With many monuments, natural parks, cities and amazing villages, Central Portugal has much to offer and there are many reasons why your trip to this region will be memorable. Come with me in this travel guide and discover the Centre of Portugal!
In this travel guide you’ll find information about beautiful cities, natural parks with breathtaking views, Portuguese World Heritage, the biggest pilgrimage site in Portugal an much more!
To fully enjoy this travel guide and discover the Centre of Portugal, I recommend that you hire a car by clicking here (affiliate link) so that you can easily move from place to place and visit locations that aren’t accessible by other means of transportation.
Information: I’ve made this travel guide to discover the Centre of Portugal taking into consideration the two closest airports to this region: Porto and Lisbon airports. If you begin your trip in Porto, then you should follow the travel guide as it is; if you begin in Lisbon, then you should go to the last day of this guide.
Discover the Centre of Portugal in 7 days
Day 1 – Aveiro
As it is expected, this day will be shorter since it is the day you arrive at Porto’s airport. If you want to immediately discover the Centre of Portugal, then you should pick up your car at the airport and then take the A29 highway (or A1) and drive south, towards Aveiro.
Once you have arrived to Aveiro, you’ll be amazed with its beauty, considered by many as the “Portuguese Venice“. This comes from the fact that Aveiro is covered by many canals, much like the Italian city.
Among other points of interest in this beautiful city, don’t miss the opportunity to get to know some unique places like:
- Aveiro Museum
- Cathedral of Aveiro (old Mosteiro de Jesus)
- Church of São João Evangelista
- Art Nouveau Museum (Museu de Arte Nova)
- Fórum Aveiro
If you have time and want to discover the city in a different way, then you should definitely go on board of a moliceiro boat and admire Aveiro’s canals and the surrounding streets. Nowadays these boats play an important role in tourism but they were once used to catch moliço (seaweed) that was then used to fertilise the fields.
To finish your first day of the travel guide to discover the Centre of Portugal, drive west, to Costa Nova, where you can admire some typical fishermen houses. These houses stand out because they are painted with vertical and horizontal stripes.
Information: are you staying in Porto and don’t want to hire a car nor lose too much time in public transportation? If so, consider going on a guided tour to Aveiro and the Paiva Walkways (affiliate link)!
In this 9-hour activity leaving from Porto, you will start the day with a walk on one of the most beautiful walking routes in the world and prize-winner several times at the World Travel Awards. Take your camera and get ready for an adventure in nature, on wooden walkways that follow the Paiva river in a unique valley that is worth exploring!
After lunch in a typical Portuguese restaurant, you will continue to Aveiro where you will have the opportunity to stroll through the streets. This will be followed by a moliceiro tour to see the city’s canals and admire the buildings from a different perspective. To finish this guided tour (affiliate link), nothing like a last stop in the Costa Nova location, well known for its houses painted with horizontal or vertical stripes.
You can also discover my Top 10 of the places to visit and things to do in Aveiro.
To spend your first night in the Centre of Portugal, I recommend that you rent a room at Welcome In (affiliate link). In a privileged location, this is one of the favourite places to spend the night in Aveiro.
As an alternative, you can choose to stay at Meliá Ria Hotel & Spa (affiliate link), a beautiful four-star hotel with views over one of the canals – definitely a place where you can relax.
Day 2 – Viseu – Serra da Estrela Natural Park
After having a great breakfast and before leaving Aveiro towards your next destination, make a stop at Oficina do Doce to purchase this city’s delicacy: ovos moles (literally “soft eggs”).
Next, take the A25 highway and drive east, to the countryside, more specifically to Viseu. In this city, that is one of the biggest in the Centre of Portugal, take some time to admire:
- Cathedral of Viseu
- Grão Vasco National Museum
- Misericórdia Church
- Cava do Viriato
After having strolled through the streets of the historic centre of Viseu, I suggest you go to a place where you can try something unique in Portugal. Drive to Palácio do Gelo shopping centre, located 2,5 km south of the cathedral.
Apart from the usual stores you find in shopping centres, here you’ll also find an ice rink opened all year and the only ice bar in Portugal. At this bar you can enjoy some cold drinks and dance, but only for a 30-minute period.
If you want to know how was our day in this beautiful city, please read our article and discover what to visit in Viseu.
After having explored “Viriato’s city”, drive to the amazing Serra da Estrela Natural Park – a place with breathtaking views and amazing landscapes!
In this park you can start by going to the historic village of Linhares da Beira, located 50 km east of Viseu. Stroll and explore the narrow streets of this medieval village from the 12th century and admire the beautiful castle, built at an altitude of 800 metres, for protection purposes.
Next, drive south and go to the Torre (literally “tower”), the highest peak in mainland Portugal. On your way, make a stop at Lagoa Comprida, considered the biggest lagoon and water reservoir in Serra da Estrela mountain range.
Return to your car and drive for another 10 km until you get to Torre. Located at an altitude of 1993 metres, this is one of the places in Portugal where you can find some of the worst weather in the winter.
