In the center of the center
Leiria is a fast growing town, almost halfway from Lisbon to Coimbra. This makes it a good hub for traveling in the central area of Portugal. The best highlights are outside town (see my Alcobaça page for a wide list). However, Leiria has several interesting attractions, and many hotels, where the seasonal prices don’t change much.
Between the new commercial avenues and the castle, a small part of the town still keeps the traces on antiquity. Easy to stroll provide good views and ambiance
Nossa Senhora da Encarnação
For almost 50 years I postponed the idea of climbing this hill and have a look to the sanctuary.
It happened now, but I was unlucky – it was closed.
However, I didn’t regret the effort – the Baroque stairs are simple but nice, in harmonious integration with the chapel form the 16th century.
As expected, the views from the top are great.
Convent of St Agostinho
This convent, two or three hundred meters apart from the centre, was built in the 16th century, still holding a Baroque facade.
The incidents of history made it become part of a military headquarters until very recently.
Now, the local authorities are preparing the recuperation of the cloisters, but the church may already be visited.
In the back stands the church of Nª Srª da Encarnação.
Fonte das Carrancas
Right in the centre of town, we have the “Fonte Grande” (Big Fountain) or fonte das Carrancas.
When in 1962 I went to study in Leiria, the lady that rented me the room warned me that “Who drinks the water of Fonte Grande will marry in Leiria”. I took it as a challenge, drunk the water, and… married many years later in Batalha, with Fernanda, from Turquel as me.
I never met the kind lady again, but I’m sure that, if I did, she would insist: “See? Batalha and Turquel, belong to where? Leiria district!”.
All those years passed the water keeps running in this Baroque fountain, and people keeps marrying… Well, not much! Shortage of water?
Born from the transformation of an older building planned by the locally famous architect Ernesto Korrodi, the Municipal Market was condemned by the transformations in local commerce.
Today it is a cultural center, including a theater, and keeps being… a beautiful building.
Justice Palace square
At the entrance of town, from south, a small square facing the Palace of Justice and other official buildings is a nice and cool spot, with king Afonso III’s statue in the middle.
Why him? I don’t know, but why not?
Rodrigues Lobo square
Traffic restrictions put this charming square out of each day’s life for most locals, bur this did not damage the place, by the opposite.
It’s nice to walk in this square, exploring the narrow old street, starting on it, and the remaining shops of the traditional commerce.
Cafes and esplanades give good ambiance to the place.
In the centre of the city a small garden was my first reference when, in 1962, I moved to study in Leiria.
That garden remains untouched, in a city where the only green area is the stripe following both sides of the river.
Though a little bit uncharacteristic (I think!), this square still keeps a few old buildings, and watches most commercial activities in town.
Banks and big commercial chains have the financial capacity to recover the old facades respecting the former architecture, and that saves the personality of the area.
Tower of the cathedral
I heard in Pula that the local church was the only one with the tower far from the main building.
I already knew Leiria, where the tower is very far from the cathedral, as you may notice in the picture.
Yes, the tower escaping at left belongs to the church escaping at right.
Why does it happen?
Because the church was built in the 16th century, and in 1770 the monks decided to build a tower so that the bells could be heard as far as possible, and the steep hill of the castle was a good chance to win highness saving in the construction.
Don’t expect many surprises in your visit to the castle. It was built by D. Afonso Henriques, our first king, as a way to establish a defensive line against the Arabs, but his war with Galicia allowed the Arabs to take advantage of the withdrawal of the armies to the North, recovering Leiria twice.
In 1142, after regaining definitively Leiria, d. Afonso Henriques, ordered to strengthen the castle’s defenses and his follower, D. Sancho I, already around 1195, sent up the city walls.
Despite the excellent work of a local architect, Ernesto Korrodi, recovering several wall and spaces in the castle, It’s now an almost empty place, allowing a good view over town.In your way up or down notice the curiosity of the church with the tower far away from the building.
S Francisco convent
Several times remodeled, this church was about to be demolished, after being sold to the adjacent milling company.
Recently some interesting paintings from the 15th century where displayed, which means that it will survive, being now open to the public.
Building, destroying, rebuilding along centuries leads to this situation: all the windows in S Francisco church, in the centre of the city, are different – curious, but not nice…
The old industrial activities have been successively expelled to the outskirts of the city, or even further (lately… abroad).
A few (really few) signs of that industrial area remain.
Are them to be kept, saving the old images of the city, or are just waiting for their turn to disappear?
Leiria grew quickly to the west, occupying the plane fields along the river.
Many traditional houses and settlements were sacrificed to the big blocks, however, a few old buildings were left behind, some of them beautiful enough to justify the question: till when?
When I lived in Leiria (50 years ago) “Maranchão” was a warning – a place not advisable in the outskirts of the city.
Now is a gardened area inside the growing town, with imaginative spaces for kids.
MIMO – Image museum
Mimo – Museum of the Moving Image is a tribute to photography and cinema, bringing together art, science and technique.
The museum was born as part of the celebrations of the centenary of Portuguese Cinema in 1996 and, in addition to exhibitions, it regularly promotes recreational and creative activities.
S. Pedro chapel
The São Pedro Chapel, near the entrance of the castle, was built in the 14th century, during the reign of King Afonso IV, in Gothic style.
It was originally part of a larger complex that included a hospital and a cemetery.
