Óbidos

The poet King Dinis and his saintly wife, Isabella of Aragón, once passed by the walls of this medieval village and noted its beauty. The queen likened the village to a jewel studded crown. Eager to please, Dinis made her a present of the village. He established a tradition: Instead of precious stones, Portuguese royal bridegrooms presented Óbidos to their spouses. Entered through a tile coated gatehouse, the town is definitely a trip back in time. The medieval city rises on a hill above a valley of vineyards. Its golden towers, crenellated battlements, and ramparts contrast with gleaming white houses and the rolling countryside, where windmills clack in the breeze.

The major attraction in Óbidos is the Renaissance church Igreja de Santa Maria, with the blue and white interior.  You can also to see the Renaissance tomb and the paintings of Josefa of Óbidos, a 17th century artist. The other attraction in Óbidos is the castle that suffered severe damage in the 1755 earthquake but was restored. It’s one of Portugal’s greatest medieval castles, with a host of Manueline architectural elements. In 1148, Dom Afonso Henríques and his troops, disguised, incredibly, as cherry trees, captured the castle from the Moors. The Moors were driven from the land, and Henríques went on to become the founding father of Portugal; he was proclaimed its first king. The main entrance to Óbidos is a much photographed gate, the narrow  Porta da Vila.

Óbidos is one of the most folkloric towns in Portugal. Dozens of boutiques line the town’s main street, Rua Direita. These stores are loaded with ceramics, embroideries, wine, and woodcarvings. Most visitors to Óbidos like to dine at Pousada de Óbidos, Castelo de Óbidos. However, you can have an enjoyable dinner, less formal and more local in one of the typical little restaurants inside or outside the city’s walls.

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