“Portugal has a peaceful feel about it. I sit on the terrace overlooking the vineyard there and I feel cut off from the world. You need that sort of thing.”Cliff Richard
One of the most well-preserved medieval walled towns in all of Europe is the remarkable town of Obidos. The enchanting village is one of Portugal’s top destinations. Why buy a postcard when you can visit this postcard-picture-perfect town and make one of your own from the many gorgeous photos you will take?
First impressions that blow you away are always something to cherish. Obidos was our first stop in Portugal after our flight to Lisbon. The drive was just over an hour on wide well-marked modern highways. Upon arrival, it was love at first sight.
We were awestruck by this little gem of Obidos. It is full of charm, rich history, friendly locals and beautiful sights. Join us as we take you on a journey through this picturesque wonder.
One of the Seven Wonders of Portugal
Obidos is a lovely town of narrow cobbled stone streets, whitewashed houses with vibrant bougainvillea draping gothic doorways. Above it all an imposing stone castle. A 39-foot wall that remains intact to this day surrounds the town. The entire town is a National Monument and a UNESCO City of Literature. It is one penned of the seven wonders of Portugal.
The town was founded originally as a Roman settlement and outpost dating back to Portugal’s Roman occupation. Obidos was abandoned around the 5th century after Roman’s fall. In 713, the Moors took over the area and fortified the town. In 1148 it fell to the first King of Portugal, Afonso Henriques. The Moorish influence remains to this day.
A Town for a Wedding Present
People refer to this town as the Wedding town present. In 1228 King Dinis showed his soon-to-be bride Obidos, and she fell instantly in love; we can see why. King Dinis then gave the town as his wedding gift to his new Queen. This tradition continued with later Kinds until the 19th century. The King, shortly after gifting to his new Queen he remodeled the castle and the walls. The Queens managed the town over the centuries and took on many construction projects. These included the impressive Aqueduct at the town entry built in the 16th century. An earthquake in 1755 did cause significant damage to the castle and the building.
When approaching Obidos, the massive Aqueduct greets you. Built by Queen Catherine of Austria in the 14th century, it is 2 miles long and was created to bring water to the castle from the nearby mountains. It remains incredibly intact and oddly where we parked our car while visiting the town. Yes, this almost 600-year-old structure now sits on the city-paid dirt lot.
Royal patronage over the centuries helped Obidos retain its charming and unique personality. Considering its popularity, we expected it to be touristy, but it has maintained authenticity and warmth.
The Obidos Castle is perched high about the town watching over its kind and loyal citizens. The castle is a mix of Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque architecture. It is a stone structure in a trapezoidal design and has withstood many battles throughout its years, including Napolean Bonapart.
After being abandoned for many years, restoration began in 1948 and returned it to its original glory. It is now a luxury hotel that likely would have pleased many of the previous royal owners.
The castle, located high on a hill, is surrounded by a fortified 39-foot high battlement that is over a mile long and fully encircles the entire town. These walls are magnificent in their size and power. They are incredibly intact. It is easy to imagine what a foreboding sight it was to oncoming aggressors. Visitors can climb atop the wall and walk the full length around the town. The views are breathtaking.
Visiting the Medieval Town
Park in one of the two lower gravel lots; we parked in the south lot where you can get a great view of the Aqueduct that spans a few kilometers and stops before the town’s main gate. From there make your way along the Aqueduct, then cross the street to the welcome center with bathrooms and shops. Check in with the helpful staff for suggestions on how to layout your visit.
We suggest starting by taking the time to go to the Museum Paroquial de Óbidos before entering the town. It will give some good perspective about what you are about to see and learn some of its stories. The history of this amazing town spans over 1000 years.
Check out our list of top to-do’s in Obidos, click here.
Entering the Porta de Vila
After a quick stop at the museum, you will reach the city gate, Porta de Vila. Although it doesn’t seem that impressive since it is not massive or ornate, we assure you this town saves its essence after crossing the threshold. Watch out for the occasional horse-drawn carriage. Yes, horse-drawn carriages are there to add to the mystique.
