Place: Óbidos
Photo: Francisco de Almeida Dias
Photo: Francisco de Almeida Dias

Don't miss
  • climb up to the walls
  • drink ginginha from a chocolate cup

The mediaeval town of Óbidos is one of the most picturesque and well preserved in Portugal.

Quite close to the capital and located on high ground near the Atlantic coast, Óbidos has had a strategic importance in the territory. It had already been settled prior to the Romans’ arrival in the Iberian Peninsula, and the town prospered after being chosen by the royal family. King Dinis offered it to his wife, Queen Isabel, in the 13th century, and it became part of Casa das Rainhas (Queens’ Estate), who improved and enriched it throughout the various dynasties. This is one of the main reasons for the high concentration of churches in this small place.

You will find a well preserved castle within the walls, and a maze of streets and white houses that are a delight to stroll amongst. Along with the Manueline porticoes, the colourful window boxes and the small squares, many fine examples of religious and civil architecture from the town’s golden days provide a host of reasons for making a visit.

Santa Maria Main Church, the Misericórdia Church, the Church of São Pedro, the Pillory and, beyond the walls, the Aqueduct and the round-shaped Senhor Jesus da Pedra Sanctuary, are just some of the landmarks that warrant an attentive visit. So does the Óbidos City Museum, where you will find the works of Josefa de Óbidos, an influential 17th century painter and a woman with an irreverent artistic stance for her time. Her paintings reflect her studies with the great masters of the time, such as the Spanish Zurbarán and Francisco de Herrera, and the Portuguese André Reinoso and Baltazar Gomes Figueira, her father.

Any time is good to visit Óbidos. It is an inspiring suggestion for a romantic or simply a peaceful weekend because of the love stories that have been enacted there and for its mediaeval setting; and if you include an overnight stay in the castle, then you’ll attain perfection.

The local cuisine features bouillabaisse made with fish from the Óbidos Lagoon, which will taste even better if accompanied by the wines of the region of Oeste. Another attraction is the famous Ginjinha de Óbidos (sour cherry brandy), which can be enjoyed in various places, preferably drunk from a small chocolate cup. 

Throughout the year, an events programme brings some excitement to this small town, but without a doubt the most popular are the International Chocolate Festival, the Medieval Market and Óbidos Christmas Village (Óbidos Vila Natal), where the town is decorated with motifs alluding to the season. Also worth mentioning are FOLIO - the Óbidos International Literary Festival (Festival Literário Internacional de Óbidos), SIPO - Óbidos International Piano Week (Semana Internacional de Piano de Óbidos), the LATITUDES - Literature and Travellers Festival (LATITUDES – Literatura e Viajantes) and, more recently, Óbidos Village Gaming (Óbidos Vila Gaming), which give the town a special atmosphere. It has been a UNESCO Creative City of Literature since 2015. 

Not far away, is the long stretch of sand of the El Rey Beach, where golfers can revel in a golf course with a view over the Atlantic Ocean. Beyond Caldas da Rainha, whose history is also linked to Casa das Rainhas, you will find the beach of Foz do Arelho, which links the Óbidos Lagoon to the sea. This is a wonderful spot for a seafood or fresh fish lunch or for a late afternoon by the sea watching the sunset.

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