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Leiria boasts a perfect equilibrium between old and new – it is a lively little university town that just so happens to lie on a spit of land fortified since Moorish times. Leiria boasts dedicated educational services, and is home to high-flying establishments such as the Polytechnical Institute of Leiria and one private higher education institution, o Instituto Superior de Línguas e Administração (ISLA).

Leiria emanates a low-key buzz that is perfect for the student who wants all the excitement but none of the hassle of an urban jungle. In the city center you will find a 12th century church, a cathedral hailing from the 17th century and the historical Rodrigues Lobo square, however the cobbled streets are also come to a cozy concoction of cultural spaces, eateries and a thriving café culture. Furthermore, the invigorating Atlantic surf of some of Portugal’s favorite beaches is only a brief, scenic drive away. There is so much to fall in love with in Leiria, where all the spoils of a holiday resort coexist with quirky establishments, cultural curiosities and educational challenges.

Things to do in Leiria:

Historical sites

Leiria Castle is the focal point of the city and a must-see for newcomers. This distinguished building has experienced various architectural phases, having been shaped by the Moorish conquest, Gothic fashions and modern extensions. Leiria Cathedral is another impressive feat of design. The sumptuous interiors differ from the outwardly hardy, buttressed appearance – a curiosity which can be explained by the fact that the cathedral was almost toppled during the devastating 1755 earthquake. It is a pillar of Leiria’s resilience just as much as it is a visually splendid monument.

Art and culture

Hidden within the ramparts of the castle is the Museu da Imagem em Movimento, a museum of moving image that was founded to mark 100 years of film in Portugal. The exhibition is a must for students of various media, who can feast their eyes on vintage film-making equipment right back to the primitive zoetrope. Meanwhile, students of history, science and everything in between should visit the Museu de Leiria, where you can view 150 million-year-old fossils, bones from the Upper Paleolithic and Iron Age ceramics.  

Landmarks

The Moinho do Papel is a paper mill whose existence can be traced back to 1411. The mill would have been instrumental in popularization of print and maybe even produced the paper upon which the Almanach Perpetuum (one of Portugal’s first books) was printed – it is a remarkable vestige of literary history. Only 20 short minutes from Leiria is Fátima, the pilgrimage site where shepherd children reportedly saw Marian apparitions 100 years ago. Religious or non-religious, a trip here is a fascinating venture into Christendom’s pilgrimage tradition, and the sanctuary itself is an idyllic spot.  

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