocolate!

Whether you want to take a day trip from Lisbon or Porto, or want to spend more considerable time getting to know the central region of the country, these and other highlights deserve a place in your itinerary. For more information, the Valesa Cultural team is here to support you in getting to know Portuguese culture more intimately with great guides and drivers as well as private experiences along the way.