The Capador is a tavern established in 1919. It the past visitors in Alcobaça were welcome to guard their horses in the back room, that very same back room where nowadays the general public seat, drink and chat.
More recently this tavern become known for its ginja by the glass. Tradition still brings a lot of the older customers and senior people as well, which is good. Funny curiosity is that the Capador has been able to reinvent itself. Nowadays younger crowds fill the seats during the evenings. Specially on Friday's & Saturday's nights.
Coming to the Capador and ask for a ginja is a must. It will keep the tradition alive.
Unfortunately the ginja being sold by the glass is not the best I've ever tried. It's not even the traditional David Pinto's ginja made in Alcobaça !! - The owner claims the David Pinto's ginja is way too expensive. Anyway, just for the sake of the tradition and also for the fun of enjoying a shot of ginga, it's worth to pay the Capador a visit.
Until recently the monastery was behind a controverted garden. Recent and expensive work replaced the garden by a even more controverted desert. But the monument is there in its untouched beauty. To know something about it let's read:
"(...)Is one of the few European monuments that has managed to preserve intact an entire group of mediaeval buildings and its church is the largest early Gothic construction in Portugal. The history of its foundation in 1153 recounted in the eighteenth century azulejo panels that line the walls of the Sala dos Reis (Kings' Hall). As we ''read'' the story of these panels, we learn that D. Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal, promised St. Bernard his lands in Alcobaça if he managed to capture Santarem from the Moors, which did in fact happen in 1147. The statues of the Kings of Portugal - from D. Afonso Henriques to D. José I (in the eighteenth century) - stand on baroque consoles around the walls of the room. In the centre is a cauldron that is said, according to legend, to have been taken from the Castilians at the Battle of Aljubarrota.
The building of the monastery began in 1178, as did the building of the abbey of Clairvaux, the headquarters of the Cistercian Order in France. Alcobaca is thus connected to the great civilising project that the white- habited monks began there: the public school, which was begun in 1269, and the use of the land for farming purposes, providing a genuine agricultural training ground, the fruits of which are still visible today.(...)".
(Part of an excelent description that you may see at: http://www.manorhouses.com/unesco/whalco.html)
In my other tips I will write about many more details.
Nazaré (12 Kms west)
Absolutely must see and stay a while. Leave early in the morning, go straight to the "Sitio", and enjoy the awesome sights. If it is summer or Sunday, you better leave the car there, and descend using the lift. If you risk bringing down your car, parking may become a nightmare. Try the signposted paid park.
The crowds are not yet in the beach, so, if you caught the low tide, go straight to the rocks, in the north. Enjoy the healthy smell of salt and iodine, while the dying waves whisper at your feet. Notice the regularity of the waves, 7 small and then 3 higher, in a trustful sequence, while the small fragments of shell shine in the sun, dancing at your feet.
Now the flocks of children are already there, and it's time to leave the confusion. Walk south, along the beach, watching the waves getting bigger, but always regular. Imagine the hard fisherman's life with those small boats, now in the harbour, until recently facing the waves in the beach, despite, sometimes, the rough condition of the sea, to catch the fish that was their life, and you still can see drying in the beach. There, in the southernmost tip of the beach, you will have the tranquillity to enjoy the sun, under a comfortable breeze. A swim is safe but chilly.
Getting back to town, loose yourself in the narrow streets, trying to understand the strong differences between the locals and the other Portuguese. For lunch, sardines are good everywhere, and "caldeirada" uses to be also reliable. For anything different choose well your restaurant. "S. Miguel", centrally over the beach, is one of the best, in quality and location. For a cosier place, I like "Bartidor", in R. Alexandre Herculano.
Going back up to the Sitio visit the church and chapel, and learn the legend of Nazaré. You may follow the road to the lighthouse and back, enjoying the sights, and seeing the difference between both beaches - Nazaré and "do Norte", where the sea is always wild and dangerous.
Almost in the way, the Hotel Quinta do Pinheiro is a great option to sleep or to a different meal.
Leave Alcobaça towards Caldas da Rainha, and in Alfeizerão turn to S. Martinho do Porto (You may stop at Alfeizerão to taste the special "Pão de Ló"). Before or after stepping in the quiet beach, you may drive up to Facho, and see the sights. For lunch if the important is quality try "A Casa", just in the bay. Everything is excellent, but "Robalo ao sal" is special. For a cheaper meal you may go to Kais Restaurant. Proceed south, passing Salir and its dunes, and, through the hills, until stopping at Foz do Arelho. Watch the people bathing and grabbing shells at the same time. If bathing, you may need to swim, because the sand is very irregular.
Take your time, but consider moving to Caldas da Rainha. There, the Thermal Spa and hospital (the oldest in the world) and the surrounding park are interesting and quiet.
Ceramics and humour are married in Caldas da Rainha. Try to find by yourself the most typical piece of ceramics. When you stop laughing taste the "cavacas" and head to the museum of Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro, the creator of "Ze Povinho" (our Uncle Sam) and much more. Time to leave to Obidos, a wonderful town insida a castle. Spend the afternoon visiting the arts and antiques shops, climbing to the walls and towers to see the sights. Feeling tired is time to stop and drink a "Ginginha". For diner the "Pousada do Convento" or "Ilustre Casa de Ramiro" are excellent but pricy. If you prefer to eat in your way back to Alcobaca, "Sabores d'Italia" in Caldas da Rainha, is much more than pizza and pasta, but "Cortico", in Tornada, has a delicious wild boar steak and is cheapper.
