Can you visit the incredible cities of Alcobaca, Batalha, and Tomar in one day? Yes! We show you how to do it as a day trip from Lisbon Portugal

Explore The Monasteries of Portugal: Alcobaca, Batalha and Tomar

Portugal is ripe with history. This country, which birthed some of the worlds greatest explorers. Yet, nestled within this beautiful nation is where the true heart of Portugal lies. With over 80% of Portugal identifying as Catholic, there is no lack of important religious sites in Portugal. So, during our travels in Portugal, we made sure to take in some of the country’s most spectacular religious sites like Alcobaca, Batalha, and Tomar.

There was something magical about exploring the rich history of Portugal’s monasteries in Alcobaca, Batalha, and Tomar. Walking through incredible architecture was like stepping through a portal and into the rich history of Portugal during it’s most ambitious days. And what’s great about these sites is that it’s possible to visit Alcobaca, Batalha, and Tomar in one day on a day trip from Lisbon! And if you don’t want to drive yourself, you can join an organized tour from Lisbon that explores these three incredible sites.

Alcobaca, Batalha, and Tomar: The Great Monasteries of Portugal’s Heartland

In the heart of Portugal, north of Lisbon lies the Estremadura and Ribatejo regions of Portugal. The area is known for its historical villages, fertile farmland and of course, some of Portugal’s legendary castles! We had so much to see in the region, including a separate day trip to Evora, Portugal.

But, with only a limited time in the country, we decided to head to the region to visit 3 highly accessible UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Alcobaca Monastery, Batalha Monastery, and the Convent of Christ in Tomar. And, even with a baby in tow, exploring the cloisters, heritage, and amazing churches of Alcobaca, Batalha, and Tomar was an amazing adventure.

Batalha Monastery Courtyard in Batalha Portugal

How To Get To From Lisbon To Alcobaca, Batalha, and Tomar?

Visiting the three monasteries of the Estramadura region is an easy day trip from Lisbon. It’s about a 1.5-hour drive from Lisbon to Alcobaca. Once you are there, the three cities of Alcobaca, Batalha, and Tomar are just 65 km (40 miles) from each other with Tomar being the farthest from Lisbon.

Visiting Alcobaca Monastery in Alcobaca Portugal

Alcobca Portugal is just 100 km north of Lisbon. The prime reason for our visit was to ogle the magnificent gothic monastery of Alcobaca. This gorgeous complex is often referred to as the Alcobaca Monastery, but its official name is Mosteiro de Santa Maria de Alcobaca.

Alcobaca Portugal is not a big town, so it’s very easy to navigate the region on foot. We drove to the town and parked our car near the central square. Surprisingly, for such a popular attraction in Portugal, finding parking wasn’t too difficult.

The Alcobaca church and monastery was commissioned by King Afonso, the first king of Portugal, in 1138 AD to commemorate his victory of Santarem from Moorish control. The structure was finally completed in 1223 AD.

Entrance to the Alcobaca Monastery in Alcobca Portugal

Pro-Tip: For those that do not want to drive or rent a car, it is possible to get to Alcobaca from Lisbon bus.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, the original Gothic facade was altered such that only the doorway and rose window were part of the original concept. Additionally, at this time, wings were added. Today it holds a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation and is Portugal’s largest Gothic church.

Sunlit cliffs and a beach in Portugal's Algarve

Click Here To Read: Portugals Algarve: Beach Bums and Sea Caves

Inside the Alcobaca Church

There was no entrance fee for entering the Alcobaca church when we visited. As we merged with the crowds entering the church through the massive archway, the first thing I noticed was the very large pillars that lined the nave. At 106 m in length and 23 m in width, it is almost impossible to comprehend it’s size without actually walking it.

Mass at Alcobaca Church in Alcobaca Portugal 2

The Love Story Of Dom Pedro and Dona Ines

We headed further towards the back of the Alcobaca church and then I saw it. The Tombs of Dom Pedro and Dona Ines laying foot to foot. The love story of Dom Pedro and Dona Ines is a tragic one. They were lovers who married in secret. Dom Pedro’s father, who was the ruling king at the time, thought that Ines would not be a good choice politically and forbade the lovers’ relationship. In fact, he was so worried about their potential union and it affects on the crown, that he had her assassinated.

