Is Obidos worth visiting? Well, when an entire town is given as a gift, you know it must be good. And Obidos is one such place. Presented by King Dinis I as a wedding present to his new bride, Queen Dona Isabel, this small town stands today as one of the most scenic destinations in Portugal.
At just over an hour’s drive from the cultured capital, Lisbon, you can find yourself immersed in a picturesque setting, straight out of a storybook. Built within castle walls, this quaint medieval town, filled with charming market stalls, cobblestone alleyways, and a laid-back atmosphere, is a gem of the Portuguese landscape.
But with precious vacation time at stake, you want to make sure you are making an informed decision for your next destination of choice. Luckily, we are here to help. We’ve put together a handy little list of seven reasons why we believe Obidos is worth visiting and why it deserves to be up there as a contender for the next getaway.
The Castle of Obidos
First up, we couldn’t talk about Obidos without mentioning its focal point, The Castle of Obidos. This imposing structure was once occupied by the Romans, Visigoths, and the Moors, however, it was later taken by the king. It has been restored after significant damage in the 1755 earthquake.
Today, it stands as one of the seven wonders of Portugal, therefore putting Obidos on the map as a place you must visit. The castle also houses a hotel for the ultimate medieval experience. The Pousada Castelo de Obidos, situated within the castle, boasts rooms equipped with stone walls, a chandelier, and four poster beds, with each named after a king and queen, for the epitome of royal absorption. So, if you’re looking for a bit of a unique base for this vacation, it doesn’t come much better than that. And perhaps book a tower room to add even more luxury.
But whether you’re scaling the castle’s walls for panoramic views of the town or living like a king or queen in the hotel, one thing for sure is that it’s a definite must-see on the Obidos itinerary.
Browse charming shops
From the moment you enter the elegantly tiled entrance gates to the town, you know you are in for something special. As you walk through the maze of cobblestone streets, you are greeted with an array of quirky and quaint outlets of which to browse.
Rua Direita is the main street in town, and it is where you will find many souvenir shops and restaurants. However, there are many more precious finds to be had down the winding alleyways, where you can explore a range of handmade Portuguese crafts, ceramics, and fabrics, all whilst taking in the town’s chilled out ambience.
But you may want to have your camera at hand, as the exterior of each little shop is just as quaint and pretty as the interior, making you struggle to resist that photo opportunity.
A festival town
Another reason Obidos is worth visiting is its spectacular festival scene. Any trip to Obidos is bound to be memorable, but one during the festival time will prove to be extra special. One of the most famous festivities is The Medieval Festival. This four-day extravaganza, which takes place for three weekends every July is truly a sight to behold. During this period, the streets transform into a world of Ye Olde times, with locals sporting medieval costumes, market stalls selling all sorts of historic merchandise, and an abundance of games and activities throughout the days. And at night a medieval supper is laid out for all the festival-goers to come together to enjoy a hearty meal.
Another highlight on the Obidos festival calendar is one for those with a bit of a sweet tooth. The Obidos International Chocolate Festival takes place every Spring and attracts thousands of visitors. During this time, chocolate lovers are treated to culinary classes, competitions, and an array of chocolate sculptures. And for the little ones, the Kids’ Chocolate House offers a variety of activities, as well as a kitchen for crafting their own chocolate recipes. Perhaps there may be some stomach aches after this festival, but it’s definitely worth it.
Explore stunning churches
The exquisite churches are another reason why you must visit Obidos. The most striking is the Igreja de Santa Maria (Saint Mary’s Church). Sitting at the bottom of the main street, Rua Direita, this church was built on the remains of a mosque after King Alfonso I Henriques conquered the town in the 12th century.
Although the mainly white walls blend in a little with the whitewashed architecture of the surroundings, the inside is something to marvel at. Beautiful traditional azulejo tiles line the walls and spectacular oil paintings lead up to a striking altar, making it a breathtaking sight to behold.
The Capela de São Martinho is another popular stopping point in town. This 14th-century Gothic chapel stands across from St Peter’s Church and houses the tombs of clergymen. However, what makes this building so interesting is that it is the only surviving medieval structure, as all others were either fully or partially destroyed by earthquakes over the years.
It is a UNESCO City of Literature
If you’re a bookworm on your travels, Obidos is definitely worth visiting. In 2015, it was given the honor of becoming a UNESCO City of Literature, alongside the likes of Barcelona, Edinburgh, and Granada. This literary haven is brimming with a wide selection of bookshops to browse, including the impressive, Mercado Biológico de Obidos, an organic market, which is also home to books lining the walls, floor to ceiling. There are also several churches transformed into book shops.
However, if just browsing isn’t enough, the Literary Man Hotel lets you reside in literary heaven 24 hours a day. Located in a former convent, this unique hotel features shelves and shelves of books of which to immerse yourself in around every corner. It is the biggest literary hotel in the world and is home to over 65,000 books, so sure to have a few that will take your fancy.
But, as well as having a plethora of books, the town also got its UNESCO honor due to hosting many projects aimed at encouraging local writers to flourish in creative industries.
Admire flower adorned whitewashed houses
The pretty whitewashed houses are often a symbol of European towns. And in Obidos, they are truly something to marvel at. After perhaps taking a history tour and soaking in the medieval facts of the town, you may want to do your own little residential homes tour.
Make your way through the maze of backstreets and you’ll find yourself surrounded with lines of traditional whitewashed properties. However, over in these parts, vibrant strips of blue and yellow line the walls (the color of the royal coat of arms) and even more vibrantly colored flowers are dotted along windowsills and doorways, giving it an extra splash of color amongst the white landscape.
And for panoramic views of the stunning properties, you might want to head to the city walls. However, beware if taking a picture from here, as there are no handrails – just a little heads up, as no amount of pretty white houses is worth a fall.
Lastly, Obidos is definitely worth visiting for its food and drink. A name you will most likely see everywhere you turn in this little town is ginja. If you’ve been lucky enough to visit other Portuguese destinations, you may be familiar with this one already. So, just what is it? Well, it is a cherry-based liqueur, which became particularly prominent in the Lisbon, Alcobaça, Obidos and Algarve areas.
However, some say they do it best in Obidos, as it is commonly served in dark chocolate cups for a supreme blend of flavors. Whichever way you choose to drink it, one thing for certain is that you won’t struggle to get your hands on it. From the many ginja stalls selling shots to the stores offering bottles in gift boxes for the perfect souvenir, it is a prominent feature of Obidos life.
And once you’ve whetted your whistle with a little ginja aperitif, enjoy the best of Portuguese gastronomy in one of the many cozy and welcoming restaurants in town. Perhaps you might want to try Portugal’s national dish, bacalhau (dried and salted cod) in the family run establishment, Vila Infanta. Or maybe you want to dine like royalty in the castle’s hotel restaurant. Although being a pricier option, you can enjoy freshly caught produce from the coast, traditional meats, and a range of fruit and veg from the lands.
But for those that like their home comforts when it comes to eating, there are plenty of other cuisines on offer throughout the town, so you can be sure to find somewhere to take your fancy.