Located on the banks of the Lis River, Leiria is a historic university city in central Portugal that was originally built using stones from an ancient Roman settlement. It’s renowned for its centuries-old castle, beautiful cathedral and lively squares, while it’s also on the doorstep of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Batalha Monastery.
Things to do in Leiria
In the heart of Leiria is Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral, which was built in the 16th century on the architectural designs of Afonso Alvares. While the exterior is largely Mannerist in style, the interior features both Classical and Baroque elements. A short stroll away is the Jardim Luís de Camões, a leafy green space named after a beloved Portuguese poet.
You can delve into the local history at the Museu de Leiria, which is housed within the 16th-century Convent of Santo Agostinho. Its exhibits are arranged chronologically and include fossilised mammals dating back to the Upper Palaeolithic and artefacts from the Roman city of Collipo. Religious artwork and contemporary paintings are also on display.
Watching over the city is the Castle of Leiria, a medieval fortification built by King Afonso Henriques to defend against the Moors. It was later expanded in a Gothic style, with its magnificent loggia added in the 15th century by King John I. Step through the Albacara Gateway to admire the Church of Nossa Senhora da Pena and visit the Keep, which houses a small museum. From the castle, there are spectacular views across the surrounding countryside.
Getting around Leiria
Leiria is around an hour’s drive from Coimbra and 1.5 hours from Lisbon and Humberto Delgado Airport, which has flights to destinations across the globe. Regular buses connect to Leiria and the city centre is compact enough to explore on foot.