Alcobaça is a good starting point to a few trips, all of them with several interesting points. Some of them (signed with stars) deserved a special attention in another page.
Nazaré (12 Kms west)
Absolutely must see and stay a while. Leave early in the morning, go straight to the “Sitio”, and enjoy the awesome sights. If it is summer or Sunday, you better leave the car there, and descend using the lift. If you risk bringing down your car, parking may become a nightmare. Try the signposted paid park.
The crowds are not yet in the beach, so, if you caught the low tide, go straight to the rocks, in the north. Enjoy the healthy smell of salt and iodine, while the dying waves whisper at your feet. Notice the regularity of the waves, 7 small and then 3 higher, in a trustful sequence, while the small fragments of shell shine in the sun, dancing at your feet
Now the flocks of children are already there, and it’s time to leave the confusion. Walk south, along the beach, watching the waves getting bigger, but always regular. Imagine the hard fisherman’s life with those small boats, now in the harbor, until recently facing the waves in the beach, despite, sometimes, the rough condition of the sea, to catch the fish that was their life, and you still can see drying in the beach. There, in the southernmost tip of the beach, you will have the tranquility to enjoy the sun, under a comfortable breeze. A swim is safe but chilly.
Getting back to town, loose yourself in the narrow streets, trying to understand the strong differences between the locals and the other Portuguese. For lunch, sardines are good everywhere, and “caldeirada” uses to be also reliable.
For anything different choose well your restaurant. S. Miguel, centrally over the beach, is one of the best, in quality and location. For a more cosy place, I like “Bartidor”, in R. Alexandre Herculano.
Going back up to the Sitio visit the church and chapel, and learn the legend of Nazaré. You may follow the road to the lighthouse and back, enjoying the sights, and seeing the difference between both beaches – Nazaré and “do Norte”, where the sea is always wild and dangerous. If lunch in Sítio should be an option, you have also many options (I choose Fonte mar).
If you want to skip the northwest trip, your return may be done through Cela (a monument to General Humberto Delgado, murdered by the political police during dictatorship, and nice church), Parreitas (Roman remains) and Vestiaria (nice chapel)
Almost in the way back to Alcobaça, the Piedade Thermal Hotel and Spa may justify a stop.
If you have time to proceed, or if you have another free day, follow the road to Nazaré and at the entrance of town turn right to Marinha Grande and left to the Sitio, and, from there, follow the coast.
The northern coast alternates between wide beaches several kilometers long, and small secluded beaches, with evidence to Falca, Vale Furado, Légua, Polvoeira, Paredes da Vitória or Agua de Madeiros.
S. Pedro de Moel, nested in the national pine forest, it’s an interesting urban solution, and a good stop in your coastal observation.
For dinner, drive a little further north to another beach, Vieira de
Leiria and look for an “Arroz de marisco”, a remarkable seashell rice, at “Solemar”.
If you made the northwest program, you may return through Marinha Grande and Pataias. Close to Alcobaça, Quinta do Pinheiro is a great option to sleep or to a different meal.
If you travel with children consider the stop at Granja Abbatiale, facing Quinta do Pinheiro. There the kids may contact with horses (breeding and riding) and an orchard, where they may pick anything to add to other things carried or bought locally to, at a small price , cook and eat in place.
Leave Alcobaça towards Caldas da Rainha, and in Alfeizerão turn to S. Martinho do Porto (You may stop at Alfeizerão to taste the special “Pão de Ló”). Before or after stepping in the quiet beach, you may drive up to Facho, and see the sights. For lunch if the important is quality try “A Casa”, just in the bay. Everything is excellent, but “Robalo ao sal” is special. For a cheaper meal you may go to Kais Restaurant. Proceed south, passing Salir and its dunes, and, through the hills, until stopping at Foz do Arelho. Watch the people bathing and grabbing shells at the same time. If bathing, you may need to swim, because the sand is very irregular.
Take your time, but consider moving to Caldas da Rainha. There, the Thermal Spa and hospital (the oldest in the world) and the surrounding park are interesting and quiet.
Ceramics and humour are married in Caldas da Rainha. Try to find by yourself the most typical piece of ceramics. When you stop laughing taste the “cavacas” and head to the museum of Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro, the creator of “Ze Povinho” (our Uncle Sam) and much more. Time to leave to Obidos, a wonderful town insid a castle. Spend the afternoon visiting the arts and antiques shops, climbing to the walls and towers to see the sights. Feeling tired is time to stop and drink a “Ginginha”. For diner the “Pousada do Convento” or “Ilustre Casa de Ramiro” are excellent but pricy. If you prefer to eat in your way back to Alcobaca, “Sabores d’Italia” in Caldas da Rainha, is much more than pizza and pasta, but “Cortiço”, in Tornada, has a delicious wild boar steak and is cheaper.
Leave Alcobaça towards Leiria, and, after 7 km, stop a couple of minutes in Aljubarrota, to ear the funny story (not for 7 Spanish soldiers) of the “padeira”. Continue to S. Jorge, where you may visit the museum of the most celebrated battle in Portugal. Proceed to Batalha, and dedicate a reasonable time to the monastery (UNESCO heritage, and specially, my marriage place in 1979). I forbid you to miss the “Capelas Imperfeitas”, a gem where you can see mixed four architectural styles. Take your time… It deserves it.
Lunch time shall take you 12 km north, to Leiria, but don’t stop there. Proceed straight to “Marrazes” and enjoy the adventure of eating at “Tromba Rija”. It’s an overwhelming experience, sometimes requiring a previous reserve.
If you have the misfortune of not getting a table, walk across the street to “Casinha Velha”. You won’t regret.
Now it’s time to go back to Leiria, and with such a powerful lunch, you are strong enough to climb to the castle. The views are interesting. Coming down, walk a while in the narrow streets around “Praca Rodrigues Lobo”.
The way back to Alcobaça can be done via Marinha Grande, where, with time, you may go to the excellent Glass Museum, in the center of town. Finally, 7 kms before Alcobaca, Atlantis is a superior class crystal producer, with visitor center and shops, close to the recently opened to the public beautiful convent of Cós.
Use the same exit of Alcobaça as in your north travel. A few kilometers after Aljubarrota turn right towards “Porto de Mos”. Take your time to visit the castle, and proceed to Fatima.
Some people visit the sanctuary in half an hour, some other in half a life. Depending in your time use, you may go a little further and visit Ourem and its castle. Anyway, lunchtime will be at Fatima, at “Tia Alice”. Bacalhau is a must. After lunch (or before), if it interests you, visit the Dinosaur trail, 10 kms away, and go to the mountain zone. Visit one (or more) cave. The most known is “St. Antonio”, the biggest “Mira de Aire” and my favorite “Alvados”.
Go south to Arrimal, and uphill to Casal de Vale-de-Ventos.
In a good day you may see the ocean, 25 km distant, and even farther, the Berlengas islands. Follow the ridge south, and descend to Alcobertas and “Salinas”, an interesting place where they produce salt, 200 mts above sea level. From there you may return to Alcobaca through Benedita and Turquel, just to stop and say hello.