When I started planning our trip to Portugal, I thought we would be able to see most of the country in an eight-day tour. After searching for places to visit near Lisbon, I realized that although Portugal may be small (about the size of Maine), there is so much to see. A great number of charming towns, gorgeous beaches, and fairy-tale castles were offered. The more I read about them, the more fascinated I was about each one. Not being able to see it all, we chose to spend two nights in Sintra, one night in Cascais, and take a day trip to Óbidos.
To say that Óbidos is a beautiful village is an understatement. This walled town displays a maze of narrow alleys filled with whitewashed cottages adorned with flower boxes and hanging vines. On the site an imposing medieval castle also stands. Óbidos is a true representation of charm, romance, and history. Being there was like time-traveling through the Middle Ages.
If you are traveling to Lisbon, do not skip a trip to Óbidos. Although I can see how enjoyable it can be to stay there overnight, we visited it on a day trip. The historic center is small, so we easily toured it in about five hours. In this guide, you will find out everything you need to know about taking a day trip to Óbidos, including helpful tips on how to get there and what to do.
A fragment of its history
Óbidos holds a long and interesting history. The village grew from a Roman settlement which later changed to a Visigoth territory and then Moorish town before it finally belonged to the Portuguese empire in the 12th-century. In the 13th century, the fortified town became the traditional bridal gift of the kings of Portugal to their queens, a custom begun by King Dinis to Queen Isabel when they married in 1282. Nicknamed Wedding Gift Town, it became part of Casa das Rainhas (Queens’ Estate) which was a set of goods granted by the Portuguese monarchs to their spouses as a source of income to support the mother queens after the accession to the throne of their children.
The fortified town is a fun place to explore, and best of all, without an agenda. At our own pace, we walked through Porta da Vila, the double-arched main entrance richly decorated with 18th-century tiles. It led us to Rua Direita, the main cobblestoned street that divides the old town into two halves. It didn’t take us too long to realize that Óbidos has never lost its original charm.
Geraniums and bougainvillea adorned the white buildings with their traditional façades, that bordered Rua Direita. It was gorgeous! The scenery reminded me of fairytale stories, disturbed only by the mild bustle of tourists who browsed shops, boutiques, restaurants, and galleries sheltered in those houses. Leaving the main drag, we zigzagged through back streets bordered by whitewashed houses with their bright blue and yellow-painted outlines. Colorful bushes in full bloom and potted plants enhanced the uneven cobbled streets. Words don’t do justice to its beauty.
Day trip to Óbidos: what not to miss
Admire the medieval castle
At the end of the main street, we found the grand castle founded by the Moors in the early 700s. After major renovations in the 1200s, it became home for a succession of queens. Óbidos Castle is a symbol of power, political changes, broken-hearted queens, and a safe harbor for some kings.
TThe ancient castle is now a luxury accommodation, the Pousada Castelo de Óbidos, and the only way to see inside is to book a room. However, it is possible to have a magnificent view of it when you walk the perimeter of the walls that defend Óbidos. When I looked at it from above, it felt like time had frozen.
In 1840, a monk experimented with infusing ginja berries in Portuguese brandy. After adding sugar, water, and cinnamon, he created what everyone knows today as Ginjinha, or simply Ginja. Although this typical Portuguese cherry liqueur may be popular all over Portugal, Óbidos is renowned for its top quality Ginjinha. In fact, Óbidos is where ginja berries grow.
Traditionally, Ginjinha is drunk in a plastic or ceramic cup, but not in Óbidos. Along Rua Direita, stalls sell Ginjinha served in a chocolate cup which you must eat after draining the drink down in shot style. What a clever idea! It gets even better. A few vendors offered a kid-friendly Ginjinha version with no alcohol. We loved it, and lost count of how many times we tasted Ginja.
Visit Santa Maria Church
The main church of Santa Maria is in Praça de Santa Maria, just below Rua Direita. This church was the stage for the wedding of the ten-year-old child-king Afonso V and his eight-year-old cousin, Isabel, in 1444. It dates mainly from the Renaissance, though the interior is lined with beautiful seventeenth-century blue azulejos as in a typical Portuguese church.
Walk on the walls
Our favorite thing to do in Óbidos was to walk through its ancient streets. We also enjoyed checking local shops, drinking Ginjinha, and visiting some of their churches. We had yet a different perspective of this medieval fortification when we looked at it from the walls.
The full circuit is less than a mile. We walked on paths covered with rough rocks, but occasionally it was shiny and slippery. Certain sections were narrow and required us to walk single file. All worth it! Once you got to the top, the views of the tiny alleys winding through town, the roofs of the white cottages, churches, castle, vineyards, and beyond were spectacular.
Day trip to Óbidos: how to get there
If you are driving, you’ll find a big parking lot just outside the walls.
We didn’t drive. Instead, we took the express bus that travels between Lisbon and Obidos. It was easy and convenient. Be aware that, although the bus departs from Campo Grande Station, it will be parked off a side street. We had a little bit of trouble to find it, but solved the problem by asking locals where to go. The journey took about one hour. A single ticket costs €7.95 which we purchased from the bus driver. There are 32 daily departures Monday to Friday, but this number drops on weekends and holidays. Buy your return tickets on the way back.
Note: Once you arrive in Óbidos, be sure to make your first stop at the Tourist Office located right beside the parking lot. Get your map. It will show you the points where you can climb up on the walls.