A day trip to Leiria a few months ago started out with us just planning to see the castle as it was the only attraction we could find details . Information on what to see and do in some of the smaller Portuguese cities is scarce, to say the least, and we often happen upon things to do when we actually get there. Leiria was definitely one of these cases.
Leiria is located in the central part of Portugal, about one hour by car from Porto, or it has easy access from Aveiro and Lisbon by coach (Rede Expresso coaches). It’s a fairly small city and the main attractions can be seen in one day. There are three main attractions in the town – a castle, a working paper mill and a museum dedicated to film and photography.
The town’s cathedral, a 16th century construction which is normally the first place people pop into when they arrive in Leiria as tourists. If that’s the case, make sure you take a quick look across the road from the cathedral to the Pharmácia Paiva, a three storey tiled building which was the inspiration for the boticary in The Crime of Padre Amaro, written by Eça de Queiroz, a world famous Portuguese author and native of Leiria.
Once you’ve seen the cathedral head up to the castle and opt for an unguided visit – it’s small enough to see it on your own. Tickets are available as a multi-site ticket which includes a ticket for the castle, the papermill, the film museum and a farming museum. Valid for one visit to each site within a twelve month period, it’s well worth the price.
The castle sits atop the main hill in town, and for obvious reasons it’s the most prominent building in the town. It has a small exhibition, but it’s the ruins themselves which offer the best of the site. It’s tumble down and overgrown in parts but the views over the city make up for it with the rainbow coloured local football stadium taking centre stage alongside the town square and river. Some basic information on the castle is available here.
A couple of streets from the castle is the Museum of Moving Imagery. There are scientific explanations of how the eye sees and interprets colour as well as a fascinating collection of old cameras and film making paraphenalia and old film posters. Head to the cafe in here for the views over the town. A quick overview of the museum can be found here.
Back down in the town centre, near the River Lis, is the paper mill. Now restored as a working museum, the mill actively recycles paper and produces flour. Quite a combination! A small tour of the paper mill explains the paper recycling process and it’s a touch and feel experience, from the mulch to the finished paper – complete with a watermark and the history of watermarks. The flour mill experience is equally as touchy-feely. Sample the flour and test the different textures between your fingers, and if baking a cake is one of your past times, you can buy it by the bag.