Portugal has 14 World Heritage Sites, of which I planned and visited 9 within 6 days. I have this thing for UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Therefore, I always plan my itinerary so that the road trip takes place via these websites.
Of the various day trips, one particular day route is the most memorable for me. I have covered 3 monasteries in central Portugal: Alcobaca Monastery, Batalha Monastery, and Christ Monastery in Tomar in a single street day. It is called the way of the monasteries.
Monasteries of Central Portugal
The monastery triangle has Alcobaca Monastery, Batalha Monastery and Christ Monastery in Tomar in its three corners. These 3 locations are centrally located in Portugal. You can reach them from Lisbon by road. Each of them is great and it is like a journey through the history of Portugal as you visit through these monasteries.
Monastery of Alcobaca
Distance from Lisbon to Alcobaca is 122 km, which can take 1 hour 30 minutes on the A8 motorway.
The Alcobaca Church is famous for the monastery. It is a beautiful medieval structure, the facade has designs like icing on a cake, only they looked old and worn. Over the centuries, the original Gothic facade has been modified.
The door and the rosette window exist from the moment it was built. The interiors are even more impressive with many parts to visit. I just melted at the sight of the Gothic vaulted ceiling there.
Interior of the Alcobaca Monastery
Explore some important parts such as cloisters, seven dormitories, a library and a huge kitchen. The cuisine here is the most remarkable. And the huge tiled fireplace in the center is also impressive. Some of the halls of the cloister are open to the public.
There is a story about a thin door on a wall: monks, apparently, had to adapt and pass in order to gain access to the dining room. Do not miss to see it and evaluate yourself can be!
The Alcobaca Monastery is the burial place of many Portuguese kings and queens. The monks lived here from 1178 AD and devoted their lives to religious meditation and created illuminated manuscripts.
The richly decorated tombs of King Pedro and Ines, who became posthumous queen, are the most photographed objects in the church. The tombs are built with their feet facing each other.
Distance from Alcobaca to Batalha Monastery is 22kms which takes 24min via N8.
The Batalha Monastery is a mi-Mi of 2 architectural styles: Gothic and Manueline. Its construction lasted 2 centuries (from 1388 to 1533) by 15 architects and under the rule of several kings. However, the dream monastery could not be completed.
Must see the sights in the Batalha Monastery
Within the church and monastery there are several attractions. The arch above the door is decorated with statues of twelve apostles. The stained glass window here is the largest of the Portuguese Gothic architecture.
In the founder’s chapel to the right of the entrance there is a row of tombs. It contains the tombs of King Misoaos I and his Queen Phillipa, whose stone effigies depict entwined hands.
There is another couple’s grave, that of D. Duarte and his wife Leonor, who lay hand in hand in one of the chapels of the monastery.
The square chapter house in the Royal Cloister is a nice place to walk. It is lace like limestone work that keeps your attention. They look like snowflakes, the only difference is that they are stony and large.
This part of the tour takes a lot of time, and chances are that you want to stay on, do not want to get out.
The tour time is 2 hours and more until you are satisfied.
Monastery of Christ, Tomar
Distance from Batalha is 45 km via IC9 which can take 45 minutes approx.
Tomar Monastery, also called the Monastery of Christ, is no less than a masterpiece! There are a total of 8 cloisters in Convento de Cristo. Must photograph the view is the famous window of the chapter house in the west facade, made by Diogo de Arruda in the years 1510-1513. A detailed ‘ stop and see tour can easily take 3 hours.
Tomar in Portugal received the status of a World Heritage Site because:
“Originally conceived as a monument to the reconquest, the monastery of the Knights Templar of Tomar (transferred to the Knights of the Order of Christ in 1344) during the Manueline period symbolized exactly the opposite – the opening of Portugal to other civilizations.”
Journey along the monasteries of Central Portugal
You can start from Lisbon. Lisbon is the capital of Portugal and well connected to the rest of the world. Emirates Airline offers several flights connecting Lisbon with other major cities of the world.
Start early in the morning so that from 9 you are in the monastery of Alcobaca. Although I did this tour in one day, you can always stay a little longer and visit them by covering the monasteries in 2 days.
- Lisbon to Alcobaca-1 hour 30 minutes
- Alcobaca Tour – 2 hours (from 9 to 11 am)
- From Alcobaca to Batalha-24 minutes
- Batalha Tour- 2 hours (11.45AM to 1.45 PM)
- Batalha to Tomar – 45 minutes
- Save an hour for lunch
- Tomar Tour – 2 hours (15.30-17.30 in winter)