The drive from the walled town of Óbidos to the city of Coimbra is normally about 1 hour and 20 minutes. A great aspect of this drive is the several stops that visitors can make along the way.
So what is there to see between these two towns?
Instead of heading directly to Coimbra, our longer route took us to two stunning monasteries, a charming historical town and a remarkable archeological site only a few miles away from our final destination.
Portugal’s Grandiose Monasteries
Our first stop was at the city of Alcobaça, located only 30 minutes from Óbidos. The main reason tourists come to this small town is to visit its immense monastery which easily towers all of the buildings around it.
Founded in 1153, Mosteiro de Santa Maria de Alcobaça was a gift given to the Portuguese King Alfonso Henriques to celebrate his victory over the Moors in 1147.
The city does not have much more to offer besides the monastery. However, a walk through the church’s vast complex which comprises of cloisters, carved tombs and even a massive kitchen will take a good amount of your time.
From Alcobaça, we headed 25 minutes north to the town of Batalha. Like Alcobaça, the town was built around a monastery, this time erected to commemorate the Portuguese victory over the Castilians in 1385.
Mosteiro da Batalha is known to be one of Europe’s best examples of Gothic architecture.
Its façade is a masterpiece! It is covered by such elaborate stonework that many visitors, like myself, stand in front of it trying to comprehend this incredible work of art.
Tip: If you have time, go check the artisanal embroidery shops and bakeries nearby the monastery. It is a great spot to take a rest and grab a bite before getting back behind the wheel.
A Must Stop: The Medieval Town of Tomar
A 40 minute drive west, led us to the charming and historical town of Tomar.
Tomar’s main sights are the Castelo Templário and the Convento de Cristo, both resting atop of a hill overlooking the entire town. The Convent of Christ is a combination of castle and convent - the castle was built around 1160 and the convent was added later.
These structures were used by the Knights Templar which later dissolved into a Portuguese order in the 14th century.
Tip: We were very lucky to have found a parking spot atop of the hill where the convent is located. I would suggest that you try to do the same since the alternative would be to find a spot in town and then walk up the hill to reach the complex.
Before getting back on the road, make some time to wander around the streets of Tomar. From below, as you make your way through its picturesque streets, you will be able to see the castle overlooking the town.
I had done little research about Tomar before our arrival and became amazed with its charm: There are several green spaces, man-made channels and a bustling commerce inside its pedestrian zones.
End the Day with Some Ancient Ruins
The drive from Tomar to Coimbra takes about one hour and if visiting ancient ruins is something that you enjoy, a stop at Ruinas de Conimbriga will be well worth your time!
The ruins are located only 20 minutes from Coimbra and it is the richest archaeological site in Portugal. As I walked through the ancient city and learned about its several layers of civilization, it reminded me of our time exploring the ruins of Pompeii.
Tip: The archaeological park closes between 6pm and 7pm depending on the season, so make sure to check its closing/opening times before you go.
KEEP IN MIND
The Wrap-Up: We left Óbidos early in the morning without much of a hurry -- we wanted to visit several places without making the route too demanding. We saw all we had originally planned, arriving in Coimbra at around 7-8pm.
On a Sunday: If you are visiting these sights on a Sunday, you are in luck because Alcobaça Monastery, Batalha Monastery and Tomar Castle are free until 2pm on Sundays. Otherwise, the tickets in 2013 were 6 euros each and a combination ticket (3 attractions), would cost 15 euros.
The Hotel: Quinta da Lagrimas is located just outside of the main historical part of Coimbra. It is considered a luxury hotel where you will be staying in a historical palace and enjoying an extensive estate with famed gardens. Being outside of town, you can leave your car at the hotel - Coimbra’s narrow, medieval streets can be quite a challenge to drive through.
- Want to see the full trip and plan your next? Check out our Portugal Two Week Itinerary!