Last Updated on 2022-07-16
Ponta Delgada is the largest city in the Azores and is located on the south coast of São Miguel, that is, about five km from João Paulo II Airport.
It has a rich history and architecture, many places to visit, and things to do, so it is not surprising that so many visitors fall in love with this beautiful city with nearly 500 years of history.
In this article, we will give you suggestions on what to visit in Ponta Delgada (in the city center and surroundings), what to do, restaurants, hotels, parking, in short, many travel tips to help you plan your trip to São Miguel.
What to visit in the center of Ponta Delgada Azores
As Portas da Cidade (The City Gates)
Portas da Cidade is an architectural landmark in Ponta Delgada. It has three arches, with the city’s coat of arms in the middle.
It is located in Praça Gonçalo Velho Cabral, a busy square next to the waterfront, overlooking the sea and near churches and restaurants.
In the 18th century, the Portas da Cidade was located in the old port and, according to legend, whoever passes under the arches of the Portas da Cidade does not leave São Miguel.
At night the tourist attraction turns blue, with a mystical aura.
The churches of Ponta Delgada
Visiting Ponta Delgada’s churches is an excellent way to appreciate the city’s architecture.
A few meters from Portas da Cidade, you can visit the Igreja Matriz de São Sebastião, a 16th-century building with Manueline and Baroque porticos and a clock tower.
The typical façade of churches in São Miguel (white walls and dark granite ornaments) stands out from the other buildings in the historic center, but it’s inside that the most valuable treasures of the Church of São Sebastião are kept.
Heading towards the São Brás Fort, you will find the Sanctuary of Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres and the Convent of Nossa Senhora da Esperança.
Both the church and the convent are linked to the biggest religious festival of São Miguel, as it is the place where the image of Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagre is kept.
In the convent garden, you can see the bench where the poet Antero de Quental committed suicide in 1891, but on a more positive note, you can choose to whatch the paintings by Manuel Pinheiro Moreira and 18th-century tiles.
The Church of São José is another place of worship that is very popular with visitors. The size of the building makes an impact when you enter, and tourists’ eyes are drawn to the grandeur of the ceiling.
Pay close attention to the high altars, the tiles, and the statues, but don’t forget to see the windows of the Chapel of Nossa Senhora das Dores, on the right side of the Church of São José, which are one of the most emblematic examples of the Baroque style in São Miguel.
Museums and the Fort of São Brás
There is nothing better to learn about the history of a place than visiting its museums, and in Ponta Delgada, we suggest you visit the Military Museum of the Azores in Forte de São Brás and the Nucleus of Sacred Art at the Carlos Machado Museum.
Entrance to the Military Museum is paid (€3) and is open from Monday to Friday. The São Brás Fort was built in 1552 and, in addition to the museum itself, you can stroll through the fort’s courtyard, observe the sea and see the cannons scattered around the enclosure.
The Nucleus of Sacred Art of the Carlos Machado Museum is open to the public from Tuesday to Sunday, and the ticket costs €2.
If you want to visit the Núcleo de Santo André (which includes the Natural History circuit) and the Núcleo de Santa Bárbara, you can buy a ticket for the three museums for €5, however, you will have to visit all on the same day.
The António Borges Botanical Garden and the José do Campo Botanical Garden
Ponta Delgada’s gardens are beautiful, full of trees and exotic plants from the four corners in the world.
They were born to show wealth from the wealthiest families in the region.
The António Borges Botanical Garden has free admission, while the ticket to Jardim José do Campo costs €5.
Count on spending a few hours in these gardens because of the beauty and diversity of the plants there.
Street shops and the Mercado da Graça (Graça Market)
Whether for sightseeing, shopping for food, or souvenirs, Mercado da Graça is a must-see in Ponta Delgada.
It is a market tailored to the city, that is, relatively small, which does not take away its charm.
Take a look at the fruit and vegetable stalls and don’t forget the pineapple sellers from the Azores. There is also Azorean cheese for sale if you want to taste it and take it home.
Depending on the day, you can see fish of different sizes from the Azores Sea.
In the center of Ponta Delgada, there are handicraft and souvenir shops and small supermarkets.
If you prefer large stores, your destination should be Parque Atlântico, the largest shopping center in São Miguel.
It has clothing stores and the largest Continente (hypermarket) on the island, Bertrand, Sports Zone, Worten, Loja do Gato Preto, cinema, food court, etc.
It’s handy for shopping outside the usual street store hours and has free parking.
Pineapple plantation in the Azores
To see an Azorean pineapple plantation in operation, you don’t need to leave the center of Ponta Delgada.
There are several, but the one we chose was this one.
