If you still had any doubts, know that Óbidos is one of Portugal’s little hidden treasures. This picturesque town, just 85 kilometers from the capital, has everything your heart desires: a refreshing and large lagoon, a medieval castle with imposing walls, cobbled streets reminiscent of ancient times and lovely churches to visit. The land of ginjinha and chocolate is quite small, so it is pretty easy to explore the many attractions in one day. At this great stopping point, you can spend a very enjoyable time. Here's how!
Wander through the quaint historic center
The historic center of Óbidos is dotted with winding alleys that have a fairy-tale feel. The narrow, irregular stone streets are enlivened by houses with colorful outlines and red tile roofs, tiles and flowers on the terraces and doorways. The alleys are lined with pretty churches and cozy squares where you can watch the locals go about their daily business. Strolling through the streets and climbing up and down the narrow staircases hidden in every corner feels like stepping back in time, and it can and should be one of the first things to do in Óbidos! A true paradise for photography lovers, especially when the sun starts to set, and the streets take on an even more special magical atmosphere.
Explore the enchanting castle and walk along the ancient walls
The imposing, majestic and well-preserved medieval castle that crows this enchanting town is one of the main highlights. It is easy to understand why it was classified as one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal, as it is considered one of the greatest medieval castles in the country. The fortifications were erected by the Moors in the 8th century; however, much of what we see today was built from the 12th century onwards. This stone-walled building was once a royal palace, but it was eventually converted into a hotel, which still retains, in its restored interior, features of the past. You can admire the medieval castle and its magnificent towers from the outside, and also stroll along the ancient walls, from where you will have an outstanding view of the surrounding valleys and the red-tiled roofs of the cute whitewashed little houses. Numerous events are held annually on the grounds of the castle. Enjoy the view that kings of the past once admired so much! The entire circuit is about 1.5 kilometers long, but you can also just take a short walk or just admire the view. At the highest points, the walls reach a height of 13 meters. And here is an insider tip: at sunset the view is even more impressive!
Visit the several lovely churches and squares
In Óbidos, there are several lovely and picturesque churches to admire and visit. The 12th-century Church-Library of Santiago, located close to the castle, is undoubtedly one of them. The church was rebuilt after the earthquake of 1755. It is now a bookstore, but still retains some of its original architectural elements. Here you can buy a wide variety of books - most are in Portuguese, but there are also editions in English and other languages. This bookstore is also a representative element of the important literary movement of Óbidos. Besides this church, you should also visit the Church of Santa Maria, located in the main square. It is a Renaissance style church where you can admire 17th- century tiles and wooden decorations, as well as paintings by Josefa de Obidos. It is, in fact, the main church of Óbidos! It is also worth exploring the square where the church is located. Afterwards, be sure to also visit the 13th-century Igreja de São Pedro, where Josefa de Obidos was entombed, and the Igreja de Misericórdia, which is also used today for cultural events and as an exhibition space for local art.
Stop by the beautiful lagoon
This is one of the best kept secrets of the charming town of Óbidos: its long lagoon, located in a shallow depression, rich in fauna and flora, where you can relax to the sound of nature. This pleasant lagoon with connection to the sea stretches for almost 7 square kilometers and is a mixture of fresh and salt water. This makes the lagoon an ideal place for the expansion and growth of ecosystems. The Óbidos lagoon is of enormous ecological importance! If you like hikes, this is a good place to take a walk along the coast, for example. For water sports fans, it is also certainly a good choice. Near the lagoon, which is the most extensive lagoon system on the Portuguese coast, you can also find beaches like Foz do Arelho, where you can spend the day sunbathing and relaxing.
Try the famous ginjinha
It is indeed a crime to leave Óbidos without having tasted its famous typical drink: the ginjinha, a cherry liqueur made from locally-grown sour cherries, with spices, usually served in a small chocolate cup (like a shot). Although there are several places selling this delicious drink in Lisbon as well, Óbidos is the birthplace and is renowned for the quality of the drink. Tasting this specialty must be on your list of things to do in this charming town! First, you drink the liqueur, and then you eat the chocolate cup. In the main street, you will find several cute little bars that sell this specialty. The drink is widely sold and consumed at parties and events in the town.
Stroll down the main street, Rua Direita
The cobblestone main street of Óbidos is full of attractions and decorative and architectural details that are worth exploring. The street runs from the Porta de Vila to the castle, and passes through the town's main square. Admire the typical houses, visit the small shops and buy ceramics, crafts, wines, embroideries or souvenirs to take with you, and, of course, try the famous ginjinha in one of the establishments. In addition, here you will also find good restaurants, bars and cafes, where you can enjoy local food and try the regional pastries, or simply have a drink while watching the locals go by.
Discover the Medieval Market
The famous medieval market of Óbidos is a charm, especially for those who like to experience ancient times, of kings, castles and knights. It is the most popular festival in town and lasts for a few consecutive weekends, usually between July and August. The cobblestone streets are meticulously decorated and people dress accordingly, as in the Middle Ages. Even visitors are invited to get into the spirit of the fair and dress up in typical attire. In the corners of the town, you can see stalls and fairgrounds, flags, banners, entertainers and theater and music performances. As you wander through the stalls, you will find food inspired by medieval times, drinks, handcrafted products, clothing, accessories, artwork, among many other things that will transport you to the time of princesses and princes. Locals and visitors flock to the wall's gate to eat, drink, play and have fun. In the streets, you can smell the spices and the food being cooked by the fire of the bonfires, to the sound of typical music of that time.
Buy some chocolate and enjoy the International Chocolate Festival if you can
If you have a sweet tooth, you should try and catch the International Chocolate Festival, which takes places every Spring, around April or May. At this festival, you can try chocolates of Portuguese origin, but also from different countries. You can also learn from professional chefs' cooking demonstrations and workshops, or simply enjoy the activities – related to chocolate, of course. Locals and visitors come together to taste the most varied chocolates, in all its forms. There are several exhibitors selling innovative and traditional products, and even artists creating chocolate sculptures, for example. All this is accompanied by some live entertainment, demonstrations, displays, among other activities that promise fun. There are also activities for the little ones! Delight in the smell of chocolate that lingers in the air during this interesting and unique festival.
Learn more about the village’s history and art scene in the Municipal Museum
Located near the Santa Maria Church, in the main street, the Municipal Museum is a great stopping point if you want to learn more about Óbidos and its people. There, you will find a variety of different historical pieces of art, including the life work of a local painter, Josefa de Óbidos, an important Baroque artist in Portugal. Although she was born in Spain, she lived and created her art in Portugal. In addition, there is a small exhibition of historical items, such as Roman artefacts and weapons from the war against Napoleon. A visit to this museum will also introduce you to the village's collection of religious art. If you like museums, explore the other ones in Óbidos!
Take a quick detour to Bacalhôa Buddha Eden
Since you are going to visit Óbidos, it is also an excellent idea to stop by Bacalhôa Buddha Eden, Europe’s largest oriental garden, located just 15 minutes by car from Óbidos. Here you will find the largest collection of Buddhist statues on the continent! The garden was even created in protest against the destruction of the Giant Buddhas of Bamyan. With about 35 hectares, it is undoubtedly a unique and very interesting place. You will be able to admire the trees and flowers, but most of all the giant Buddhist statues among other works of art, displayed in a true open-air museum. One of the highlights is a grand staircase leading to an enormous golden Buddha. Admire the pagodas, the terracotta statues, the works from different African countries, the KOI fish in the lovely central lake and other sculptures amidst the lush vegetation!