Located in the heart of a medieval pine plantation, Marinha Grande is a town that developed around the Portuguese Royal Glassworks in the 1700s. Since the 1700s, it has used excess resin and sand to make glassware, eventually developing in the plastics industry, which remains the largest employer. But that doesn’t tell the whole story, as the Atlantic coast also belongs to the city.
The lovely San Pedro de Mole resort attracted high society in the 19th century, while Vieira de Leiria is a more traditional fishing community, and both are worth your while. Both have sandy beaches suitable for Atlantic waves.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Marinha Grande:
1. Video Museum
Marinha Grande and glass making have gone hand in hand for hundreds of years.
The museum that documents this relationship is located in the 18th century neoclassical palace Palácio Stephens, home to Guilherme Stephens, attached to the town’s resin factory.
He was an English entrepreneur who made a lot of money during the reconstruction of Portugal after the earthquake of 1755, and in 1769 took the helm of the Royal Portuguese Glass Factory.
His efforts have made Marinha Grande a center of excellence and laid the foundation for the future of mold making.
Hundreds of years of glass-making techniques are showcased here, along with a wide variety of glassware, from simple vessels to exquisite crystal artwork.
2. Playa de San Pedro de Mole
In the borough is this breathtaking beach next to a wealthy resort community.
We will now focus on the dramatic beach: except for the small crevice where the village overflows into the shore, the beach is surrounded by mighty cliffs, while rock formations are scattered along the scouring of it.
If you prefer a wilder coastline, this is the place for you, with its rough Atlantic waves, great for surfers and surfers, but not so great for bathing.
The fine white sand beaches and mind-blowing panoramas definitely make up for it.
3. Pinhal de Leiria
From all directions of Marinha Grande, over 11,000 hectares is a forest of maritime pine.
The beauty of this woodland is that it is not strictly natural. It was planted in the 13th century to stop the sand dunes on the coast from spreading to the farmland around Leiria.
The forest was an integral part of Portugal’s great age of sailing, especially as a source of tar that allowed Portugal’s famous sailing ships to sail.
It later played an important role in the growth of Marinha Grande, providing resin and a lot of fuel for glass making.
Now it’s idyllic walkable countryside littered with traces of the past, such as tar ovens and old watchtowers.
4. St. Pedro de Moore
This small tourist enclave near the beach is worth seeing for its upscale air.
São Pedro de Moel is better for the lack of modern architecture, as most of the houses were built in the 1800s, when the wealthy flocked to it during the summer.
One of them is the pioneering writer and thinker Alfonso Lopez Vieira, whose house you can enter.
In summer, there are bars and seafood restaurants, as well as a more lively nightlife than you might guess in the calm atmosphere of the day.
5. Attractions around town
As a town with an industrial background, Marinha Grande has few majestic landmarks, but it does have a lot to tell an interesting story.
A surviving example of regional architecture is the Casa do Vidreiro on Largo Ilídio de Carvalho, a humble single-storey house with a characteristic porch.
The city archives, library and galleries all form a central ensemble with the Glass Museum and are housed in the elegant mansion.
There are also many small monuments worth seeing, such as the bust of Guilherme Stephens and the statue of Orpheus by Joaquim Correia.
You can also snap photos of the San Pedro de Mole Lighthouse, built in 1912, at 55 meters above sea level.
6. Casa-Museu Afonso Lopes Vieira
Afonso Lopes Vieira was a poet and intellectual active in the 19th and 20th centuries.
His family had a home in St. Pedro de Meur, which was later given to him as a wedding gift, and was his favorite summer home, where many great writers and thinkers of the time stayed as guests.
Shortly before his death, he donated the property to Marinha Grande on the condition that the furniture in the living room and balcony be preserved.
If you’re confused by the idea, remember this is an attraction to admire the lovely turn-of-the-century furniture and tiles, while also being a place to welcome some of the great ideas of the Portuguese era.
7. Coleção Visitável da Indústria de Moldes
The resin factory next to Palácio Stephens was recently updated with a new transparent façade.
It contains a wing of the Glass Museum, but also has a separate collection that will eventually form its own museum.
This involved mass production, as well as the mould making business which took over from glass blowing in the 1930s.
You’ll trace 80 years of technological development in the industry with the help of decades of glass and plastic products made in town, as well as photographs, archival footage, and machinery.
8. Museu Joaquim Correia
Taibner de Morais Santos Barosa owned the building and was involved in the glassmaking trade of Marinha Grande in the 1800s.
