The best guide to Batalha and Central Portugal
Batalha is a peaceful little town, but it was the setting for Portugal’s most important battle, the Batalha de Aljubarrota (1385). This battle secured Portuguese independence from Castile, and to honour it, King João I constructed the Mosteiro da Batalha, which today is the finest monastery in Portugal.
This grand monastery represents the transition from Gothic to Manueline architectural styles, and, though never completed after 100 years of building works, it heavily influenced Portuguese architecture for future generations. Batalha may only be a small town, but the Mosteiro da Batalha should make it high on your list of places to visit while in Portugal. This article will provide a tourist introduction and guide to Batalha.
A visit to Batalha is all about the Mosteiro da Batalha, and not much else. The actual site of the battlefield can be visited, along with the informative Batalha de Aljubarrota museum, but this is 3km out of the town. A typically visit to the monastery takes a couple of hours and the Batalha de Aljubarrota Museum, adds another hour to the day trip (details of both later in this article).
There is not much else to see in the town, and Batalha will only ever provide a short day trip. If for the day trip you have a rental car, Batalha could be combined with Alcobaça, Fatima, Obidos or one of the coastal towns (Nazaré, Peniche or São Martinho do Porto).
Batalha is a very likable town, which once all of the day trippers leave, has a calm and personable ambience. A stay in Batalha is ideal if you are seeking a relaxed destination, from which to explore the central Portugal region.
There are bus services from Batalha to Fatima, Alcobaça, Nazaré and Tomar, and it is possible to discover the region without the use of a rental car. Batalha has a high standard of hotels and restaurants, and the cost of accommodation is significantly less than Lisbon or popular resort towns.
Batalha is a popular destination for organised tours (coach and small van) from Lisbon. These tours typically combine Batalha with a variety of towns such as Obidos, Fatima, Alcobaça and Nazaré, which unfortunately does not provide much time to see the town. Often less than an hour is provided for Batalha, which is only just enough time to see the main church (and not the cloisters or chapels).
If you wish to explore the entire monastery and visit the Batalha de Aljubarrota museum (which is highly recommended) consider visiting Batalha as an independent day trip. For a selection of the better tours that include Batalha, please see GetYourGuide:
The Mosteiro da Batalha is one of the most impressive religious buildings of Portugal, and is a wonderful example of Gothic grandeur and Manueline extravagance. Highlights include the ornate Unfinished Chapel, the impressive height of the nave, and the tomb of King João I. If you are interested in Portuguese history, religious architecture or just grand buildings, then you should visit the Batalha Monastery. For a full guide and image tour to the Mosteiro da Batalha please click here.
The Centro de Interpretação da Batalha de Aljubarrota (often shortened to just CIBA) is an excellent and informative museum, which has been constructed on the site of the battle of Aljubarrota. The highlight of any visit is the 30-minute presentation (think of a slick Hollywood movie) that details the preceding events and the actual battle.
After the show, the battlefield can be wandered, and the tactical genesis of the Portuguese army can be fully appreciated. In the centre of the battlefield is the Capela de São Jorge.
The CIBA museum is 3km south-west from Batalha (GPS:39.63933, -8.84465), if you do not have a rental car a taxi is around €6 each way. The route to the museum follows a busy road and is not an enjoyable walk.
Tip: The presentations run 3-5 time a day, confirm the times at the tourist office before heading out to the museum.
The battle of Aljubarrota (1385) was a decisive victory for Portugal against the Castilians (the Spanish). It established King John and the House of Aviz as the ruling dynasty of Portugal. If the Castilians had defeated the army of King João, Portugal would have been absorbed into Spain, and probably would have never had the strength to become an independent country.
The battle is even more remarkable in that the Portuguese forces were vastly outnumbered and that the complete rout of the Castilian army was in achieved in just one hour of fighting. The spectacular victory must be attributed to Nuno Álvares Pereira, a brilliant tactician, who never lost a battle that he fought in over his entire life.
The Mosteiro da Batalha is better than the Mosteiro de Alcobaça, but as they are so close, they are often combined. Batalha is the smaller town but is the nicer place for a nights stay.
Fatima is the much-famed pilgrimage destination, but it has no historic centre or Portuguese character. The new Basilica and central plaza are designed for vast numbers of pilgrims and are rather plain. Unless you are deeply religious, or on a pilgrimage, Fatima can be fully seen in an hour.
Tomar has many more sights than Batalha, but if you are drawn to Tomar for the history and the Convento de Cristo, then you should also be visiting Batalha, even if it is for half a day. Obidos is a picturesque walled town but is often ruined by the sheer number of tourists.
Normally, we avoid recommendations and leave it to the review websites, but the Hotel Casa do Outeiro is outstanding (it won an award for the best 3-star hotel in Portugal), while the Restaurante Vintage serves amazing food. In general all of the tourist facilities of Batalha are of a high standard, including the helpful tourist information.
From Lisbon to Batalha the bus services are operated by Rede Expressos, who are the main intercity coach company of Portugal. There is only a handful of daily services from Lisbon to Batalha but it is possible to visit as a day trip. The bus fares are €11.40/€20.40 (single/return) and the buses depart from the Sete Rios bus station in Lisbon (38.74145, -9.16693). The exact timetable and ticket sales can be found on their website:
The bus services between Batalha, Fatima, Alcobaça and Nazaré are run by Rodotejo. For timetables, please see their website:
Please take care when reviewing the timetables, as some of the services are seasonal and there are less departures at the weekend. Bus tickets are purchased from the driver Batalha is too small for a bus station and has a single bus stop (GPS: 39.65786, -8.82195) which is on the eastern side of the town, near the Intermarché supermarket.
The best of central Portugal