Perched 70m (230ft) high over the surrounding landscape, the medieval town of Óbidos, once a wedding present to a Queen, is one of the best-preserved walled settlements of Portugal, if not the most delightfully picturesque. Surrounded by its ramparts 13m (45ft) tall, the old town is a labyrinth of narrow cobbled streets laid out in a defensive angular formation. The visitor is treated to interesting corners and alleys to explore where noble Renaissance and Baroque houses loom overhead, often covered in flowers (geraniums and bougainvillaea), Gothic doorways, whitewashed churches and impressive azulejo tiles.
Óbidos is a massive draw for tourists and artists alike. It is a true treasure trove of antique shops, arts and crafts (notably woven carpets) and tantalising art galleries.
Its renowned beauty has earned the whole town the status of a National Monument. Tight building regulations and the towns popularity can cause difficulty booking accommodation here at short notice, especially during high season; therefore, it is advisable to book early.
The earliest known settlements in the area are attributed to Iron Age Celtic tribes. Later the area became a centre for trade for the Phoenicians. Roman occupation has been confirmed by archaeological finds. It is believed Óbidos is the mysterious settlement of Eburobrittium as described by Pliny the Elder. Digs have unearthed remains of a forum, baths and other Roman structures in the area. The Roman settlement was centred at the foot of the hill and later abandoned in favour of more defensible higher ground in the 5th century, during the Visigoth period. A tactic the Arabs emulated after their invasion in 713, although details of this period remain hazy.
The troops of Alphonso Henriques arrived in 1148. It is believed his captain, Gonçalo Mendes da Maia, was responsible for the successful storming of the Moorish castle. The retaking of Óbidos followed taking Santarém, Lisbon and Torres Vedras, thus completing the conquest of the Estremadura region.
King Dinis gave the town to his wife Queen Isabel on their wedding day in 1282 and started a tradition where the Óbidos was part of the Queen's patrimony. Óbidos was referred to as "the town of the Queens" until 1834. Many of the royal consorts visited or stayed in Óbidos and regularly contributed funds to the settlement. Queen Catherine commissioned the towns aqueduct and a fountain system during her stay.
The 1755 earthquake caused extensive damage to the towns walls, churches and many of the oldest buildings. The result is the loss of much of the Arabesque and Medieval nature of the Óbidos.
Porta da Vila is the main entrance into the town walls consisting of a double-gated system. In-between the two portals is an ornately painted ceiling recently restored. This representation of Christ's crown of thorns is as vibrant as ever. Here also is the inscription "The Virgin, Our Lady; conceived without original sin" (A Virgem Nossa Senhora foi concebida sem pecado original). The Virgin Mary is the patron of the town. Her chapel Nossa Senhora da Piedade is found within the gates with a balcony covered with 18th-century azulejo tiles representing the Passion of Christ.
These gates lead into the Rua Direita, the town's main street. Before 1380 access to the town was gained through the Southern Gate of Nossa Senhora da Graça. If you arrive by coach, chances are the Porta da Villa will be the first thing you'll encounter in Óbidos.
Rua Josefa de Óbidos 2, 2510-001 Óbidos, Portugal | 38º 31' 21.3" N | 08º 59' 01.2" W
Once through the Porta da Vila, the town's main artery awaits. Although it is no wider than two abreast, the Rua Direita has been the main thoroughfare through ancient Óbidos since the 14th century. The route has meandered over the centuries. Original gothic portals have been discovered inside some of the buildings that line the street. It's along this street you'll find the majority of Óbidos's most interesting shops, restaurants as well as being the route to the castle.
Follow the Rua Direita past the town hall to the main square Praça de Santa Maria that contains the towns 15th-century granite Pelourinho (pillory. Emblazoned on the pillory is the coat of arms of Queen Leonor of Lencastre, a fisherman's net in honour of her son. On the reverse side can be found the royal heraldic stamp.
