Central Portugal

Big waves, bigger heart

The central area of Portugal can feel a little underrated, but I’ll argue it’s much more than just the place to pass on the way from Lisbon to Porto or vice versa.

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.

Best places to visit in Central Portugal

Aveiro for the Art nouveau town

With its canals, historic boats and the famous stripey fisherman’s shacks by the coast.

The medieval walled city of Obidos

Inside the fortified walls find a village of typical white-washed buildings and taste the local liqueur.

Chase the world’s biggest waves at Nazarè

If the waves aren’t pumping the town itself is still super cute.

Unearth history at the country’s oldest university in Coimbra

Set on a hill, spend time getting lost in the old winding cobbled streets of the nation’s medieval capital.

Old town walls, Obidos, Portugal

More places to visit in Central Portugal

The snow-capped peak of Serra de Estrela
Discover the knights of Tomar
Visit Batalha Monastery
Ferry over to the Berlengas Islands
Escape the crowds at Caldas de Rainha
Visit the 12 historic villages, including Monsanto
Surf Supertubos beach at Peniche

Tip… Central Portugal is massive and you won’t be able to cover it all in a few days or even a week. Take your pick and plan ahead.

What to eat

One of Portugal’s favourite DOP cheeses is Queijo da Serra from the Serra da Estrela mountains.

How to get around

Outside of summer it is usually quite cheap to rent a car and this will give you the freedom to explore smaller towns and unusual places.

If you don’t have a driver’s license, it’s possible to catch the train from Lisbon or Porto to bigger places like Coimbra, Aveiro and Tomar. There is also a network of coach buses that will take you to Nazarè or Obidos.

My Must Read Central Portugal Guides

Explore the variety of the central belt

Tile of the day: Step inside Capela de São Miguel in Coimbra

Having seen many, many tiled chapels it takes quite a lot to blow me away but the Capela de São Miguel in Coimbra is jaw-droppingly beautiful. It’s definitely up there among the most beautiful tiles and breathtaking sights in Portugal. […]

Explore Monsanto, Portugal’s magical rock village

Wind whips my face and bells toll as I look out over the plains towards Spain, wondering what it was like to wait here endlessly for an attack. High on this rocky mountain top, standing on the walls of a […]

Tile of the day: Santarém Train Station

On the journey from Lisbon to Porto I often look out the window when we pass stations to see if the platforms and buildings have gorgeous hand-painted tiles. I finally had a journey finishing in Santarém, so naturally I took […]

9 best things to do in Figueira da Foz

Have you ever been ice skating on the beach? For Jorge’s birthday in January I wanted to get away somewhere north of Lisbon, ideally where his family in Aveiro could meet us for lunch and Jorge could enjoy a winter […]

10 things to do and see in Caldas da Rainha

Caldas da Rainha, a small city about one-hour drive north of Lisbon, is known for two things: hot springs and ceramics.  Sometime in the 15th century, Portugal’s Queen Leonor established a hospital and church here, hence the name, which means […]

Tile of the day: Nazare’s Ermida da Memória

A tiny chapel perched on the edge of a cliff filled with tiles? This is Ermida da Memória, a little capela in the coastal city of Nazare that is loaded with religious legend.

11 best things to do and see in Aveiro

Aveiro is a petite old city where traditional brightly coloured moliceiro boats traverse a wide canals lined with picture-perfect pastel art nouveau buildings. University students clink beers in the sunshine, tourists snack on golden ovos moles sweets, fishermen bring in the catch of the day and locals pile into cars headed for the seaside.

Event: Festa dos Tabuleiros

Thirty 400-gram bread rolls are weaved into a human-size, paper flower-covered tower balanced precariously atop the 748 women marching by. Hundreds of these flowery 1.5-metre high piles bob through the enchanting Central Portuguese riverside town of Tomar on the shoulders […]

Tile of the Day: Aveiro

The city of Aveiro has incredible art deco architecture, plenty of tiles and even a few canals running through the historic centre. I 100% recommend it as an essential stop for anyone driving from Lisbon to Porto.


I’m an Australian travel writer and food journalist who has been living in Lisbon since 2018. I started this blog as a place to share and record my love of Portugal.

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