Medieval Charm in Óbidos
We stopped by Óbidos on our way from Sintra to Porto. Having left Sintra a little late, we almost decided to skip it, but are very glad we didn’t. A nominee for a UNESCO heritage site, this charming fortress town is full of history and a perfect prototype of a medieval city.
Inside its thick stone walls are quaint white washed houses, with terracotta tiled roofs that jostle each other alongside narrow, winding roads.
Semi-permanent market stalls line the entrance to the fortress, selling everything from natural soaps to Portuguese pastries and cakes – certainly some of the best in the world. We entered the town by its main thoroughfare, cutting straight to the castle that dominates it. Along this street are lovely shops selling hand made Portuguese crafts and (you guessed it) more pastries and cakes. In Portugal, you can live by one rule – if it looks good, eat it.
We found a no frills pastry shop that looked like it had been there for decades, which sold a traditional Portuguese cake called the Pão de Ló. It’s basically a chocolate cake covered with chocolate cream – simple, yet absolutely exquisite. It was one of the highlights of the visit and we ended up eating the cake even before we left the shop.
There was an impressive bookshop, Mercado Biológico de Óbidos, that occupied the first floor of a few narrow houses, with books that lined the walls floor to ceiling. The refurbishment of this former organic market was done by Ler Devagar, a bookseller from Lisbon, who transforms spaces of historical importance into book havens. It was the sort of a place anyone with a book fetish would immediately feel drawn to.
What was even more cool about this place was the fresh fruit and vegetable stand at the end of the store, in the cooking and gardening section. This place took the book café concept to a whole new level!
After all these wonderful distractions, we finally made it to the end of the thoroughfare, and reached the entrance to the castle’s keep. Inside the keep, there were market stalls and a restaurant, which were unfortunately closed when we were there. Nevertheless, it did provide a good impression of how daily life was structured within the castle keep during medieval times.
Inside the keep was a lovely leisure garden full of pink blossoms in full bloom, overlooking the surrounding lands. It was trussed up against the high stone walls of the keep, and was an interesting feature of the castle’s overall architecture. From here, you could also look down onto the town of Óbidos.
We ended our day in Óbidos in a little pub restaurant just off the main street, which served traditional Portuguese food. We had grilled sardines and fried squid, all fresh from the sea and very tasty. Óbidos was definitely a great stop and if we had the chance to do it all again, we’d definitely choose to spend a night in one of the apartments for rent in the town. That way, we would have gotten to see the sun set over castle keep and stroll its winding streets without other tourists in the way.