This charming town became the home of the Queen of Portugal after Alfonso II gifted it to his wife Urraca of León in the 1200s. Many buildings and monuments were built or funded by the Queen. On a narrow ridge, the town’s winding streets are surrounded by the main walls of a medieval castle.
You can stroll along these alleys, visit museums and churches, and browse handicraft stores. Then you have to climb the city walls and observe the fertile vine valleys and cherry orchards, just as the guards did hundreds of years ago.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Óbidos:
1. Historic Obidos
Walk through Porta da Vila and you’ll see a historic townscape that may have been a movie set.
The difference here is that the houses are authentic, with blue or yellow borders on the painted walls and bougainvillea on the sides.
As you make your way up Rua Direita, you’ll be tempted to explore the alleys and stairs that call you to hidden corners of the town.
If you want to beat the crowds, get to Óbidos in the evening or later.
But if you don’t mind the hustle and bustle, you can hang out, walk into the souvenir shop, and pick a restaurant or ice cream parlour that catches your eye.
2. Obidos Castle
The castle that rules Óbidos in the north was built by the Moors as early as the 700s, who also planned the route of those forbidding walls.
The building was remodeled in the 1200s, and its interior gradually became more suitable for the succession of the queen who lived here.
Now it’s a Pousada (heritage hotel) so the only way to appreciate the interior is to book a room.
But you can enter the battlements and walk around the walls defending Obidos.
This is an experience not to be missed, especially on the west wall, where the countryside views of the town, castle and vineyards and orchards are breathtaking.
3. Santa Maria Church
The church was erected on the main square in 1148, after Kind Afonso Henriques had just recaptured Óbidos from the Moors.
Very little remains of the medieval building, which comes down to an earthquake event, literally: the first of several reconstructions following an earthquake in the 15th century gave the church its present Mannerist design.
Almost every inch of the interior wall is covered in 1600’s and 1700’s tiles, along with a fantastic renovation.
But what you must see is the Renaissance tomb of João de Noronha, located in the Church of Our Lady, by French sculptors Jean de Rouen and Nicolas Jean Made by Nicolas Chantereine.
4. Plaza Santa Maria
Set aside some time to hang out in the square in front of the church because there are some neat things there if you know where to find them.
One is the yoke, a monument to the town’s autonomy and a place where criminals are punished.
This is a piece from the 1400s with the coat of arms of Eleanor of Viseu.
A poignant detail on the coat of arms is a net that symbolizes her young son being wrapped in a fishing net after drowning in the Tagus River.
Below is a 16th-century fountain that was once fed by the town’s aqueduct.
On the north side is Telheiro, a building easily recognizable because of its six-pillared porch that served as the town’s indoor market until the 1900s.
5. Santuário do Senhor Jesus da Pedra
This hexagonal sanctuary in northern Obidos deserves a detour to the stone cross on its altar, which bears the original image of the cross.
At a glance you can see that the cross is very old, dating back to the second and third centuries.
It was in this place long before this baroque church.
Queen Eleanor of Viseu is said to have placed a cross nearby in the 1500s to indicate the route to Caldas da Rainha, the spa she founded.
It was forgotten until it was rediscovered by a farmer in 1730, gaining a new generation of faithful and leading to the completion of the church in 1737.
6. Museu Municipal de Óbidos
Where there is royalty, there is culture and art, a lot of which ends up in the town’s municipal museum.
It houses paintings by artists such as 16th, 17th and 18th century Mannerists Diogo Texeira and Belchior de Matos.
Also represented is the Spanish Baroque painter Josefa de Óbidos, a favorite of Queen Maria Francisca of Savoy in the 1600s.
The museum also houses weapons from the Peninsular War, a chronology of Obidos over the centuries, and a room displaying artifacts from the Roman city of Eurobrittium.
7. Lake Obidos
Not far west of Obidos is the eponymous lagoon, which fills a depression of about four kilometers before flowing into the sea.
Along the pine-edged road along the coast, the body of water is a beautiful sight, but for tourists, the attraction is the coast.
There are two long spit here that don’t quite meet in the middle.
To the north is the resort of Foz do Arelho, and to the south is a more secluded community of old fishing villages and newer holiday villas.
At Praia do Bom Sucesso and Praia do Mar, you can choose between the sparkling shallows of the lagoon and the vibrancy of the Atlantic Ocean on the ocean side.