Tomb of Dona Ines Alcobaca Monastery Portugal

Just two years after her death, Dom Pedro became king of Portugal. One of his first acts was to exhume his dead lover and have her placed in an intricate tomb where everyone could honor her. According to legend, Dom Pedro chose at his time of death for them to be laid in such a way so that when they arose in the afterlife they would see each other.

The tombs were every bit as intricately carved as I had read. I could clearly discern the Last Judgement scene at the foot of Ines’ tomb and the Wheel of Fortune at the head of Dom Pedro’s tomb.

Tomb of Dom Pedro Alcobaca Monastery Portugal

Exploring The Alcobaca Monastery

After paying our respects to Dom Pedro and Ines we wandered to the massive kitchen in the Alcobaca Monastery. It’s hard to imagine the need for such a large kitchen, but at its peak, there were almost 1000 monks in the Monastery! No wonder there were seven dormitories and a library on site. Adjacent to the kitchen is the refectory where the monks of Alcobaca sat in quiet reverence while they ate their meals.

Portugal Alcobaca Monastery Kitchen

Cloister of Silence (Claustro do Silencio)

Next, we headed to the Cloister of Silence. The two-story cloister was every bit as beautiful in person as I had previously seen in pictures. We walked among the orange trees in the lower level to get a 360° view of the intricate design. From the lower level of the Cloister of Silence we made our way to the upper level which offers incredible views of the Alcobaca Monastery cloister garden. The Manueline style really stood out as it is quite different from the rest of the Monastery.

Alcobaca Monastery Cloister of Silence in Alcobaca Portugal

Exploring Batalha Monastery in Batalha Portugal

The second monastery to visit on our list was in the town Batalha, which is only 30 minutes and 24 km (15 miles) from Alcobaca by car. The Batalha Monastery (Monasterio de Santa Maria da Vitoria) has a dramatic and detailed exterior that really stands out amongst the modern architecture of Batalha Portugal. It was the perfect second stop on our tour of Alcobaca, Batalha, and Tomar.

Fatima Obidos Ourem Portugal

Click Here To Read: A Journey Back in Time: Fatima, Ourem and Obidos

The Batalha Monastery is a Dominican Abbey built beginning in 1386 over more than hundred years. It was finally completed in the 1517 . The monastery has a dramatic Gothic architecture with strong Manueline accents. The building has tremendous architectural value and its historical significance led to the building being classified as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1983.

It’s impossible to miss the Batalha Abbey as you come into town. It towers over the nearby buildings and it’s impressive facade absolutely dominates the surrounding skyline. The spires

Batalha Monastery in Batalha Portugal

The exterior of Batalha Monastery makes it pretty obvious as to why the church took two centuries to be completed. The limestone building, now in an ochre hue due to the stains of time, has pinnacles, parapets, and flying buttresses. I could have stared at the intricately carved windows and doorway for hours.

Interior of Batalha Monastery

At first glance, the Monastery of Batalha looked very similar to the Monastery of Alcobaca. Both have vast but narrow naves and rather plain interiors dominated by massive Gothic pillars. And because we arrived in the late afternoon, the sun was perfectly shining through the rich stained glass windows. The bright colors of the Batalha Monastery glass gave the church a warm glow we did not see in Alcobaca.

Batalha Monastery Stained Glass windows

Claustro Real (Royal Pantheon)

The Royal Cloisters or the Royal Pantheon of the Batalha Monastery was one of the most dramatic parts of the complex. The cloister was originally designed in Gothic style by Afonso Domingues in the late 1380s. But the Manueline additions by Diogo de Boitac really gives the Claustro Real the dramatic style that has made it so popular.

And boy, did it ever take our breath away. It was made even more striking when compared to the very plain Claustro de Dom Afonso V which is also on part of the Batalha Monastery.

