About 50 miles (80km) north of Lisbon, perched on a hilltop is the small well-preserved medieval town of Óbidos, still nestled within the old walls of Óbidos Castle, in the municipality of Óbidos which stretches to the lagoons on the Atlantic Coast.
With roots in the 1st century Roman town Eburobrittium, a Moorish fortification, and being claimed by the King of Portugal in the 12th century and from then on finding itself being gifted to all the wives of all the kings for the next few centuries, the town of Óbidos has managed to survive and thrive through the centuries and yet retain its medieval character.
The pretty, restful town is dotted with galleries and contemporary arts, lovely little restaurants and cafes. You can walk the perimeter walls and get great views, or within a very short time head out of the town and visit a nearby beach or vineyard.
One of the main annual events is the Medieval Fair held during July when the townspeople don historic costumes, joust, juggle and dine on hog. The town turns back time with taverns serving traditional foods, civil and military encampments setting up with horses, donkeys, falcons and snakes in attendance, minstrels, musicians and mimes wandering and entertaining, court jesters, traditional crafts demonstrations, banners and heraldic flags announcing the courtiers. You can even swap your euros for the Torreao, the local currency of the fair – there is no exchange rate but be sure you spend them all in Óbidos as I don’t think any other town will recognise this old time currency. In 2012, the Medieval Fair runs from July 19 – August 12, Thursdays to Sundays.
Another popular festival in Óbidos is held in March each year: the International Chocolate Festival. Hundreds of thousands of people descend on the small town for demonstrations, competitions and tastings. There’s also an annual opera festival held during summer, usually during July. This is a town that likes to celebrate. At Christmas time there is the Vila Natal, a Christmas village and festival, great for kids.
On the coast of Óbidos – the whole region is called Óbidos – is the Lagoon of Obidos, the largest seawater lagoon in Portugal. With sandy beaches, excellent and safe swimming, water-skiing, walks through pine forest, great seafood restaurants, and beachside cafes, this is a popular holiday place.
For those with the golfing bug, the golf courses set alongside the lagoon are beautiful. The Royal Óbidos Golf Course is challenging but worth it for the views and the satisfaction, even if you do lose a few golf balls along the way. Praia d’El Rey Golf Course stretches along the Atlantic Coast and provides luxury accommodation aimed at international travellers. There are also spa facilities for the non-golfers.