A Day Trip to Óbidos Portugal – Medievally Magical
Óbidos Portugal is a beautifully preserved medieval village located just one hour north of Lisbon. A castle, a fortified city wall, a quaint village of small houses and cobblestone streets, churches scattered throughout. It’s everything you would expect when you think European Middle Ages. This all lends itself to what I consider an absolute essential day trip from Lisbon. Or an essential stop on any Portugal road trip itinerary. We are currently at the beginning of a 2-month stay in Lisbon, and a day trip to Óbidos Portugal was our first weekend jaunt outside the city. Here’s a look at all the magic we found in medieval Óbidos.
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First, A Little Bit of History
Óbidos is situated on a hill with commanding views out across the surrounding countryside. The castle and city walls reflect its strategic importance back in the day.
This location was valued for millennia – the hilltop was first settled by the Celts and then the Phoenicans. Romans, Visagoths, and Moors then each took their turn.
Ultimately Portugal’s first King defeated the Moors in the 12th century, and it has remained in Portuguese hands since. It was so beloved by a subsequent King that he gave the whole town to his wife as a gift. From then on, Óbidos became part of the dowry for subsequent Queens, giving it the nickname Vila das Rainhas…Town of Queens.
The streets of Óbidos are striking – a hodge podge of whitewashed buildings, narrow cobblestone streets, churches, and color. As I learned via a restaurant placemat within our first hour in town, the brightly colored paint marking each white-washed building had meaning. The houses of farmers were yellow, the houses of fisherman were blue, the houses of the bourgeoisie were red, and religious houses were grey.
Getting to Óbidos from Lisbon
We are do-it-yourself slow travelers on a budget, so I always look for day trips with easy public transportation connections. And taking a day trip to Óbidos Portugal from Lisbon is very easy. Bus is the simplest and most direct option. It’s quite comfortable too.
The bus to Óbidos leaves multiple times a day from the Campo Grande bus terminal in the north part of Lisbon, located next to Lisbon’s giant football stadium. It was only 15 minutes by subway from our apartment.
The terminal isn’t contained within a building. It’s a series of outdoor curbs split into two sections, divided by a through road. You’ll find the bus to Óbidos – called the Rapida Verde – across the road from the subway station in Terminal 2 at the well-marked curb 30 or 31. The Rapida Verde bus connects Lisbon and Óbidos many times during the day (fewer on the weekends). The current schedule can be found by clicking here.
The bus is big and comfortable. You buy your tickets directly from the driver. The current cost is 8.50 Euros for one direction. Óbidos is not the final destination on this route – the nearby town of Caldas de Rainha is. So you do need to tell the driver where you are going to ensure the correct price.
For me, the scenery during this bus trip was part of the attraction on this day trip to Óbidos Portugal. Lots of rolling green hills, the occasional view out to the Atlantic, forests, small towns.
Upon arrival in Óbidos, the bus stop is located only a few steps away from the town’s main entrance gate.
Things To Do in Óbidos Portugal
Walk The Wall
My favorite thing during our day trip to Óbidos Portugal was walking the town’s fortified wall. It encircles the entire town. The wall is narrow and unprotected on the town-side, so caution is needed. But there is enough room to walk safely and admire the surrounding scenery.
Scenery in the town below…
And scenery out through the battlements to the surrounding countryside….
Along with an ever-changing perspective of the castle….
You can access and exit the wall’s walkway from various steep stairways located along the town’s edge, like this one adjoining the town’s main entry gate….
Admire the Castle…From the Outside
I think that Óbidos Castle is one of the most picture-perfect medieval castle’s I’ve ever seen. And the Portuguese people love it too. In fact, when put to a vote, Portugal voted it one of Portugal’s Seven Wonders.
Unfortunatley, this medieval wonder can only be admired from the outside. It is privately owned and is now a hotel. I’m sure it would be an awesome place to stay if you are spending a night or two, rather than taking a day trip to Obidos Portugal like we did.
Eat A Meal Fit For A Wizard
You’ll find plenty of places to eat within the walls of Óbidos. We chose Madok. It’s one of the the first restaurants you’ll see as you enter town from the main gate. It’s also the #2 Tripadvisor-ranked restaurant in Óbidos.
If you look closely at the sign in the photo, you’ll notice a wizard. Madok has a very strong Harry Potter vibe throughout it’s decor – which actually doesn’t seem out of place in this village.
We had a great meal at Madok. And a funny eating experience.