Batalha Monastery Coutyard Church

Capelas Imperfeitas (Unfinished Chapels)

One of the most incredible parts of the Batalha Monastery is the open-air unfinished Chapels in the eastern end of the Abbey. The Unfinished Chapel was our last stop within the Monastery of Batalha. To reach this octagonal mausoleum we actually had to exit the Abbey. As with other aspects of this site, it is the Manueline additions, this time by Mateus Fernandes, that truly makes the site extravagant.

There was absolutely no comparison between the unfinished chapels at the Batalha Monastery and the Unfinished church in Bermuda that we visited. The Batalha monastery wins the style awards hands down.

Batalha Monastery Unfinished Chapels

The Convent of Christ in Tomar Portugal  (Convento do Cristo)

The third and final monastery on our list was in the town of Tomar Portugal, which is roughly 40 minutes east of Batalha on highway IC9. Placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1983, the Convento do Cristo is impossible to miss when driving into the small city of Tomar. This Knights Templar headquarters is on a hill and rises above its wooded surroundings.

There is no mistaking the difference between Convento do Cristo in Tomar to the Alcobaca and Batalha. It’s the oldest of the three religious sites. The Tomar convent was begun in 1118 and completed in 1160, which compared to Alcobaca and Batalha, is lightning fast. And the position of the Convent of Christ in Tomar as a stronghold for the Knights Templar shows in its rugged appearance.

Knights Templar Castle Tomar Portugal Convent of Christ

Charola (Rotunda Church) of Convento do Cristo

We started our tour of Tomars Convent of Christ at the Charola. The 16-sided Knights Templar church is sometimes called the Rotunda. Inside was an octagonal altar similar in design to the Holy Sepulchre altar in Jerusalem. Legend has it that the church was circular in design to enable the Knights to attend church while still on horseback. Whatever the reason, it remains one of the most striking altars I have ever seen. It was very ornate with paintings, frescoes, and gilded accents.

Charola or Rotunda at Convent of Christ in Tomar Portugal

Manueline Church

Connected to the Charola by an archway is the Manueline Church of the Convent of Christ in Portugal. The Manueline church has two levels. And while the outside walls of the convent of Tomar are bleak and rugged, the Manueline Church is beautiful and ornate. A striking feature is the ornate ribbed vaulting on the ceiling in the upper choir. However, the most popular feature of the church is a detailed window found on the exterior better known as The Manueline window.

Manueline Church at Convento do Cristo in Tomar Portugal

The Great Cloister of the Tomar Monasteries

From the church, we explored the many cloisters within the monastery. The Convento do Cristo has 8 cloisters. The most picturesque of the Tomar monasteries is the Great Cloister. The Great Cloister of Tomar has concealed spiral staircases that can be found in the corners leading to the Terrace of Wax.

The terrace, which runs along the upper levels, was so named as it is where honeycombs were left to dry. Some of the other most notable cloisters in the Tomar monastery were the Cloister of the Crows, Bread Cloister, Cemetery Cloister, and The Washing Cloister.

Great Cloister of the Tomar Monasteryand-Knights-Templar-Castle

Tomar Portugal Knights Templar Castle

At the end of our self-guided tour of Alcobaca, Batalha, and Tomar, we visited the Knights Templar Castle in Portugal. Built in 1160, the former royal quarters now lay in ruins. But, the castle keep is still very much intact.

Tomar Portugal Knights Templar Castle

Tips for Visiting the Monasteries of Alcobaca, Batalha and Tomar

For interesting day trips from Lisbon definitely consider visiting the towns of Alcobaca, Batalha, and Tomar to experience 3 architecturally inspiring sites. Although it is possible to visit all three sites in one day, we don’t suggest it. Instead, pick two sites and leave the third site for the next day. You can also expand your tour of Portugal’s heartland by also visiting the miraculous area around Fatima and Obidos and the prehistoric fields of dinosaur footprints in Ourem.

Castles of Sintra Portugal

Click Here To Read: You Must Visit The Fairytale Town Of Sintra Portugal

But our biggest tip for exploring Alcobaca, Batalha and Tomar is to look around. Explore these incredible places because they all have surprises hidden in areas you might never suspect. Look under stairs and around corners to see what amazing secrets the monasteries of Portugal have in store. And don’t forget to look up too. The ceilings in the Portuguese monasteries are incredible!