If you want to discover the Centre of Portugal, then this is one of the points of interest you can’t miss – take this opportunity to enjoy the breathtaking views and, if you have the chance, enjoy the snow!
While you’re there, go to one of the stores and purchase some of the most traditional products from this region like the famous cheese Queijo da Serra, ham, regional bread, warm coats and much more.
After your visit to the highest peak in mainland Portugal, head south towards one of the most beautiful villages in Portugal: Piódão.
I suggest you spend the night here and enjoy the amazing view and quietness of this unique and spectacular place. But don’t worry! You can explore this village in the following day.
With one of the most amazing views over the village, my suggestion is that you spend the night at the beautiful four-star hotel Inatel Piódão (affiliate link).
If it’s getting dark and you don’t want to drive for one hour, then you should choose to stay at the wonderful Luna Chalés de Montanha (affiliate link), located at only 10 km from Torre.
Day 3 – Piódão – Coimbra
After having a complete breakfast, you should explore this village. First, stroll through this village’s narrow streets and admire the schist houses – it’ll seem as if this village stopped in time; then venture out on a walking route and admire nature in its purest state.
My suggestion is that you take the round walking route Piódão – Foz d’Égua – Piódão. This walking route will take you on an adventure through some of the most beautiful landscapes in Portugal. Take this opportunity to admire Foz d’Égua and its amazing schist bridges and its wonderful natural pool.
As an alternative, and if you prefer to, you can also drive to Foz d’Égua and admire its amazing schist bridges and its wonderful natural pool.
To discover more, read my article about the 12 historic villages of Portugal.
After lunch, it’s time to head west to the beautiful city of Coimbra, located 95 km away from the memorable Piódão village.
This is an amazing city and, because of that, you should spend your afternoon and evening admiring some of the most important sites where the University of Coimbra – Alta and Sofia stands out. This site is listed by UNESCO as World Heritage and has many places to discover, among which:
- University Palace
- Joanina Library
- Old Cathedral of Coimbra
- New Cathedral of Coimbra
- Santa Cruz Monastery
© wikipedia.org – Wirdung
Roam the beautiful streets of the historic centre of Coimbra and discover the buildings that constitute this unique Portuguese heritage.
To finish your third day, I suggest that you book a room at the wonderful Hotel Quinta das Lágrimas (affiliate link). Located close to the south shore of Mondego river, this place of huge historic importance is one of the most beautiful in this region.
As an alternative, you can choose Coimbra Portagem Hostel (affiliate link). Its location is one of the best in Coimbra and its decoration is very beautiful and, because of this, you should also consider this place.
Day 4 – Coimbra – Tomar – Fátima
Enjoy this morning to discover the other points of interest in Coimbra, this time on the south shore of Mondego river. Take the opportunity to visit places like:
- Portugal dos Pequenitos (a theme park)
- Quinta das Lágrimas Gardens
- Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha
- Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Nova
If you want to discover more about this beautiful city, then you should read my Top 10 of the places to visit and things to do in Coimbra.
In the afternoon, head south towards Tomar, also known as the “city of the Knights Templar“.
This location was given to the Knights Templar by D. Afonso Henriques as a way to thank this order for the help given in the conquest of this region from the Moors.
If you have time, explore the beautiful streets of the historic centre and visit places like the Church of St. John the Baptist (Igreja de São João Baptista) and the National Forest of the Seven Hills (Mata Nacional dos Sete Montes).
However, one of the places you’re going to love the most in this travel guide to discover the Centre of Portugal is located 1 km away – the castle and Convent of Christ. You must visit this place and, when you do, prepare yourself to spend at least two hours exploring and admiring such beauty.
If you want to discover other points of interest in this city, read my article and learn more about our visit to Tomar, the “city of the Knights Templar”.
To finish this fourth day, drive to the place that is considered as the biggest pilgrimage site in Portugal – the Sanctuary of Fátima.
Thousands of people go on pilgrimage to this sanctuary every year to celebrate the apparitions of Virgin Mary to three little shepherds in the distant year of 1917; apart from celebrating these apparitions, people go on pilgrimage to this sanctuary to fulfil promises.
In the Sanctuary of Fátima you can admire:
- Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fátima
- Basilica of the Holly Trinity
- Chapel of the Apparitions
Discover what else you can visit by reading my article about the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima, the biggest pilgrimage site in Portugal.
Not far from the Sanctuary of Fátima you’ll find Hotel Lagoa dos Pastorinhos (affiliate link), one of the favourite places to spend the night for people visiting this region.
Another option you can consider is Hotel Dom Gonçalo (affiliate link). Despite being a four-star hotel, prices are pretty accessible and the amenities are great – enjoy the heated pool, sauna, Turkish bath and much more!
Day 5 – Serras de Aire and Candeeiros Natural Park – Batalha – Nazaré
After a well spent night, it’s time to drive south towards Serras de Aire and Candeeiros Natural Park and discover something unique.
