The historic center of Ponta Delgada

The historic center of Ponta Delgada


We visit the historic center of Ponta Delgada. São Miguel's capital was founded in 1499. The regional government of the Azores Islands and their parliament have their seat in the city. The port city, which has a population of 68.000 including the incorporated localities, has a small fishing fleet, a container terminal, a ferry pier and a marina for ocean-going yachts. Every now and then cruise ships dock in Ponta Delgada. They either make a stopover in the course of a transatlantic voyage or they call at the Azores Islands. We tested both options.

Historic building on the Praça do Município


Historic building on the Praça do Município


Ponta Delgada - Largo Visc. Bensaude


Ponta Delgada - Largo Visc. Bensaude 


In addition to excursions to the west and to Lagoa do Fogo in the center of the island, we use the time we have left to visit several places in the central district of São Sebastião and important churches and secular buildings. Despite the urban-looking row of houses on Avenida Infante Dom Henrique, which runs along the sea, Ponta Delgada is a manageable city with short distances.

Ponta Delgada - Avenida Infante Dom Henrique

Ponta Delgada - Avenida Infante Dom Henrique


Gonçalho Velho Square

The Praça de Gonçalho Velho is described as the central square of the city. It was named after the Portuguese navigator Gonçalho Velho Cabral. It is said that he was the discoverer and explorer of São Miguel and the neighboring island of Santa Maria, and he acted as the first administrator of the island on behalf of the Portuguese king.

Ponta Delgada - Praça de Gonçalho Velho

Ponta Delgada - Praça de Gonçalho Velho


The eye-catchers of the square are the arcaded buildings surrounding it and the monument to the seafarer. The remains of the city gate, which consists of three arches, tower behind it. The Portas da Cidade, the symbol of the city, was built at the port in 1783. In 1947 the city gates were erected at their current location.

Ponta Delgada - Praça de Gonçalho Velho - the namesake


Ponta Delgada - Praça de Gonçalho Velho - the namesake


Praça de Gonçalho Velho - Portas da Cidade


Praça de Gonçalho Velho - Portas da Cidade 


The square flows into the city's main artery, the busy Avenida Infante Dom Henrique. It runs next to the bay where the city was built. Sailing yachts and fishing boats bob in the calm water. We are not put off by the metropolitan skyline, which was initially characterized by a high-rise, office buildings and hotels. This is followed by authentic, historical buildings.

Ponta Delgada - Av. Infante Dom Henrique

Ponta Delgada - Av. Infante Dom Henrique


Town Hall Square

The Praça do Município adjoins the narrow side of the Praça de Gonçalho Velho in the west. Outstanding buildings there are the town hall, built in the baroque style, and the Torre do Relógio. The town hall was formerly the residence of a wealthy family. The tower next to it, almost 30 meters high, dates from 1724. It has a viewing platform. After climbing 106 steps, visitors can enjoy a fascinating 360 ° panoramic view of the city from the height.

Praça do Município - the town hall


Praça do Município - the town hall


Praça do Município - the town hall


Praça do Município - the town hall 


Largo da Matriz

From Praça de Gonçalho Velho, Largo da Matriz branches off in an easterly direction. There is the Igreja de São Sebastião, the main church of the city. We can already see its towering tower from the Portas da Cidade. The formerly small, insignificant pilgrimage chapel was redesigned and expanded in the Baroque style in the 18th century. The mighty Manueline main portal is well worth seeing. Inside the church, wonderful carvings catch the eye.

Largo da Matriz - Tower of the Igreja de São Sebastião
Largo da Matriz - Portal of the Igreja de São Sebastião
Largo da Matriz - main altar of the Igreja de São Sebastião
Largo da Matriz - side altar of the Igreja de São Sebastião

Vasco da Gama Square

The next square off Avenida Infante Dom Henrique is Praça Vasco da Gama. Its distinguishing feature is the Venus fountain. The two buildings to the west and east of the square are used by the main customs office (Alfândega) and Portugal Telecom.

Ponta Delgada - Vasco da Gama Square


Ponta Delgada - Vasco da Gama Square


Ponta Delgada - Vasco da Gama Square


Ponta Delgada - Vasco da Gama Square 


5 de Outubro Square

The Praça 5 de Outubro, the former Campo de São Francisco, is in our opinion the most beautiful and largest square in Ponta Delgada. The defining structure of the square is the three-aisled Igreja de São José. It is one of the largest churches in the Azores. Originally it belonged to the Franciscan monastery Convento de Nossa Senhora de Conceicao. The church was built in the 16th century. It took 60 years to build. The front was redesigned in the 18th century. It shows five bas-reliefs with scenes from the life of St. Francis. There is also a statue of the patron saint in a niche. Inside we count four splendid side altars. The choir is adorned with azulejos, financed by wealthy patrons.

5 de Outubro Square - Igreja de São José
Praça 5 de Outubro - Igreja de São José - the main altar
Praça 5 de Outubro - Igreja de São José - the side altar
Praça 5 de Outubro - Church of São José - Azulejos

The Igreja de São José is not the only church in the square. On its north side stands the Igreja da Nossa Senhora da Esperança monastery church. It belonged to the nunnery of the same name founded in the 16th century. Currently, the nunnery still offers a home. Inside the monastery church, the high altar adorned with gilded wood carvings and the azulejos come into view. The special external feature of the church is the monumental looking five-storey tower.

Praca 5 de Outubro - Church of Our Lady of Esperanca


Praca 5 de Outubro - Church of Our Lady of Esperanca


Praca 5 de Outubro - Church of Our Lady of Esperanca


Praca 5 de Outubro - Church of Our Lady of Esperanca 


The outer ring of the square is surrounded by a double row of plane trees. On its eastern sidelines stands a 150 year old Australian ironwood tree.

Praça 5 de Outubro - the ironwood tree

Praça 5 de Outubro - the ironwood tree


Another eye-catcher on the south side of the square is the Monumento ao Emigrante. The life-size group of three figures pays tribute to those islanders who emigrated and who have built a new life abroad.

Praça 5 de Outubro - Monument to the Emigrants

Praça 5 de Outubro - Monument to the Emigrants


Forte de Sao Brás

Opposite the square is Ponta Delgada's fortress, the Forte de São Brás. It was built along with three other fortresses on the waterline. The three fortresses were razed with the design of the waterfront. In contrast, the Forte de São Bras was preserved. It was built from 1552 next to the original anchorage to protect residents from pirate attacks. The polygonal building has four bastions at the corners to accommodate guns. Inside the complex is the parade ground surrounded by buildings. The fortress is the location of the Museu Militar dos Açores. Today the Portuguese Navy uses the fort, which has been redesigned several times over the years. In front of the fortress, a memorial commemorates the victims of the First World War.

Ponta Delgada - Forte de Sao Brás


Ponta Delgada - Forte de Sao Brás


Ponta Delgada - Guards in front of the Forte de São Brás


Ponta Delgada - Guards in front of the Forte de São Brás 


At the end

There is a lot more to see in Ponta Delgada. Examples of this are the Largo do Colégio, the Teatro Micaelense, the Igreja de São Pedro opposite the cruise ship dock or magnificent parks. Unfortunately, there is no longer enough time for that.

July 2021