Located in the Centre of Portugal, just 80 km northeast of the capital, Santarém is a town like no other in Portugal. To be honest, this town wasn’t part of the list of cities and towns I really wanted to visit.
I’ve already been to this location before (I have relatives that live in the surrounding area) but what I’ve seen never captivated my interest.
During my last visit I finally had the opportunity to discover the real wonders of Santarém, with its beautiful historic centre, beautiful viewpoints with amazing views over Tagus river (the river that runs through Lisbon), monuments and churches with wonderful stories to tell and much more. I also had the opportunity to watch a fado concert (you can see the video below) and go to a beautiful wine cellar.
Now I invite you to read this article and discover the wonders of this town and its surroundings in just one day. As it happened to me, I’m sure you’ll also be amazed with all the hidden treasures you’ll find at this location.
This town is centuries old and there were many peoples that settled here: the Phoenician, the Greeks, the Carthaginian, the Vandals and the Arabs until 1147, when the Portuguese, led by their first king Dom Afonso Henriques, finally conquered this place.
Once known as the Portuguese Gothic capital, you’ll find in the historic centre of Santarém several architectural styles that brought to this town a cultural richness that will definitely be worth your while.
Nowadays, Santarém doesn’t have the same importance has some centuries ago, however its heritage is unique and we invite you to watch this short video to discover some of the monuments and places we’ll talk about later on.
What to visit in Santarém
Start by parking your car in the square Largo da Alcáçova, a quiet place and where you can make the first of your stops during your visit to this beautiful town.
Here, you should take the opportunity to explore the garden Jardim das Portas do Sol, one of the most wonderful places in the historic centre of Santarém and a real balcony to Tagus river and the numerous fields that make the beautiful landscape of this region.
At this place you’ll also find the ruins of an ancient Moorish castle conquered by Dom Afonso Henriques and, in the middle of the garden, you can admire a statue built in his honour.
Apart from the viewpoint and the ramparts, you can also visit the Urbis Scallabis Museum and Interpretation Centre. Here, you can make your first approach to the history of this town and you can even admire the Roman ruins and artifacts.
Definitely, this is the perfect place to start your visit to Santarém.
After exploring Jardim das Portas do Sol and the Urbis Scallabis, take the opportunity to discover the beautiful Santa Maria de Alcáçova church.
Apart from its architectural importance, this church, built by the Knights Templar in 1154, has some details you can’t miss like the glazed-tile panels from the 16th and 18th centuries and the organ from the beginning of the 19th century.
Next, leave the square Largo da Alcáçova and proceed until the end of the Avenida 5 de Outubro. From a distance, and by now, you have already noticed the beautiful tower Torre das Cabaças, also known as the Clock Tower. This 25-metre high Portuguese monument displays a bell dated from 1604.
Facing the Torre das Cabaças you can admire the beautiful São João do Alporão church, converted into the current Archaeological Centre of Santarém Town Museum.
This church was built in the end of the 12th century and was part of a bigger monastery complex where a cloister and a round tour stood out. The Romanesque and Gothic are the dominant styles and make this monument an ex-libris of this town.
After admiring these two Portuguese monuments, continue your stroll through the street Rua Primeiro de Dezembro or the street Rua de São Martinho until the square Largo de Marvila, where you’ll find the beautiful Santa Maria de Marvila church.
This church has many reasons why it should definitely be one of the places to discover during your visit to Santarém.
Despite having been built in the beginning of the Portuguese independence, it was in the 16th and 17th centuries that this monument gained some of its most beautiful features. Even before entering the church, you must stop for a minute and admire the magnificent Manueline portico.
Don’t hesitate to enter the church since there is something inside that will amaze you – the interior is decorated with 65 000 glazed tiles of several colours, including blue and white chequered panels. This is a masterpiece that puts this church among the most beautiful churches in Portugal – definitely a place to visit.
Continue your stroll through the historic centre of Santarém, passing by the street Rua Serpa Pinto until you get to the square Praça Sá da Bandeira.
