Our road trip through Centro de Portugal: route and tips

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Are you planning a road trip through Portugal and don’t know exactly which stops your route should include? Then read on. We spent a week in the Centro de Portugal region and can really recommend our route to you.

We claim: Centro de Portugal (i.e. central Portugal) is the perfect region for a road trip. Why? Well, the relatively unknown region north of Lisbon offers the ideal mix of charming small towns, idyllic coastal towns and imposing mountain landscapes. One could even go so far as to say: Centro de Portugal is a real insider tip away from Lisbon and Porto.

1. Road trip through Centro de Portugal: Worth knowing & what to expect Portugal is made for a road trip: The country is rather small, so the distances are manageable, the nature is spectacular and on top of that Portugal is a very cheap travel destination.

Most people concentrate on a Portugal road trip to the tourist highlights on the coast such as the Algarve in the south of the country. Of course it’s also beautiful there, no question about it. However, our tip is: Be sure to take a few lesser-known travel destinations with you on your trip. The hinterland of Portugal is beautiful and partly still very untouristy.

We ourselves can highly recommend the Centro de Portugal region, i.e. central Portugal. Centro de Portugal is north of Lisbon and includes both mountainous hinterland and authentic coastal towns. For example, the highest mountains of mainland Portugal rise there, the Serra da Estrela.

How much time should I allow for a road trip around Portugal? If you want to stick to our itinerary through Centro de Portugal, then we recommend a travel time of about one week. Of course, that’s not enough to see everything, but you get a good insight.

Of course, it makes sense to expand the itinerary to include other (well-known) places such as Porto. If you want that, we would estimate a period of about two weeks for a road trip. Although Portugal is rather small, you can easily be on the road for three weeks or even longer – there are plenty of exciting travel destinations.

2 . Portugal itinerary: All stops at a glance Arrival in Lisbon Lisbon is the ideal starting point for a road trip through Portugal – especially if you want to focus more on central Portugal. Portugal’s largest airport is located here.

If you’re ever in Lisbon, you should definitely spend a few days in the city. Lisbon is considered one of the most beautiful capitals in Europe and we can only agree!

If you are in Lisbon for the first time, you should at least schedule three nights. There is really a lot to see and the flair of the city with the tiled house facades and the winding, narrow streets is very special.

You can easily pick up your rental car on the last day of your stay in Lisbon, as you won’t need it in the city. We will tell you more about car rental tips in Portugal later in this blog article.

Further blog article: Lisbon Tips

Our hotel tip For Lisbon we can give you Highly recommend the lovely Memmo Alfama. We also stayed at this beautiful hotel, which is located in the middle of Alfama (the oldest part of Lisbon), and we were absolutely delighted. The Memmo Alfama is undoubtedly one of the most amazing downtown hotels we have ever stayed in!

You can book the hotel here: Memmo Alfama

Óbidos After your days in Lisbon, the road trip really starts: The first The destination is the small town of Óbidos. The drive there takes about an hour.

Óbidos is a medieval town with a lot of charm. The historic town center is surrounded by the completely preserved city wall. The special feature: the city wall is completely accessible. So you can walk on the city wall here and enjoy wonderful views of the whitewashed houses of Óbidos with their tiled roofs. Especially at sunset the atmosphere there is fantastically beautiful.

Speaking of sunset: Óbidos has unfortunately not been an insider tip for a long time more – quite the opposite. The small town is packed with bus groups, especially during the day. We therefore recommend that you visit in the late afternoon.

You can park your car comfortably in one of the public parking lots and then walk to Óbidos explore. We would recommend at least two hours for a visit to the city.

Our hotel tip We stayed at the Hotel Sana Silver Coast in the small town of Caldas da Rainha, which is only about a five-minute drive from Óbidos. The rooms in this pretty city hotel are very comfortable and modern, the beds are comfortable – we give it a clear recommendation.

You can book the hotel here: Sana Silver Coast

The monasteries in Alcobaça, Batalha and Tomar The Next stops on our road trip through Portugal are three famous monasteries in the towns of Alcobaça, Batalha and Tomar (in that exact order). All three monasteries are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and are unique in their own way. The travel time is approximately 30 minutes, but better plan a little more time.

We were particularly enthusiastic about the Christ Monastery in Tomar. If you have some time, we can highly recommend a guided tour there. By the way, the main square of Tomar is perfect for a lunch or a coffee in between. In our opinion, the monasteries of Alcobaça and Batalha are also good to visit without a guide.

Coimbra The road trip takes us next to the university city of Coimbra. From Tomar you need about an hour by car to Coimbra. Compared to the previously listed stops along the route, Coimbra is significantly larger and more urban.

The location of Coimbra is unique: the town is located directly on the Rio Mondego and stretches terraced up a hill. In Coimbra you will therefore cover quite a lot of altitude meters – not that it means we didn’t warn you. You can get lost in the narrow, winding streets.

