This trip is the perfect escape from main tourist attractions that are advertised abroad. Although they might be included on tours around Portugal, it is totally worth it to take the time to discover these treasures.
We departed from Porto on Friday afternoon and went to the Buçaco (Bussaco) Palace where we stayed for a night. On Saturday we visited the Alcobaça (Alcobaca) Monastery and the Convent of Christ in Tomar. We slept in Tomar and on Sunday we visited the Batalha Monastery and headed back to Porto.
It will take you about 1,5 hours to drive from Porto to Buçaco and around 2,5 hours from Lisbon. But Alcobaça, Tomar and Batalha are closer to Lisbon. For example, it only takes around 1,5 hours to get from Lisbon to Alcobaça by car.
All these sites are very well known to the Portuguese people and they are highly visited but also often overlooked by foreigners, maybe because of the fact that they are a bit out of the way from the main attractions.
Palácio do Buçaco (The Buçaco Palace)
The first stop was the gorgeous Buçaco Palace, a Carmelites monastery from the beginning of 17th-century until the beginning of 19th-century. Late in the 19th-century, there were plans to turn the ancient convent into a royal residence. However, because of difficult political circumstances, the palace was turned into a hotel.
The palace was designed in the Neo-Manueline style, evoking the 16th-century architectural Manueline style that characterised the peak of the Portuguese Age of Discovery. It is important to note that the Manueline architectural style is only found in Portugal. It flourished during Great Discoveries of Portugal beginning with 15th-century discoveries of Azores and Madeira islands, coastal Africa, the sea route to India.
We also did a short trek around the Buçaco Palace. At the time of Carmelites’ convent, the monks created a luxurious garden with many species of trees. Nowadays it became a nature park with wonderful treks. In the “Wikiloc” website, you can find some trekking options around it.
For dinner, you can go to nearby Mealhada and grab a piece of “leitão da Bairada.”
Mosteiro de Alcobaça (Alcobaça Monastery)
It’s a complex Gothic style building. The monastery rose in the 12th-century as a symbol of the expulsion of the Moors from current central Portugal. For centuries, the monastery was closely related to the Portuguese monarchy, which you can notice from the royals buried in the monastery’s grounds.
Because of its artistic, cultural and historical relevance, it was included in UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list.
The individual ticket costs 6 euros but there are some options of a free admission.
The site can awe you with its huge ancient kitchen and magnificent cloisters.
Tomar Monastery (Convento de Cristo)
If you would like to get lost in the beautiful cloisters and never-ending corridors of a wonderful building, the Convent of Christ is the ideal place to do it.
It was built in the 12th-century and was the headquarters of the Templar Knights for a long time. The Templar spirit can be felt in all of this place. Even the city of Tomar promotes itself as a Templar City.
The convent and castle are also in the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Without beautiful cloisters, you can be amazed by the round church.
The individual ticket costs 6 euros but there are options for free admission.
Mosteiro de Santa Maria da Vitória (Mosteiro da Batalha)
Our last stop was the Mosteiro da Batalha (Batalha Monastery). It literally means “monastery of the battle”. This majestic building is also in the UNESCO World Heritage list. It is one of the greatest Late Gothic architectural examples in Portugal. Later, the building was influenced by the Manueline style.
The main church is admission free, but if you would like to see the chapels and cloisters inside, you need to pay a 6 euros entrance fee. It’s worth the price because the exteriors are beautiful and the inside – even more.
Things to think about
If you are thinking about where to stay for the night, I would recommend Tomar and Buçaco. It is mainly because these places themselves have charm without the monasteries. Personally I was least impressed by Batalha. For me, only the monastery makes it worth to go there.
Also, the three monasteries: the Alcobaça Monastery, the Convent of Christ (Tomar) and the Batalha Monastery make up the Monasteries Route and which you can visit with one ticket, which cost 15 euros and allows you to enter all three monasteries.