To the right, after you enter the gate, is the Porta da Vila, a gorgeous archway and balcony covered in those classic blue and white Portuguese-painted tiles. We were taken back at first by how striking the tiles were. We came to see many of these tiles over the next two weeks; this speaks authentic Portugal.
Once past the gate, stick to the left as the road splits to an upper and a lower route. This street is Rua Direita, which is the main drag of the town. This street will take you straight to the north end of the city where the castle is located.
Every building is brightly painted white with blue or gold painted trim. Move along this cobble-stone street and admire all the colorful flowers bursting out of small alley gardens, planters, and balconies. Bright banner flags are strung up across the houses to bring more flair to the town. This town is full of treats for all your senses.
There are many handicraft shops, cafes, restaurants, and bars along this bustling street. Obidos is a great place to wander aimlessly in because of the peaceful beauty of the town. We also found the locals warm and friendly.
Local Pastries and the famous Ginga de Obidos
There are well-known local specialties and culinary treats we sure wish we knew more about before our arrival. With a lot of walking ahead, may we suggest a 1.50 euro expresso to pep yourself up? There were multiple barista locations to choose from. How about grabbing a Pasteis de Nata to enjoy along with that espresso? Pasteis de Nata is a delectable Portuguese custard tart, and Portugal is famous for them. The locals love their pastries, and there are many other confections to discover as you stroll down the main Rua Direta.
Now that you have some food in you, we recommend trying the Ginga de Obidos liqueur, a local delicacy.
Ginja of Obidos is the home of this famous liquor. It is a Portuguese sweet cherry liqueur that is absolutely delicious. You will come across many places that offer a shot served in a delicate chocolate cup. We don’t know what we enjoyed more, the alcohol or eating the cup after. To our shock the cost; only 1 euro. We may have enjoyed a few during our stroll. Bottles of Ginja are for sale in various sizes and are very reasonable. You will find Ginja of Obidos often during your travels.
Onward toward the Castle
Continuing down the main street, two-thirds of the way down, the area opens up to the right. You will find the small Santa Maria square with a 15th-century fountain. The best feature in this square is the lovely Church of Santa Maria sits. A historical church built in the 16th century has an entrance with Renaissance Pillars, and the church consists of three rooms delineated by several columns. The interior is ornate with beautiful Azulejo tile paintings and astonishing frescoes of Gothic religious art. The Azulejo tile, usually blue, you will come to love and expect everywhere in Portugal.
Take the time to visit the Museum Municipal de Óbidos, located on one side of the square, to see more beautiful artwork and antiquities. There is also a collection of archaeological treasures from the Middle ages.
The square here is a lovely place to give your feet a rest, unwind and take in the idyllic setting. Let your imagination take you back to what it was all those years ago.
The Royal Castle
Rua Direta has now led you to the main square and the magnificent castle area. Livraria de Santiago will be right in front of you and is something to check out. It is a beautiful old church that is now a bookstore. Make your way around to the right, and this path will take you up some winding steps and a few terraces. These terraces provide excellent views of the beautiful expansive valleys below.
As you continue up, it leads you to the front of Obidos castle, which is now a beautiful luxury hotel. There are some small courtyards you can explore. Though you can’t visit without being a guest, there is a way in. There is a restaurant at the hotel, Pousada de Obidos, which has a menu of regional delicacies and a fantastic Portuguese wine collection. Have a delicious meal and get a peek at the castle interior.
The north end of town has a special section all its own. This area is Old Arms Square. It consists of the castle, yes, but here is where so much more happens throughout the year. This is where the many festivals take palace. The Old Arms square castle area has places for animals, games, and an outdoor stage/pavilion.