Leave Alcobaca towards Leiria, and, after 7 kms, stop a couple of minutes in Aljubarrota, to ear the funny story (not for 7 spanish soldiers) of the "padeira". Continue to S. Jorge, where you may visit the museum of the most celebrated battle in Portugal. Proceed to Batalha, and dedicate a reasonable time to the monastery (UNESCO heritage, and specially, my marriage place in 1979). I forbid you to miss the "Capelas Imperfeitas", a gem where you can see mixed four architectural styles. Take your time... It deserves it.
Lunch time shall take you 12 kms north, to Leiria, but don't stop there. Proceed straight to "Marrazes" and enjoy the adventure of eating at "Tromba Rija". It's an overwhelming experience, sometimes requiring a previous reserve. If you have the misfortune of not getting a table, walk across the street to "Casinha Velha". You won't regret.
Now it's time to go back to Leiria, and with such a powerful lunch, you are strong enough to climb to the castle. The views are interesting. Coming down, walk a while in the narrow streets around "Praca Rodrigues Lobo".
The way back to Alcobaça can be done via Marinha Grande, where, with time, you may go to the excelent Glass Museum, in the center of town. Finnaly, 7 kms before Alcobaca, Atlantis is a superior class crystal producer, with visitor center and shops, close to the recently opened to the public beautiful convent of Cós
If you followed the western route to Nazaré, and have time to proceed, or if you have another free day, follow the road to Nazaré and at the entrance of town turn right to Marinha Grande and left to the Sitio, and, from there, follow the coast.
The northern coast alternates between wide beaches several kilometres long, and small secluded beaches, with evidence to "Ursa" "Polvoeira" or "Agua de Madeiros". "S. Pedro de Muel", nested in the national pine forest, it's an interesting urban solution, and a good stop in your coastal observation (see my page).
For dinner, drive a little further north to another beach, "Vieira de Leiria" and look for an "Arroz de marisco", a remarkable seashell rice, at "Solemar".
The tragic story of Ines de Castro and Dom Pedro are permanently etched into the history of Alcobaca as their tombs are to found in the transepts.
The love affair between Dom Pedro and Ines de Castro is the epic of Portuguese literature.
Son and heir to the throne, Dom Pedro was forbidden to marry Ines, daughter of a Galician nobleman who was thus seen to be a potential overpowering Spanish influence on the Portuguese throne. They married in secret, but King Afonso IV had her murdered.
Following his father's death just two years later, Dom Pedro bought the killers to justice - personally tearing their hearts out! I think he's lost it a bit by then, as he went on to exhume the body of Ines and have the entie court kiss the decomposed hand of 'their queen'!!! Some say gruesome, some say poignant. I'll leave it to you -:)
Another of the highlights of the monastery is the Cloister of Dom Dinis. An incredibly beautiful and yet simple design, built by the 'poet-king' Dom Dinis, it is also known as the Cloister of Silence.
A Manueline second floor was added in the 16th century.
Use the same exit of Alcobaça as in your north travel. A few kilometers after Aljubarrota turn right towards "Porto de Mos". Take your time to visit the castle, and proceed to Fatima.
Some people visit the sanctuary in half an hour, some other in half a life. Depending in your time use, you may go a little further and visit Ourem and its castle. Anyway, lunchtime will be at Fatima, at "Tia Alice". Bacalhau is a must. After lunch (or before), if it interests you, visit the Dinosaur trail, 10 kms away, and go to the mountain zone. Visit one (or more) cave. The most known is "St. Antonio", the biggest "Mira de Aire" and my favorite "Alvados". Go south to Arrimal, and uphill to Casal de Vale-de-Ventos. In a good day you may see the ocean, 25 kms distant, and even farther, the Berlengas islands. Follow the ridge south, and descend to Alcobertas and "Salinas", an interesting place where they produce salt, 200 mts above sea level. From there you may return to Alcobaca through Benedita and Turquel (If it is not working hour stop and say hello)
The main Abbey Church is the largest in Portugal. The Abbey itself was founded in the 12th century, the Church completed in 1223 (although started in 1147 following King Alfonso Henriques defeat of the Moors at Santorem).
This facade though is an 18th century edition - all Baroque curlicures etc and thus masks the deeply impressive Gothic interior.
No, its not Disneyland. It's Town Hall, in a fabulous photo of Graca Vargas, with some other angles in my own photos.
The palace has been built in 1890 by a local that made fortune in Brazil, and started being used as Town Hall in the middle of last century.
The style reflects Brazilian architecture. Around it, there's a garden, with tennis lawns, and, at both ends, the camping ground and the Palace of Justice.
Monumental Cistercian Abbey of Santa Maria, founded in 1152 (classified in UNESCO's International Heritage list). Inside: Gothic tombs of King Pedro I and Inês de Castro; cloisters; the Chapter House and immense kitchen. Churches: Misericórida (Renaissance portal and 17th century tiles) and Conceição (17th century).
Simplicity itself - austere and huge, emphasising the meekness of mankind. Thankfully all the baroque additions similar to the facade have been removed, leaving the 'vertical' to speak for itself. Which it most definitely does.
From the Nave, do not miss the Chapter House, Refectory and Kitchen - more examples of austere architecture and living, restored to their Gothic glory.
Entering through the kings room, we access the main cloister, from where we may visit the monks accommodations. It's a very harmonious ensemble, from where we may have the idea of the size of the whole building.
Some recuperation works open the sight to new areas, promising a larger visitable area soon.
The Monastery of Santa Maria d'Alcobaça, north of Lisbon, was founded in the 12th century by King Alfonso I. Its size, the purity of its architectural style, the beauty of the materials and the care with which it was built make this a masterpiece of Cistercian Gothic art.