Enveloped in a Moorish wall, the diminutive whitewashed village of Óbidos was deemed so enchanting that it was gifted to a queen, not once but many times throughout the centuries.
It all started when King Afonso II donated it to his wife, Queen Urraca, through a deed drawn up in Coimbra in 1210. Then King Dinis went one better by offering it to Queen Isabel as a wedding present in 1281 with the following declaration;
‘Be it noted to all people that I, Dinis, by the grace of God, King of Portugal and the Algarve, give and entrust – propter nuptias – to you Isabel, daughter of the illustrious King Pedro, by the grace of God, King of Aragon and from Queen Constança, whom we receive as a wife according to the law of our Lord Jesus Christ, our small town of Óbidos.’
And for the next 600 years, every Portuguese monarch would do the same, perpetuating its name, Casa das Rainhas, the House of Queens.
Óbidos (indicated on the Google map below) was the place where the 10-year-old Afonso V married his cousin, aged just 8, at the Church of Santa Maria. The imposing 15th-century castle was built as a fortress and later converted into a royal palace. Now one of its wings operates as a luxury hotel.
Where to go in central Portugal
One of Europe’s most classic walled settlements, the well-preserved medieval town of Óbidos lies 80 km due north of the capital, Lisbon.
Walking the ramparts, visitors can enjoy views of windmills, vineyards and surrounding farmlands and in the residential area below, narrow cobblestone streets are lined with whitewashed houses sporting terracotta roofs. In springtime, the town is ablaze with geraniums, morning glories and bougainvillaea.
Within easy reach of Óbidos is Alcobaça, a town dominated by its 12th-century abbey. The restored monument houses the ornate tombs of Dom Pedro and Inês de Castro, the star-crossed lovers whom legend treats as the Romeo and Juliet of Portugal. Inside, visitors will find the exquisite Cloister of Silence.
Of equal importance and of similar distance from Óbidos is Batalha, home to a stunning monastery built in the 15th and 16th centuries, a true architectural masterpiece and one that is generally considered to be among the finest in Europe. The tombs of King João I, his English wife Philippa of Lancaster, and their sons (including Henry the Navigator) are all located here.
Other key tourist destinations within easy reach of Óbidos are the world-renowned religious shrine of Fátima (where three young children saw apparitions of the Virgin Mary in 1917) and the vibrant fishing port of Peniche, from which visitors have good access to the beautiful Berlengas Islands by boat.
Whilst in the area, it’s also worth dropping in on Nazaré, a lively seaside town with a long sandy beach that’s famous for its big wave surfers, one of whom (German Sebastian Steudtner) recently broke the Guinness Record by surfing a wave 26.21 metres (86 feet) high in October 2020.
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