Standing out in this square, you’ll find the majestic Cathedral of Santarém, also known as Nossa Senhora da Conceição church.
Built between the 17th and 18th centuries, this church was listed a Portuguese monument in 1917 and is another place you can’t miss during your visit to Santarém.
Of all its features, one must point out the wonderful facade in a Mannerist style and its predominantly-Baroque interior.
Close to this monument you’ll find the equally beautiful Nossa Senhora da Piedade church, also built in the 17th century in a Mannerist style but with some Baroque features.
This convent was founded in the 13th century and has features of different architectural styles like the Baroque, Gothic, Manueline and Renaissance.
Located in the central nave, the church’s high choir of this convent was sponsored by king D. Fernando I and, until the first half of the 20th century, his tomb was here. Today, you can admire the Gothic tomb of this monarch in the Carmo Museum, in Lisbon.
After visiting São Francisco Convent, cross the beautiful garden Jardim da República, located next to the street Rua 31 de Janeiro.
If you like authentic places and buying local products, then one of the best places to visit in Santarém is the municipal market.
Apart from being a place for shopping, you can also go there just to admire the beauty of this building. Contemplate, on the outside, an exceptional set of 55 figurative and 8 decorative glazed-tile panels.
Gaze the outside beauty of this building and then get in and enjoy the typical fragrance of this market. Here you’ll find fresh food products cultivated by local farmers.
After exploring the municipal market, continue your itinerary through the Avenida Sá da Bandeira. Along this avenue there is another beautiful garden, Jardim da Liberdade, where you can rest for a while.
At the end of the avenue you’ll see a roundabout and, facing it, you can admire the Nossa Senhora de Jesus do Sítio church, built in the 17th century and listed as a Portuguese monument since 1923. Nowadays, this place is an educational institution and the head office of Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Santarém.
Next, make your way back to your car, but don’t worry! There are many other points of interest along the way.
Get to the street Rua Primeiro de Dezembro and walk for some metres until you find the Misericórdia church. Built in the mid 16th century, this church was seriously affected by the 1755 earthquake and the facade had to be reconstructed in a Rococo style, or post-Baroque.
Go back a few metres and then turn left to the street Rua Miguel Bombarda that will take you to one of the oldest parts of town.
The most important place in this area is the beautiful Holy Miracle Sanctuary (Santuário do Santíssimo Milagre), initially named as Santo Estêvão church. The name of this temple lasts in time and dates back to the 13th century, when a miracle occurred in this town.
According to local legend, a woman that was suffering because of her violent husband went to a seer searching for help. The seer told the woman to go to the church and get a consecrated host in order to help her. Desperate, the woman did what the seer asked her to do and, during a ceremony, she hid a host.
When she was leaving the church, some of the people there noticed that her clothes were stained with blood, in the place where the host was hidden. Ashamed, and instead of going to the seer, the woman ran home and hid the host in a chest, in her bedroom.
During the night, while the woman and her husband were sleeping, a white light and melodious sounds came from the chest where the woman had hidden the host.
Frightened, the husband asked her wife what was going on. She decided to tell the whole story and, afterwards, both knelt in front of the chest and prayed until sunrise. In the morning, they told the priest of Santo Estêvão church the amazing event they witnessed the night before.
The priest then wanted to tell everyone in his parish about this miracle and so the bells tolled for a long time.
During my visit, the person in charge of the sanctuary showed me around and told me the story of this woman in a way that even the most sceptic person would believe. To finish your visit to this church you’ll even have the opportunity to admire the bloodstained host.
In the following centuries, this miracle became known throughout the world and today the sanctuary welcomes more foreign pilgrims (especially from North America and Asia) than Portuguese.
After exploring this place, go around the church and climb down the steps of Escadinhas do Milagre; at the end, turn left to the street Rua Braamcamp Freire and walk a few metres until you reach another monument – Nossa Senhora da Graça church.
Its construction began in 1380 and ended 40 years later and has the Gothic as its dominant style. Despite having a normal interior, it is the beautiful portico and the amazing rose window that stand out in this church.