Ceiling of the Manueline Church at the Convento do Cristo Tomar Portugal

A Bonus Castle Near Lisbon Castelo de Almoural

After we visited Tomar monastery we began our drive back to Lisbon. Soon, the GPS prompted us to a castle that was nearby (Many GPS’ have a feature that indicates when points of interest are nearby, and we are always checking what they are). After visiting the incredible castles of Sintra, we definitely wanted to see more of Portugal’s castles. So, we stopped to visit the Castelo de Almourol.

The castle is on an island and unfortunately, the last boat to Castle de Almoural had just made its last run for the day. But, the views from the shore as Castle de Almoural was lit by the late day sun made the stop more than worthwhile.

We later found out that the castle truly ancient. It was originally built in the 1st century BC. While the exact origin of Castle de Almoural is uncertain, it has evidence of Romans, Knights Templar, and medieval influences. We were so glad to have stopped by. What a great way to end our day. What are your favorite sites in Portugal?

Castelo de Almoural near Alcobca Batalha and Tomar Portugal

How Much Does It Cost To Visit Alcobaca, Batalha and Tomar

The Alcobaca, Batalha, and Tomar religious are each separate attractions in Portugal. There is a €6 entrance fee for adults. Children 12 and under are free. You can also purchase a Heritage Trail pass is valid for 7 days and includes entrance to each of the three religious sites. The Heritage Trail pass is €15.

There was no parking fee’s in either Alcobaca, Batalha, and Tomar, so visiting the three sites by car was very practical. However, if you don’t have access to a car, there are tours that start in Lisbon and visit Alcobaca, Batalha, and Tomar. These tours often include a visit to the Portuguese pilgrimage site Fatima as well.

Have you explored the Monasteries of Portugal’s Heartland? If you’ve visited Alcobaca, Batalha, or Tomar, tell us about your experience in the comments. Or swing by our Facebook page and post a photo. We would love to share in your adventure!

Visiting The Monasteries Of Portugal With Kids

Visiting the Monasteries of Portugal with Kids is amazing. There are so many areas of these historic buildings to explore that it’s easy to make exploring them a game. Kids will love all the hidden stairs and passageways. If you are visiting Portugal with a baby as we were, most places are stroller friendly. Although, if you want to take in the upper levels, it’s good to be aware that there are no ramps. We found using a child-carrier to be helpful in many of the cities and Portuguese monasteries.

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About the Author

Christina Wagar grew up in a travel loving family. She strives to instil her love of learning about different cultures and seeing new and old places to her husband Kevin and their two young boys. Having experienced over 20 countries across 4 continents Christina is well versed at travel planning and thrives on sharing that information with others with the hopes of encouraging more families to experience this incredible world that we live in.

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  1. Wow, such a smart decision to narrow your visit to UNESCO World Heritage sites. These were three great picks. I particularly love the intricately carved tombs. My gosh, those are beautiful but I’ll bet even more so in person. Enjoyed reading the post and seeing the great photos.

  2. My favorite from this article is the Batalha Monastery! It has some magical vibes, I feel attracted to it!
    Thank you for sharing all those amazing UNESCO-protected places in Portugal!

  3. What a beautiful selection of sites. The sheer wonder of the architecture and the immense detail worked on within each building is just stunning. I would really love to visit these to see all of this first hand. Certainly a compelling case to get over to Portugal! I also agree that you definitely wouldn’t want to rush trying to see all of this in a single day. Far better to take your time and truly enjoy it.

  4. Omg I am in awe right now. There were SO many beautiful monasteries. Portugal has already been on my list, but now I want to go there even more! It looks absolutely incredible!

  5. These monasteries are unreal and your photos are gorgeous. Very interesting read, as well. I hadn’t heard the story of Dom Pedro and Dona Ines before. Tragic, indeed.

  6. These are all so spectacular and each very different. I love the intricately carved tombs and the Romeo and Juliet-esque story of Alcobaca, the stained glass windows of Batalha and the altar of Charola. This is not a part of the world I know at all but I look forward to visiting all of these!

  7. The nave looks so impressive. I saw something like this in the grand temples of South India. The façade of Monastery of Alcobaca is so interesting. It exudes an antique quality. However, my favourite from this blog is Batalha Monastery. I find its architectural style unique.

