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Best Things To Do in Ponta Delgada Azores

by Valerie Vanr

Beautiful Ponta Delgada is the perfect place to start your exploration of 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.

You can easily spend a day or more relaxing and exploring this charming city.

Cobblestone square City Gate Ponta Delgada

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

Ponta Delgada Map

Ponta Delgada Itinerary

Depending on how much time you have in the city, here is our suggested itinerary.

  • Day 1.  Must See.  Walk along the waterfront to visit: the City Gates and the Azores Military Museum in the Fortress of Sao Bras.  Enjoy a Whale Watching tour. 
  • Day 2.  Enjoy a Walking Tour of the city, visiting the 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 line visitors), the Ponta Delgada waterfront is the perfect area to visit.

City Gates

The 18th-century ‘Portas da Cidade’ dominates the charming public square. The royal coat of arms shows prominently above the three ornate round archways. Construction of the wide street along the waterfront forced the relocation of the gates from the waters’ edge to their current inland spot.

Woman statue clock tower City Gate Ponta Delgada
The City Gates and the clock tower of Sao Sebastiao Church are an eye-catching backdrop to the cobblestone patterns of the square.

In front of the gates, the Goncalo Velho Cabral Statue honours the first governor of the Azorean islands of Santa Maria and Sao Miguel.

Stone walls Fortress Sao Bras Ponta Delgada
The museum has many artifacts used over the years by the Azorean military and includes information about many of the conflicts they participated in.

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.

Military vehicles Ponta Delgada Azores' Military Museum
Military vehicles and mobile guns are part of the equipment on display.
Displays inside Azores' Military Museum
There are many types of items on display. Here we saw military uniforms and different types of weapons.

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

Woman Ponta Delgada city and marina behind
Many companies offer whale watching tours based in the Ponta Delgada Marina.

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 you can see whales 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.

Narrow cobblestone street Ponta Delgada
Buildings are no more than 6 storeys tall and densely packed keeping Ponta Delgada very compact and easy to explore by foot.

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.

The walking route is about 3.5 kilometres long. You’ll find museums, churches and lots of history along the way. There are many restaurants, cafes, shops and bars along the way and around the harbour for you to enjoy.

The Ponta Delgada attractions below are described as you’ll find them starting in the square just north of the fortress.

People in Campo de Sao Francisco Ponta Delgada
Campo de Sao Francisco is a perfect gathering spot for tours and events.

Campo de Sao Francisco

This lovely town square acts as the city’s gathering spot for events. Adjacent to the square are two churches and a monument.

The Emigrant Monument commemorates the large emigration of Azoreans to Hawaii for work on sugarcane plantations in the last quarter of the 19th century.

Man looking at Emigrant Monument Ponta Delgada
In the 19th century, many Azoreans were involved with the sugarcane industry, making them ideal to recruit for Hawaii’s plantations. The monument honours the many families who left the Azores for Hawaii permanently.
Man Sao Jose Church Ponta Delgada
The interior of Sao Jose Church is decorated with beautiful blue and white tiles and artwork from the 17th and 18th centuries.

The Sao Jose Church, completed in 1714, is on the west side of the square. Five small limestone carvings of the life of Saint Francis adorn the front of the church above the three arched doorways. A lava statue of the patron saint is below the roof peak.

The Sanctuary of the Lord Holy Christ is part of the Convent of Our Lady of Hope. The convent has existed on Sao Miguel since 1540. Mid-17th century tiles and carvings decorate the sanctuary’s chancel.

Walk east out of the square 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. The pretty cobblestone-square with its central fountain acts a round-about.

Fountain in center of Vasco de Gama Square Ponta Delgada
The “bull’s eye” circles around the fountain in Vasco de Gama Square look painted but they are made with individual white and black stones.

City Hall is just to the east on the first street north of the main avenue.

Ponta Delgada City Hall Bell Tower

See beautiful Ponta Delgada from the top of the early 18th-century bell tower. Your visit to the almost 30 metre tall ‘torre sineira’ is timed and escorted.

Flowerbed fountain statue Ponta Delgada City Hall
From the top of the City Hall Bell Tower enjoy the view over the city.

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.

