Visiting Ponta Delgada - What to See and Do
(Ponta Delgada Joao Paulo II Airport PDL, Portugal)
The most populous city on the biggest of Portugal's Azores islands may actually be fairly small in population, but it boasts a history as long and interesting as many larger places. Ponta Delgada sits on the southern coast of the 'green island' of Sao Miguel and serves as the main gateway to the entire Azores archipelago. Most Ponta Delgata tourist attractions stand in the heart of its historic centre on the Avenida Infante D. Henrique, between its marina and Sao Brás fort.
Organised sightseeing tours around Ponta Delgada typically last no longer than three hours, but visitors can easily linger around this 500-year-old city for much longer periods of time. The 16th-century Church of Sao Jose is one of the city's main historic landmarks, while the Carlos Machado Museum is situated inside the former 16th-century Convento de Santo Andre.
Food and drink rank high on the list of must-do attractions, from the freshly caught seafood served at the Mercado do Peixe to the freshly cut pineapple found at Ponta Delgada's street markets. No visit to Ponta Delgada would be complete without a sip of the city's famous passion fruit liqueur, available at any of the lively bars lining the Portas do Maris Marina.
Ten things you must do in Ponta Delgada
- Enter the city centre through the Portas da Cidada's three arches, which have stood guard over Ponta Delgada since 1783. Stunning arcades surround these town gates found at the Largo de Goncalo Velho Cabral, being adorned with Ponta Delgada's coat of arms and the Portuguese royal crown.
- Admire the imposing Renaissance Forte de Sao Brás. This important attraction was first built in 1544, two years before Ponta Delgada became Sao Miguel's capital. It is still used as a Portuguese navy base today.
- Enter the richly adorned interior of the Church of Sao Jose, which stands directly behind the Forte de Sao Brás. The 17th- and 18th-century paintings on the church walls contain strong Mexican influences, while intricate glazed blue and white tiles called azulejos adorn the church sanctuary.
- Admire both the Church of Sao Pedro, which took over two centuries to construct, and the stunning harbour frontview from the church's peaceful courtyard. The church's construction began during the 15th century and eventually included a stunning Virgin Mary statue, an elaborate high altar, votive offerings from sailors, and two centuries' worth of reliquaries. Portuguese artist Pedro Alexandrino de Carvalho created the church's acclaimed Feast of Pentecost painting.
- Tour the elaborately decorated chapel and convent of Nossa Senhora da Esperanca. Approximately a dozen nuns still live in this stunning 16th-century structure, with its biggest claim to fame being the jewelled Santo Cristo dos Milagres statue which Pope Paul II gave to the convent in 1530. Portuguese artist Diogo Bernardes created the lower choir's colourful glazed tiles during the 18th century.
- Visit Ponta Delgada's Baroque town hall, which has stood behind the same beautiful fountain and St. Michael statue since the 18th century. King Joao III presented the 16th-century bell, which rings from the town hall's 1724 belfry.
- Learn about 19th-century scientific mentality and Darwin's Theory of Evolution, among other fascinating things, at the Carlos Machado Museum, the largest in the entire Azores archipelago. This attraction was first founded in 1880 and has been housed inside the former 16th-century convent of Santo André since 1930. Art galleries were added to the original natural history museum following the move to the convent building.
- Relax beneath the Indian rubber tree at the Jardim Antonio Borges. This former 19th-century private garden, located to the north-west of central Ponta Delgada, is now free for everyone to enjoy. Visitors can order a coffee from the garden café before cooling off beneath the fountains.
- See the traditional Azores kitchen replica at Casa Etnográfica, which faithfully depicts the day to day life of the island's past residents. Many of the kitchen utensils, furniture and tools displayed at this intimate ethnographical museum were made from the basalt stone found throughout Sao Miguel.
- Party with the locals at the Portas do Maris Marina, home to many of Ponta Delgada's most popular bars. These often feature live music by talented local musicians.