Right before you enter this natural park, you’ll find Mira de Aire. This place is known all over Portugal and attracts many people because of its amazing caves.
Considered as one of the 7 natural wonders of Portugal, Mira de Aire caves are a place of indescribable beauty. Of the 11 kilometres of caves, only 600 metres are open to public and go down at a depth of 110 metres. But don’t worry! You can take the elevator on your way out.
Next, drive through the northern part of Serras de Aire and Candeeiros Natural Park until you get to the town of Porto de Mós. Soon and from a distance you’ll see one of the landmarks of this region – the beautiful castle of Porto de Mós.
Take the opportunity to explore this magnificent medieval castle of Gothic and Renaissance styles and admire the views from this Portuguese monument; before you leave, you can also explore the streets of this town.
Continue your travel guide to discover the Centre of Portugal and head to the town of Batalha. Here you’ll find one of the most beautiful Portuguese monuments, also listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site – the Monastery of Santa Maria da Vitória, also known as Batalha Monastery.
The construction of this monastery was ordered in the 14th century by D. João I after the categorical win of the Portuguese army (supported by English troops) over the Spanish army (supported by French troops) in the Aljubarrota Battle.
Mostly of Gothic style, but also Manueline, the construction of this monastery lasted for 180 years. During your visit to this town make sure you go to this magnificent Portuguese monument and admire all its beauty.
After your visit to Batalha Monastery, head south towards the coastline, to the beautiful town of Nazaré. Known worldwide because of its big waves, Nazaré is a place you can’t miss!
You can spend some time in Nazaré admiring the beautiful beaches and the seafront and look up to the promontory, known as Sítio. Take the funicular and go to the uptown where you can visit places like:
- Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora da Nazaré
- Nazaré Lighthouse
- Suberco viewpoint
To spend the night, I recommend that you drive south to the wonderful medieval town of Óbidos. Among other offers, I suggest you book a room at one of two places inside the citadel – Casal da Eira Branca or the beautiful Pousada Castelo de Óbidos (affiliate links).
Day 6 – Óbidos – Rio Maior – Alcanede
Start your sixth day of your travel guide to discover the Centre of Portugal by exploring the amazing citadel of Óbidos.
One of the places that attracts more people is, without a doubt, the castle and the ramparts protecting the citadel. In fact, the name Óbidos comes from the Latin word “ópido” that means “citadel” or “fortified city”.
Enjoy your morning by exploring the citadel, admiring the castle, walking on the ramparts and narrow streets imagining yourself as a peasant or noble from the medieval times – a unique experience!
Don’t miss the opportunity to have lunch in one of this town’s traditional restaurants and don’t leave Óbidos without savouring the famous “ginjinha de Óbidos” (sour cherry liqueur), a liqueur much appreciated throughout this region and country.
After leaving the citadel, you can still admire the beautiful Usseira aqueduct, that was originally 3 km long, and the Sanctuary of Senhor da Pedra.
In the afternoon, include in your travel guide to discover the Centre of Portugal a stop at a unique place in the country: Rio Maior Salt Pans.
With over 800 years of existence and located in the southern part of Serras de Aire and Candeeiros Natural Park, Rio Maior Salt Pans are a place known to few but, at the same time, a place of rare beauty in Portugal.
Located in a place where you can admire nature in its pure state and, opposed to many other salt pans, these are located kilometres away from the sea. Interestingly enough, the water here is seven times saltier than seawater.
Apart from that, you can also admire the small wooden huts next to the salt pans, some of which turned into restaurants and souvenir shops where you can even buy salt.
You can also read our article to find out the 9 places you can’t miss in Serras de Aire e Candeeiros Natural Park.
To finish your travel guide to discover the Centre of Portugal, you can make your final stop at Alcanede, located 20 km east of Rio Maior Salt Pans.
Alcanede is over eight centuries old and here you’ll find some traces of Roman presence in the region, like an old bridge. But it is definitely the castle of Alcanede that catches the eye around here – located on top of a hill, you’ll be able to enjoy the views and appreciate nature.
You can spend the night in Alcanede and rest before you drive south, to Lisbon’s airport. I recommend that you book a room at Meio Country House (affiliate link).
Day 7 – Lisbon
You should use the seventh day of your travel guide to enjoy the last moments in this region and then drive to Portela Airport, in Lisbon, located 90 km south of Alcanede.
As you can imagine, there are many points of interest in this region for you to admire, however you won’t have time to visit them all. Still, I’ve made this travel guide to discover the Centre of Portugal in a way so that you could visit the coastline and the countryside and admire not only monuments but nature as well.
Are you going to discover the Centre of Portugal? Then don’t hesitate to book your hotel room, your car or the best activities by clicking the links below. This way you are helping me in the development of my blog and I’ll be able to offer you free tips and travel guides so that you can better prepare your visit to Portugal. Thank you!
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