The old royal castle at Leiria peers out over a charming town that comes as something of a surprise for many visitors. Surrounded by modern suburbs and a swirling one-way system, it holds no great sights save the castle itself, but the pretty old streets and squares in the centre are worth a wander. As a student town Leiria has enough good restaurants and bars to make the evenings go with a swing. The old town spreads out around the arcaded Praça Rodrigues Lobo, lined with attractive cafés and named for the statue of the local poet (1580–1622) who became one of Portugal’s most famous early writers. In fact, Leiria’s literary connections go back even further than this – in 1480, the town had one of Portugal’s first printing presses, which was run by Jews who printed in Hebrew. An antiques and crafts fair is held in the square on the second Saturday of each month. Leiria is also handily poised for the fine beaches of the Pinhal de Leiria to the west, which spread either side of the pretty resort of São Pedro de Moel.

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