By Tooka Pourgive
15 February 2019
I’m a city girl who has for the longest time made the decision to never reside in a city. I live by the coast, in a village-like setting. This means that every so often I have to travel to the nearby big cities to run errands. I recently had to travel to the city of Leiria, the capital of the state of Leiria, to get some paperwork done. Because of the bus schedules clashing with my important appointment, I had to arrive the night before, and leave the morning after. This gave me a days’ worth of exploration, and I took full advantage.
I’m a bit wary of hostels, especially mixed ones, but I always somehow manage to find a private room that is only slightly more expensive than the shared rooms.
I happened to book the coolest hostel, the Atlas Hostel. A narrow passage gives way to the entrance, a pastel pink room with cute city bikes parked nicely across. As there was no reception, I climbed the visible stairs to a space with subtle lights, lots of varying furniture and mixed décor, with a background music that was very international. I also noticed that all tables had a few books on them. Youthful people were busy at the restaurant/bar, who were also in charge of check-in. Unlike other hostels I have been to, here, we are given free towels, soap and shampoo, as well as a few services such as free printing. The hosts were super nice and respectful.
Although it doesn’t have a green certificate or ecological claims, it actually was more sustainable than the eco hotels I had visited. First, the bathrooms and showers are shared, and second, there is a shared kitchen where there is a recycling bin separating paper, plastic and compost.
The most visible sight from most parts of the city is the Castelo de Leiria. It is a slightly uphill walk from the centre. A ticket should be purchased at the entrance, and they offer to buy tickets to nearby museums as well. The castle itself is small and the hike to the top is short and pleasant. It makes a perfect sight to visit on a day trip. The view from the top of the fort is also pretty nice because you get to look over at a football stadium.
Across from the castle is the Museu Da Imagem Em Movimento, which is entertaining and informative. They also had a temporary exposition at the top floor “Nós e os outros” which displayed the works of 4 famous 20th century Portuguese artists, Narciso Costa, António Varela, Luis Fernandes, and Lino António, which I absolutely enjoyed. I highly recommend this museum because you will be entertained and surely come across a good exposition.
The next place I visited was Casa dos Pintores, which has nothing to do with painting, but it was fascinating. It is actually a small building in which a history of the introduction of literature and printing by the Jews in Leiria is displayed. I learned that they gave great importance to astrology and one of the first books ever printed there teaches the astrological signs and their implications. Also the entrance is free.
Another place which I visited was Galeria Banco Das Artes, where an exposition was held by contemporary artist, António Olaio, titled “Next stop is yesterday”. Although very short, I enjoyed his works, and below you will find some of my favourites. Did I mention it was free.
Finally, I recommend a quick stroll by the Lis river in Jardim Luís de Camões from which you have a good view of the Castelo at night.
The nearby Praça Francisco Rodrigues Lobo is an open square with several cafes and restaurants of all price ranges, the narrow passages all around has hidden cafes as well with more authentic cuisine.
There are many small shops all around the areas which I have mentioned. I found a grunge themed shop with old records from which I bought myself an awesome dress. Also as a last minute treat, I bought a beautiful pearl bracelet from a jewellery shop, right next to the bus station.
It’s the city!! That means lots of salons and spas on every corner, and yes, I treated myself to a pampering session which was totally worth it and a lot cheaper than I imagined.
I also noticed that Leiria has a lot of street art, my favourite type of art. Here are a few I really like.
I managed to do all of the above and get to my appointment in just a day, and still had a bit of time to rest and eat some delicious falafel and tzatziki at the hostel bar. I really enjoyed my time in Leiria and look forward to my next visit which I will surely see many other places I have yet to explore.