  8. These are all so stunning. We were just in Lisbon and saw some great architecture there and in Sintra, but these definitely look like they are worth the day trip. Great tip about going over two days. My husband has recently informed me that we try to do too much as a time 😛 I just want to see it all! But he would adore these sites! Just another reason to go back to Portugal 🙂

  9. The Royal Cloister reminds me of the San Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon. Very similar architecture. I love that the Portuguese have been able to preserve these buildings and we are able to enjoy and learn about them today. Our kids thought the architecture in Lisbon was fascinating.

  10. Portugal has been on my radar for quite some time. These UNESCO sites just add to the many reasons why we should visit this country! Unfinished Chapels inside Batalha Monastery is phenomenal! I would love to stop by and see that in person!

  11. The photos are gorgeous. I thought monasteries and churches are separate entities. I used to think Monasteries are related to Buddhism only and hence they are found in no European countries!! Here you taught me something new today!

  12. I love this article. I had no idea about the Alcobaca Monastery and the tragic love story of Dom Pedro and Ines. So very Romeo and Juliet. Their tombs are so beautifully intricate. All of the UNESCO sites sound fabulous – I love the history behind them.

  13. I wish I had read this before we visited Portugal last year! I would definitely have made a point to visit some of these. The history is fascinating and I love learning stories like the Romeo and Juliet-ish one. What beautiful places.

  14. Never read about these places. I love those white delicate tombs. And to think Fatima is also near. Should really make the pilgrimage.

  15. These are truly beautiful and it would be very hard to pick a favourite or to tell you which one I would like to visit first. The architecture in Europe is something special, Porto included

  16. Lovely – thanks for sharing the details on these three places. Fascinating about the tragic story about Dom Pedro and Dona Ines and the beautiful details of their tombs. Travel safe!

  17. These monasteries look intriguing with their magnificence. It seems as if they have an aura of mysticism and serene calm which one associates with structure. The architectural styles of these structures speak volumes of the sheer artistry and ingenuity of the builders. This is definitely a fresh perspective of Portugal.

  18. Wow, all the three monuments look so stunning. I was saddened by the tragedy of Dom Pedro and Ines – their domes look so magnificent. Had never such intricately carved domes before, even in pictures! Thanks for sharing these brilliant architectural sites of Portugal.

  19. We had absolutely no idea that Portugal had those kind of churches and buildings. I can see how people would spend hours and travel all over the land visiting them! To see castles where the Knights Templar were known to be must have been such a cool experience.

  20. Awesome visits! We did a Viator day trip to Batalha and Alcobaca, Cascais and Sintra and stayed in Fatima but I don’t think we saw all the things you showed here for these two monastery towns. I gather that you are self guided. How do you do it?! We are going back to Lisbon in June and I am planning our itinerary, looking at Evora – how I came upon your blog. Was planning to go to Porto and do the towns along the way but now I’m thinking to forego Porto and north.

    1. Hi Victoria!
      Thank you so much for the kind words. We did do a self-guided tour. It was our first trip with our 4-month old son and we thought that having a car for feeding and naps would be beneficial. We were right. It also gave us the ability to explore at our own pace and move off-the-beaten-path a bit. I’ll be totally honest, I wish we had had the chance to visit Porto. We’re looking for a chance to go back and see what we missed.

      1. Thank you for that. Portugal is our favorite place to visit now. It’s hard to try to see as much when we only travel about a week at a time because of work. Now I’m undecided. Lol. Love your pictures and posts! Keep it coming!
        PS. Wish we were as brave as you guys when the kids were young. We totally forgot about our bucket lists and just got started fairly recently. We did family travel but not as adventurous as you guys. So awesome!

  21. Thank you for that. Portugal is our favorite place to visit now. It’s hard to try to see as much when we only travel about a week at a time because of work. Now I’m undecided. Lol. Love your pictures and posts! Keep it coming!
    PS. Wish we were as brave as you guys when the kids were young. We totally forgot about our bucket lists and just got started fairly recently. We did family travel but not as adventurous as you guys. So awesome!

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