There is a baroque chapel at the south gate of Óbidos.
The roots of the building go down to 1246, as a small lecture hall was built on this site.
It was placed here after the town repelled the siege of his own brother Alfonso III by the forces of Sancho II. But the chapel we see today dates back to 1727, when its altar, chancel and choir were installed. The walls are glazed and the ceilings are painted with filigree.
The works were funded by the magistrate Bernardo de Palma, based in India, whose daughter allegedly died of a heartbreak after her unrequited love for a man in Obidos.
9. Igreja Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Óbidos
Founded by Eleanor of Viseu herself at the end of the 15th century, the church is filled with artwork and precious accessories.
Above the entrance you are greeted by ceramic images of the Virgin and Child.
This was produced by a workshop in Lisbon between 1665 and 1680, while the wooden door below was carved in 1623. The single nave is decorated with blue and yellow geometric tiles painted in the 1620s, and around the forum there is a group of Mannerist carvings from the same period.
It is worth taking a moment here to study two paintings by the Baroque master Andrea Reynolds in the retable: The Virgin Visiting St. Elisabeth and Pentecost.
10. Caldas da Renia
This town goes hand in hand with Óbidos, which you can reach within five minutes by train.
Caldas da Rainha (Queen’s Spring) was born in the 1400s when Eleanor of Viseu built a church and hospital next to her hot springs.
Their spicy but therapeutic sulfite water is still frequented today.
But for day-trippers, the exquisite 19th-century park next to the spa is the first thing to see.
The naturalist painter José Malhoa has a great museum, while Caldas da Rainha has clay-rich soils that have been exploited since the Neolithic pottery.
The craft is still in rude condition, with dozens of workshops and a museum that houses the work of 19th-century potter Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro.
11. Aqueduto de Óbidos
Catherine of Austria ordered the aqueduct in the 1570s, and it transported water from a source about 6 km south of Usella.
The destination of the aqueduct is the Royal Fountain (Chafariz Real) on the Plaza de Santa Maria, which runs underground for half its length.
The town’s main water supply, the building has been in use for more than 200 years, and its high arches were restored twice in the late 1600s and a century later.
The most impressive section is at the southern entrance to Óbidos.
12. San Pedro Church
Another church of medieval origin, St. Peter’s, was consecrated at the beginning of the 14th century.
Unfortunately, the building collapsed in the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, which wreaked havoc across the country.
One of the ornaments standing in the ruins is the exquisite gilded wooden altar, which has a majestic throne flanked by angels, completed in 1705, while the tower and its spiral staircase are also from the original building.
The rest is pretty bare, save for the tall painting on the altar of St. Peter, who received the keys of heaven from Jesus.
13. Mercado Medieval de Óbidos
The Queen’s home was just the place for a medieval market and fair.
It’s an epic event that starts sometime in mid-July and runs through August.
The stalls are arranged in the upper part of the town, next to the western wall of the castle, which is very atmospheric.
In addition to freshly prepared food, you can shop for artefacts like jewelry, scarves, pottery and even novelty weapons in front of clowns, dancers and bards.
Also makes room for reenactments and contests with convincing choreographers and well-trained stuntmen.
14. Yin Jia
Óbidos is full of souvenir shops, many of which are located in Rua Direita.
If you’re going to buy something here, it’s more like something that has a real connection to the city, ginja, a sour cherry liqueur.
The drink is produced all over the Lisbon region, but has a unique method of making it in Óbidos: The cherries are picked and soaked in orchards in the town’s countryside for at least a year.
When the liqueur is extracted, it has an intense ruby hue and doesn’t require any dyes or preservatives.
Needless to say, ginja and dark chocolate are a match made in heaven, usually served in edible chocolate cups.
15. OBidos International Chocolate Festival
For about three weeks from mid-March to early April, the Chocolate Festival takes over the streets and restaurants of Óbidos.
Every year there is a different theme; in 2017 it was “music”, for example on Praça da Tablete there was a tent filled with chocolate sculptures by chocolatiers depicting Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, James Famous artists such as Brown and Madonna.
In this plaza, there will also be live entertainment, workshops, demonstrations and tastings, where chefs and confectioners from around the world will be on hand to demonstrate their skills.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Obidos, Portugal
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