Home Destinations Top 10 Things to Do in Ponta Delgada (The Jewel of the Azores)

Top 10 Things to Do in Ponta Delgada (The Jewel of the Azores)

by Michele
5 comments
top 10 things to do in ponta delgada 2018
The Intrepid Guide contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, I will earn a commission which helps reduce the ever-increasing costs of keeping this site active. Thank you for your support.

The charming port city, Ponta Delgada is the gateway to the Azores. This small but vibrant city shouldn’t be overlooked in your travels as you hop around the nine islands of the archipelago. Here are the top 10 things to do in Ponta Delgada.

Ponta Delgada offers everything from whitewashed 17th-century churches, an urban botanical garden with trails and grottoes, a beautiful cobblestone promenade overlooking the Atlantic ocean, numerous bars and restaurants serving local cuisine, and is home to must-do water-based activities like whale watching.

Unfortunately, there’s not much travel-based information out there on interwebs about the Azores, let alone about its capital, Ponta Delgada. Even I struggled to properly plan for my trip.

The good news? I’ve got you covered!

After spending a week on the Azores biggest island, São Miguel, I thought I’d write a series of guides to help you plan an unforgettable Azorean experience. If you’re not familiar with the Azores or need more convincing, check out my post on why the Azores is Europe’s best-kept secret.

As with any trip, I always recommend brushing up on the local lingo. Get my free common Portuguese travel phrases guide to help you in your travel. Even if you only remember a simple ‘Olá!’ (Hello!) and ‘Obrigado’ (thank-you), the Azorean’s will appreciate the effort.

Now that you’ve decided to visit São Miguel island and its black and white cobblestoned capital, let’s take a closer look at the top 10 things to do in Ponta Delgada.

Map of the Top 10 Things to Do in Ponta Delgada

Want to know where you’ll be going? Take a look at the detailed map below.

Tip: For a larger view of the map, click on the icon in the top right corner.

1. Swim with Dolphins and Go Whale watching

things to do in ponta delgada 2018 azores travel guide Swimming with Dolphins

The Azores is one of the best places in the world for whale watching. Around the archipelago, there are approximately twenty-five different resident and migratory species which can be spotted. The Sperm whale is amongst the most common, and both the blue and fin whale are regularly found in these waters.

I have a massive soft spot for marine life, particularly whales. But this time, I decided to do something I hadn’t done since I was 11 years old, swim with dolphins!

Endemic to the temperate and tropical areas of the Atlantic Ocean is the super cute Atlantic Spotted dolphin. For two hours I swam with and observed these playful creatures in their natural environment. There were literally hundreds of them!

For both dolphin swimming and whale watching trips, I recommend Picos de Aventura located in Ponta Delgada. The team was both friendly and professional. They also offer a range of other activities and provide all the necessary gear.

2. Visit Ponta Delgada City Hall

top 10 things to do in ponta delgada in 2018 city hall

In the heart of Ponta Delgada is this elegant 17th-century building constructed to house the municipal council. In 1499, the village of Ponta Delgada was raised to the status of a town, and in 1546 it was again raised to the status of a city.

During this period there was a primitive building that served as a municipal hall. By the end of the 17th century, construction of the current building was undertaken. By the 20th century, the building was literally in ruins. A plaque was located on site indicating that it was going to be demolished. It wasn’t until later on that the president of City Hall, Alberto Oliveira, set about its restoration.

Further updates were carried-out in the second half of the 20th century to modernise and adapt the building for its continued purpose.


Heading to Portugal? Download my free Portuguese Travel Phrase guide here.


3. See the Portas da Cidade (City Gates)

top 10 things to do in ponta delgada in 2018 Portas da Cidade City Gate

As the gateway to the Azores, Ponta Delgada wouldn’t be complete without city gates. Portas da Cidade (literally, City Gates) is possibly the most iconic monument of Ponta Delgada.

Symbolising the island’s line of defense, the gates were built in the eighteenth century next to the old quay, then later transferred to the Gonçalo Velho Cabral Square during construction of the seaside Prince Henry Avenue.

Portas da Cidade is composed of three arches. Featuring the royal and the city’s coat of arms, these gates are the city’s postcard.

4. Visit Parish Church of São Sebastião

top 10 things to do in ponta delgada in 2018 Parish Church Sao Sebastiao

Located opposite Portas da Cidade is the Parish Church of São Sebastião (Igreja Matriz de São Sebastião) with magnificent Manueline and Baroque doorways.

As Ponta Delgada’s main church, the church is endowed with a high tower making it the only one in the city. Located at the Largo da Matriz, near the Portas da Cidade, and is often referred to as the ‘Matriz’.

The church was built between 1531 and 1547 on the site of a small chapel that was dedicated to the first patron saint of the island. Originally this was a Gothic structure which today also shows Manueline-style traces, typical for the Portuguese architecture in the 16th century.

