The beautiful city of Ponta Delgada is the perfect place to start exploring Sao Miguel, the largest island of the Azores archipelago. Whether you have a half day or more, there are lots of things to do in the city.
Enjoy a walk through Ponta Delgada discovering the city’s gardens, museums and stunning waterfront. The city is the main tourist and economic hub of the Azores.
It’s easy to spend a day or more relaxing and exploring this charming city.
Ponta Delgada Itinerary
This is our recommended itinerary for a 3 day visit to Ponta Delgada. Just adjust it to fit your timeline.
- Day 1. Must See. Walk along the waterfront to visit: the City Gates, the Fortress of Sao Bras and the Azores Military Museum. Enjoy a Whale Watching Tour.
- Day 2. Enjoy a Walking Tour of the city, visiting its many gardens and museums. Enjoy a swim at Fisherman’s Pools.
- Day 3. Head to the cave at Gruta do Carvao and visit the Azores Pineapple Plantation.
The Ponta Delgada “Must-Sees” are along the city’s waterfront. For those on a short time line (such as cruise ship visitors), the Ponta Delgada waterfront is the perfect area to visit.
Ponta Delgada Map
7 Best Things To Do in Ponta Delgada
- See the City Gates.
- Visit the Fortress of Sao Bras.
- Take a Whale Watching Tour.
- Walk Ponta Delgada’s beautiful streets.
- See Ponta Delgada from City Hall Bell Tower.
- Visit Ponta Delgada Museums.
- Visit Ponta Delgada Gardens.
The 18th-century ‘Portas da Cidade’ dominate the pretty public square. Note the royal coat of arms above the three, ornate, round archways. The gates were originally at the waters’ edge. Construction of the wide, Avenida Infante Dom Henrique along the waterfront forced the relocation of the gates.
In front of the gates, the Goncalo Velho Cabral Statue honours the first governor of the Azorean islands of Santa Maria and Sao Miguel.
Fortress of Sao Bras and Azores Military Museum
São Miguel’s largest fortress, Forte de São Brás, protected the early port of Ponta Delgada from attacks by pirates and privateers. It was constructed in the late 16th century in a style typical of Renaissance military architecture.
Visit the Azores Military Museum in the fort. It has a significant collection of weaponry, uniforms and communication equipment. The displays discuss many aspects of Azorean military history.
Ponta Delgada Whale Watching Tours
Whale watching is a popular activity around many of the Azore Islands. These deep waters are home to a large population of both resident and migrating species so whales are seen year-round.
Whale watching tours leave regularly from the marina. Here are the most popular whale watching companies in Ponta Delgada:
Ponta Delgada Walking Tour
The city began as a small fishing port and has kept its quaint, small town atmosphere.
Enjoy the black and white cobblestone streets. It’s like walking on artwork with designs in stripes, stars, chains and other eye-catching patterns. Many houses and public gardens have planters and flowering bushes adding splashes of colour along the way.
Our walking route is about 3.5 kilometres long. Find gardens, museums, churches and lots of history. There are many restaurants, cafes, shops and bars along the way and around the harbour to enjoy.
We describe the Ponta Delgada attractions as they are found along the route. Start in the square just north of the fortress.
Campo de Sao Francisco
This lovely town square acts as the city’s gathering spot for events. Two churches and a monument are adjacent to the square.
On the south side, the Emigrant Monument commemorates the large emigration of Azoreans to Hawaii for work on sugarcane plantations in the last quarter of the 19th century.
The Sao Jose Church sits on the west side of the square. Five small, limestone carvings of the life of Saint Francis adorn the front of the 18th-century church above the three arched doorways. Note the lava statue of the patron saint below the roof peak.
Continue clockwise to the Sanctuary of the Lord Holy Christ. It is part of the Convent of Our Lady of Hope which has been on Sao Miguel since 1540. Mid-17th century tiles and carvings decorate the sanctuary’s chancel.
Walk east, out of the square, along the main avenue, to Vasco de Gama Square. De Gama, a 15th century Portuguese explorer, was the first to sail from Europe to India by rounding Africa’s Cape of Good Hope. Take care crossing to the pretty cobblestone-square with its central fountain. The square is essentially the centre of a roundabout.
From the north end of the square, walk east on Santa Luzia Street to City Hall.
City Hall Bell Tower
See beautiful Ponta Delgada from the top of the early 18th-century bell tower. The visit to the almost 30 metre tall ‘torre sineira’ is escorted during city hall operating hours, weekdays only.
A warrior statue of the archangel Saint Michael stands in the plaza in front of city hall.
Walk to the next intersection, behind the City Gates. Turn left on Largo da Matriz and admire the beautiful clock tower of the 16th-century Sao Sebastiao Church.
This area has lots of restaurants.
Turn right on Largo Visconde Bensaúde and left at the second street to walk north on Rua Manuel Inácio Correia.
Carlos Machado Museums
The Carlos Machado Museum is housed in three buildings.
The first is just before the 3rd street on the right. The Santa Barbara Museum showcases the artwork of Azorean artists. The building housing ‘Núcleo de Santa Bárbara’ was built in the 17th century.
The main building of the museum is one block north and a few steps east on Rua do Dr.Guilherme Poças. The Carlos Machado Museum opened in 1930 in this former 16th century convent . This location concentrates on the natural history, farming and fishing in the Azores.
Walk west until just before a pretty green park. The dark stone building on the right is College Church and the Sacred Art Centre. A stunning altarpiece and 17th century tile panels are among its many religious artifacts. The baroque ‘Igreja do Colégio’, also called All Saints Church, is built on the site of a former Jesuit College church.