We asked our server for her menu recommendations. She pointed us towards the tapas section of the menu, suggesting that we order the 8-item meal. It would give us a good overview of all the best things from their menu. Sounded good to us.
Soon, many plates of food were delivered to our table. Bread, aioli, olives, shaved ham, sausage, a cheese platter, mussels, octopus.
It was an impressive amount of food, very delicious, and by my count…our 8 items. A great value at 35 Euros we thought. We couldn’t finish it all. And as the server came to clear the table, we indicated that we were very full, apologizing for the leftovers.
And he looked at us funny and said…. But there is more coming!
And we looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders, patted our full bellies, laughed, and said….Bring it on!
So out came salad, fries, salmon, and a plate of smoky orange chicken – playfully presented in a smoke filled glass cloche (remember….Harry Potter theme).
But even then we weren’t done! We had our choice of dessert too!
This passionfruit mousse was so good that we finished it off despite our bursting tummies.
And as I mentioned, this meal only cost 35 Euros! One of the greatest value-for-the-quality meals we’ve ever eaten.
Drink from a Chocolate Cup
One of Portugal’s favorite drinks is a sour cherry liquor called Ginjinha or Ginja. In fact, it was given to us as a complimentary after-lunch aperitif at our first meal in Portugal.
Óbidos is considered by many to be the birthplace of Ginja, as the required Morello cherries grow best in this region of the country. While other towns in Portugal argue the origin story, Óbidos seems to get the most credit. And at some point in time, someone in Óbidos decided it would be delightful to serve the cherry liqueur in a small chocolate cup. And so, an Óbidos right of passage was born.
In fact, walk down the main street in Obidos called Rua Direita (pictured below), and you will find multiple shops offering this famed combination outside their doors for only 1-1.5 Euros.
This makes it really easy to sample it once or twice or three times during your day trip to Óbidos Portugal. They are small cups after all.
Visit the Church Where a 10 Year Old King Wed
You’ll find several small churches within the walls of Óbidos, but the most important – Igreja de Santa Maria – sits in the town’s main square. In this church, Portugal’s 10 year old King Afonso married his 8 year old cousin Queen Isabel in 1441. Afonso ascended the throne at age 6 upon the death of his father. But his uncle arranged the marriage to his own daughter to help secure his personal power over the young king. Just like the power-hungry uncle in a movie about the Middle Ages would.
There isn’t a lot to see inside the church as it’s quite small. But as is typical in many Portuguese churches, the walls are covered with beautiful blue and white tiles dating to the 1600s. So it’s definitely worth a look.
Wander the Picturesque Streets
One of my favorite activities anywhere I travel is exploring the back streets. And Óbidos is perfect for that. Almost every street is a back street.
Check out the Aqueduct
Just outside the walled part of Óbidos, you’ll find this 16th century aqueduct, commissioned by Portugal’s Queen Catherine to deliver water into the town. At the time, she sold some of her own lands to fund it. It extends 3 km to a local spring and still supplies the town’s fountains with water. The aqueduct is located near the bus stop, so you really can’t miss it as you prepare to leave Óbidos.
As the aqueduct approaches Óbidos’ walls, houses have been built into its arches and are covered in street art. Pretty cool!
Our day trip from Lisbon to Óbidos was a fantastic way to spend our first Sunday in Portugal. I love it when my expectations are exceeded while traveling, and Óbidos did exactly that. Make sure it has a firm place on your Portugal travel itinerary.
If you are not a do-it-yourself traveler, and would prefer some help visiting Óbidos, then check out these tours on Viator:
If you would like to read about some other places that exceeded my expectations, then check out these posts:
11 Photos That Will Convince You To Visit Athens
Miyajima – Japan’s Island of the Gods
Staying at a Cave House in Setenil de las Bodegas Spain
Visiting Two Beautiful Istrian Towns – Motovun & Rovinj Croatia
And if you would like to read more from my Portugal travels, then check these out:
An Evening Quest for the Best Chicken in Lisbon
Eating Bifanas in Lisbon – Just Like My Travel Hero (Anthony Bourdain)
Lisboa Em Fado – A Glimpse Into the Portuguese Soul
Steven, as always, we love reading your articles. We’ve been waiting to see Portugal through your eyes. Not so sure about eating octopus, although many people enjoy it.
Thanks for reading Tom. Like a lot of seafood, octopus mostly just takes on the flavor of whatever it’s cooked in. A little chewier than other seafood, but not difficultly so. You should give it a try!
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Another great post-Steven. The food…oh my!
So much of it!!