Continue your stroll and head to Calçada da Graça and then turn right to the road Estrada de Alfange. A few metres ahead, enter the small alley Travessa da Dudiária towards the already known Avenida 5 de Outubro. As an alternative, at the end of the Calçada da Graça, turn left towards the Torre das Cabaças.
Back to your car and before leaving Santarém, take some time and drive to São Bento viewpoint, from which you can admire the amazing landscape of the Tagus river and the fields. On your way to the viewpoint you can make a quick stop next to Santa Clara church.
Apart from your visit to the beautiful capital of Ribatejo (name of the former province of Santarém), I recommend you discover the wine from this region by visiting the wine cellar Fiuza & Bright located on the south bank of Tagus river, in the town of Almeirim and just 8 km away from the historic centre of Santarém.
Joaquim Mascarenhas Fiuza started producing wine in the beginning of the 20th century with his uncle in the properties of the Family Mascarenhas Fiuza that has vineyards in this region for a long time.
In 1986, the wine producer Joaquim Mascarenhas Fiuza and the prestigious Australian oenologist Peter Bright got together and founded the wine company Fiuza & Bright.
Pioneers in the cultivation of French grape varieties in Portugal, Fiuza & Bright produces at its two vineyards (Quinta da Requeixada and Quinta da Granja) the main Portuguese grape varieties such as Touriga Nacional, Aragonez, Arinto, Vital, Fernão Pires and Alvarinho but also the main French grape varieties such as Alicante Bouschet, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
During your visit, you’ll have the opportunity to admire the beautiful decoration of the cellar, savour most of the wines and even explore the vineyards (you must check for availability before visiting this place).
The guided tours cost between 20 € and 40 €for two people (depending on the type of wine you want to savour).
Apart from the standard tours, you can choose a visit with lunch included (typical regional dishes) for just 25 € per person (minimum 5 persons).
Before going to the wine cellar, I recommend that you schedule a visit here.
Where to eat
Naturally your visit to Santarém wouldn’t be complete without going to a local restaurant. Our suggestion is that you try the Restaurante TASCÁ.
Apart from the gastronomic quality of this place, know that, if you’re visiting Santarém on a Thursday and can stay for dinner, you’ll have the opportunity to watch a fado concert – something you don’t want to miss out.
When I went there, the show began at 22h, after everyone had eaten (here, fado is respected – as people say in Portugal, “Silêncio que se vai cantar o fado!“, “Silence, it’s time to listen to fado!”), and ended close to 1h in the morning.
The show is composed by 3 parts: the first is for the guest singer, the second for fado lovers present in the restaurant and that want to sing and the third part is for the guest singer again.
If, like me, you enjoy fado, I’m sure you’re going to have a great time here!
Where to sleep
If you’re counting on spending the night in this region, then we have the perfect suggestion for you!
Located in Alcanede, 30 minutes northwest of the historic centre of Santarém, Meio Country House is the ideal place to relax after a long day.
This wonderful accommodation is located at an old four-hectare villa and can be a place to consider if you want to visit the centre of Portugal.
Apart from Santarém, other towns like Tomar, Fátima and Óbidos and places like Serras de Aire e Candeeiros Natural Park and Rio Maior salt pans are relatively close.
Do you want to have a pleasant and relaxing time while you discover tourist attractions and other amazing places?
To help you in your visit to Santarém, I’ve prepared a road book with all the necessary information (GPS coordinates, links to Google Maps and a detailed map).
Are you going to visit Santarém? Then don’t hesitate to book your car by clicking the link 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!
What will also interest you:
- Travel guide to discover the Centre of Portugal in 7 days
- Visit Tomar and discover its beautiful castle and Convent of Christ
- Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima, the biggest pilgrimage site in Portugal
- Serras de Aire e Candeeiros Nature Park: 9 places you can’t miss
- Monsanto to Piódão – discover the 12 historic villages of Portugal
Information: all the photos that have the blog’s logo belong to me, the others were bought at stock.adobe.com