Look out for the windows adorned with colourful images of saints and the beautiful starry cobblestones surround the church. It’s so damn pretty!

top 10 things to do in ponta delgada in 2018 Parish Church Sao Sebastiao at night

5. Relax in Campo de São Francisco

Facing the port, Campo de São Francisco is beautiful large tree-lined square with a gazebo at its centre. A perfect spot to sit, relax and take in the city’s whitewashed beauty.

top 10 things to do in ponta delgada in 2018 Campo de Sao Francisco

Its name comes from the Church of San José located in the square, which was formerly a convent of San Francisco. To the west is the old Hospital of Saint Joseph, to the north is the convent of Our Lady of Hope, to the south is Fort of São Brás.

Which leads us to our next top thing to do in Ponta Delgada.

6. Explore Forte de São Bras

top 10 things to do in ponta delgada in 2018 Forte Sao Bras

Built in the 16th century, Forte de Sao Bras (Fort of St. Blaise) is the biggest fortress on the island and was the most important fortification of the city’s defense system used to protect the Azores from pirates who were attracted to the treasures of passing ships from Africa, India, and Brazil.

Forte de Sao Bras was the strategically located to the west of the narrow strip of land after which Ponta Delgada was named.

top 10 things to do in ponta delgada in 2018

top 10 things to do in ponta delgada in 2018 Forte Sao Bras inside

Today, you can go Inside the fort to visit the Azores Military Museum. This is also the headquarters of the Military Command of the Azores.

7. Get the best view of Ponta Delgada from Hermitage of the Mother of God

top 10 things to do in ponta delgada in 2018 Hermitage of the Mother of God sunset

Perched atop a hill is a nineteenth-century chapel built on the site of an old defence structure of Ponta Delgada. With a bell tower and surrounded garden, it provides a gorgeous view over the harbour. Remains of walls, bastions, and casemates can still be seen.

top 10 things to do in ponta delgada in 2018 Hermitage of the Mother of God

8. Wander Through the Grottoes at António Borges Garden

top 10 things to do in ponta delgada in 2018 antonio borges jardim paths

António Borges, an Azorean businessman and politician interested in Botany imported hundreds of exotic species to the island of Sao Miguel, transforming his 2.5 hectare property into a private botanical garden.

Originally built 1858–1861, it was later acquired by the City Council of Ponta Delgada and nominated as the city’s park in 1958. Being one of the largest green spaces in the city, multiple sporting, cultural and recreational activities take place here alongside its trails, grottoes, rare and exotic plants.

top 10 things to do in ponta delgada in 2018 - antonio borges jardim

9. Visit the Famous Azorean Arruda Pineapple Plantation

top things to do in ponta delgada in 2018 Pineapple plantation

No trip to the Azores would be complete without a visit to the only Azorean pineapple plantation open to the public.

It’s hard to imagine that oranges (used to ward off scurvy) were once king in the Azores when today there are roughly 6,000 pineapple plantations on São Miguel island.

In fact, in the 19th century, winter oranges were so popular in London, they were called St. Michaels. But time changed, and the need for a substitute to the orange led to a boom in growing pineapples in the Azores. While the island is far from a hot equatorial weather, it has a warm organic-enriched soil which is perfect to grow all sorts of different fruits and vegetables. This led to the construction of pineapple greenhouses which are unique to the Azores.

top 10 things to do in ponta delgada 2018 Pineapple plantation

It takes 2 years to raise the pineapple from flower to fruit, and lots of smoke to fertilize the plant as it grows. The Azorean pineapple is even more unique with its small crown and intense flavor.

After you’re done exploring the various greenhouses with pineapples in their various stages of growth, head to the gift shop and pick up your favourite pineapple themed kitchen towel, liqueur, or jam.

Head outside and relax in the cafe which has everything including pineapple cakes, ice-cream and Piña coladas! Oh my!

top 10 things to do in ponta delgada 2018 Pineapple plantation

top 10 things to do in ponta delgada 2018 Pineapple plantation

10. Find the Quirky Street Art

top things to do in ponta delgada in 2018 whale and fish

If you love your street art, then head to Travessa do Arco for a massive whale mural and a lone clownfish.
On your way to Hermitage of the Mother of God, take Rua da Mãe de Deus for these two gems.

 

top 10 things to do in ponta delgada 2018 street old man top 10 things to do in ponta delgada 2018 street art heart

top things to do in ponta delgada in 2018 supermarket hero

On your way to the António Borges Garden, head straight up Av. Roberto Ivens and on the corner on Rua de Lisboa is this supermarket hero.

Finally, at the end of Largo 2 de Março is this huge headless mural of a woman.

top things to do in ponta in 2018 delgada old woman

Where to Eat in Ponta Delgada

Where to eat in the Azores in 2018

Bacalhau, Portuguese for cod, is considered to be an iconic dish of Portugal. My Portuguese boyfriend enjoyed this salted cod with vegetable dish at Calçada do Cais in Ponta Delgada.

Running parallel with the seafront Rua dos Mercadores is one of the main thoroughfares. Here you’ll find some of the island’s best restaurants including Calçada do Cais, and further north, A Tasca.

Other highly recommended restaurants include, Adega RegionalRotas da Ilha Verde (vegetarian friendly)Boca de Cena (seafood), Casa Do Bife O Galego (steakhouse), Restaurant Sao Pedro (seafood).


