View of Mondego River from Penacova

Wondering which of the smaller towns near the city of Coimbra might be of interest for a visit or even to live in? Here’s a quick overview of the main towns and villages within an hour’s drive of Coimbra.

All of them are easily accessible by car or public transport, although bus services may be infrequent to some of the outlying ones, especially at weekends and public/school holidays.

Coimbra itself is a thriving city with plenty of things to do, including cultural events and tourist attractions such as its UNESCO university, stunning Roman ruins and ancient monuments. For this reason, you may want to use Coimbra as a base for day trips, although you’ll find accommodation suggestions for most of the smaller towns below.

Some of these Portuguese towns are a part of the amazing N2 road trip, (or the Portuguese Route 66 as it’s sometimes referred to), a journey that takes you the length of Portugal. You can find out more in this N2 Portugal. The Ultimate Road Trip From North To South post.

For the time being, I’ll give you a brief description of the small towns near Coimbra and I intend to elaborate on each at a later date with individual articles.


Palácio da Lousã with blue sky
Palácio da Lousã, now a boutique hotel

Because it’s only about a 30-minute drive from Coimbra, and has good public transport, Lousã is a popular place to live for people who work in the city.

The natural wonder of the Serra da Lousã mountains looms in the background and the town boasts a picturesque sanctuary next to an 11th century castle as well as a NeoBaroque town hall. 

Sra da Piedade Sanctuary, Lousã, central Portugal
Sra da Piedade Sanctuary, Lousã, central Portugal

It’s a very popular town for mountain bikers, with a Bike Hotel and several trails through the forests and mountains, which contain schist villages such as Talasnal, Cerdeira and Candal. In summer months, there is a river beach by the castle. 

The Ethnographic Museum contains an interesting collection of artefacts that show what local life was like, both inside the home and in agricultural pursuits.

Among the festivals celebrated in Lousã is the annual Honey and Chestnut festival in early November.

The long-awaited electric public passenger transport system, Metrobus, looks like it’s getting closer to completion (due in 2024 apparently) and will connect Miranda do Corvo, Lousã, Serpins and the villages in between to Coimbra city centre. Frequent buses currently serve this route.

Where to stay in Lousã

Octant Lousa is an 18th-century palace with wonderful views of the Lousã Mountains. You can enjoy the beautiful gardens and relax in the outdoor pool. All rooms in this boutique hotel, which caters for bikes, are spacious and come with a full-size bathtub. Book now.

Casa Das Condessinhas is a family-run hotel, ideal as a base for discovering the schist villages. Some rooms come with a balcony or you can choose the apartment with mountain views. See photos and choose your room.


The old Roman bridge in Gois, Central Portugal with surrounding trees
The old Roman bridge in Gois, Central Portugal

Situated in the narrow valley of the River Ceira is the pretty town of Góis. Amongst its attractions is a lovely river beach, which is very popular during the summer months, and its close proximity to 4 nearby schist villages.

It’s on the N2, Portugal’s longest road, and there are also some very nice hiking trails around the area.

For a week in August, the town hosts a major motorcycle event, the second largest of its kind in Portugal, where the whole of the town and beach becomes a mass of leather and bikes.

Where to stay in Góis

Casa Carvalhal is a B&B within easy walking distance of the centre of Góis. You can choose from a selection of room types, all with either a balcony or terrace. The hosts are very friendly and will go out of their way to help. Breakfasts are excellent and an outdoor pool and sun terrace is perfect for relaxing. See the photos.

Vila Nova de Poiares

Trees and path in Jardim de Homenagem ao Poiarense, Vila Nova e Poiares, Central Portugal
Jardim de Homenagem ao Poiarense, Vila Nova de Poiares, Central Portugal

With a scenic connecting road (the EN17), Vila Nova de Poiares is a mere 25-minute drive away from Coimbra. Featuring a modern, recently-refurbished market and beautifully cared-for park, Vila Nova de Poiares is becoming a popular place to live for immigrants.

If you’re interested in nature and adventure, both the Mondego and Alva rivers run through the area and there are plenty of walking trails. My favourite is the Serra do Bidueiro route which, on a clear day, offers 360º views of several nearby mountain ranges including the Serra da Estrela.

Poiares is affectionately known as the ‘Capital of Chanfana’, which is a rich goat and red wine casserole, slow-cooked in a special black clay pot inside a wood-fired oven.

Early September sees POIARTES, a handicraft fair which promotes all things Poiarense, although there are other events throughout the year.

Where to stay in Vila Nova de Poiares

Just minutes from the centre is Casa de Coco, where you can choose between a one or two bedroomed house. There’s a pool and a large garden and the houses are well-equipped. Check available dates.


