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Discover the beauty of Alcobaça Monastery
A quick overview
What to see? Alcobaça Monastery, also known as Mosteiro de Alcobaça
Costs? Entrance to the church is free. Visiting the monastery costs € 6,00 for adults. An extra € 2,00 to visit the sacristy.
Where? Alcobaça is a quaint town about 1,5 hours north of Lisbon and 2 hours south of Porto.
Worth it? Alcobaça Monastery is one of the most stunning monasteries in Portugal. It’s also not very busy, so this is a perfect option if you prefer to avoid big crowds!
A little bit of history about Mosteiro de Alcobaça
Portugal was founded as an independent nation in 1143, and ten years later, in 1153, King Afonso Henrique (the first King of Portugal) granted 44.000 hectares to Bernard of Clairvaux. He was the founding abbot of the Third House of the Cistercian Order in France and co-founder of the Knights Templar. The Order of Cistercians is one of the Roman Catholic contemplative religious orders, including monks and Cistercian nuns. Building started in 1178, and the Cistercian abbey was the third founded in Portugal.
The first monks moved in 1223 and started their residency here. Construction of the monastery started in 1280 under the rule of King Dinis, the eldest son of King Afonso III. From the church, the first room you enter is the Sala dos Reis (Kings Hall), where you’ll see 19 statues of Portuguese kings. The room is decorated with azulejo tiles which tell the history of the Mosteiro de Alcobaça.
The monastery today
The building is known in Portuguese as Mosteiro de Alcobaça and Mosteiro de Santa Maria de Alcobaça. Since 1910 it has been a national monument, and the complex contains Gothic, Portuguese late Gothic style known as Manueline and Baroque elements. Due to links with the royal family, it became one of Portugal’s wealthiest and most influential monasteries. At its peak, nearly 1000 Cistercian monks lived in the cloister, but it closed in 1834 during the dissolution of the monasteries. It has been listed as UNESCO Heritage since 1989.
What to see in the monastery
There are several rooms you can visit within the cloister. A route is easily laid out for you to follow, and each room has a short explanation of what it was and how it was used by the Cistercian monks. When you enter the building, you’ll first discover a maquette; from there, you walk into the enormous monastery.
The Refectory and Kitchen
A jaw-dropping view takes you to the courtyard, where you can visit the many rooms. You will see the Refectory, used for ritual washing by the Cistercian monks. The kitchen has a massive chimney which stands on eight cast iron columns. Can you imagine what you could be cooking in an enormous clay pot? The cloister used to get the water from the two rivers, Alcoa and Baça (hence the name Alcobaça), and the kitchen includes a tank for running water.
The Dormitory, Monks´Hall, Parlatory, and Chapter House
You will reach the Dormitory via a stairway which is linked directly to the church. In the next room, back on the ground floor, are the Monks´Hall, the Parlatory (where the vow of silence could be broken and the monks were allowed to speak), and the Chapter House. The Cistercian monks would come here daily, read chapters of the Rule, and hold religious meetings. In this room, they would also take their vows and confess.
The Cloister of Silence
There was once a massive library (Claustro do Rachadoiro) with one of the largest Portuguese religious books collections. This was entirely destroyed by Napoleon’s troops in 1810. Napoleon’s troops damaged the monastery even more than the earthquake did in 1755. Don’t forget to walk around the Cloister of Silence on the third floor of the building. You’ll have a beautiful view from the upper cloister over the courtyard. The upper monasteries are also fun for gargoyle spotters! They are used for disposing of rainwater and come in various animal shapes.
The last section of the tour will bring you to the gigantic monastery church, one of the highlights of visiting Alcobaça Monastery. The high ceiling (up to 20 metres!) and stunning architecture stand out. It is a Latin cross-building with three aisles and many columns. At the time, it was the largest church in Portugal when it was finished in 1223.
When you’re outside, you can see the beautiful Baroque towers as well as the rose window. The façade has a mix of styles, and the steps complete the structure’s beauty. You’ll notice two sculptures, one of Saint Benedict and one of Saint Bernard.
King Pedro and Dona Inês de Castro
Close to the altar of the church, you’ll discover two tombs. Here lie King Pedro and Dona Inês de Castro. The story of King Pedro and Inês de Castro goes back to the 14th century. Inês was from Galacia and came to Portugal in 1340. There she met Prince Pedro and became his mistress, and a story of passion and forbidden love begins. But the Portuguese people were not impressed, and King Afonso wanted to end this true love story.
