editor’s note: Óbidos is one of the coolest spots to visit on a day trip around Lisbon. No doubt there. The walled town and medieval castle is 80km but seems to be 1000 years away. Today’s guest post explores the best things to do in Óbidos, what to see, what’s off the beaten track and more!
Óbidos is one of the most unique places in Portugal and it’s just 80 km form Lisbon. It’s origins are as old as the Paleolithic, but its name most likely comes from the latin word Oppidum, meaning fortified city. You can visit the original settlement of Eburobrittium that lies next to the highway, but the highlight of this region is the medieval city of Óbidos itself. Conquered by the portuguese during the Reconquista, it was successively given to every Queen as part of her dowry. This made the city a summer home for the Portuguese Kings. Every Queen wanted to leave her mark, which played a crucial role in the development of all the churches that can now be found inside the walls. Visited by more than one million tourists every year, Óbidos is a must-see for anyone coming to the Oeste region.
Starting from Lisbon the best way to get to Óbidos is by bus, which you can catch at Campo Grande station. It will take you less than an hour to get there and it runs everyday, several times a day.
The city is located on top of a hill overlooking the Lagoa de Óbidos and the ocean at Foz do Arelho. Walking atop the fortified wall is a great way to explore the city as you’ll have plenty of stairs to climb down and look for the most hidden places. You can do a complete lap of the city just by walking on this 1.5km wall. The main street is called Rua Direita and there you’ll find a lot of tourist oriented restaurants and shops, where you can buy medieval-style memorabilia, original Portuguese tiles and, above all, the city’s traditional drink Ginjinha.
In the middle of Rua Direita there’s a square to the right where you can visit the most well known of the city’s churches, Igreja de Santa Maria. It’s one of the eleven churches inside the city walls and it’s the most visited one. Continuing up Rua Direita you’ll see another church, but this one is very different from any other you may have seen. Rebuilt through the efforts of the Mayor’s office, the Igreja de Santiago is now home to one of the nine bookshops belonging to the project Óbidos Literary Village. Led by madman book entrepreneur José Pinho, from Lisbon’s Ler Devagar, this project has occupied several spaces inside the walls and turned them into thematic bookshops. The one in Igreja de Santiago is probably the most impressive as it occupies the entire church with its round shelves and beautiful décor. In Rua Direita there are several other bookshops, but you shouldn’t miss the Livraria do Mercado, dedicated to second-hand books, many of them in English.
Óbidos is known for always having some kind of event going on. In December there’s a Christmas market, in February you can come and see the sculptures at the Chocolate Fair and in July you have the main event of the year, the Medieval Fair, running for the entire month.
Most tourists stick to the main roads and if you abandon these most travelled streets you’ll find the Óbidos ‘off the beaten path’. There are some cool spots like the Miradouro Café on the west part of the city, next to the walls, or the Arco da Cadeia wine bar, just behind Santa Maria’s church. If you come during the Medieval Market don’t forget to come with your best medieval clothes as it will reduce the cost of the entrance and guarantee you’ll have a fun time.
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