Your love letter from Portugal
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Central Portugal is vibrant and varied. Here you can zigzag from Portugal’s only snowy peak to hot, golden beaches. From the mega waves at Nazarè to the former capital Coimbra, from surfer’s haven Peniche to medieval Obidos, from the canals of Aveiro to the mountains of Serra de Estrela. Adventure awaits in Central Portugal.
Canals, colourful historic boats, Art Nouveau buildings and the famous striped fisherman’s shacks by the coast, define charming Aveiro.
Set on a hill, spend time getting lost in the old winding cobbled streets of Coimbra and visit the country’s oldest university.
Close to the Spanish border, Monsanto is a village of giant boulders looks like a living movie set.
Tip… Central Portugal is a huge and varied region, from the big-wave surf at the coast to medieval fortresses lining the border with Spain. There’s so much to see and do so you’ll have to plan ahead and take your pick.
There are some brilliant places to stay throughout Central Portugal, from cosy guesthouses to expansive palaces and grand hotels (without the huge price tag too). You can get more bang for your buck out Lisbon, Porto and the Algarve.
In Coimbra, I adore the three-star Art Deco Hotel Astoria, or if you have the budget Quinta das Lagrimas is the spot to stay. Aveiro is super walkable, so stay in the historic centre at Avenida 60 Apartments, Vera Cruz Suite Apartment or Aveiro Rossio. If you’d prefer to be in Costa Nova by the beach, check out three-star Costa Nova Hotel, or sleep in a striped fishermen’s hut at Palheiro Costa Nova.
Nearby a bucket-list stay for me is the Bussaco Palace, a historic tile-filled stay in the middle of a forest.
In Figueira da Foz I love Bacharéis Charming House with its remodeled interiors and brilliant breakfast. In Tomar try Hotel República on the central square, or try Casa dos Oficios nearby. In Caldas da Rainha try the four-star SANA Silver Coast Hotel, or book a room and workshop with 19 Tile Ceramic Concept.
Alternatively, take a look at all accommodation in the Central region.
Near the coast, eat fresh seafood plucked straight from the icy Atlantic Ocean. Visit fish markets in the mornings to check out the catch of the day, or better yet hope to see a traditional Arte Xávega. In the summer you can find dried fish for sale on the beach at Nazare.
Around Coimbra and the Xiste Villages I love to eat chanfana, a rich and hearty goat stew. Nearby the Bairrada area is famous for leitão, or roasted suckling pig.
Keep going inland and you’ll reach mountainous Serra da Estrela. Here find one of Portugal’s favourite DOP cheeses, the stinky, gooey Queijo Serra da Estrela.
Personally, I think renting a car is the best way to explore the Central region of Portugal. This gives you the freedom to stop off at quieter beaches, visit remote towns like Monsanto, and explore the winding roads of Serra da Estrela or the Xiste (Schist) Villages. You can compare car rentals here.
If public transport is your only option, you can take the train to Coimbra, Tomar and Aveiro. Private coach companies, such as Rede Expressos and FlixBus, will give you connections to smaller or more remote towns like Nazarè or Obidos.
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