Alcobaça

Key Facts

Population: 15800

Area Size: 408.14 sq km

Alcobaca is both a Portuguese City and Municipality based on the Silver Coast in the Oeste region. It is located in the district of Leiria. The city grew and and was developed along the valleys of the Alcoa and Baca Rivers and this is where it’s name is derived from.

It is a large and multifaceted area. The city itself and surrounding areas are steeped in history centred around the Monastery of Alcobaca, part of the Unesco World Heritage Centre.

Alcobaca came to prominence when Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal, made a decision to build a church commemorating the Conquest of Santarem in 1147. This church later became the Monastery of Alcobaca and it is to this day considered one of the most resplendent gothic monuments in Portugal.

The monastery owned much of the land and organized village and estates throughout the region. It introduced new techniques and agricultural products, which resulted in this area being one of Portugal’s main fruit producers.

The surrounding areas to the town are beautiful and there is a well developed infrastructure. Within the town you will find a diverse range of architecture, history and development, along with all modern day conveniences.

The Monastery of Alcobaca is the dominant feature of the city. It proudly presents a long and sombre façade with 18th-century embellishments. This austerity is further emphasized in the cloisters with its apt name of “Cloister of Silence”.

History

Alcobaca became a town of note in the 12th century when King Dom Afonso Henriques chose the site to build Portugal’s largest church. In 1147 he defeated the Moors by conquering the City of Santarem. He vowed, as a tribute to his victory, to build a superb home for the Order of Cistercians. It was almost eighty years before the building was completed.

Over the coming decades, the monarchy continued with further construction and some 60 years after, King Dinis, built the main cloister. The monastery was consecrated in 1262.

Within the church are the tombs of Dom Pedro I of Portugal and Inés de Castro, his murdered mistress. Dom Pedro I was destined to marry, as royal duty, Constanza the Princess of Castile, however shorty after their marriage she died. Dom Pedro escaped with Inés and lived in the City of Coimbra. His father subsequently had Inés murdered as he believe her family a threat to his kingdom. After the fathers death Dom Pedro announced he had married Inés in a secret ceremony in Braganca.

The Monks over the centuries have had a huge influence over the Portuguese culture and it’s development. They produced the first authoritative history on Portugal in a series books. In 1810, however, French invaders ransacked the Abbey and stole most of the important treasures including this library.

Amenities & Attractions

Alcobaca has many attractions and amenities.

It is a good sized town where you will find major supermarkets, wonderful restaurants and cafes and something new to look at at every corner.

  • Whether you have an interest in architecture, history, music, art or wine, there is something here to entice everybody.
  • The Monastery is by far the greatest attraction, however there are also other attractions worthy of a visit.
  • The National Wine Museum is interesting, filled with history and of course wine, where you can join a tour and tasting session.
  • Parque dos Monges has six areas: Environmental, Adventure, Entertainment, Zoo, Thematic and Accommodation.
  • The Rua da Bernarda Museum has some of the most beautiful pieces from the production of “Raul da Bernarda & Filhos, Lda.”

These are just a view of the things to see and do in Alcobaca, there are of course many more.

Market days in Alcobaca are every Monday and are held at the market hall in the centre of town.  Here you will find fresh local produce, wonderful baked bread and sweet treats, freshly caught fish, meat, delicious local cheeses and many other wonderful items to tempt your taste buds.  You can also buy flowers, baskets and local ceramics.

And the beaches at Nazare are only a 15 minute drive away.

Our Team Recommends

The writers favourite place to go in Alcobaca is to settle into a comfortable seat at one of the wonderful aroma filled cafes across from the Monastery.  Order a rich and delicious cup of coffee with a wonderful sweet treat and indulge in a relaxing hour or so of people watching.  There is always somebody to chat to, a dog to make a fuss off and there is usually something going on.

The other favourite is the fabulous Opera Cafe which is located under the Cistercian Arch. You can enjoy a meal or a drink and a piece of cake while listening to the fabulous countertenors Luis Peças and João Paulo Ferreira.  It is amazing.