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Portugal is one of the countries I’ve had the privilege to live in for a while. I loved my life in the Algarve, and I’d go back there any time. This article, however, isn’t about Sagres or Pera, but about Obidos, Portugal, a beautiful town full of history and charm. The author of this article is Ann, a traveler who’s on a mission to inspire as many people as she can to travel the world. You can find Ann and read more of her stories here: TheRoad-IsLife.com
Just one hour north of Lisbon, in central Portugal, lies the charming historic town of Óbidos. Ancient fortifications surround white washed traditional buildings and a castle perches picturesquely up on the hilltop, making Óbidos look like a scene straight from a fairy tale.
Óbidos has become a very popular day trip from Lisbon for tourists and during the summer months, the narrow streets can become extremely busy with crowds of tour groups. If you choose to visit on a day trip, it is advisable to arrive as early in the morning as possible to enjoy this beautiful town before the hordes arrive.
To truly experience the magic of this wonderful village, we think Obidos Portugal deserves more than just a quick day trip. Here are 10 reasons why you’ll want to stick around for a little longer and add Óbidos to your Portugal itinerary as a multi-day stop.
1. Take a Step Back in Time
As you take your first steps through the Porta da Vila into the old town, you are immediately transported to another era. Dating back to the 15th century, Óbidos has perfectly preserved its medieval charm and character.
A sight to behold, the Porta da Vila archway is the main entrance into the walled town of Óbidos. This impressive gate is covered with beautiful blue tiles which date back to the 18th century. There is also a small Baroque chapel tucked away inside the gate whose origins can be traced back to the 13th century.
Wandering through the enchanting cobble-stone lanes, surrounded by ancient architecture, you can’t help but wonder about the history and events that unfolded in these exact streets over the centuries.
2. Relax and Unwind
Escape the bustle of Lisbon and soak up the peaceful, laid back atmosphere within the city walls of Óbidos. It is argued that the main highlights of Óbidos can be seen within one day, but why rush things?
With nowhere to be and nothing on the agenda for the day, you can take things as they come. Wander the quaint streets stopping at cute cafes and browsing the many little shops along Rua Direita (the main street). Óbidos is packed with souvenir shops selling quality handmade crafts, artwork, shoes, hand bags etc.
It’s easy to assume that these are mass produced tourist traps but that is not the case! These family-run shops are selling genuine handmade products. Óbidos could be the perfect place to stock up on souvenirs and gifts for friends and family back home.
3. Óbidos Castle
This well preserved, impressive looking castle has officially been listed as one of the 7 wonders of Portugal! Perched on a hilltop and towering over the village below, this mysterious and beautiful landmark is rich in history and to this day remains a symbol of Portuguese pride.
Its history dates back to the 700s when the Moors occupied the area and first began construction of the castle that we see today. Over the centuries, Óbidos castle saw many changes to its appearance as it passed through ownership of a number of Portuguese Kings. In 1951, the castle restorations were completed and it became open to the public.
For those looking to have a unique and memorable experience, the inside of the castle has now been turned into a luxury accommodation! In fact, the only way to see the inside is to book a room. The castle grounds are open to the public at no cost however you must be a paying hotel guest to enter the castle.
4. Stop at a Traditional Restaurant or Bar
Óbidos is packed with quaint little family-run restaurants and quirky bars serving traditional Portuguese dishes and home-made wines. This is the place to experience the true taste of Portugal. As you stroll along Rua Direita, it won’t take you long to stumble upon the huge variety of dining options.
Located just outside of the city walls, we had an excellent dining experience at A Nova Casa de Ramiro. It’s worth noting that this is the number one restaurant in Óbidos, according to TripAdvisor. Offering extremely friendly service along with delicious food and wine, it’s easy to see why it’s number one. Make sure to try their Bacalhao – a traditional Portuguese cod dish, you won’t regret it!
5. Admire the Unique Architecture
Don’t be afraid to get lost in the labyrinth of twisting, narrow alleys that extend off of Rua Direita. This is the best way to admire the beauty of those traditional white-washed buildings bordered with blue and yellow with a touch of bougainvillea creeping up the walls.
You are guaranteed to stumble upon endless beauty and photo opportunities as you wind your way through the quiet backstreets of Obidos Portugal and discover the town’s most picture perfect corners.
6. Main Square of Óbidos, Portugal
At some point during your visit to Óbidos, you will find yourself in the town’s main square where you will come across some fascinating historic landmarks.
The first thing to catch your eye is the large stone pillar located in the centre of the square. Dating back to the 15th century, it was once used to punish and hang criminals. In such a pretty square, it’s hard to imagine such gruesome events taking place! Nowadays, it makes for the perfect subject for photographs.
Below the pillar, there is a 16th century fountain which was once fed with water supplied by the town’s aqueduct.
The other point of interest that you cannot miss in the main square is the beautiful Igreja de Santa Maria (the main church of Óbidos). This lovely old church has quite an extensive history of many different religions occupying the site over the centuries.
The origin of the Igreja de Santa Maria can be traced back to the Visigothic period and was then converted to a mosque during the Moorish occupation. In the 1100s it was turned into a Christian church and in the 15th century it was renovated by order of the Queen to the building that we see today.
7. Try Ginjinha de Óbidos
There’s no better place to try Ginjinha (Ginja), the town’s signature sweet cherry liqueur. This special liqueur can also be found in Lisbon however there is a unique way of making it in Óbidos using cherries that are locally sourced.
Head into one of the many bars on Rua Direita selling a taste of Ginja for €1. Try it served in a chocolate cup for an extra €1.50 (highly recommended).
You’ll find many of the shops in town selling this popular drink in beautiful bottles which makes for a lovely souvenir or gift option.
8. Explore the City Walls
A visit to Óbidos isn’t complete without a walk around the ancient city walls. You’ll feel like you’re on top of the world as you take in a panoramic view of the village below and its surrounding countryside. The full circuit is 1.5 km but be sure to watch your step as there seems to be a lack of safety measures.
The well-worn cobblestones are uneven and to top it off there are no barriers stopping you from falling off the edge of the wall. If that doesn’t put you off, the city walls are guaranteed to be a huge highlight of your visit to Óbidos!
9. Attend the Mercado Medieval de Óbidos
Each year in July and August, Óbidos is host to an epic medieval fair and markets which are appropriately set near the castle grounds and city walls. You will find stalls selling jewellery, pottery, medieval costumes, novelty weapons, and many other fine hand-made crafts.
To add to the medieval atmosphere, hundreds of actors roam the streets dressed in full costume while playing the part of jugglers, beggars, noblemen etc. With many exciting events to attend such as jousting tournaments, dancers, and musicians, this festival is sure to transport you back in time!
10. Relax at the Beach
If you have some extra time during your visit to Óbidos, head over to the Lagoa de Óbidos (The Óbidos lagoon) which is located on the coast about 15km outside of the town. This is the perfect place to catch some sun at a beautiful white sand beach if you don’t feel like driving all the way down to the Algarve.
The Praia da Foz do Arelho is a popular spot for relaxing on the beach, swimming in the ocean and water sports like windsurfing. There are many restaurants, cafes and shops nearby making this an ideal spot to spend the day.
There is a long sandy spit dividing the ocean from the lagoon where you will have the option of swimming in either the calm, shallow waters of the lagoon or in the open ocean.
We hope this article has inspired you to add Óbidos to your Portugal bucket list. Óbidos can be easily overlooked when it comes to choosing destinations to visit in Portugal. It may only be a small town but this unique gem will give you an experience like no other and leave you with memories to last a lifetime!
If you don’t have time to read this article now, pin it for later to use when making your Portugal travel plans.