Óbidos is one of Portugal’s best-kept secrets. With its ancient castle walls and whitewashed buildings, it’s a picture-perfect village. Here are my ten reasons why you should visit Óbidos. I fell in love with Óbidos on a sunlit afternoon. It was a stop on the way to Porto so that we could do the Berlengas Islands. I didn’t want to stay here; I wanted to go to Porto or a pretty seaside town, but my husband convinced me to give Óbidos a try, and I’m so glad I did! Every laneway is more photogenic than the next, and each corner provides a journey back in time. It’s close to Lisbon, and a short drive from the motorway, so what are you waiting for?
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1 Óbidos Is One of the Prettiest Towns in Portugal
One of the top reasons why you should visit Óbidos is because it’s one of the prettiest towns in Portugal. The old town is surrounded by an ancient stone wall with a castle and watchtowers gracing each end. The houses are painted white with blue, yellow and orange lines and windows making it reminiscent of a beautiful Greek town. Flowers and gardens bloom in profusion in Spring and Summer adding to the colour and overall secret garden vibe. It is almost purely a pedestrian town and the streets are twisting and cobbled. Lose yourself amongst the tiny streets and marvel at the tiles and sweet courtyards.
2 Óbidos Is Less Well Known
Óbidos is like a secret garden that you get to experience all to yourself. Once you walk through the huge stone walls the twisting laneways are yours to explore. Even though Óbidos is only just over an hour’s drive from Lisbon it can get lost between the regal majesty of Sintra and the attractions of the beaches and Portuguese coast. We visited Óbidos during the Easter long weekend, arguably one of the busiest times you can travel. Sintra had been a jostling theme park and the motorways were busy. However, Óbidos was only mildly busy. While wandering we would find whole stretches of laneways that had no people in them.
3 Amazing History
The modern world has not impacted Óbidos as much as it has other places. Walking the stone walls, visiting the castle and discovering the grotto are portals back in time. Óbidos began as a Roman settlement then was passed to the Moors and was finally taken by the first king of Portugal in the 11th century. It’s since been a site of royal weddings and wars. Much of the Arab architecture from the Moors was lost in the great earthquake of 1755.
4 The Ancient Walls
The ancient walls of Óbidos are one of the highlights of why you should visit the village. They encircle most of the town, giving it a dream-like ancient quality. Parts of the wall are closed off due to much-needed maintenance, but there is one area that you can still walk on. There are large stairs up to a lookout area, and the views are gorgeous. At sunset, you can see the golden light gilding the tops of the buildings and watch the activity in the main village square. The other parts of the wall lack some health and safety (no railings), but if you’re smart it’s a great place to walk along and see the old town and castle.
5 Óbidos Castle
Óbidos really began when the castle was built back in the 10th century on the highest part of the hill. Different factions owned it until the 11th century when it was transferred to a Queen of Portugal. It has been a Queen’s castle ever since. There’s a huge back section to it when you walk through the gates. The castle is actually a hotel now, so to visit it you will need to stay there. The Pousada Castelo Óbidos offers different types of rooms, some that look quite modern and others that will make you feel like you’re staying in a medieval castle (which you are).
6 Óbidos Has An Ancient Aqueduct
The aqueduct of Óbidos was commissioned in the 16th century by one of the queens that the castle belonged to. It helped to encourage fertile land outside of the walled village like vineyards and orchards. It also fed the village fountains. The aqueduct still stretches for three kilometres and is now the boundary of one of the large car parks. You can walk its length, and I saw several people in the early morning using it as a jogging track.
7 The Porta da Vila
The Porta da Vila is the main entrance into Óbidos. It’s also where the beautiful grotto can be found hiding a tiny chapel tiled with Portuguese blue tiles. The chapel is up in the ancient walls and has two different types of tiles. The back wall is covered in the Azulejo tiles (the blue and white ones) and the ceiling is tiled with colourful vines and flowers. The rest of the gate is fascinating as it does a type of S-bend. This was to stop battering rams and make it harder for cavalry.
8 Great Shopping and Delicious Food
Óbidos might be small, but it’s still got a lively restaurant scene and beautiful boutiques and shops. The main shopping street is on Rua Direita and will be the busiest part of the castle village. The street is filled with boutiques selling Portuguese products like wine, port and sardines. You can also find the Ginjinha here, which is a sweet cherry liqueur and a delicacy of Óbidos. Other boutiques are full of medieval children’s toys or Portuguese pottery.
There are several restaurants inside the walls, with a lot of them gathered near Rua Direita and the main square. The Óbidos castle has a fine dining restaurant called Restaurante da Pousada do Castelo de Obidos for a fancy night out. And make sure you don’t forget the restaurants nestled just outside the village walls. The two we ate at I highly recommend and are some of the highest-rated restaurants for traditional Portuguese dining. All the service was top notch and it can be a good idea to leave a 5-10% tip if you liked it (although not mandatory).
9 Exciting Festivals
Óbidos is home to two very different, but equally exciting festivals. The first one happens at the end of April and is a chocolate festival. The whole town decks itself out with cakes and chocolate and a fair is set up in the grounds behind the castle. They have chocolate cooking classes and chocolate baking competitions. It sounds delicious and amazing.
The next festival, and my ultimate favourite, is the Óbidos Medieval Market. The town becomes filled with people in medieval costumes and they even hire actors to make it more authentic. They have a jousting ground just beneath the castle walls where they will hold tournaments and sword battles. You can book into medieval banquets, or just have a great time at the markets and drink some mead.
10 Óbidos Is Easy To Get To
Getting to Óbidos is a simple drive from Lisbon if you have a car. It will only take you about one hour and fifteen minutes. Óbidos is literally 1km from the A8 Expressway, and you can see it from the road. There’s also plenty of parking near the old aqueduct.
The next best option is the bus. It’s called the Rapida Verde and takes 60 minutes from Lisbon. It’s got wifi, airconditioning, and comfortable seats. Time table here.
There’s a train but it takes 2 hours so I’d avoid it. Óbidos has a great website with information in English for how to get there. It’s also got more information on the little town and its events.