Óbidos

Written By Goncalo Costa

From the Latin term “Oppidum”, the name of the main settlement in any Ancient Roman administrative area, we got the name of this Portuguese town. Óbidos is situated in the Center region of Portugal, in the district of Leiria. It’s around 88 km from Lisbon and 138km from Coimbra.

It has a small population of about 2.200 inhabitants, but nearly 11.800 if we count the whole municipality. The town is known for its wonderful castle and walled city that immerse you in a medieval environment, making you feel like you are back in the 1600s.

Its history is a very rich one as well. The place was inhabited by the Lusitanians until the Romans arrived. There, they built what would one day become the Castle, but just as an outpost for the Roman Legions.

The Visigoths took over after it but it was when the Muslims came, in the 8th Century, that the outpost was turned into a city. A wall was built all around the settlement and they fortified the Roman outpost, turning it into a Castle.

This ended in 1148, when Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal, conquered it and integrated the town into its Kingdom. From then on, the town was part of the dowry for various Portuguese Queens, such as Queen Catherine, who would then build the town’s Aqueduct.

Today, it’s one of the most distinctive towns in the Center of Portugal. Throughout the walled city, you can find narrow cobbled streets, with traditional houses all around, some being living houses and others being restaurants or businesses. Its amazing level of preservation is remarkable and makes it a wonderful example of a traditional Portuguese town.

Outside of the walls, you can see the Aqueduct, and if you want to explore the nearby area, you can find the fishing village of Peniche and Nazaré, where the highest waves in the world exist, the amazing beaches of Lagoa de Óbidos, and you can see the largest collection of Buddha statues in Europe, at Buddha Eden Garden, in Bombarral.

As for Óbidos proper, you can expect a small town, pretty calm throughout the year, except during the period when the Christmas Village is on and during the summer, where people from all over the country fill the walled town.

If you like to roam around old cities and see for yourself the history of a whole settlement, and with it the country, Óbidos will be a great trip for you!

Famous Landmarks in Óbidos

Óbidos Castle

Considered Number 2 on the 7 Architectural Wonders of Portugal, the Castle is placed on a cliff, and inside the city is at the end of Rua Direita.

As said before, the medieval castle was conquered by the Portuguese to the Moors, being a reconstructed Roman outpost. It suffered various repairing and fortification efforts, mixing Romanic, Gothic, Manueline, and Baroque architecture, as well as some Moorish characteristics.

Today, it’s completely restored and is one of the most beautiful castles open to the public, functioning today as a hotel. If you want to get the best view of the whole Castle, you can go to the Medieval Market, at the back of the Castle.

The City Walls

The Walls that surround the town are one of its main attractions! Its perimeter is 1.565 meters (around 5134 ft), totally surrounded by a walking path on one side and a battlement on the other. They were defended by some towers that you can see throughout the town.

You can walk through the walls, but be careful because they have no handrail and there have been episodes where people fell off. The access is from 3 stairs, 2 next to the village and a third one right near Porta da Vila (the Village Door).

“Porta da Vila” (Village Door)

The Village Door, or “Porta da Vila”, is the main entrance to the interior of the walled city.

It was built in 1380 and it’s all adorned with the beautiful Portuguese “azulejos”, with an engraving dedicated to the Virgin Mary, due to her protection during the Restoration of Independence, in 1640. Inside the Door, you can find a little chapel to Our Lady of Mercy, the town’s patroness.

It has a medieval military architecture, noted by its double door and the fact that is elbow-shaped, to provide a better defense of the town.

“Rua Direita” (Right Street)

This is the main road in the city, connecting the Village Door to the Castle, on opposite sides of it. Most of the buildings on it are souvenir stores, restaurants, and town attractions.

All of it is a cobbled street, you can see in it beautiful flowers on many windows, exposed handicrafts by local builders, and many small streets connecting to it that will just call for you to take a peek.

Aqueduct

Standing outside the Walled City, you can see the Óbidos’ Aqueduct from the highest tower in the wall. Built in 1573 by Queen Catherine, who paid for its entire construction, it’s around 3km long (around 1.86 miles) and it used to deliver water to 2 fountains in the town. Today, it’s a Public Interest Monument and a very beautiful sight to see from the walls.

Book Tours & Activities in Obidos

What to do in Óbidos

You can just roam around the city, see the incredible churches, libraries, and handicrafts all spent around the town. You will be able to see it all pretty quickly and you will not be disappointed!

But if you are looking for some activities to do, here they are:

Óbidos’ “Ginjinha”

One of the most famous Portuguese liquors, the Óbidos’ Ginjinha is world renown and makes everyone fall in love with it.

Usually served in a chocolate cup, this type of drink has been present in Portugal for centuries, with the oldest record of it being in the 1st century.

In the West of Portugal, where Óbidos is, the climate is particularly good for wild Morello cherries, making the appearance of this drink here, natural. But it was only in the 17th century that the priests of Óbidos started to use these fruits to make the drink we all know and love today.

It’s made out of Morello cherries, sugar, and Aguardente, a very strong liquor with 29% to 60% alcohol level, the “Ginjinha” has a strong flavor and scent, with a dark red color. It can be served with just the liquor or with fruits in it, sometimes even with vanilla or a cinnamon stick.

Today, it is presented in every café and restaurant in the town, with many stores even built specifically to sell it! Besides this, if you visit the house of a person from Óbidos, it is very likely that you will be presented with a small cup of this typical liquor.