Tromba Rija – Much and well
This is, no doubt, one of the top five Portuguese restaurants in popularity. So:
– First of all, be prepared to pay it.
– Second, if you don’t want to take risks, you better reserve in advance.
– Third, forget weight control.
If you pass the three conditions, you will face an enormous list of starters, main courses and deserts, with the best of Portuguese popular cuisine, in a typical house, with gentle service.
A place not to rush, not to concern about anything, just to enjoy the pleasure to eat. A must, for all gourmets visiting Portugal
Address: Rua Prof. Portelas, 22 Marrazes – Leiria (it seems to be temporarily closed, working in Batalha)
Phone: +351 244856421
Casinha Velha – My favorite
just across the street from the “institutional” Tromba Rija this small restaurant is a preciosity, and my favorite in Leiria area, when I have time for a good meal.
Everything is delicious, it’s easier to find places (but also advisable to reserve), and the prices are reasonable. A very good choice.
Favorite Dish: Grilled Bacalhau leading the whole list
Address: R. Professores Portelas 23 Marrazes – Leiria
O Casarão – Grill, beans and more
3 Km south of Leiria, in IC2 and in the way to Batalha, this is a really good restaurant. Very large, in a garden, it has several rooms, accepting with comfort small and big groups, and supplying excellent food at reasonable prices.
Espetada mista com arroz de feijão e migas
Medalhões com gambas
Address: Azoia (crossing to Nazare)
Phone: 244 871 080
Rossini – Great surprise
Needing a quick lunch I entered the closest restaurant, thinking by the external look that it would be just one more pizzeria.
This restaurant, located in the modern area of town, almost in the outskirts of it, was a very good surprise.
Sitting in a pleasant room, we received the printed menu, and a handwritten sheet, mentioning six or seven “dishes of the day” which use to mean ready to serve, or almost. It was the fastest solution, and all the mentioned dishes were interesting, so I didn’t even open the formal menu.
Fernanda choose codfish, and I preferred a steak with mushrooms. To drink, Fernanda ordered a soft drink, and I demanded a branded small bottle of wine. The waiter suggested me the cheaper “vinho da casa”, and brought me a glass of it, to taste.
The waiter suggested me the cheaper “vinho da casa”, and brought me a glass of it, to taste. It was good, so I changed, and she brought another and larger (very large, indeed!) glass of wine, leaving the other in the table.
The food (plenty of it) came in few minutes, and it was well presented and tasty.
Fernanda had a dessert, we both had a coffee, and, in about half an hour we had a very good lunch.
Well… that was the best surprise: we paid 16.20 €. Both! Less than 9 € for each lunch! Unbelievable!
Address: R Ourém Website: Rossini
Reis – Classical
A classical restaurant in the center of the city tries to attract all kind of people – businessmen, families and tourists.
It has a serious menu, with Portuguese cuisine, and though not cheap enough to be popular among the youth, it is not expensive.
Matilde Noca – Good food, great views
I’ve been there three times, always satisfied. The restaurant is good, challenging the famous neighbors, with a more eclectic food and regular prices.
The restaurant is large, but it is placed as a balcony over Leiria, with fabulous views all over town.
A place to eat slowly, enjoying time while the city unfolds in front of you.
Address: Rua do Martingil 157, Marrazes 2415 – 522 LEIRIA
Phone: +351 244 856 073
Pão Quente – Pizza and More
Well located in the center of Leiria, this restaurant, owned by my friend António, is specialized in pizza (strong, too rich in cheese for my taste) but also in some other dishes, included a great steak. Several kinds of bread and pastries make it a all day round selling place.
Crises is dictating new rules, and, for the moment, they are only selling light snacks.
Address: v. Dr. Américo C Pinto
Phone: +351 244831859
O Pinheiro – Surprisingly cheap
Centrally located, a few meters from the cathedral, this restaurant is so discreet that I had never noticed it, and only went there following my GPS, that announced Fernanda’s favorite dessert.
We were a little bit rushed, and ordered the two dishes of the day: fried sole with rice and sprouts, and pork Alentejo way (with clams).
The service was quick as expected and both dishes were well prepared, with tender meat, fresh fish, and balanced taste.
The only problem was “that” special dessert, not available, replaced by almond pudding (reasonable).
With wine, soft drink and coffee, we payed… 15€. Of course, it is a place to return with more time and to try a more demanding dish.
Eurosol Residence – Centrally located
Eurosol was, for decades, the best hotel in Leiria, but a little far from the centre.
This new unity was opened closer to the city centre, in a nice place by the river. This is an apart-hotel rated four stars and became, I think, one of the best offer in Leiria. I’ve been there several times in professional meetings, but never slept there (my own bed is 30 minutes distant)
Address: Comissão Da Iniciativa, 13, Leiria Directions: Across the river, facing bus station.
Phone: +351 244 860 460
Non planned development turned a new central square in Leiria as a confusion of old and new.
Many (small) shopping malls, an old church, one abandoned factory, a Maoist looking statue, and a parking.
How to classify it?
Maringá – Parking Facilities
Maringá is a shopping center of Leiria where crises led to many closed shops, but still with some movement.
Adjacent to it there’s the best parking lot in town (paid but not expensive).
I don’t know what keeps the first mall of Leiria (and one of the smallest), still working.
Maybe the quality of some shops, as the one where I got the best prices for a new laptop recently bought.
Well… This was a few years ago, and, on this moment I don’t know if they are still open (their site is down), but it is always possible to check.
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