Also found on the Praça de Santa Maria is the parish church of the same name, built on a plot that has been consecrated since antiquity. It's believed the first church was built here during the Visigoth era before becoming a mosque during the Moorish occupation. After the reconquest of Óbidos in 1148, it changed denomination yet again. The church we see here today mostly dates back to the 16th century. Queen Leonor orchestrated the rebuilding of the Gothic church. During this re-construction, the church's bell tower was added.
Stepping through the mannerist portal, you will discover an interior entirely faced with azulejo tiles dating from around 1680-1690. Its three naves are topped by a painted wooden ceiling that dates from 1676. Behind the altar, one can find the retable painted by João da Costa dating from around 1620-1622. The church also contains the tomb of João de Noronha and his wife Isabel de Sousa, the castle governor who died in 1575, Portugal's first piece of Renaissance art and now a national monument.
Wherever you go in Óbidos, you can't help notice this local cherry liquor. It is sold in almost all souvenir shops, cafés and bars. It is popular throughout Portugal, yet, Óbidos is its "spiritual" home and well worth a try when visiting. Ancient immigrants arriving in the area to work in the gypsum mines brought the tradition of ending a meal with a liqueur and soon took advantage of the local sour cherry. Today the liquor has developed into a fine delicacy. It has a fruity aroma and a complex sweet flavour. It has gained an EU geographical indication. In more recent times, the tradition of serving Ginja in dark chocolate cups has developed. This perfect pairing is reflected in the town's cakes and confectionery.
For a more in-depth and immersive experience of Ginja production, why not visit a famous family ran and reputable producer - Ginja Mariquinhas. Learn about where the fruit is grown, maceration techniques, bottling and labelling before enjoying a tasting session and the opportunity to buy from the shop. By appointment only:
Zona Industrial Talhos Novos, Rua Sol Nascente, Fração A e B, Lote 6, Ponte Seca, 2510 - 701 Gaeiras, Óbidos, Portugal. N 39º 22' 13.1" | W 09º 06' 15.3"
+351 262 601 544 | firstname.lastname@example.org | Website
The Usseira Aqueduct, also referred to as the Óbidos Aqueduct was built in the 16th century at the behest of Queen Catarina in exchange for the "Várzea da Rainha" (fertile land outside the castle walls). Impossible to miss south of the walls the aqueduct originates in Usseira and carries water almost four miles. The first two miles it flows underground before ascending to traverse a great number of tall arches crossing vineyards and orchards supplying the town's fountains, such as the fountain in the Praça de Santa Maria.
A mile or so northeast of Óbidos lies the 18th-century church Santuario do Senhor Jesus da Pedra church. It is baroque in style and has an unusual hexagonal floorplan. It was designed by Captain Rodrigo Franco (of the Mitra Patriarchal). The church was commissioned by King Joao V in memory of the accident from which he survived, by evoking Our Lord Jesus of the Stone. Construction took place between 1740 and 1747
The Paleo-Christian cross on its altar dates back to the second or third century. It was taken from a chapel that had stood close by. Inside there are three chapels; the chancel dedicated to the Calvary with a painting by André Gonçalves; the side chapels dedicated to Our Lady of Conception; and the Death of St. Joseph, with pictures by José da Costa Negreiros.
Largo do Santuário, 2510 Óbidos, Portugal.
39° 21' 23.00" N |09° 09' 24.00" W
The largest lagoon system in Portugal of roughly three square miles, yet with an average depth of only two metres. In olden times the waters of the lagoon lapped up against the walls of Óbidos. After centuries of silting, the lagoon has retreated three miles west. Today the integrity of the lagoon is maintained by dredging and is utilised for water activities and sustaining a local fishing economy.
The beach at Foz do Arelho belongs to the village and sits where the lagoon meets the sea. It has glorious golden sands and calm waters ideal for sunbathers, surfers, ankle dippers and families alike. The few cafés and restaurants that line the seafront are enough to service the needs of the moderate crowds who congregate here.
