Thinking of visiting Central Portugal? While some tourists flock to Northern Portugal for our beautiful wine region and others head straight to the south for sunshine and beachtime, Central Portugal is truly the heart of the country. It’s in Central Portugal where you’ll find everything from UNESCO World Heritage Sites to stunning scenery to small cities bursting with history and local flavor…and so much more.
The region of Central Portugal is generally between Porto in the north and Lisbon at the southwestern point. Stretching from the Atlantic coastline to the Spanish border, Central Portugal traverses mountains and rivers and jaw-dropping history everywhere in between.
If you’re keen to explore Portugal with insider tips and local expertise, then we’d love to help you create a tailormade Portugal tour. Crafting custom itineraries is one of our favourite things to do!
And feel free to get in touch if you have any questions about our services here at YourTours Portugal. We’re always happy to help travellers create the best experience possible in our country!
For now, we’ll offer our tips for visiting Central Portugal so you can start dreaming of your own perfect trip…
Best Places to Visit in Central Portugal
If you’re interested in history and culture, then you must visit Alcobaça. Home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the impressive Alcobaça Monastery was Portugal’s first Gothic monument, built in 1153 by King Afonso I.
Go inside to visit the tombs of King Pedro I and Dona Inês de Castro, carved in the 14th century with extraordinary detail.
Sometimes called the Venice of Portugal, Aveiro’s many canals offer an interesting and intriguing way to visit this top spot in Central Portugal. Be sure to take a molicero along the canals and learn about the local tradition of harvesting seaweed.
Another spot not to be missed in Aveiro is Praia da Costa Nova. It’s become quite the Insta-worthy spot for all the colorful striped houses along the water!
Coimbra is our university town in Central Portugal home to one of the oldest universities in all of Europe! The “city of students” offers plenty of cafes, bars, and restaurants, in addition to the university itself attracting many a curious visitor. Be sure to stop into the gorgeous Joanina Library while you’re there.
Another spot to visit in Coimbra is Sé Velha, a stunning Romanesque Roman Catholic Cathedral built in the 12th century. Make sure to check out its lovely detailed arches inside with Arabic design influences.
If you want to explore both Aveiro and Coimbra, we’d love to take you! Check out our Coimbra & Aveiro Private Tour itinerary for more details.
Leiria is a beautiful area in Central Portugal built on hills and flatlands that surround the River Lis. The most popular attraction here is the stunning Castelo de Leiria. This hilltop fortress was built in 12th century and added to over the centuries; it is a wonder to explore today!
Beyond the castle, Leiria also boasts a wealth of artisan products local to the region. The area has always been a hive of cultural activity – the first Portuguese printing press was established in Leiria in 1466.
Mira de Aire Caves
Portugal has many caves but, if you must choose just one to visit, go to Grutas de Mira de Aire.
In 2010, the Mira de Aire Caves were chosen as one of the 7 natural wonders of Portugal. Uplit to emphasise the stalagmites and stalactites throughout, this cave system is a rare beauty indeed!
When visitin the caves, you can explore about 600 metres of the total 15 kilometres in this system.
You can visit the caves everyday of the year, in the village of Mira de Aire, 15 km from Fátima. To know the opening hours and the prices, check the official site.
Monastery of Batalha
Just south of Leiria, you’ll find another UNESCO World Heritage Site at the Monastery of Batalha. One of Portugal’s architectural gems, the monastery boasts late Gothic styles and stunning, intricate design. Be sure to check out the 15th century tomb of King Edward and the beautiful Royal Cloister.
If you’re into surfing, then you can’t skip visiting Nazaré. Made famous in October 2020 when surfer Sebastian Steudtner made headlines riding the biggest wave ever surfed at a whopping 86 feet. While you aren’t expected to match that record, you can take on the smaller waves instead and still get quite the thrill!
The most impressive waves are seen during our winter months from October to February.
If you’d prefer to stay on land and just watch these vast rolling waves, you need to head to Praia do Norte instead.
Beautiful Óbidos is a popular destination in Central Portugal, and for very good reason! The walled town and medieval castle offer endless opportunities for photographers, while wandering the streets feels straight out of a fairy tale.
While you’re here, be sure to try Ginjinha d’Óbidos, the town’s own cherry liquor.
If you’re visiting in the summer, just know it’s likely to be quite busy. Its location not far from the Atlantic coastline makes it an easy stop for travelers between Lisbon and Porto.
If the waves at Nazaré were a bit too intense, then Peniche is a perfect spot for the beginner surfers out there. Surfers travel from all over the world to experience these Portuguese waves and Peniche offers a fun spot in a fishing village on the coast.
From Peniche, visitors love checking out Forte de São João Baptista on the Berlengas Islands; this imposing structure was built in 1651 and was designed to protect the region. Military personnel were stationed there at all times for security.
The Schist Villages are spread out around the Açor and Lousã ranges. Schist is a locally-sourced rock from which some 27 mountain villages were constructed, creating a bucolic scene that tourists truly enjoy.
Built into uneven terrain and hillsides, the Schist Villages have become more popular in recent years, especially due to Instagram. Their populations had dwindled over the generations, with many local residents leaving for work in larger cities. This recent revival has reinvigorated the area.
Serra da Estrela
While many head to Portugal for the coastline and beaches, the stunning Serra da Estrela Natural Park offers over 100,000 hectares of granite formations in Central Portugal’s interior. The highest point on mainland Portugal is here: Torre is nearly 2,000 meters above sea level! Mount Pico, in the Azores, is higher if you’re eager to explore more.
In winter, this is where you can ski and snowboard in Portugal. In the summer, come for hiking and enjoying the beautiful rivers and lush trees.
If you haven’t gotten your fill of UNESCO World Heritage Sites yet, then head to Tomar to visit the Convent of Christ. In the 12th century, this was a stronghold of the Knights Templar until the Order was dissolved in the 14th century.
Today, Tomar offers a beautiful small city to stroll, with narrow streets and layers of history to enjoy.
What do you think? Did we cover enough of the places to visit in Central Portugal that you feel ready to take a trip right now? We hope so! There is so much more to enjoy here in our home country, so we invite you to get in touch to plan your own perfect itinerary. We’d love to help you see the very best of Portugal!