Portugal City Travel Guide: Leiria
- Graceful, historic castle town on the River Liz.
- Famed for its cobbled streets, gardens and squares.
- Population around 50,000, two hours north of Lisbon.
- Gateway to Fátima, Alcobaca and Batalha.
- Important university in town.
Leiria (lay-ree-uh) is a small Estremaduran castle town with a population of around 50,000 that is perhaps best used as a jumping off point to other nearby attractions: Alcobaca, Batalha, and Fátima. Before we jump off, though, a bit about Leiria itself.
Dom Afonso Henriques, the first King of Portugal, reconquered the Moorish castle for the Christians in 1135 that is set on the hilltop where Leiria now stands. This is around 6 km from an older settlement founded by the Romans called Colippo. The castle was, however, recaptured by the Moors in 1190. Two years later King Dom Sancho I finally retook it and rebuilt the walls. Leiria Castle (Tel: 244 813 982) has a pleasant garden within its walls and a ruined 12th century church, the Igreja de Nossa Senhora de Penha.
During Dom Dinis's reign (13th-14th centuries), Leiria rose in importance as the king and his wife Queen Santa Isabel chose it as one of the royal residences, building the Royal Palace within the castle walls. King Dom Joao I later ordered it to be rebuilt in the Gothic style, which is the centerpiece of the castle. Dom Dinis also ordered the planting of the Leiria pine forest, so as to hold back the shifting sands on the coast. The wood from the trees was used as the building material for the ships that undertook the famous voyages abroad in the 15th and 16th century.
In addition to the castle, today the city has a cobbled old quarter centered around Praca Roderigues Lobo, with the streets radiating from the square full of cafes and bars popular with locals and the student community. Leira's cathedral - Se - dates from the 16th century and nearby is the beautifully azulejos-tiled 19th century Pharmacy Leonardo Paiva - now a bar. The Jardim Luis de Camoes is a pleasant riverside park.
A bit farther afield are the aforementioned Alcobaca, Batalha, Fátima, and decent beaches, all of which are easily accessed by bus. Alcobaca is blessed with a UNESCO World Heritage Site: the 12th century Cisterian monastery Mosteiro de Santa Mara de Alcobaca. Nearby in Batalha is yet another World Heritage Site.
The Mosteiro da Batalha (Battle Abbey) is world renowned for its ornate decoration. Finally, Fátima is the small town where in May 1917 three shepherd children claimed to have seen an apparition of the Virgin Mary. Six months later some 70,000 devotees gathered there and witnessed what has come to be described as the "Miracle of the Sun". Light shot out, the ill were cured, the lame walked. Today the town is overrun with shops hawking religious goods.
Leiria Tourist Office
Regional Tourist Office of Leiria/Fatima
Jardim Luis de Camoes Apartado 1115-2401-801
Tel. 244 848 771 Fax. 244 848 779
Toll Free: 800 202 5596.
Getting to Leiria
From Lisbon's Oriente Station, intercity trains take approximately two hours and thirty minutes with 1st class, and second-class seats available. Five trains daily.
From Lisbon take the A1 highway north. Takes about 1-2 hours by road to Leiria.
On the bus, it takes 1 hour to 2 hours 15 mins from Lisbon to Leiria. From Porto, the trip takes around two hours and twenty minutes to Leiria. There are also buses to Alcobaca (50 mins), Batalha (30 mins), Coimbra (1 hours, 45 mins), Fatima (45 mins) and Tomar (50 mins).
The pousada da juventude (tel/fax 244 831 868), located at Largo Candido dos Reis 7-D has dorm beds and doubles. Rooms at The Residencial Dom Dinis (244 815 342, fax 244 823 552), at Travessa de Tomar 2, are comfortable and comes with a good breakfast. Pensao Residencial Leiriense (244 823 054, fax 244 823 073), at Rua Afonso de Albuquerque 6, offers clean rooms and breakfast.Featured Hotel in Leiria
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Not far from the Largo Santana on or near Rua Dr Correia Mateus there are several comfortable places to eat. Restaurante Monte Carlo (244 825 406), Rua Dr Correia Mateus 32, serves simple fare. O Manel (244 832 132), Rua Dr Correia Mateus 50, is a bit pricier and has a great fish menu. In the Jardim Luis de Camoes close by the Rio Lis is the popular Cervejaria Camões (244 83 86 28), which does weekday buffet lunches.
Near Largo Candido there are good cafes and bars to be found. Among them are Os Filipes, at No A.
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Escadinha Net Cafe
Av. Nossa Sra de Fátima, 37
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Local football team
Leiria is home to UD Leiria, a solid, though unspectacular first division side in the Portuguese domestic league. Euro2004 matches took place at the club's home ground, Estadio Municipal Dr. Magalhães Pessoa. It has a capacity of 30,000 and underwent improvements costing around US$30 million prior to the championships.
The average high June temperatures for Portugal is between 22 degrees Centigrade and 26 degrees Centigrade.
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