Óbidos is a medieval city. And that is an understatement because, like so many castles in Portugal, Óbidos has not only a well preserved castle but the village still lives within fortified walls that look as robust and well-kept as the day they were built.

Situated on a hill in the “Oeste” region of Portugal, close to Leiria, Caldas Da Rainha and Peniche, Óbidos plays host each year to “Vila Natal” - a festive theme park that takes advantage of the historic surroundings.

Vila Natal at Óbidos, 2010

Vila Natal at Óbidos, 2010

Vila Natal this year offered a couple of shows for the kids - one a music show and one a puppet show, both taking place in the village’s casa da música. The village cafés and shops all offered tasters of the local delicacy, “ginjinha” - which is basically a cherry liqueur. Within the castle keep itself, visitors paying their €5 entry fee gained access to Santa’s house, a pony ride, outdoor games, a slide and some other small entertainments.

Pedal karts carried an additional small price, but because it was raining no Portuguese people were riding them, so our kids got 60 minutes on them instead of the allotted 20 minutes. Ice skating was also extra, at €4 per person for 20 minutes.

Because Óbidos is a tourist town, and you are effectively a captive audience, don’t expect food and drink to be as cheap as it famously can be in Portugal. We had a very light lunch in a small restaurant (three main meals and four soft drinks) and paid €43. The same meal in a non-tourist area of Porto would have cost us around €20.

Vila Natal is open between mid December and the beginning of January.

For some great photos of Óbidos, have a look at Steve Green’s photostream on Flickr.

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