– stepping back in time
Walking through the spectacular town gate of Óbidos on the Silver Coast is like stepping back in time. Inside the fortified walls of Óbidos the houses huddle together under terrocota roofs and are linked by winding cobbled lanes and fascinating alleways.
Óbidos is beautifully preserved and has existed almost unchanged for centuries. It is a fortified town with a magnificent castle at its highest point which is now used as a pousada – a tourist hotel sited in a historic building.
The town is located an hour north of Lisbon on the main A8 highway and is an impressive sight as you travel towards it with its walls and houses spread over the contours of a hill. It is one of Portugal’s architectural jewels and is a must-see destination for many visitors to the Silver Coast.
In its hidden corners and high walled gardens of the old medina area the town is a living museum of art and culture that has been carved, destroyed and rebuilt through the centuries.
Óbidos can be busy in the summer but there is always somewhere to escape the crowds – and out of high season it is a quiet and atmospheric place to explore. Most tour parties stick to the main shopping street leaving the fascinating side alleys and lanes free for those who venture off the well-trodden path.
The main thoroughfare, Rua Direita, is lined with little craft shops, bars and restaurants and worth visiting. A wide range of local products are on offer – traditional ceramics, contemporary glass, wicker baskets, miniature windmills and handmade embroidery. A particular speciality of Óbidos is Ginjinha, a cherry liquer typically served in a cup made of chocolate.
Óbidos is known locally as the wedding present town as it was given as a wedding gift by King Afonso II to his wife Queen Urraca in 1210. Ownership of Óbidos was passed from queen to queen for centuries after that and they enriched the town with donations that enabled the building of superb examples of gothic, rennaissance and Baroque architecture.
The castle of Óbidos and the walls of the village are made of local limestone and marble and were remodelled under King Dinis I towards the end of the thirteenth century. Óbidos was also enlarged around this time, with settlements created outside the walls.
- The town was founded by the Celts around 300 BC and for the next 1500 years was occupied by a succession of Romans, Visigoths, and Moors.
- January 11, the day Portugal’s first king, Afonso Henriques, took Óbidos back from the Moors, is still celebrated as a municipal holiday.
- Óbidos still carries the title of Mui Nobre e Sempre Leal (Very Noble and Always Loyal), awarded in recognition of its loyalty to King Sancho II in 1246.
- After King Afonso gave Óbidos to his bride as a wedding gift, it remained part of the dowry of every Portuguese queen until 1834.
- Óbidos was the location for the marriage in 1441 of two children: Royal Prince Afonso V and Isabel (10 and 8 years old respectively) in the town’s St. Mary’s Church.
- One of Portugal’s most revered queens, Dona Leonor, wife of King João II, came to live in Óbidos to mourn the death of her son, the royal Prince Afonso, who was killed in a horse riding accident at the age of 16 in mysterious circumstances.
- The first shots in the Battle of Roliça during the French Invasions were fired from the walls of Óbidos in 1808, leading to Napoleon’s first defeat in the Peninsular War.
- The first meeting of the revolutionaries who organised the famous Carnation Revolution and overthrew Portugal’s dictatorship took place in Óbidos.