The best independent guide to Obidos
The walled town of Obidos is one of the best tourist destinations of central Portugal, and makes for a fantastic day trip from Lisbon.
The small town is situated along a limestone ridge and is completely encircled by ancient town walls. Within Obidos are traditionally painted houses, a labyrinth of narrow cobbled streets, and a medieval castle, which has guarded the region for over 800 years.
Obidos also boasts an illustrious history, as it was traditionally given to the queen of Portugal on the day of her wedding, a tradition which began in 1214 and continued through to the 19th century. This royal patronage ensured that the town retained its unique and charming character, and today is one of the most picturesque towns of Portugal.
Obidos may only be a small town, but it makes for a wonderful destination to include in your holiday. This article will detail the best tourist attractions and the main historic sights of Obidos.
Related articles: Obidos Introduction – Day trip to Obidos
The Porta de Vila is the main gateway into Obidos, and the deceptively plain entrance conceals a beautiful chapel, which stands above the main thoroughfare. The blue and white Azulejo glazed tiles date from the 18th century and depict the passion of Christ, while the ceiling is lined with coloured tiles that represents the Crown of Thorns.
The Porta da Vila comprises of two small gateways; this design prevented cavalry charging the gates, while the staggered gates stopped frontal assault by battering-rams.
The town walls of Obidos extend for 1.5km around the perimeter of Obidos and at certain sections are up to 13m high. The walls originate from the Moors era (8-11th century) and were strengthened by early Portuguese rulers, but the walls which tourist explore today, date from the 18th century, being restored after the devastating 1755 earthquake.
It is possible to walk around the walls and from the Porta de Vila to the castle, and the western side provides wonderful views over the town and surrounding region. Up until the 16th century, the sea reached the base of the hill to the west of Obidos and it was an important port.
Warning: Be careful when walking the town's walls, as they are worn and pitted, and there are no hand railings.
Ginjinha d’Obidos is a deliciously sweet cherry liqueur, which is a local delicacy of the Obidos region. A glass of Ginjinha can be served with cherries which have been left to infuse within the alcohol (which is based on Aguardiente), or as a novelty can be drunk from a chocolate cup. Along the Rua Direita are numerous bars and stalls selling Ginjinha (€1 or €1.5 with chocolate cup), and a bottle of the Ginjinha makes for a great souvenir.
Insight: The older generations of Portuguese are very nostalgic of Ginjinha, as up until the 1960s it was given as a childhood remedy for colds and minor illnesses.
A shot of Ginjinha is a great energy boost while sightseeing!
The Castelo de Óbidos is a classic medieval castle, with solid stone walls, an impregnable keep and defensive battlements. A castle has stood at the top of Obidos hill since the Moors era (8-11th century) but was significantly expanded after the Moors were driven out by King Afonso Henriques in 1147.
The present castle dates from the 13th century and was constructed under the rule of King Dom Dinis. In the 1950s the castle was transformed into a luxurious hotel (called a Pousada).
The mighty Obidos castle, as seen from the inner courtyard
The Rua Direita is the main street of Obidos and is a bustling shopping street filled with handicraft stalls and tourist gift shops. The Rua Direita is the connects the Porta de Vila to the Castelo de Óbidos, and during the summer months is permanently crowded.
The Rua Direita is full of gift and handicraft shops
The Igreja de Santa Maria is a beautiful religious building and the main church of Obidos. The entrance to the church is via an ornate Renaissance styled portal, while inside are decorative Azulejo tile paintings and Gothic religious art.
The Igreja de Santa Maria is historically important as it was the location of the wedding of King Afonso V to his cousin Isabel in 1444. The unique aspect of this royal wedding, was that the bride was only eight while the groom was a little older at ten.
The location of the Igreja de Santa Maria has been an important religious site for three different religious; initial it was a temple for the Visigoths (5-6th century), then converted into a Mosque with the arrival of the Moors in the 8th century, and lastly transformed into a church in the 12th century.
Little of the original gothic church remains as it was badly damaged by an earthquake in 1535. The restoration of the church followed the Renaissance style of architecture.
Josefa de Obidos (born as Josefa de Ayala Figueira), is Obidos most famous residents, and was one of the few prominent female painters during the 17th century. She was born in Spain but lived in Obidos from the age of 4, and during her prolific painting career created over 150 pieces of art.
Her most famous piece of work, the Mystic Betrothal of Saint Catherine, can be seen in the Igreja de Santa Maria, which is to the right of the altar.
The Pelourinho de Óbidos, is a stone pillory that stands in the Praça de Santa Maria, and was used to hang criminals. The pillory was a gift to Obidos, from Queen Leonor, after the queen spent time in Obidos grieving the mysterious death of her only son in 1491. On the pillory is the emblem of Queen Leonor, fishing nets.
The Obidos Pillory
The Santuário do Senhor Jesus da Pedra lies outside of the town walls and is unique due to its hexagonal floor plan. The Jesus da Pedra church was constructed on the site of a 2nd century stone crucifix, and today this stone cross is the focal point of the altar.
The Aqueduto de Óbidos aqueduct was constructed in the 16th century to provide a constant supply of water Obidos. The project was funded by Queen Catherine, who sold her lands that surrounded Obidos to pay for the construction. The aqueduct extends for 3km to the southeast of Obidos, and there is a further 3km of tunnels to the source of the water.
The many small arches of the Aqueduto de Obidos
The Igreja São Pedro was another grand Gothic church, which was destroyed by the 1755 earthquake. The only remaining sections were the tower and the golden altar. The reconstruction followed a simplistic baroque style. Inside is the grave of Josefa de Obidos.
The Capela de São Martinho is a 14th century Gothic chapel.
The Museum Obidos is housed in the former town hall. Sculptures from the 15-17th century.The collection also contains artwork by Josefa de Obidos.
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