Friday, February 7, 2020

Sites : Óbidos Castle, Portugal (Castelo de Óbidos)

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Óbidos Castle, Portugal (Castelo de Óbidos)
Óbidos, Portugal - November 2019
Óbidos, just an hour drive from Lisbon is a charming place, a place with an old town feel, retaining much of it's medieval charm. With it's close proximity to the capital, it is a favorite weekend spot to visit for the Alfacinha of Lisbon; many come on day trip, lured by the quiet, old and rustic charm to get away from the busy metropolis.

There are several ways to get to Óbidos. For those coming from Lisbon, it's either by bus or car. We were on a cycling tour of the Iberian Peninsula and came from Figueira da Foz, a coastal resort city about a 100km away, and taking the Comboios De Portugal train to arrive at the Óbidos Station. Oddly when we arrived we found this train station to be deserted; there was nobody around, there was no ticketing office nor any station staff at hand; it wasn't dirty but just dusty, and was definitely abandoned!
But with nobody around we had the whole station to ourselves, to take photos with the Portuguese azujelo blue tiles wall murals.

From the station we cycled about 3km. to our homestay the Capitão Polvo Residence; going on dirt roads that cutting through brush land, and Óbidos Castle (Castelo de Óbidos), sitting on the hill slope, was always looming above us.

As one nears the castle, it's easy to locate its entrance, just follow the tall & very conspicious Aqueduto de Óbidos (Óbidos Aquaduct). Also known as the Aqueduto da Usseira,as many mistook this for ancient Roman aqueducts. "It's not Roman, for two reasons. Firstly, Óbidos is a medieval village, built about a thousand years after the Romans. Secondly, it was commissioned by Queen Catarina in the sixteenth century." - quoted by DerAlteBach in Trip Advisor.
Catherine of Austria, the queen of Portugal, ordered this aqueduct to be built in the 1570s, and it delivered water from a source about six kilometres to the south in Usseira. The aqueduct’s destination was the Chafariz Real (Royal Fountain) on Praça de Santa Maria, and for half of its length it travelled underground.

Óbidos like many Iberian towns consist of white-wash houses with red clay tiles. These houses stand out against the surrounding green landscape, and are thus very noticeable from afar. And like most medieval towns, the town itself is indistinguishable from the castle as most of the old town lies within the grounds, enclosed by the tall castle walls.
The town proper (i.e. within the walls) have jusapproximately 3,100 inhabitants, smaller than most university towns. It's smallness in size and population is what sets its character, one of warm friendliness with welcoming smiles.

Even before one set foot into the wall town, the mood is already set up. Near the car-park, horse carriages await tourists. Getting off from the car-park, and before the castle gate are a rows of shops (cafes, restaurants, pharmacist, tourist information, etc).

Within an enclave of these shops near the Macaron de Óbidos, a lady sells Ginjinha d' Obidos, the local cherry wine.

These are sold in small and large bottles at €3 and €10 per bottle respectively.

Uncertain of which to buy, then try a sample which are served in small chocolate cups at €1 each. The chocolate cups are edible after drinking the wine.
They tasted sweet, just slightly sourish, with a good fruity aroma and are easy to drink.

Around here too, can be seen phone boxes, which although were painted blue & white instead of the usual red, still looked very British! In the past Portugal and Britian had some close history between themselves. This booths are a British influence, and reciprocally the British are enamored by the Port wine from the Douro wine region of Porto.
My buddies had some picturesque moments in these English Telephone Boxes.


Okay, time to go into the castle grounds, time to go into Obidos Old Town. On approaching the castle wall, can be seen a distinguished doorway with grand looking columns topped by a cross. THIS IS NOT the entrance into the castle grounds; the main entrance called Porta da Vila is the less obvious open archway to the left!

To make easier to orientate, here's a map of Óbidos Castle, the main entrance is on the left and is highlighted in red. This main entrance leads to the castle ground and not the castle proper itself, which is located at the top right hand corner.
Óbidos, is proudly considered the City of Literature, was designated UNESCO Creative City in 2015.

Stepping into the Porta da Vila arch one will just see a wall and not the old town, this entrance curve to the right .....

..... before opening to the castle grounds. This was done probably to mislead unfriendly invaders and make it easier to protect the entrance. The Porta da Vila, is also "a small Baroque chapel which is decorated with traditional azulejos tiles that depict the Passion of Christ". While walking below this archway to take a look upwards to appreciate this artwork.

From the archway the road forks out into two and then later into the four main roads running through the town.

The mood here is relaxed, older locals sit quietly on benches, nonchalantly watching us tourists walk by....

..... and a cat similarly lazed below a gate post which acted as an altar too.

But the tall walls and towers are always nearby. Óbidos Castle sits on a hill, and from the entrance most of the roads slowly slope upwards.

The roads are cobbles and there are only a few cars around. Only motor vehicles belonging to the inhabitants are allowed in.

Some lanes leading away from the main roads are stepped, following the contour of the hill on which the castle sits.

Explore the streets and one would find cute things like these cockerel statues. These stylized red rooster statues represent the “Galo de Barcelos” which are brightly coloured cockerels (roosters), items very often seen for sale in many souvenir shops in Portugal. These cockerels/roosters symbolizes honesty, integrity, trust and honour.

At many of the streets tables have been laid out for alfresco dining and covered with table cloth with unique design representing the patterns seen inside of church domes.


Although not a large place, Óbidos does have several attractions. A cluster of them are located at the Largo de São Pedro square, the main one being the Igreja de São Pedro (St. Peter's Church), with it's bell tower topped off with a dome instead of a steeple, sort of reminds me of the churches in Russia.