The cityscape is characterized by countless bars and cafés and for good reason: A fifth of Coimbra’s population are students. So there are a lot of young people in the city, who ensure that the historic city exudes a very young flair. In any case, we felt comfortable from the first moment.

At sunset we can recommend a visit to the Restaurant Loggia. From there you have a fantastic view of the city and the river.

Must-Do: Visit the Library of Coimbra Impressive and definitely worth a visit is the 700 years old University of Coimbra. It is the oldest university in Portugal. The heart of the university is the Biblioteca Joanina, one of the most impressive libraries in the world and a magnificent baroque building.

With the admission ticket (15,20 euros) you can visit several parts of the building, including the library. (However, staying in the library is limited to 10 Limited minutes.) Alternatively, you can also (see above like us) book a guided tour. This costs 30 Euro and starts at 12 o’clock (in English).

Our hotel tip In Coimbra we stayed at the manly Hotel Quinta das Lágrimas. This very charming hotel is housed in a historic property with a beautiful, spacious garden.

The rooms are furnished in a very classic and stylish way. Both breakfast and dinner are excellent. By the way, dinner at Quinta das Lágrimas is a bit fancier than usual, in keeping with the ambience of the house. Or, to put it in our own words: Quite fancy!

You can book the hotel here: Quinta das Lágrimas

Aveiro From Coimbra we head back towards the coast, more precisely to the town of Aveiro, which you can reach after about an hour’s drive. Aveiro is rightly called the “Venice of Portugal”. Dozens of canals criss-cross the town, making Aveiro a truly scenic place.

You can visit the canals as part of a boat tour get to know each other better (approx. 8 euros) or simply explore the city on foot . For a sundowner on one of the canals, we can recommend you Morgan & Jacob’s Guesthouse, which is mainly frequented by young people.

We have a very special tip for dinner: The Restaurant Salpoente. From the outside, the restaurant, which is located in a traditional fisherman’s house, looks unimpressive, but the atmosphere does is really unique. The Salpoente serves, among other things, the famous Bacalhau: This salted and dried fish is considered a specialty of the region. And don’t worry: it tastes a lot more delicious than it sounds. We had a really great meal at the Salpoente. The prices are high, but the money is well invested here.

Our hotel tip In Aveiro we stayed at the Hotel Moliceiro. The hotel is in the middle of downtown – from our window we had a great view of the canal and the boats passing by. The rooms were very spacious and the breakfast was excellent.

You can book the hotel here: Hotel Moliceiro

Costa Nova & Praia de Mira As a day trip from Aveiro (or of course next stop of the road trip) a trip to the coast is worthwhile. Just 15 Minutes from Aveiro is Costa Nova. The coastal town is mainly known for its colorful striped houses along the promenade, which were originally used by fishermen as tool sheds.

Costa Nova is really worth seeing for a short stopover. Also that one We really liked the associated fine sandy beach . The extensive beach with its dunes is reminiscent of the North Sea.

Slightly south of Costa Nova you will reach Praia de Mira. This small, quite calm coastal town has an endless sandy beach, which is deserted in the off-season. While it is possible to swim in the sea in summer, the currents are quite strong. However, Praia de Mira is ideal for a walk on the beach.

Marialva From the coast, our route now runs inland again, more precisely to the small village of Marialva – a place surrounded by incredibly impressive landscape. Marialva was one of the highlights of our road trip, but more on that in a moment.

On the way to Marialva we can recommend you a stopover in Viseu recommend. This small, authentic town is wonderfully unexciting, but we really liked it there. If you also end up in Viseu, then we can unreservedly recommend the Faces Café for a little refreshment. During the day you can make yourself comfortable in front of the restaurant in the pedestrian zone. In the evening there is regular live music. Incidentally, an espresso macchiato and a pastel de nata together only cost 1,30 Euro (!).

We continue to the small town of Trancoso. It is located on a hill and is mainly known for its historic castle with the 15 Fortification towers.

Marialva you finally reach from Aveiro coming after a total of about 2.5 driving hours. The small village is enthroned on a rock massif and is only
people inhabited. It lies directly in front of the gates of the ruins of a historic castle, which dates back to the 6th century. The area is perfect for shorter and longer hikes with imposing views.

Our accommodation tip The Casas do Côro can clearly be described as Denote insider tip. We have rarely stayed in such wonderful accommodation. The very tasteful hotel is divided into several buildings.

We were lucky enough to be able to stay in the penthouse suite and had one of our beds magnificent view of the landscape. Certainly the less expensive rooms are also very chic. The spa area is fantastic and breakfast and dinner are delicious.

You can book accommodation here: Casas do Coro

Serra da Estrela Up via 1.500 meters above sea level is the last stop of our road trip through Portugal. Our goal: A beautiful mountain hotel in the heart of the Serra da Estrela near the town of Manteigas. The Serra da Estrela is the highest mountain range in mainland Portugal.