The visit is free and includes a circuit through the greenhouses with pineapples in different stages of growth, an explanatory area of the process, and a tasting of pineapple jam and liqueur.
Things to do near Ponta Delgada Azores
Discover incredible landscapes just a few kilometers from Ponta Delgada. Indeed, not far from the urban center you can live unforgettable experiences.
A Lagoa do Canário (The Canary Lagoon)
Lagoa do Canário is located in the Parque Florestal da Mata do Canário, about 17 km from Ponta Delgada.
It is easily accessible by car and has a car park just a few meters away.
Have you ever heard of Bruma dos Azores? It is like rain among the trees in the Lagoa do Canário region and results from high humidity and low clouds, as the lagoon is located 800 meters above the sea.
A Gruta do Carvão (The Coal Grotto)
About 3 km from the center of Ponta Delgada, exploring Gruta do Carvão is an interesting activity for families.
Guided tours must be booked in advance (phone: 96 139 70 80) to cross a route of about 200 meters, which takes 30-40 minutes.
O Farol de Santa Clara (Santa Clara Lighthouse)
Santa Clara Lighthouse is about 2 km from Ponta Delgada.
It is not a very tall lighthouse, but it’s in a place with excellent views
A Ponta da Ferraria
A little further away, about 25 km from Ponta Delgada, Ponta da Ferraria is an out-of-this-world place.
The solidified lava resulted in rocks with stange formations that contrast with the blue of the ocean. You can take the opportunity to walk the trails and observe the landscape, however, it’s the thermal waters that usually visitors want.
The best time to enjoy the natural hot water pools at Ponta da Ferraria is two hours before and two hours after low tide.
Keep in mind that access to the swimming pools is free and that there are also free changing rooms to shower and change clothes on site.
Things to do in Ponta Delgada Azores
If you don’t feel like reading the full article with all the suggestions for places of interest and activities in Ponta Delgada, then copy the following list of things to do in Ponta Delgada, take it with you, and go exploring.
- visit the churches in the historic center;
- discover the parks and botanical gardens;
- taste the typical gastronomy;
- visit a pineapple plantation;
- Dive into a pool of thermal water.
Restaurants in Ponta Delgada
The city center is quite diverse in terms of restaurants, but the number of visitors is also quite large.
So, in general terms, it is necessary to make a reservation at the restaurants in Ponta Delgada, otherwise, you will not be able to get a table.
At A Tasca restaurant it is almost impossible to get a reservation a day or two in advance, given the immense demand. Count on snacks accompanied by wine by the glass in an informal atmosphere.
At Restaurante O Churrasco, a few meters away, it is easier to get a meal without an appointment.
The food is well-prepared, the portions are plentiful, and the prices are fair.
If you prefer a more homely atmosphere, try the Restaurante Nacional, you will not be disappointed.
Accomodation in Ponta Delgada
We stayed at Tradicampo Eco-Country Houses in Algarvia, that is, about 40 minutes from Ponta Delgada and we recommend it.
The accommodation is perfect for large groups and families, with rooms, a kitchen to prepare meals, a swimming pool, gardens, barbecues, bicycles, in short, you won’t miss anything or get bored.
How many days do you need to visit Ponta Delgada?
The number of days needed to visit Ponta Delgada depends on the number of tourist attractions you want to explore. However, I think that two days to visit the historic center is enough.
This is based on the principle that you will not want to see in detail all the churches, museums, or gardens, in short, everything there is to see in Ponta Delgada.
In any case, allow two hours for each museum or garden you want to visit, and around one hour for churches.
The tourist attractions in the historic center are not too far from each other, which means that you can easily walk.
For visits outside the city center you will need a rental car, or join a tour (see some suggestions for tours and excursions departing Ponta Delgada).
Parking your rent car in Ponta Delgada Azores
Parking a car in Ponta Delgada can be a stressful situation.
Most parking spaces in the center are paid and start counting from 8:00 in the morning.
We saw several cars fined and whenever it was necessary to park the car, we found difficult to find a place.
The only places where it was easy to park the car were on the pineapple plantation and in the Shopping Center, which are free parking lots.
In any case, take note that in the center of Ponta Delgada you can look for a parking space at Parque Avenida Dom João III next to Mercado da Graça (paid), at Parque da Avenida, next to the marina (paid) or at Parque Avenida Dom Manuel I, next to the José do Canto Garden (free).
Map and how to get to Ponta Delgada Azores
To reach Ponta Delgada from João Paulo II Airport, you can expect a car journey of around 10 minutes.
Buses are not a viable option, so if you don’t want to rent a car, you’ll have to take a taxi (between €7-10) or book a transfer.
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