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Regions of Portugal - Central / Beiras

The Beiras region is one of tremendous contrasts combining ancient and modern, seaside and mountains, forests and plains. It is geographically divided into three areas: alto, baixa, and litoral; upper, lower, and coastal. You will be spoiled for choice with a huge selection of destinations. The city of Coimbra, ancient towns, villages, spa towns, Roman ruins, castles, monasteries and convents remain as evidence of its vast cultural and historical past. Enjoy sandy white beaches, pine forests, and wildlife reserves providing a wealth of flora and fauna. This region of Portugal will appeal to all tastes.

The gem of the Beiras region, Coimbra overlooks the Rio Mondego and lies halfway between Porto and Lisbon. Wander through the tangled alleys of this old university town and soak up the atmosphere of days gone by. Do not miss the late 12th-century Romanesque cathedral - one of the finest in the country. And the Museu Nacional Machado de Castro offers fine collections of paintings and ceramics, especially 16th- and 17th-century Flemish and Portuguese paintings. There are some good restaurants and seductive cafes here and Coimbra offers music of all kinds, but make sure to take in the traditional fado singing that will pull at the toughest of heartstrings. Using Coimbra as a base for a couple of wonderful day trips, visit the Roman ruins at Conimbriga, the best in Portugal. And make time for a healthy visit to the spa town of Luso, where you can revive yourself with a number of different water therapies. Walk through the Buçaco Forest on the slopes of the Serra do Bucaco, a religious haven where, in mystical surroundings, you can spend a peaceful day wandering around its forest of 700 different tree species, including Mexican cedars, giant ferns and ginkgo trees.

If it's the sea you fancy, make your way to the largely un spoilt Atlantic coastline. Take advantage of some great surf or visit the casino in the old-fashioned resort and fishing port of Figueira da Foz - one of the country's most popular resorts. Sample the local cuisine in one of the many bars and restaurants. In the Upper Beira area Pinhel still has its original walls and two towers from the 14th-century castle. There are Gothic, Romanesque and Renaissance churches and some attractive old town houses with wrought-iron balconies in its main square.

Property in this area has been increasing in value over the last 5 years, as more and more Brits discover the area's attractions and good value. However, it is still possible to find a stone ruin for little money, or new build villas at low cost.

Nearest Airports - Lisbon and Porto.

Coimbra, from the River Mondego

Coimbra

Portugal's third largest city contains Europe's oldest university, and is well worth a visit. Perched on the banks of the river Mondego and full of history. Excellent shopping, restaurants, cinema and a vibrant nightlife. Every May the students hold the Queima das Fitas, where they burn their gowns and drink huge amounts of beer to celebrate the completion of their studies. For more info visit the portugal-info website.


Lousã, Central Portugal

Lousã

Located 40 minutes from Coimbra, this market town is famous for its' 'Liquor Beirão', a locally produced spirit. Gateway to the Serra da Lousa hills and beyond.


Conimbriga, near Condeixa

Conimbriga

Fifteen km southwest of Coimbra is the archaeological site and Museum of the Roman city of Conimbriga. This fascinating attraction is cramped packed with artifacts from 1 B.C. onwards and the city itself has the most amazing mosaics. We also recommend a lunchtime visit to the restaurant where you can enjoy views of the ruins while enjoying a traditional Roman dish and a good bottle of wine for around 10 euros per head. Ruins and Museum open all year, museum closed Mondays.


Buçaco Hotel, near Coimbra

Buçaco

Buçaco is an ancient forest situated 28km north of Coimbra, boasting over 700 species of trees. This monastic centre dates back to the 6th century and now houses the magnificent Buçaco Hotel, once a palace built by Dom Carlos. Visitors are free to roam the gardens and surrounding area. If you are feeling extravagant, take tea in the five star hotel! The site was also the setting for a battle between the Duke of Wellington and Napoleon's French army. Nearby is a small but interesting military museum.


Tomar

Founded in 1150 by the order of the Knights Templar. Lots of old buildings, Castle, excellent shops. 40 minute drive.

Castanheira da Pêra

A scenic drive over the hills will take you to this pretty little town. A large outdoor lido and boating lake.

Penacova

Fantastic views from this hill top town. Hotel and restaurant well worth a visit.

Casal do Ermio

Tiny village with a lake, swimming,boating, and picnic area.

Figueira da Foz

Largest seaside resort in the region which attracts holiday makers and surfers from all over Portugal. Massive beach, casino, entertainment and restaurants.

Viseu

Old Roman town that is a centre of the local wine growing region. In the surrounding area are a number of decorated large standing stones with detailed carved symbolic lines. Their origin remains a mystery.

Serra da Estrela

Portugal's highest mountain range. Ski resort during the winter.

Check this week's weather in Coimbra at the BBC website >

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