Medieval Market

Standing on the backside of the Castle, the Medieval Market is accessible through the Stone Portal. It’s usually free, except during the Christmas Village, Medieval Fair, and the Chocolate Festival, so you can get a beautiful view of the Castle without paying anything!

Christmas Village

From 30 November until 2 January (more or less), you can visit the beautiful Christmas Village! The whole Medieval Market is decorated like Santa’s Workshop and you can ride an amazing Christmas Train or have a hot chocolate at the Ice Bar, a bar made entirely of ice.

It’s an amazing place to take the kids and even for adults, taking you back to your childhood and feeling that warm fuzzy feeling of Christmas! The entrance costs around 7€.

Medieval Fair

The Medieval Fair happens in July and August when this part of the town all dresses up as it once was in the 1600s. You will find traditional food and drinks, medieval music, Knight Fights and you can even participate in a Bow and Arrow Competition!

For the price of 7€ to enter, it will truly be a well-spent day that you will not regret!

Chocolate Festival

The iconic festival happens around April and May, costing just 5€ to enter.

There you can find all kinds of chocolate, both in taste and in shape. Amazing sculptures do artwork all made out of chocolate, while incredible cooks reinvent drinks and food to include the blessing from the skies that is chocolate.

Exhibitors from all over Portugal and the world come to present their products at this festival, so you are assured to have plenty of options and quality.

If you are a chocaholic, you will definitely lose your mind at this Festival.

Getting to Óbidos

You can get to Óbidos by car, bus (from “Rodoviária do Oeste”) or train.

If you go by car from Lisbon, you will take around one hour to get to the town and spend around 10€ for your trip (gas and tolls included). You can park the car just outside the city walls and then walk inside by foot. 

Rent a Car in Obidos

The bus is probably the best option, as from Lisbon, you can get to Óbidos in around an hour. The ticket costs around 8€ and you can get it straight from the driver, stopping just 100m from the city center.

As for the train, is the longest and least preferable route, as it takes around 2:30h from Lisbon and the station is 1km outside the historical center of the town.

Where to stay in Óbidos: 5 Best Hotels in Óbidos

If you want to stay more than one day or enjoy the city better at night, I would recommend you stay in a hotel inside the walled city. It’s where all of the main attractions are and you will be able to enjoy yourself and the city more there. Since it is a small town, inside the walls, you can see it all pretty quickly, even at night. However, the city is very limited in hotels, so they are usually in high demand, especially in peak season. Try to book it as soon as possible! Here are the 5 best hotels in Óbidos.

1. Vale do Grou Natura

Located 13 kilometers from Obidos Castle, Vale do Grou Natura features a shared lounge, a garden, and a large communal kitchen with traditional materials. An authentic country house, each unit offers a private bathroom with a shower and free toiletries. Guests can enjoy a free breakfast in the shared kitchen.

2. Casa Picva

Located near the medieval wall, Casa Picva is a traditional guest house with a large garden for guests to enjoy. The guest rooms can accommodate between 2 and 4 guests, all including a private bathroom with free toiletries. Casa Picva also offers a unique dining room, where guests can enjoy their breakfast.

3. Hostel Argonauta

200 meters from Obidos Castle, Hostel Argonauta offers both private bedrooms and shared dormitory rooms. The shared bathrooms feature a hairdryer and free toiletries for guests to enjoy and is always maintained clean. The hostel also features a shared kitchen, shared lounge, and luggage storage.

4. Adubai Obidos

Founded by a couple from Obidos, Adubai Obidos is a renovated home that you can rent all for yourself. A one-bedroom with a private bathroom, living room with sofa bed, kitchen, and extra bathroom, the 80m2 space is a great alternative to a hotel. The property has a gorgeous view of the Obidos Castle, located within the Obidos medieval town.

5. Exe Vila D’Óbidos

The 4-star Hotel Hotel Vila D’Óbidos is a 5-minute drive from the medieval village and 6 kilometers from Obidos lagoon for those wanting to engage in water sports. The rooms at this place feature artworks of national artists and include a mini-bar, a private bathroom, and some a private terrace. Guests can enjoy a continental breakfast every day while enjoying a view of Obidos castle, as well as enjoy the spa and outdoor pool.

Booking.com

Final Remarks

Óbidos is truly a great day trip! It’s a must-see if you are planning to stay and discover more of the region near Lisbon and in the Center of the country!

I would recommend for you to visit it in either spring or fall. Around Christmas, it’s usually packed with people for the Christmas Village, and in summer it’s filled with tourists.

However, if you really want to see the Christmas Village or the summer is the only time you can go, try to visit it early in the day, before the big masses of tourists arrive, or spend the night in the town, so you can make the most of it and enjoy the relaxed and peaceful environment of the evening in Óbidos, spent in family-run restaurants eating home-cooked traditional recipes.

Also, take in mind that the city is really small and you can definitely see it all in less than a day, however, I would recommend you see it by yourself and not with a tour company, as you can do it at your pace and not have to rush to go to some other place next.

As a city that is made of history, with its literal walls telling the story of the peoples that passed through Portugal, from the Romans, passing through the Reconquista, and of the various periods and thoughts that passed through the country after that, you will definitely love every corner of Óbidos!

Hope you have a lot of fun in this little jewel in the Center of Portugal!

⬇️Please share your favorite activities and things to do in Obidos in the comments⬇️

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2 COMMENTS

  1. One of Europe’s best preserved medieval villages in the north of Lisbon region. It is only an hour away from the Portuguese capital.

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