Inês de Castro was sentenced to death by decapitation in 1355 in Coimbra, but Pedro plotted revenge! When it was time to ascend the throne, he punished two of his father’s councillors and sentenced them to death. On top, they had to declare Inês de Castro as his lawful wife and Queen of Portugal, even after her death. The reign of King Pedro started in 1360, and he died in 1367. The twin tombs are an excellent example of Portuguese Gothic sculpture, and the reliefs and stone carvings show scenes from Saint Bartholomew’s life. And the famous tombs in the monastery of Alcobaça will always be a part of Alcobaça’s history.
The Royal Pantheon and Sacristy
At the Royal Pantheon (Panteão Real), you discover more tombs and the entrance to the Manueline Sacristy. Around the door, you’ll spot stunning Manueline decorations, and this part of the monastery was rebuilt after the 1755 earthquake.
Tickets for Alcobaça Monastery
There is no need to purchase tickets online to enter the Alcobaça Monastery. The monastery is well-visited, but there won’t be a long queue to enter. Entrance tickets cost € 6,00 for adults and an extra € 2,00 to visit the Manueline Sacristy. If you only want to see the church and the church nave, you can do so for free.
Children under 12 can enter for free. Over 65 and older, and students pay € 3,00. Special family tickets are available as well.
Tip: If you plan to visit the Convent of Christ in Tomar and the Batalha Monastery on the same day, buying a combination ticket for the Heritage Route for € 15,00 per person is worth buying.
Opening times Alcobaça Monastery
Alcobaça Monastery is open daily, apart from January 1st, Easter Sunday, May 1st, August 20th and December 25th.
From October to March: 9 AM until 6 PM (last admission at 5.30 PM)
From April to September: 9 AM until 7 PM (last entry at 6.30 PM)
How to get to Alcobaça, Portugal, by car
The Alcobaça Monastery is located in the heart of Alcobaça in central Portugal. From Lisbon or Leira, you can easily follow the A8 motorway. Take the exit to Alcobaça/Nazaré/Valado dos Frades and follow the route EN 8-5 to Alcobaça. Tolls will apply on this route! From Lisbon, it takes about 1,5 hours to reach Alcobaça.
Tip: If you drive from Lisbon, other points of interest are along the route. Stop at Buddha Eden Garden, visit Caldas da Rainha or discover the town of Óbidos. To learn more about renting a car in Portugal, click here.
If you travel from Porto, the journey will take 2 hours. Follow the A17 toll road, and from the A8, you take exit EN 8-5 to Alcobaça.
There is free parking about 5 minutes away. It´s an easy walk to the monastery of Alcobaça and ideal if you like to explore the rest of the town after your visit.
How to get to the Alcobaça Monastery by public transport
The easiest way to reach Alcobaça by bus is to board at Sete Rios in Lisbon. A Rede Expressos bus will bring you to the city in less than 2 hours. The journey from Porto Campanhã takes 3 hours.
Small group tours to Alcobaça
The easiest way to visit Alcobaça is with a small group tour. The tours usually include other nearby towns and sights, such as Batalha Monastery and Tomar. Your experienced guide will tell you more about the middle ages, Kinf Afonso, the Silver Coast, monastic life, and the area. Although the monastery of Alcobaça isn´t always busy, a day trip from Lisbon is sometimes quickly sold out. Be sure to book in advance and secure your reservation!
Other things to see in Alcobaça
Alcobaça is a very pretty town with a history that goes back centuries. It’s a lovely hidden gem to spend a few hours, and Discover Portugal created a list of other things to do in this charming city on the Alcobaça River. Let’s take a look!
Stay for lunch
After visiting the Mosteiro de Alcobaça, you can enjoy a Portuguese lunch in front of the building. There are several restaurants on Praça 25 de Abril with a terrace with a fantastic view of Alcobaça Monastery. Afterwards, you can enjoy sweets at Pastelaria Alcôa. They’re an award-winning bakery with some of the best treats you’ll find in Portugal! Have another pastel de nata, or try a delicious sponge cake, pão de ló. The perfect place to enjoy the traditional delicacies! Or try, for example, Frango na Púcara, a speciality from Alcobaça. Frango na Púcara is usually served with roasted potatoes or rice and is cooked in a clay pot in a Portwine sauce. This dish is served in many local restaurants.