Two wooden rowing boats moored at Vimiero river beach, Penacova, central Portugal
Vimiero river beach, Penacova, central Portugal

The Praia Fluvial do Reconquinho, on the left bank of the Mondego River, is a relaxing river beach area where you can swim, kayak or take a ride in an old traditional boat.

Just a little further along the river, is the Livraria do Mondego or the Mondego Bookstore, a rock-face that looks uncannily like bookshelves.

A few kilometres outside Penacova is another small river beach called Vimieiro, where you’ll find a restaurant and cute stone cottages for rent.

The town itself is rather sprawled out and hilly but in the centre of Penacova is the Raúl Lino Pergola, a lovely place to sit down and enjoy the superb landscape from under the old wisteria vines. It’s also next to a café that has the same great views. If you have a very sweet tooth, you can try a nevada, which is a local cake.

The nearby village of Lorvão has a monastery which is among the oldest in Europe. Not far away you’ll find the beautiful stone windmills of Serra da Atalhada.

A gastronomic delight of the region is lampreia, a kind of jawless fish (and definitely NOT an eel), of which the customary festival is held during February.

Where to stay in Penacova

O Medronheiro is a 2-bedroom house situated at Vimieiro river beach with a lovely river view and terrace. It comes with a fully equipped kitchenette and a restaurant/cafe on site. Check details.

Arganil town and surrounds

Crossing Cascalheira River Beach
Crossing the River Alva at Cascalheira river beach near Arganil, central Portugal

Just under an hour’s drive from Coimbra is the small town of Arganil, which holds a weekly market on Thursdays that attracts people from miles around. It has a small, pleasant town centre and all the facilities you need for daily life.

The nearby Secarias river beach is worth a visit, as is the one in Sarzedo, although there are several others in the Arganil municipality.

The attraction of Arganil is not so much the town itself, (although it has the Chapel of São Pedro, a granite temple dating back to the 13th century and classified as a National Monument), but what can be found in the surrounding area.

The village of Piódão is one of the 12 Historical Villages of Portugal. Benfeita, one of the designated Aldeias do Xisto (schist villages) of the Serra do Açor, is nestled in gorgeous countryside and home to a growing number of ‘eco-immigrants’.

The Fraga da Pena (Pena Cliff) waterfall is not far from Benfeita, as is the Poço do Inferno (Hell’s Well) falls.

Where to stay in Arganil

The Hotel de Arganil is situated right in the centre of the town and, although it’s a little outdated, is still a comfortable place to stay. Check availability.


Panela castle with entrance
Penela castle

The main attraction of Penela is its castle, which dates back to long before Portugal was even a country and formed part of the Mondego defensive line during the Reconquista. Every year, Penela celebrates its medieval heritage with a Medieval Fair that involves costumes, parades, music and games.

There are many nearby viewpoints to enjoy, such as Sao Joao de Deserto, along with a good choice of hiking trails. 

Louçainha river beach, near Espinhal, is a soothing place to spend a hot summer afternoon and there’s a great restaurant overlooking the river. There’s a monthly outdoor food, craft and secondhand market in Espinhal, Mercado Glocal, which we affectionately call the sausage and cake market for obvious reasons.

The Roman Villa of Rabaçal is just 12 kms from Conímbriga and has some lovely mosaics. The village is also famous for its cheese.

Where to stay in Panela

The 4-star HD | Duecitânia Design Hotel has rooms with a contemporary feel and come with either a mountain, river or garden view. You can enjoy local regional cuisine at the onsite a-la-carte restaurant. Free parking is available. Check reviews.


Horseriding mural at Conimbriga, Condeixa region
Mural at Conimbriga, Condeixa region

Condeixa-a-Nova, also known as just Condeixa, is a town located 15 km south of Coimbra. Not a tourist destination as such, it is best known for Conímbriga, the largest Roman settlement in Portugal, which is located nearby, and includes a museum and the well-preserved ruins.

An annual Roman Festival celebrates this area’s history with music, stalls, plays, Roman games and lots of fun at the Conimbriga site.

The town of Condeixa has an interesting collection of palaces and churches, along with the charming Casa Museu Fernando Namora, a space dedicated to the life of the well-known Portuguese writer.

Where to stay in Condeixa

Conimbriga Hotel do Paço is a lovely modern 4-star hotel set in nice grounds. The rooms are clean and comfortable and there’s a new spa onsite as well as a restaurant and outdoor pool. See availability.

Because Condeixa is so close you could easily use Coimbra as your base to explore the local area, especially if you have a car.