Front Sao Sebastiao Church Ponta Delgada
The doorways of Sao Sebastiao Church are very ornate and typical of the Portuguese architectural style known as Manueline.
Large clock tower of Sao Sebastiao Church
Sao Sebastiao Church’s beautiful tower is the only clock tower in the city.

This area has lots of restaurants.

Woman Ponta Delgada cafe tables
Many restaurants and cafes set up on the sidewalk in front of their businesses.

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 convent built in the 16th century. This location concentrates on the natural history, local farming and fishing in the Azores.

Cobblestone designs of Ponta Delgada Sidewalk
The beautiful cobblestone sidewalks are walkable art.

Walk west until just before you reach a pretty green park. The dark stone building on the right is College Church, the Religious Art Museum 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.

Man taking photo Jose do Canto Palace
Jose do Canto, a wealthy nature lover, built a 6-hectare garden and this large house now called the Palace.

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.

Side and main altars Saint Anne's Chapel
Inside Saint Anne’s Chapel are sculptures of Saint Anne, the maternal grandmother of Jesus and Saint Quiteria, a 2nd-century virgin martyr.

As you wander the shady paths of the garden you’ll find the Pavilion, a Victoria greenhouse now used for events. In the upper part of the garden is the Palace, built by Jose do Canto.  This is a private residence and a hotel/B&B.

Man standing by tree's buttress root
The Moreton Bay Fig tree is known for its huge buttress root system. It is native to Eastern Australia and is one of the species brought to the Jose do Canto Garden.

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. You’ll pass a large cemetery and the Parque Atlantico shopping mall.

Turn left and walk south for a long block on Rua Agostinho Pacheco. The entrance to the Antonio Borges Garden is just 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. On the north side of the park is the Conceicao Palace. This large colourful building was originally the Convent of Our Lady of Conception. In 1976 it became the seat of Azores regional government.

Woman flowerbed Conceicao Palace
In 1976 the 9 islands of the Azores became a Portuguese autonomous region. The executive branch of the regional government is in Ponta Delgada. Conceicoo Palace is the headquarters of the Azorean cabinet.

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. A taxi can easily take you there.

Gruta do Carvao (Cave)

The cave system, about 2.5 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, the caves are open to the public. The visitor centre explains the volcanic activities and processes which created these tunnels.

Azores Pineapple Plantation

Pineapples, introduced to Sao Miguel in the mid-19th century, are grown in glass greenhouses using traditional techniques.

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. There’s also a store so you can take some home to enjoy and remember your trip by.

Ponta Delgada Attractions Map

Ponta Delgada Hotels

Check out these great options.

Ponta Delgada Charming House
The beautiful renovated “B&B” Casa das Palmeiras also known as Charming House
Aerial view Park Hotel deck swimming pool
Relax by the pool at Sao Miguel Park Hotel.

Ponta Delgada Restaurants and Food

The city has lots of fine restaurant options.  We enjoyed an amazing dinner at Singular Bistro.

Here are 5 popular restaurants in downtown Ponta Delgada.

  1. Singular Bistro
  2. Boca de Cena
  3. Sao Pedro Restaurant 
  4. Calcada do Cais 
  5. Taberna Acor
Woman holding wine glass in Singular Bistro
Enjoy a lovely meal after a great day of touring Ponta Delgada

For lunches or snacks, there are shops and cafes everywhere in the harbour area.  For fresh market produce, visit the Mercado da Graca.

Produce stand Ponta Delgada Grace Market
Grace Market is the perfect place to grab fresh produce and baked goods.

Ponta Delgada Shopping

Parque Atlantico is the place to find anything you’ve forgotten for your trip. This modern shopping mall has clothes stores, a full food court and even a movie theatre.

There is a cellphone store where we picked up a SIM card. Its grocery store was great to stock up items for our Sao Miguel road trip.

Sailboat middle of Parque Atlantico shopping center
The shopping mall Parque Atlantico has shops, a food court, grocery store and movie theatre.

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 here.

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 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. Cruise passengers can spend time here before exploring the rest of the city.

Moorings Ponta Delgada Marina
The port complex completed in 2008 has shops, tour operators, restaurants and the cruise ship terminal.

Know Before You Go

What is the best time to visit Ponta Delgada Azores?

Summer is the most popular time to visit so 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 you can 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.

Swimming pool Ponta Delgada
Swim in either the man-made pool or the tidal pool at Fisherman’s Pools near the marina.

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