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Alcobaça

Photo © standeven

Travel Guide Europe Portugal Alcobaça

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Introduction

During the reconquest of territory from the Moors, King Afonso Henriques reorganized the settlement, offering vast areas to nobles and religious orders. The order of Cister, coming from France, received, as a reward for aid in the conquest of Santarém, a territory exceeding 400 square kilometres that extended from the sea to the Serra dos Candeeiros. In 1152, a church was started where the Alcoa and Baça rivers merge, the first example of Gothic art in Portugal. Over the centuries the monastery grew in size and architectural richness and around it the town of Alcobaça arose. Voted in 2007 as one of Portugal's seven marvels, the monastery is today the main local attraction and one of the most important in the region. The monastery was, in the middle age, a school of agriculture, with an important role developing and adapting the products brought from overseas by the navigators. Fruticulture keeps being important in the area, with high standards of quality. Industry reached a high level in pottery and weaving but faded in the 20th century – the “chitas”, a colorful fabric with exclusive patterns, are no longer produced, and only a few and small unities keep making the also famous pottery of Alcobaça.

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Sights and Activities

Monastery

The monastery is the mandatory visit of Alcobaça, and it may take from only some minutes to several hours, depending on the detail, some of them not to be missed.

Tombs - In the church are buried some of our first kings and their family, but the most outstanding tombs are the ones of king Pedro and Inês. Ines de Castro was a Galician noblewoman that came to Portugal with the princess Constanca of Castile, the new wife of prince Pedro, the heir to the throne. Peter fell in love with her for the concern of his father, King Afonso IV, worried with the approach of Castilians to the throne. He couldn't stop the romance, and, after Constanca death, with Pedro refusing to marry someone else but Ines, the king decided to have her killed.
Pedro reacts starting a civil war until his father death. Becoming king, Pedro announced a secret marriage with Ines, declaring her queen of Portugal. He took is body from the grave, sat her on the throne, and forced all the court to honor her as queen. Giving her back to the grave, he ordered that he would be buried in an opposite position, so that, after the final judgment, the first thing they would see was each other’s face.
The two wonderful tombs (profaned by Napoleon’s soldiers) may be seen in the Monastery of Alcobaça, in the position ordered by King Pedro.
Cloister - The cloister, composed by four galleries with changing decorative motifs, surrounding a beautiful garden, is the entrance to several rooms deserving a visit: the Chapter House, the parlour, the wine cellar and the huge kitchen. Located in the cloister, there's a beatiful Renaissance lavabo.

  • Kings Room - The richest room in the monastery shows the statues of almost all the Portuguese kings, but more than that, a great set of tiled panels from the 18th century tell the story of the monument's construction.
  • Chapter House - The house where the monks had their meetings is now one of the most useful rooms in the monastery. Its shape is a square of 17.5x17.5 metres, big enough to gather 200 monks. With good acoustic conditions it is frequently used to musical events. In between, it is open to visitors, displaying a few statues of the former abbots.
  • Later adding - Though being started in the 12th century, some works have happened later, here and there with some different styles signing the dates. The facade (baroque) and the access to the sacristy (manueline) are good examples.
  • Kitchen and dormitory - More than a church, the monastery was a school inhabited by dozens of monks. It's still very interesting to see their conditions of life, from the kitchen where they could cook three bulls at once, with always running water from the diverted river, to the cellar, dormitory and refectory. A large and more recent area, for many years used as guest house is under recovering and may be seen from the 1st stage.

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Getting There

By Train

Alcobaça is served by the line of "Oeste", of CP with the closest station located in Valado dos Frades, about 6 kilometres distant (the same from Nazaré, in the opposite direction). There are buses they try to coordinate with the train, that take about 10 minutes, costing one euro. Taxis will charge from €8 to €10.

By Car

The quickest way to reach Alcobaça from Lisbon or Porto is by highway A8, exiting in Valado de Frades, IC9 provides quick connection with Leiria and Tomar, and most people use IC2 to visit also Batalha.

By Bus

Alcobaça is served by the quick buses of Rede Nacional de Expressos, and by Rodoviária do Oeste for smaller trips.

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Eat

  • Restaurante Frei Bernardo - R. Dom Pedro V, 17 (by the monastery)
  • António Padeiro - R. Dom Mauro Cocheril 27 (facing the monastery)
  • A Casa - Praça 25 de Abril nº 51 /54 (facing the monastery)
  • O Cabeço - Rua Dona Elvina Machado, 65 (2 km out of town - GPS: 39°33’52.45″N 8°58’45.94″O)
  • Riu restaurante - Rua Alexandre Herculano, 18 (near the monastery)

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Sleep

Budget

Hotel Santa Maria - Rua Dr Francisco Zagalo, 20
Hotel Dona Inês de Castro - Rua Costa Veiga, 44/48

Mid-Range

Hotel Real Abadia - Rua da Escola, Capuchos (2 km east of town)

Upscale

Challet Fonte Nova - Rua da Fonte Nova

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Keep Connected

Internet

Wifi is common in many places in Portugal, including hotels, restaurants and coffee bars. Free wifi along the Algarve coast is available in many places. Internet cafés can still be found in most larger cities and tourist areas though.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

Portugal's international telephone code is 351. The general emergency number is 112.

There are three mobile telephone operators in Portugal: TMN, NOS and Vodafone.

Each provider offers a variety of prepaid (Pré-Pagos) and contract (pós-pagos) SIM cards, both of which are available to foreigners. It generally means much lower rates for calls and especially internet. Be sure to switch off data roaming if you don't buy a local SIM card, as prices for internet are very high.

Post

CTT is the national postal service of Portugal. It has relatively fast and reliable services and it takes several days to over a week for your post to arrive within other European countries, more so if you send post to North America or Australia. Post offices (correios) have varying opening hours, but in general post offices are open on weekdays from 08:30am-6:00pm and on Saturday mornings until 12:30. More information about offices, costs and other details can be found at the CTT website. It's a relatively efficient but also relatively slow postal service. If you want to send packages overseas, you'd better use international companies like FedEx, DHL, TNT or UPS, as they are competitively priced, fast and very reliable.

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Contributors

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Alcobaça Travel Helpers

This is version 18. Last edited at 9:42 on Mar 27, 17 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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