On the way from Marialva to the Serra da Estrela we recommend a detour to the historic village of Sortelha very recommended. Sortelha is quite spectacularly situated on a granite massif. From the castle you have an impressive panoramic view of the region.

Then you continue straight into the Sierra Estrela via what is probably the most winding stage of the road trip. The last few kilometers to the hotel have to be covered on a fairly steep and narrow mountain road.

By the way, when we arrived at our hotel we were greeted by a cozy 5 degrees Celsius and snow – in April mind you! The sunrise with a gigantic view of the valley made up for the icy temperatures.

Our hotel tip The design hotel Casa das Penhas Douradas inspired us with its minimalist Nordic style from the first second (and we’re not just saying that because we were greeted with tea, wine and biscuits). There is a spa area, which is small but adequate. Curious: you have to wear a bathing cap for swimming (available at the reception for 5 euros).

Dinner left nothing to be desired. Before dinner you meet in the “Living Room” for an aperitif – we thought the idea was really nice.

By the way: the hotel is run by a couple who also own the Sheep’s wool factory “Burel” in Manteigas. We can highly recommend a visit. We bought a beautiful blanket there, which has been in use almost every day since then.

You can book the hotel here: Casa das Penhas Douradas

3. Map: Our Portugal travel route at a glance So that you can get a better overview of the route, we have included this map marked our itinerary.

4. More tips for your road trip through Portugal Tip: We always book our rental car here For years we have always booked our rental car with Sunny Cars. Sunny Cars is a comparison platform. This means: You will see the cheapest offers there, book your rental car on the Sunny Cars website and then pick up your car in Portugal from a local car rental company (e.g. Hertz, Europcar etc.).

Why do we choose Sunny Cars? It’s quite simple: You get fully comprehensive insurance with reimbursement of the deductible. This means that in the event of damage (regardless of whether it is your own fault or the fault of a third party), Sunny Cars will reimburse you for the deductible. Not having to pay for any damage is a real relief.

It’s quite cheap to rent a car in Portugal. In the low season you usually don’t have to do more than 200 Plan Euros for a small car for a week. In the high season the prices rise a bit. By the way: A international driver’s license was not necessary when we picked up the rental car.

Here you can search for cheap rental cars : Sunny Cars

Tolls in Portugal There is a toll to use the motorways in Portugal. There are two systems here: On some motorways you can pay directly (i.e. with cash). Some, however, already have an electronic system. Here you drive your car under an arch. The respective fee is then debited directly from the credit card by the rental car company. It is best to inquire about the exact regulations when you pick up your rental car.

Traffic & Parking in Portugal In Portugal in general there is little traffic on the roads. Of course things are different in the cities. Especially in the historic old towns of some places, the streets are often hair-raisingly narrow. Of course, a small rental car offers advantages over a large one.

In Portugal, driving is somewhat more ruthless than in Austria or Germany. Driving in Portugal is no problem at all for reasonably experienced drivers.

Parking is possible in most places without any problems on public parking lots. There are parking machines that work with coins. We therefore recommend that you always have some small change with you.

Travel expenses: Price level in Portugal The good news: Portugal is generally a fairly cheap travel destination. The bad: The price level varies greatly from region to region. Lisbon, for example, is quite expensive. The hinterland of Portugal is often much cheaper than expected.

Nice hotels sometimes have (almost) the same price level as in Germany or Austria. Eating out is usually (especially outside of the tourist centers) quite cheap – but of course it also depends on where you go.

Price examples: What does it cost in Portugal…? Rental car for one week in low season: approx. 200 Euro Double room in the design hotel Casa das Penhas Douradas: approx. 60 Euro per night Coimbra University Admission: 12,30 Euro Entrance fee to the Castle of São Jorge in Lisbon: 12 Euro Espresso: between 0,60 and 1 euro Pastel de Nata (Puff Pastry Tart): 1,10 Euro Toll for the route Coimbra-Aveiro (approx. 1 hour): approx. 2,60 Euro Dinner for two at Salpoente in Aveiro (high price level): from 60 Euro Inexpensive lunch: often from 5 or 6 euros for a menu Travel guide for Portugal: Our tip We definitely advise you to get a printed travel guide for your road trip – at least that’s how we always do it. The Lonely Planet Portugal is recommended, the new edition of which has only 2020 and is therefore completely up-to-date.

The travel guide is (like all Lonely Planet travel guides) very friendly, clear and attractively designed. It is very extensive (approx. 500 pages) so that you are well prepared for your road trip.

You can buy the travel guide here: Lonely Planet Portugal (German)

Transparency: Invitation & Affiliate Links Many thanks to the Region Centro de Portugal for inviting me to this wonderful road trip. 2020 This blog article contains our personal recommendations in the form of so-called affiliate links. If you book or buy something through the links, we will receive a small commission. For you, this does not change the price at all. A thousand thanks from both of us!

Have you ever done a road trip through Portugal? How was your itinerary? As always, we look forward to hearing about your experiences and additional tips!