Visit Castelo de Alcobaça
It’s a bit of a steep walk up, but the view is impressive from Castelo de Alcobaça. Unfortunately, there isn’t much left of the structure. The ruins, however, are on top of a hill which offers a stunning 260 view of the town.
Jardim do Amor
Jardim do Amor, or the Garden of Love, is a lovely spot for a short walk. The river Rio Alcobaça makes its way here through town, and there are several sculptures and murals. The most important one is the Throne of Pedro and Inês. This symbolises their love, and their tombs are found in the Alcobaça Monastery, as mentioned above.
Visit the wine museum
What is a visit to a Portuguese town without a visit to a wine museum? At Museu do Vinho de Alcobaça, you´ll learn more about the wine production José Raposo de Magalhães started in 1874. During a tour of the old winery, you’ll visit the cellars and view many tools used in the wine-making process. It´s a great way to learn more about the local wine industry and join a wine-tasting session!
Discover the area around Alcobaça Portugal
Alcobaça in itself is pretty tiny, and you can visit most sights in the town within a few hours. But in this area of Portugal are many places to visit, and it makes Alcobaça the perfect spot to stay for a few nights to explore the area. Let’s look at some nearby places you can discover from Alcobaça and what there is to see in this part of the Iberian Peninsula.
Many lovely towns are nearby Alcobaça, Portugal, and one of the most visited is Nazaré! It’s famous for its big waves that are at their highest during winter. It’s common to see waves 15 meters (50 feet) and taller between October and March, so if you want to see surfers surfing impressive swells, add Nazaré to your itinerary.
If you want to know more about the Knights Templar, visiting the nearby town of Tomar is worth visiting. Visit the Convent of Christ, discover the beautiful Castle of Tomar and walk around the city. Enjoy a walk along the Nabão River and dive into the Templar history, which dates back to ancient times.
The famous walled town of Óbidos is only 30 minutes away by car, and the picturesque village is a must-see if you’re in the area. All year round, there are many festivals in Óbidos. Enjoy the chocolate festival, Christmas markets or the Medieval Festival, for example. Rua Direita crosses the town right in the middle, and you’ll find many shops and restaurants around it. The highlight for many is walking along the castle walls to enjoy medieval architecture.
Caldas da Rainha
Caldas da Rainha is famous for its ceramic, and you’ll discover masterpieces everywhere in town. Visit Museu da Cerâmica to learn more about this craft, or check out other souvenirs you can buy in Portugal. Parque Dom Carlos I is a tranquil place full of colourful flowers, a lake and a playground.
Where to stay in Alcobaça?
Alcobaça has several hotels and other accommodations on offer. The city sometimes feels rather luxurious, and you can consider sleeping at Challet Fonte Nova for an exclusive stay. It’s right next door to the cloister, and the historic mansion contains lush gardens, floor-to-ceiling windows, and a spa.
Parque dos Monges is perfect for nature lovers and a low-key stay. The air-conditioned accommodations are just outside the city centre of Alcobaça. You’ll enjoy lake views from your luxury tent, and each place has an outdoor dining area. Enjoy a swim in the outdoor swimming pool or enjoy the many hiking trails that start close to Parque dos Monges.
Check the below map of Alcobaça to discover the best accommodation for you!
It’s a Cistercian monetary founded by Afonso Henriques, the first King of Portugal. It is located in the heart of Alcobaça.
You’ll need about 20 to 30 minutes when you visit the church only. When visiting the church and the monastery, your visit will take 60 to 90 minutes.
If you have time, visit both! Most group tours visit both monasteries on the same day. Mosteiro da Batalha is known for its late Gothic Manueline style, whereas Mosteiro de Alcobaça is a bit more sober and low-key in appearance.
Alcobaça is located 120 kilometres (75 miles) north of Lisbon, and it will take around 1,5 hours to drive from the city centre.
Mosteiro de Alcobaça is worth visiting if you want to learn more about Portuguese heritage throughout the centuries. The cloister is filled with Cistercian Gothic art and has a stunning architectural style. Alcobaça is where the Alcoa and Baça rivers come together, and the city has many other sights to offer. Discover this beautiful part of the country and learn more about Afonso Henriques and the Knights Templar.