It is a classic bourgeois mansion of the era, borrowing many historic styles and featuring a prominent mansard roof.
Since 1997, exhibitions have been held here for the 20th century sculptor Joaquim Correia, one of Marinha Grande’s most famous sons.
Born into a family of glassmakers, he became an important member of the second generation of Portuguese modernism, with works found in museums and public spaces across the country.
Some of his bulky works are on display here, and a new pavilion was added in 2010 to showcase his large-scale sculptures.
9. Praia das Pedras Negras
As you head north from São Pedro de Moel, you will see why Pinhal de Leiria is planted.
After the lighthouse, the coast flattens and the beach is tracked by sand dunes for miles.
If you’re interested in geology, you might be interested in the changing environment of this beach; the south has black marl outcrops, the gypsum of which was mined in the 20th century.
These rocks are the oldest in the region, dating back 245 million years.
As for the beach, it’s a wide strip of sand in front of the rough Atlantic Ocean, backed by historic pine plantations.
10. Vieira de Leiria
The town is also within the city of Marinha Grande, 4 km from the coast on the left bank of the River Rees.
After the River Rees was navigable in the 1800s, communities grew around shipyards and glassmakers, while fishermen lived a precarious life along the coast for hundreds of years.
Stroll through the coastal enclave of Vieira de Leiria and you’ll see several traditional crescent-shaped “half-moon” boats that will be launched in the rough waves of the main beach, and the traditional houses with painted stripes are very attractive people.
The sandy beach is as charming as any in the region, bounded by the Lis River to the north and the northernmost tip of Pinhal de Leiria to the south.
11. Mali Park
While the beaches of Marinha Grande are all fascinating in different ways, none are really suitable for younger children to swim or even frolic in the shallows.
Therefore, you should also head to Vieira de Leiria to visit the water park, which is located in the town’s hotel-resort complex.
There is a set of wading pools and three water slides to choose from.
Children can also sign up for a range of activities such as kayaking, obstacle courses and ‘water polo’ where they can run around the water in a transparent sphere.
Less than a 10-minute drive away, Leiria has the atmosphere of a big city and enough sights to see you through the day without leaving your home.
It was a competitive stronghold during the Reconquista, and changed hands between Moors and Christians several times in the 12th century.
The castle, overlooking the old town from a height, is a testament to that period and was built in the 1130s to consolidate power.
The fort later became the residence of Kings Denis I, Fernando and John I, and thus became more luxurious over time.
Also be sure to take a stroll around the old town and browse the MiMo (Museum of Moving Image) to see the oldest paper mill in Portugal.
13. Outdoor Activities
You can thank the medieval king of Leiria for everything he did in the countryside around Marinha Grande.
Pinhal de Leiria is a fresh and fragrant environment for walking and cycling, with some picnic spots.
In fact, bicycles have been the main form of transportation for a century, as the town’s glassmakers used two wheels to get around.
Walkers can choose from three marked trails, one of which follows the route of the old tin mining train to San Pedro de Mer.
Surfers and surfers will be eager to test their skills in the intense local surf, and there are schools offering these activities in San Pedro de Moel and Vieira de Leiria.
14. Batalha Monastery
There is no reason not to travel when a UNESCO site and one of Portugal’s national treasures are within range.
It’s been in the making for over a century, starting in 1386 to commemorate the Portuguese victory over the Spanish at the Battle of Aljubara Rota the previous year.
This makes it a heady mix of High Gothic and early 16th century Manueline architecture.
From the unusually tall nave, to the royal cloister, to the ornate unfinished chapel, it’s dazzling and dazzling.
The tombs of John I and Lancaster’s wife Philippa are also wonderful.
Their sons, known as the “Shining Generation”, among them the explorer Henry the Navigator, are also buried here.
The earliest settlements of Marinha Grande were on the coast, and many traditional foods were based on seafood or fish.
The signature dish might be arroz de marisco, which is rice, clams, shrimp and mussels simmered in a garlic, tomato and onion soup.
Another origin from Praia da Vieira is carapus abertos, dried mackerel.
This will be opened, washed, pickled, and then dried in the sun for up to three days.
Some eat it in person, but another option is to grill fish fillets, seasoned with vinegar, pepper, and onions, and serve them with boiled potatoes.
The glassmaker in town has his own soup. Sopa da vidreiro is made with whatever is in the cupboard, with cod, eggs, potatoes, garlic and leftover cornbread.
Where to Stay: The best hotels in Marinha Grande, Portugal
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