In the summer, there is a weeks-long Obidos Medieval Market festival that transports you back in time. The festival occurs in July and August. It occurs over three four-day weekends. It recreates the Middle Ages in this medieval wonder of Obidos. There are knights, noblemen, minstrels, jugglers, dancers, fortune tellers, and beggars. There are frequent theatre performances and concerts throughout the festival. Stands throughout the grounds offer a huge collection of incredible food, Portuguese artisans, live animals, displays of medieval weapons and tools. There are even a few nights with a traditional medieval supper. Many come in costume, and if you chose to do so can be rented locally.
Obidos has a famous annual Chocolate festival that takes place in March and April. It is usually only open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The festival is known to be a paradise for chocolate lovers and a joy for the senses. It is full of lavish pastries, chocolate sculptures, and more confectionaries than you can imagine. It draws masters in the field for the competitions. Of course, you will find extensive entertainment, including a fashion show, with chocolate costumes.
Beer, Literary, and Christmas festivals occur throughout the year. If you can, plan your trip around catching one of these. You won’t be disappointed; it will be the icing on the cake that is the treat they call Obidos.
The Fortified Walls of Obidos
These immense walls are striking in their entirety. There are locations to walk along the top of the fortified walls. It is well worth the hike up to appreciate the magnificence of this fortified wall that stretches over a mile. It remains in impeccable condition. Your reward, stunning views.
Be warned, there are no handrails, and most areas are 40 feet above the ground. We do not recommend it for people that do not like heights or for young children.
Wandering outside of the walled town
Now that you have seen most of the significant sights, walk to the trails outside the city walls. These paths will give a different perspective on the city. Enjoy the lush vegetation along the western border. Make your way back inside and start walking the rest of the streets. This town is a relatively small place and won’t take that long. It is quiet and relaxing.
After visiting the whole town, it’s time to settle in for some authentic Portuguese food in one of the many small and charming restaurants.
Petrarum Domus Restaurante is the one we chose. It looked upper scale with a bit higher prices than we found during much of our Portugal travels but still reasonable. The food was delicious.
We arrived at Obidos, tired and weary from our flight; we imagined only a quick stop but ended up staying hours. Needless to say, it was perfect and set the tone for a fantastic and memorable trip.
We made a stop here because it logistically fit in on our path, not expecting to be blown away. We wished we could have given it more time and researched it a bit more before arriving.
It was the best introduction to Portugal we could imagine. The warmth and grace of the Portuguese people made the day even more exceptional. It was the beginning of many beautiful experiences with the lovely citizens of Portugal and their stunning country.
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Things to do in Obidos
- Obidos Castle Is one of Portugal’s well-preserved medieval castles that served as a royal palace. It is now a luxurious hotel. Walk the battlements and ramparts that offer views of the surrounding valley and over the village’s lovely bright homes.
- Church de Santa Maria Is in the main square of Obidos. The beautiful renaissance church has artwork and tile paintings throughout the structure. This church is historically significant as this is where King Afonso V married his cousin eight years old Isabel in 1444. Now before you are too outraged, he was ten years old at the time.
- Library de Santiago Church A church that is not a book store retains some of its original architectural characters.
- Church da Misericordia Is a church from 1498 and is used to exhibit local art.
- Ginja de Obidos You can’t miss out on this delicious cherry liquor, a local delicacy served in chocolate cups. It is made from sour cherries but is smooth and sweet. An absolute must!
- Rue Direita The main drag is filled with local handicrafts and souvenirs. The building along the street have fascinating architectural and decorative details.
- Municipal Museum Has several art pieces of famous female artist Josefa D’Obidos.
- Town Walls These imposing battlements surround the town at 39 feet high and remain intact. Find the staircase near the Porta da Vila, where you can climb up on the walls and walk all the way around.
- Church de Sao Pedro Is a 13th-century church where one of the world’s greatest female artists, Josefa D’Óbidos, was entombed.
- Stay the night in Obidos Castle Though we did not do so, we have friends who have, and they loved it. It is magical to wander the streets at night once all the day visitors have left. Click HERE to learn more about the luxury hotel.