The locals have lined the main entrance door with pine leaves and flowers just like a Christmas wreath.

Inside view of the greja de São Pedro church with striking pink bordered panels.

The Capela de São Martinho (St. Martin Chapel).

Câmara Municipal de Óbidos (Óbidos Town Hall).

Look upwards at the central wall can be seen a crest, but this is not the Town Crest of Obidos.

Large clay pots were used to plant flowering shrubs.

While at another corner of the Largo de São Pedro square, tables had been laid out for the evening's dining. Bright oranges sit atop barrels add a striking contrast to the mood.

Further inwards is the Igreja De Santa Maria (St. Mary's Church), is another old and beautiful church that dates back to the 16th Century.

Almost at the extreme end of the town an entrance lead to the castle proper; but we will come to that later. Nearby is this cute little entrance to the Casa de S. Thiago do Castelo (S. Thiago do Castelo Hotel). The small vine-lined entrance belies the larger section of the hotel that lies behind.


The attractions are spaced out in different parts of the town, but while walking in between them one will never get bored - along the way will be many shop-houses!

Many sells souvenirs but somewhere along is a shop that specializes in bags made from cork wood.... YES! Cork wood! And they do look unique and pretty.

This shop sells pretty ceiling lamps and wind chimes.

The aqueduct cuts into some part of the town, and below them is an artist shop called "Artes & Letras Atelier".

One of the artist's creation, one of a walking palm with a foot head?
This sort of reminded me of an almost similar sculpture I saw at the Busan Museum of Art.

Another creation looks like a compressed Volkswagen van, which probably serves as a food truck.

Another interesting shop is the COMUR - Conserveira de Portugal it is a shop that sells all types and brands of sardines available in Portugal but is also a Sardine Museum.
Sardines are a favourite fish in Portugal, other than Canned Sardines, the other favourite is Grilled Sardines.

Step inside COMUR and one will be amazed by the thousands of canned sardines on display; these are actually for sale too.

The cans are colourfully laid out in the shelves, some are sorted by the brands or regions.....

... while other shelves display cans from different years.

The Portuguese DO love their sardines and pack them in such lovely cans!

A sprightly attendant is at hand to explain the history and the different types and brands of sardines.

I listened to her for a while and then my attention was distracted by an ornamental spiral staircase leading upstairs. Huh? They are more sardines on display up there!


For me (and perhaps for many others too), the draw of Óbidos were the simple yet outstanding architecture. A simple door like the above, oddly encouraged many to sit on its steps to have photos taken.

At another corner, an ornate pattern window grille hides a modern window.

Many of the windows are decorated with fruits and flowers, drawing visitors to have a closer look .....

.... and discover that inside is a bakery. What better way to advertise!

Many of these "windows" hung next to the shops are actually shelves displaying some of the wares of the shops. This one sells souvenirs.

This shop specializes in cups and other earthen-ware items.

More cups & more souvenirs?

A shop that sells liqueurs.

And this one displaying a Portuguese guitarra probably sells musical instruments OR music CDs and DvDs. Apologies, I did not go in to find out.

At the far end of the castle grounds is the Igreja de São Tiago (St. James's Church), it is currently used as a Municipal Auditoriumit and also used as a shelter providing assistance to pilgrims on Camino de Santiago pilgrimage.
Next to it is a tall castle tower below which is a small non-descript archway. This small archway leads into the castle proper.

There's no twist and turns trough this archway, it leads directly to .....

... to several single-storey structure which could probably be the stables.

This lower level is not very big, just to too far ahead is another archway (GPS: 39.36426, -9.15783), a rear entrance that leads out to the rear of the castle. It lies opposite the Mercado Medieval de Óbidos (Medieval Market of Óbidos). This is the main site of the annual events where jousting tournaments, on horse and on foot, medieval dinners and the market are held. Here everything is sold, from medieval costumes to traditional home-made medical remedies. The next medieval event will be held from 16th July till 2nd August 2020. Visit the Mercado Medieval de Óbidos FaceBook Page page for latest updates.

Near the market site a wooden ramp was being constructed to get up to the battlements at the top of the castle wall.

OR one can just start climbing the stairs which starts from the opposite side. Whichever the case is, DO WALK WITH CARE as these steps do not have guard rails on the outer side. To feel safe, most climbers stayed on the inner side.

The castle walls run around the whole of the town. For those who want a shorter route there is a smaller loop that just goes round the castle proper, and ends at steps lead down to the ground near the side of the Igreja de São Tiago.

Up at the battlements, the height confirms the castles strategic location. From here one can see far and wide into the surrounding country-side.

OR one can look inwards and see how the walls and towers ring and protect the town.

A lovely view from the rear battlements; Óbidos Railway Station (the white building) seems so close.

For those who want's to take the bus, this is a view of the bus stops that are located just outside the castle, to the left of the main entrance, the Porta da Vila.

There is no need to pre-book the bus tickets on line as this Rodoviária Bus runs an hourly loop from Caldas da Rainha to Óbidos to Bombarral to the Campo Grande Bus Terminal in Lisbon. Above is the bus time-table; the fare from Óbidos to Lisbon is 8€ pax.

R. Josefa de Óbidos, Óbidos, Portugal
Phone: +351 960 009 055
Entrance fee: Free.
Hours: Sunday to Friday - 9:00am to 5:00pm
Saturday - Opened 24 hours.
Direction Map & GPS: 39.36321, -9.15724

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