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Best Things To Do in Ponta Delgada Azores

by Valerie Vanr

Discover beautiful Ponta Delgada, on the Azorean island of Sao Miguel.  Walk the stunning waterfront and enjoy the city’s gardens and museums.

Whether you have a half day or more, we’ve got the best things to do in this charming city!

Cobblestone square City Gate Ponta Delgada

Ponta Delgada Itinerary

This is our recommended itinerary for a 3-day visit to Ponta Delgada. The city’s must-sees are on Day 1. If you have less time, do as much as you can within your timeline.

For cruise passengers, who only have one day in Ponta Delgada, stroll the waterfront or the entire walking route shown below.

Map of Ponta Delgada

Ponta Delgada Map
Click on the above Ponta Delgada tourist map for an interactive version.

7 Best Things To Do in Ponta Delgada

Wondering what to do in Ponta Delgada? These are our favourite things to do.

  1. See the City Gates.
  2. Visit the Fortress of Sao Bras.
  3. Take a Whale Watching Tour.
  4. Enjoy a self-guided walking tour along beautiful streets of the city.
  5. See Ponta Delgada from the City Hall Bell Tower.
  6. Visit the Carlos Machado Museums.
  7. Visit Ponta Delgada’s largest gardens, the Jose do Canto Garden and the Antonio Borges Garden.

City Gates

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.

Valerie in front of statue, clock tower, City Gate Ponta Delgada
I am standing in a pretty, cobblestoned, public square. The City Gates and the clock tower of Sao Sebastiao Church are in the background.

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. Andy is looking at a display of 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

Valerie with Ponta Delgada city and marina behind
Behind me is the Ponta Delgada Marina. Most whale watching tours depart from the marina.

Whale watching is a popular activity around many of the Azores 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. 

The 3 most popular whale watching companies in Ponta Delgada offer slightly different tours. Click on the company name below to learn more and book your tour.

Whale Watching CompanyDescription
Futurismo Azores AdventuresA marine biologist on board will help you spot mink whales, dolphins, turtles and more.
Picos de AventuraTravelling in a nimble, open boat, you’ll have a great chance to see bottlenose dolphins and whales.
Terra Azul Azores An exciting marine wildlife tour to learn more about whales, dolphins and the marine biodiversity of the Azores Islands.

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.

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.

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.

People in Campo de Sao Francisco Ponta Delgada
Campo de Sao Francisco is a perfect gathering spot for tours and events. Andy is getting out of the way of runners gathering for a “fun-run” event.

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.

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.
Andy in front of 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 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.

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.

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.

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.

Valerie in front of 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 Museums are in three different 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.

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

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.

Andy 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.

Jose do Canto Garden

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.

Valerie looking at the 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.

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.

Andy 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. For scale, Andy is a bit more than 1.8 metres tall.

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.

Antonio Borges Garden

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.

Valerie by a flowerbed in front of Ponta Delgada's 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. I am standing in Father Sena Freitas Park

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 the Gruta do Carvao website for more information about the caves and types of tours offered.

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.

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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 several fine restaurant options.  Here are 8 of the most popular restaurants in Ponta Delgada.

RestaurantKnown for
SupléxioYes, it’s a hamburger restaurant.  But, with their amazing craft burgers, it is one of the most popular places to eat in town.
O GalegoThe best sirloin steak in town. Reasonably priced.  Not downtown, but worth the drive.
GastrónomoSeafood & Mediterranean fare.  Great family run restaurant.
A TascaGenerous portions, seafood and steak to go with nice selection of wines.
Taberna AçorTraditional Azorean tapas.  Try the tuna steak.  Downtown.
Ta GenteCasual tapas and cocktails in a vibrant atmosphere.
Restaurante AlcidesFresh fish & seafood in this hotel restaurant.
Cais da SardinhaFresh seafood on the menu. Beautiful location on the waterfront. 
Woman holding wine glass in Singular Bistro
I enjoyed 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, open daily except Sundays.

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

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.

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 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.

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 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.

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

Ocean shoreline green hills

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