Évora & Óbidos, Portugal

Jason R. Matheson
5 min readDec 3, 2022


After two enjoyable weeks in Spain, I drove northwest from Seville and crossed the border into Portugal. There are no border checks between the 26 European countries that comprise the Schengen Area, which is a different group of countries than the European Union (although many overlap).

Only the road signs changed from Spanish to Portuguese. To my American ear, the Portuguese language flows more like French compared to the staccato of Spanish. I’ve learned a few basic phrases but pronunciation is much harder, the words sound nothing like what they appear in writing.

Thankfully, most of the people here speak some English, often quite well. Evidently the Portuguese watch English language TV shows and movies with subtitles rather than dubbed audio (like the Spanish). Thus, in addition to studying it in school, they’re immersed in English through American and British entertainment.

I chose to stop for the night in Évora, a town of about 50,000 people in eastern Portugal. It has a particularly well-preserved central core in addition to several historic monuments, including a Roman temple. Much of Évora is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

From my research, I learned that Évora provided a good indication of what Lisbon looked like before the infamous 1755 earthquake that leveled Portugal’s capital city. Here, the main square Praça do Geraldo was lined by delicate buildings with pastel-colored facades from the 1500s.

Enjoying the sunny weather, I climbed to the top of the Cathedral of Évora, a gothic wonder built between 1280 and 1340. I surveyed the town from above, one of my favorite tricks to decide where to hike next.

After wandering the streets of Évora, I hit the road again in my little Fiat. I crossed most of the width of Portugal in this drive, heading west toward the Atlantic coast. My destination was Óbidos, a historic village located on a hilltop, encircled by a fortified wall.

My Airbnb for the next three nights was located within the walls of the old town. Maria, my host, was born and raised in Óbidos. She provided a wealth of tips for my visit, including a great place to eat right next to my red door.

Portugal is one of the oldest countries in Europe with the Kingdom of Portugal established in 1139. King Afonso II gave the title of this village to Queen Urraca in 1210. Since then, Óbidos has often been patronized by the Queens of Portugal.

There are no level (or straight) cobblestone lanes here. You walk up, down and around in just a few steps along the same path. Even for an old country, it’s evident the village of Óbidos is ancient.

We’re near the coast so I’m sampling Portuguese seafood. These were fried prawns dressed with limes and a garlicy sauce.

Although it’s just the beginning of December, the Christmas markets are in full swing here in Europe. In Óbidos, I can step out my door and on the next few streets explore the little wooden huts that offer holiday food, drinks and crafts. There’s even an ice skating rink in front of the village church.

You’ll note Mickey and Minney Mouse hugging kids in the photo above. American culture permeates much of Europe, if not the world. Of course, it can produce backlash due to its prevalence but much of the time, it’s embraced. It’s also quite influential. For all the talk of a rising China, they have a long way to go before challenging American “soft” power.

That said, there’s no American Budweiser in my plans here. I’m drinking local and that means a Cerveja Sagres, decked appropriately in Portuguese red and green. Saúde!


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Jason R. Matheson

I prefer to travel slow. Enjoy history, design, architecture, cars, sports digital. Auburn alum, Sooner born.