Formally known as Estremadura, the Lisboa wine region runs the height of western Portugal from Lisbon in the south to Leiria in the north. The Vinho Regional Lisboa incorporates nine demarcated regional wine styles, including the Óbidos DOC. The red wine is soft, open and slightly scented, whereas the white is fresh with fruity aromatic flavours. Cool and damp terroir is ideal for producing sparkling wines that can be found here in abundance. Labels such as:
Quinta do Gradli
(visits Monday - Saturday: 11h30 - 15h30)
Quinta do Sanguinhal
(visits weekdays: 10h30 - 15h00)
and Quinta das Cerejeiras are well worth seeking out.
Since 1951 the Pousada de Óbidos is installed in the Medieval Castle of Óbido. The adaptation of the Castle into Pousada by architect John Philip Vaz Martins opened up a new concept of utilisation and the recovery of Portuguese Historical Buildings.
Paço Real 2510 - 999, Óbidos, Portugal.
N 39º 21' 47.31" | W 09º 09' 25.34" | +351 210 114 433 | email@example.com
Hand in hand with the village's tradition, a hotel was conceived where the rooms are named after the Kings related to the region's history. Each room is decorated and furnished individually, alluding to diverse ages of the region's history. The Hotel has 18 rooms (eight twins and ten doubles), grouped into three categories providing three different classes of lodging: Standard, Superior and Suite (with bedroom and sitting room equipped with sofa bed – two-child allowance). Each room is equipped with air-conditioned, cable TV, telephone, en-suite bathroom, coffee and mini-bar (by request).
Rua D. João de Ornelas 2510-074, Óbidos, Portugal.
N 39º 21' 37.5" | W 09º 09' 29.5" | +351 262 955 090 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Ideally located just off the main street of Rua da Direita, close to the Porta da Vila entrance of the town, the Casal da Eira Branca is a welcoming and friendly guest house. Guests are welcomed with a glass of Ginja during check-in and an introduction to the town. Great effort has been made to create a homely and comfortable environment with tastefully decorated rooms within the traditional walls of the house. A dining area is available for those guests who wish to self-cater. Breakfast is offered as an extra.
Rua do Facho 45, 2510-001 Óbidos, Portugal.
39º 21" 53.7' N | 09º 09" 34.2' W | +351 936 455 837 | email@example.com
A short walk from the historic centre this friendly restaurant offers a wide choice of food and a good selection of quality wine. The food served is local cuisine and the cliental are a mix of locals and tourists.
Largo do Santuario, Caxinas, Senhor da Pedra, Obidos 2510-072, Portugal.
39º 21' 53.6" N | 09º 08' 59.5" W | +351 262 959 839
firstname.lastname@example.org | Facebook
Close to the town walls its welcoming ambiance displays a medieval décor, fine music and capacity for 50 people. The name took its inspiration from the novel "A Ilustre casa de Ramires" (published in English as The Noble House of Ramires), by Eça de Queiroz, one of Portugal's most celebrated writers. Friendly service and certain meals are cooked on a grill right before your eyes.
Daily: 10h00 - 23h00, Thursday: CLOSED
Rua Porta do Vale, 2510-084 Óbidos, Portugal.
39º 21' 40.49" N | 09º 09' 21.02" W | +351 262 959 194
Found within the old town walls this small yet unpretentious and authentic restaurant serves traditional Portuguese cuisine of the highest level but at reasonable prices. A friendly and family like atmosphere, food is cooked fresh and well prepared. An extensive wine list.
Rua Direita 60, 2510-001 Óbidos, Portugal.
39º 21' 48" N | 09º 09' 26.8" W | +351 262 959 220
|50 miles (80km) North of Lisbon Portela Airport
GET A GREAT DEAL ON YOUR FLIGHT HERE:
|50 miles (80km) north of Lisbon along the A8 direct to Óbidos. From Santarém take the A15 east, and from Porto take the A1 south to Leiria, then the A8 directly to Óbidos.
Latitude - 39º 21' 39" | Longitude - 09º 09' 26"
GET A GREAT DEAL ON YOUR CAR HIRE HERE:
Regional train services (comboios regionais) to Óbidos train station from Lisbon, Coimbra, Leira and Figueira da Foz:
• Rodoviária do Tejo: Óbidos to/from Lisbon Website