Portugal is among the world’s best destinations for religious travelers. Those who adore sacred sites must put the monasteries in Portugal at the top of their must-see list!
Some monasteries were well preserved, such as Batalha, Alcobaça, and the Convent of Christ in Tomar. Additionally, in Central Portugal, you’ll find three that are easy to reach by car. Many of these have become hotels. We’ve rounded up four UNESCO World Heritage-listed monasteries in Portugal that will blow you away!
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Updated: Jan 13, 2022
Monastery of Santa Cruz in Coimbra
Photo: F Pinho [facade of Santa Cruz]
The city of Coimbra is the perfect place to start your trip. There is much to do in Coimbra, so plan on spending at least three days here. After all, this is where Jk Rowling got a lot of her inspiration for Harry Potter, and students roam the streets.
Some essential highlights are the University of Coimbra visiting the library (where bats are used to help preserve the books), the Monastery of Santa Clara, and the National History Museum.
Inside Santa Clara Monastery, the first two kings of Portugal were buried in tombs. One side of the Monastery contained the tomb of Afonso Henriques, and the opposite side was his son Sancho 1. Each one demonstrated exquisite craftmanship.
Also, the ruins of Conimbriga, by the way, are only 15 km away from the city and well worth a visit.
Sacristy at Santa Cruz
In addition to the many valuable art pieces placed throughout the Sacristy were tapestries hanging on the walls. Samuel Tibau created a rather large wooden chest of drawers. This runs the entire length of the Sacristy. With many artifacts from the 16th to 19th-century, this room looked like a museum.
The friars used a large fountain in the center as a washbasin. Around the cloister, you will find several tombstones, each with inscriptions.
Here you’ll also find a tomb that belonged to the grandson of Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal. You can see why these incredible monasteries in Portugal are a must-see during your stay.
Photo: F Pinho
As you enter the oval-shaped sanctuary, it reminds me of a shrine. Among other relics on the main altar is an urn holding a Holy Martyr Antonio’s skull. It’s worth a look.
Photo credit: [F Pinho] 1st King of Portugal
Here I think you’ll be impressed with each of the tombs. The Monastery was built on land given by Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal. The artwork is stunning and worth 3 euros each for entrance.
Opening hours: Monday to Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Saturday 9:00 am to noon & 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm, Sunday 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Monastery of Batalha
Photo: L Johnson [outside view of Batalha]
Batalha is another vast monastery in Portugal you must see. This gothic-style Monastery features tombs from Portuguese history in the Leiria District. Henry the Navigator, who never held the kingship, is among the tombs.
King Joao 1 ordered the construction of the Monastery in 1386 in honor of the Virgin Mary for victory in the battle of Aljubarrota. Large pillars and stone floors decorate the interior.
The Chapel of O Fundador is where Joao I and his wife Philippa of Lancaster are buried. A magnificent example of craftsmanship and devotion.
Finally, you visit the unfinished chapel at the end of your tour. Although the walls of the Imperfect Chapels were perfect, the dome roof remained incomplete.
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm.
The Monastery of Alcobaca
Photo: F Pinho
The Monastery of Alcobaca was the first gothic and Cistercian building constructed in Portugal. The construction started in 1178 to give thanks for a military victory, with the first phase completed around 1252. Later, ‘the Cloister of Silence” was added on the second floor.
The Monastery was damaged due to an earthquake in 1755 and again in the 19th century during the war. Today it remains the largest church in Portugal and the main attraction in Alcobaca.
In 1989 this incredible Monastery in Portugal was inscribed into the UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s no wonder why with beautifully sculpted tombs and exquisite architecture.
Highlights of Alcobaca:
The Refectory: Built in the 18th century, the kitchen has a prominent tiled chimney in the middle of the room. The monks had to squeeze through a tall, narrow door to enter the refectory.
The Hall of the Kings: Here in the hall are all the kings of Portugal displayed in one Monastery. Surprisingly, 19 of the original 23 remained of these statues. All the kings are shown in one place of Portugal’s incredible monasteries. Besides the sculptures, Portuguese tiles below depicted the legend of the Monastery.
The Pantheon: Surrounding the outer walls are many tombs of kings, queens, princes, and princesses. Each had unique carvings of Romanesque style. An English sculptor named William Elsden was excellent at reproducing structures and Gothic inscriptions.
Monks Dormitory: The Monk’s dormitory was a large room with bays for sleeping, however very basic. You will find the dormitory between the Monk’s hall and the parlor.
Purchasing a ticket for 6 euros allows you to visit more exciting rooms in the Monastery.
Opening hours: October to March from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. The last admission is 5:30 pm
April to September from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm. The last admission is 6:30 pm.
The monastery closure dates Jan 1, Easter Sunday, May 1, August 20, and December 25.
Convento de Christo in Tomar
Photo: F Pinho [admiring the castle walls]
The Convent of Christ in Tomar is a 12th century Templar stronghold, making it a Castle and Monastery. The outer walls show evidence of defense techniques used to battle the Moors.
In my opinion, this is one of the best Monasteries in Portugal to see if you have kids or love castles. To reach the Convento de Christo follow the natural trail of the Mata Nacional Dos Sete Montes which starts at the Henry the Navigator statue.
Arriving at the castle, you can walk along the outer walls stopping to admire the views of the city.
Highlights of Tomar:
- Chapel of Nossa Senhora de Conceicao
- D Manuel Bridge (old bridge)
- Synagogue (preserved from mid-15th-century)