The pretty green park is the Antero de Quental Garden. It honours Antero de Quental, an influential 19th-century Portuguese poet born on Sao Miguel. The building to the north of the park is the Public Library and Regional Archive. It often hosts temporary exhibits.
Walk back 1 block to Rua de Sant’Anna. Follow it north to Rua Jose Jacome Correia. Walk east to the entrance to the Jose do Canto Garden.
Ponta Delgada Gardens
The city has many public gardens. Some are small and just cover street corners. The next two are large tranquil places originally planted in the mid-19th century.
The Jose do Canto Garden, the largest garden in Ponta Delgada, is open year-round. ‘Jardim José do Canto’ has a wide variety of plant species collected from around the world. The wealthy Jose do Canto created the original garden plan which is still the base for today’s 6-hectare garden.
See the well-preserved 17th century Saint Anne’s Chapel at the front of the garden.
Wander the shady paths of the garden to find the Pavilion, a Victoria greenhouse used for events. The Palace, built by Jose do Canto is in the upper part of the garden. This is a private residence and a hotel/B&B.
Next door to the garden is the Palace of Saint Anne. The large residence and gardens were built in the mid-19th century and became the seat of the presidency of the Azorean Government in 1980.
Continue walking west on Rua Jose jacome correia. Pass a large cemetery and the Parque Atlantico shopping mall. Turn left and walk south for a long block on Rua Agostinho Pacheco.
The Antonio Borges Garden is down the first street to the right. The ‘Jardim António Borges’ is a quiet public garden, with grottos and rare plants. It was first planted in the mid-19th century as the private garden of a wealthy member of the island’s elite.
Any of the streets from here going south lead to the green square of Father Sena Freitas Park. The Conceicao Palace is on the north side of the park. This large colourful building was originally the Convent of Our Lady of Conception. It’s been the seat of Azores regional government since 1976.
The street on the southwest side of the park will take you back to your starting point.
There are two other interesting places to visit just outside the main metro area.
Attractions near Ponta Delgada
Both of these places are about two kilometres from the waterfront and easy to reach by taxi.
Gruta do Carvao (Cave)
The cave system, about 2 kilometres long, is the largest lava tunnel on Sao Miguel and one of the largest in the Azores. There are 4 main caves. In the past, sections of the tunnels were used by the military and for commercial purposes.
The section between caves Gruta do Carvão and Troço do Paim is a single branch running generally north-south. These caves show lava stalactites and stalagmites, lava bridges and other cave formations unique to this type of cave system.
Protected as a Regional Natural Monument, parts of the caves are open daily by guided tour. The visitor centre explains the volcanic activities and processes which created these tunnels. Check Gruta do Carvao’s How does it work webpage for more information about visiting.
Azores Pineapple Plantation
Pineapples, introduced to Sao Miguel in the mid-19th century, are grown in glass greenhouses using traditional techniques.
Free guided tours through the plantation explore the traditional glass and wood greenhouses where the pineapple is grown over an almost 3 year period.
Guides explain the history of pineapple production. And of course let’s not forget a chance to enjoy delicious food and drink made from pineapple and purchase some to take home. Visit the Azores Pineapple Plantation webpage for full details.
Ponta Delgada Hotels
Check out these great options.
- Charming House – We stayed at this exceptional Bed and Breakfast.
- Sao Miguel Park Hotel – Another fine hotel that we stayed at.
- Here are other great hotels in Ponta Delgada.
Ponta Delgada Restaurants and Food
The city has lots of fine restaurant options. Here are 5 popular restaurants in downtown Ponta Delgada.
- Boca de Cena
- Sao Pedro Restaurant
- Calcada do Cais
- Taberna Acor
- Tasquinha Vieira
For lunches or snacks, there are shops and cafes everywhere in the harbour area. For fresh market produce, visit the Mercado da Graca, open daily except Sundays.
Ponta Delgada Shopping
Parque Atlantico, a modern shopping mall has clothes stores, a full food court and even a movie theatre. Find anything you’re needing.
There is a cellphone store to pick up a SIM card. Its grocery store was great to stock up items for our Sao Miguel road trip.
Ponta Delgada Arrival Points
Ponta Delgada Airport
The Ponta Delgada Airport (PDL) is located 2 kilometres west of the city. Taxis to get into town are plentiful. Car rentals are also available at the airport.
North American visitors can catch daily flights from Boston or Toronto to the Azores. For European visitors, there are plenty of flight options from both the United Kingdom and mainland Portugal.
Ponta Delgada Cruise Port
The cruise port, Portas do Mar (Gateway of the Seas), is the first place that cruise passengers will see when they disembark. Located beside the Ponta Delgada Marina, the sea terminal complex includes a shopping mall and restaurant areas.
Know Before You Go
What is the best time to visit Ponta Delgada Azores?
Summer is the most popular time to visit and the city can get quite crowded. Shoulder season, spring and autumn, is enjoyable with fewer visitors.
What is the weather like in Ponta Delgada Azores?
With the nearby Gulf Stream, temperatures don’t show a lot of variation so visit anytime. In the summer, you’ll have lots of sun and drier weather. The average summer temperature is about 23C. In spring and autumn the weather is cooler and wetter. Winter’s average temperature is about 13C and it rains frequently.
What can we do on a rainy day in Ponta Delgada?
When the rain arrives, visit one or all of the Carlos Machado Museums. There is also the movie theatre at the Parque Atlantico.
Does Ponta Delgada have a beach or swimming area?
Fisherman’s Pools and tide pool is a public swimming pool with an ocean tide pool beside it. It is just to the east of the marina.
Be sure to check out our article, Things To Do in Sao Miguel Azores, for more places and great destinations to visit on the island.
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