Óbidos is “Queen’s Town”:
One of my favourite destinations in Portugal is Óbidos. This pretty and well preserved medieval town is sometimes called the “queen’s town“.
When King Dinis married Isabel of Aragon in 1282, Óbidos was one of the wedding presents he gave her. From then until 1883, Óbidos and the surrounding land were always the property of the queens of Portugal.
Óbidos is one of the most perfect examples of medieval fortresses in Portugal. Encircled by a ring of medieval walls, there was once a Moorish castle here which was rebuilt by King Dinis. D. Afonso Henriques, the first King of Portugal, captured Óbidos from the Moors in 1148.
These days, the castle serves as a pousada. It was opened in the 1950’s and was the first Portuguese pousada (state inn) in a historic building.
In olden times, the town was entered through the southern gate of Santa Maria, built around 1380. Today, the Porta da Vila, with its eighteenth-century azulejo decoration, is still the Town Gate..
Present Day Óbidos
Strolling down Rua Direita, Óbidos ‘ main shopping street, you’ll see white houses decorated with luxurious blooms of bougainvilleas and honeysuckle. As you explore the narrow cobbled streets of Óbidos, you’ll come across traces of different civilizations. From the hidden corners and high walled gardens of the old medina area, to the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque features, Óbidos is an extensive work of art created, destroyed and rebuilt throughout many centuries.
There are lots to see in Óbidos and the shops along Rua Direita have all kinds of souvenirs, wines, liqueurs and gifts for sale. I’m thrilled that I managed to find some nice Óbidos tiles here.
Unless you’re staying at the pousada, you cannot visit the inside of the castle. However, you can walk on the castle walls (free of charge). The walls are about 1.5 km and takes around two hours to walk and is only recommended for those who are sturdy on their feet. There are no railings and some bits are somewhat unsafe.
Óbidos has a few festivals that bring thousands of visitors here each year. The annual Medieval Fair in the Óbidos Castle grounds is a historical reconstruction of medieval life. Horse tournaments, medieval shows and handicraft exhibitions transport visitors back to the bygone era. The International Chocolate Festival is another event that brings in crowds. Held in March, chocolate lovers come here to enjoy the chocolate sculptures, fashions, recipe contest and of course to eat lots of Obidos chocolates.
The tiny village of Óbidos we were told was the location that was used to represent Lilliput in Gulliver’s Travel. Walking around town, it’s easy to see the attraction of this town as a film location.