Ready to start planning your trip to the Azores? Here’s everything you need to know about what can you do on the island of São Miguel. My 5-day complete and comprehensive itinerary will show you the best of São Miguel island, plus where to eat, stay and it’s all plotted on a map for you to make it all the more easy.


Essential Azores Travel Information

Getting to the Azores

Getting to the Azores is easier than you might think. You can hop on a boat or catch a plane.  Direct flights depart from the USA, Canada, UK, Sweden, Spain, Belgium, Denmark, Portugal, France, Germany, and Finland.

SATA / Azores Airlines offer the most routes with other operators such as TAP Portugal, Primera, TUI, Germania, Ryanair, and Delta offering regular flights to the Azores. My advice would be to fly from Porto, Lisbon or London where tickets are considerably cheaper. The gateway to the Azores is located in Ponta Delgada with most flights connecting here. Compare deals and book your flight here.

Pro Tip: In some cases, you may be eligible to get a FREE inter-island connecting flight. Find out more here 

Where to stay in the Azores

Booking.com offers a lot of accommodation options in the Azores, from charming guesthouses to typical houses surrounded by nature. To make your life easier, I’ve put together a list of the best-reviewed hotels, guesthouses, and villas in the Azores.

Where to stay in São Miguel

If you are coming to the Azores, chances are you’ll most likely be at least spending a few days on the largest island, São Miguel.

VIP Executive Azores Hotel

Where to stay in the Azores in 2018 - VIP Executive Azores Hotel

For the week I was there, I stayed at 4-star VIP Executive Azores Hotel. This is the largest hotel on the island and includes all the comforts of home. There is an excellent gym, an interior swimming pool, squash court, bar, free covered private parking, a beauty salon with hairdresser, and Wireless Internet service. With a great view of the town and ocean and surrounding landscape, VIP Executive Azores is a 10-minute walk into town.

Airbnb

For an alternative accommodation option, I would recommend renting out an apartment or room through Airbnb. Cute Airbnb options are popping up all over the island so you’ll find some really beautiful places at very affordable prices. Airbnb has numerous options from as low as US$36 per night. If it’s your first time get US$65 OFF here or get £50 OFF your first stay here, when you sign up using my unique reader referral link.

Otherwise, check out these top-rated hotels!

Need more options? No problem. Here is a list of pre-selected hotels, villas, and guesthouses in São Miguel with excellent ratings. The list only includes rooms with wifi and top reviews, so you can’t go wrong!


Flights to São Miguel and Hotels

Azores Getaways offer great prices on flight and hotel packages to the Azores. There are packages starting from 320 USD for 7 nights of accommodation with return flights to London.

I recommend using Azores Getaways if you:

  • Are travelling from Europe or the United States.
  • Want to visit the best spots but don’t want to do all the research
  • Want someone else to book and organise everything for you

Browse their offers and packages here.

Alternatively, use this itinerary and book it all yourself. I always use Skyscanner to book flights and Booking.com for finding accommodation.


Visiting Portugal? Brush up on the local language with my free Portuguese travel phrase guide.


Don’t miss these Azores travel guides and tours

Don’t miss these Portugal travel guides


Planning a trip and need travel insurance? Get a free quote from World Nomads here.


Like it? Pin it for later!

top 10 things to do in ponta delgada 2018


Sources Visit Azores | WikipediaGeeky Explorer


Over to you!

Do you have a question about visiting the Azores or Ponta Delgada? Ask me below!
Let me know using the comments section below or join me on social media to start a conversation.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this post.

Like what you see? Subscribe using the form below to have all of my posts delivered directly to your em

You May Also Like

5 comments

Jenifer Gilb January 20, 2020 - 17:50

Hi Michele,
Fantastic article! I haven’t found a lot of information, until now. What month were you there? We’re trying to figure out the best times to go.

Thank you!
Jenifer

Reply
Michele January 21, 2020 - 02:25

Hi Jenifer, thanks you so much and thanks for your reaching out. I visited at the start of September which is the shoulder season. Hope that helps 🙂

Reply
Amber Tomes February 9, 2018 - 21:31

Hi Michele,
Fantastic article, exactly what I was looking for. We are travelling to Sao Miguel for March break. We are a family of five. Our son is turning 17 while there and twins turning 14 while there! Thinking about doing the canyoning and SUP surfing with the kids. Do you have any advice? Would swimming with dolphins be worthwhile mid March? I figured it will be raining so might as well stay in the water!

Reply
Michele February 11, 2018 - 10:01

Hi Amber! my pleasure. I’m so glad you’ve found it useful. Cetaceans are around the Azores all year round with different species passing through all the time. Here are some more details on which cetaceans to expect when. As for SUP, I’d recommend going to Sete Cidades (Seven cities) or Lagoa do Fogo, they both are beautiful locations and are ideal for all levels. I hope this helps! Have an amazing trip!

Reply
Basil Pereira November 26, 2017 - 15:23

Hey Michele. Thanks for the article and the great advise. I had trouble finding good info before my trip. This would have been very handy.
Keep up the good work. Can’t wait to read your next post.

Reply

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.