Olive oil exhibit at the annual Expofacic, Cantenhede
Olive oil exhibit at the annual EXPOFACIC, Cantenhede

The attractive town of Cantanhede lies halfway between Coimbra and Aveiro. If you enjoy being around water, the beaches of Tocha and Mira are just 25 kilometres away and you also have the natural swimming pools at Ança and Olhos Da Fervença.

Ança is also known for its stone, which was used for many sculptures in the local area. You can see examples in the Machado de Castro Museum in Coimbra and the churches in Tentúgal.

Cantanhede is in the heart of the Bairrada wine region; the town seems to be surrounded by vineyards and other market gardens. 

This agricultural theme is celebrated in EXPOFACIC, a trade and agricultural show with live music, which is a popular event that attracts thousands every July.

Where to stay in Cantanhede

B&B HOTEL Cantanhede Coimbra is a 3-star hotel just a short drive from the centre of town. Rooms are spacious, come with a balcony or terrace and are decorated with simple wood furnishings. Free private parking is also available on site. Check dates.

Miranda do Corvo

Miranda do Corvo municipal hall with river alongside
Miranda do Corvo municipal hall and river

Pretty Miranda do Corvo is only a 25-minute drive from Coimbra with a regular bus service and the soon-to-be up and running light metro system.

The town has a charming square, (a very popular car boot style market is held there every month), and it has everything needed for daily life.

Historically important in the Mondego defensive line during the Christian reconquest of Coimbra, the town has various architectural points of interest, including the municipal town hall.

There are many local hikes and trails and an enthusiastic cricket club, run by the local expat community.

Avoid the Biological Park, which is a depressing zoo-type complex.

Where to stay in Miranda da Corvo

Hotel Parque Serra da Lousã is a 4-star hotel with an indoor pool, garden and spa. Some rooms have a river scene or you can view the mountains from the terrace. Parking is free and it’s ideally located to explore the area. Book now.


Bussaco Palace and gardens near Luso in Portugal
Buçaco Palace near Luso in Portugal

The small town of Luso is famous for the curative properties of its waters and you often see many people filling up large plastic bottles at the communal fountain to take home.

It’s a pleasant place, akin to a mini Sintra with its pretty turreted villas. Right on the doorstep is the magnificent Buçaco Forest, with its 300+ species of trees, cooling springs, Carmelite convent and the beautiful former royal palace.

Luso is also known as the place where Wellington defeated Napoleon’s French forces in 1810 and there’s an interesting military museum next to one of the Bussaco gates.

Where to stay in Luso

There is a good choice of accommodation in and around Luso.

The Alegre – Bussaco Boutique Hotel is set in an historic manor surrounded by forests close to the center of Luso. The hotel has a cosy 19th. Century feel to it with antique furnishings and comfy beds. There’s also an outdoor pool. Check availability.

Check here for alternative Luso accommodation.

Figueira da Foz

Herança by AddFuel, urban art in Figueira da Foz, Portugal
Herança by AddFuel, Figueira da Foz

More of a small city than a town and only a 43-minute drive along the A14 motorway, Figueira da Foz has long been a favourite with Coimbra residents as a summer escape from the city. The huge beach and range of restaurants continue to be a huge draw, especially nowadays amongst the expat community.

My preferred beach is Buarcos, which is smaller and, especially when the tide is out, offers lots of rock formations to explore.

During the holiday period, like any other coastal town, it becomes incredibly busy. Out of season it’s a calm and relaxing place and you can walk along the promenade gazing out to sea in peace and quiet. 

With its casino and the CAE arts centre, Figueira is a great place for entertainment. It also has an interesting museum and an art gallery.

This is one of the cities in Portugal that really goes to town for Carnival, with lots of floats and bejewelled and feathered dancers.

Where to stay in Figueira da Foz

There are many superb places to stay in Fig. Take a look at my Fantastic Figueira da Foz Hotels & Gorgeous Guesthouses post for some of my favourites.

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  1. Hi Julie
    Where’s the best place to do a self guided walking tour in Portugal? A friend and I are thinking of the Peneda Geres area? Thanks

    1. Author

      Hi Jane, it depends on what you mean by self-guided walking tour. If you mean a multi-day walk with the support of a local tour operator who arranges accommodation, luggage transfers and provides detailed route information, then I’d say the north of Portugal – Peneda-Gerês is a great option and I know a brilliant tour operator who specialises in such holidays in the north of Portugal. If you are talking about a more DIY approach, it depends on how long you want your walks to be, and the difficulty level. Unfortunately, as you will see in this article, many trails are not adequately marked so going it alone is often risky.

Over to you. Please share your thoughts in a comment.