PORTUGAL TOP 10
10. Visit Óbidos and sip a ginjinha
The town of Óbidos is a walled medieval town about 50 kilometres north of Lisbon, set in a farming region close to the sea, known as Oeste. Its original Roman name (Oppidum) points to its having been a citadel – a fortified town, of which remain the grand outer walls and the dramatic castle on its hilltop, which add to the place’s historical and cultural charm. Nowadays, the walls and towers only defend it from the town, but continue to cradle this medieval town like a shell.
The high outer walls blend various elements from different periods: Romanesque and Gothic, Manueline and Baroque, with the most exuberant and visible example of this latter style the main entrance gate, whose interior is lined with azulejos (ceramic tiles). The town’s buildings spread out inside the walls in harmonious fashion; there is also an aqueduct, various churches and chapels, as well traditional Portuguese houses in an excellent state of conservation and with colourful flowers hung outside their windows. Dom Dinis was the first king to offer the town of Óbidos to his wife, queen (and later saint) Isabel and after that, until 1883, the town and surrounding lands always belonged to the queens of Portugal.
The town hosts various events such as a Chocolate Festival, Medieval Market and others throughout the year. But there is one activity that you can (and must!) always do in Óbidos: walk the streets and walls, on a stroll that is poetry itself, and find one of the places where you can try ginjinha. This liqueur is made from a fruit related to the cherry, the ginja, and has a very pleasantly sweet and alcoholic taste, especially if it is served cold or in a little cup made of chocolate! The ginja from the area around Óbidos is of a particularly high quality, because the temperate, humid climate is ideal for the trees’ development. The fruit in question has also gave risen to a popular Portuguese saying: “É bom que nem ginjas!” (It’s even better than ginjas!), which is used to refer to something that is particularly delicious or refined.