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How to spend a day in the Azores' capital of Ponta Delgada

June 15, 2022
6 min read
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The Azores archipelago of Portugal is full of jaw-dropping nature displays, charming historical towns and incredible food and wine. Any visitor flying to the island chain will find themself at least briefly in the Azores’ capital, Ponta Delgada, as the destination is home to the region's main international airport.

But does this port city on the large island of São Miguel have anything noteworthy to offer? Is it worth spending time there beyond using it as a base for hikes and hot spring exploration? The answer to these questions is a definite "yes."

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Here’s what to see, eat and do when you have a day in the capital city of Ponta Delgada.

Dine at Tasquinha Vieira

A stylish restaurant with minimalist decor, Tasquinha Viera is a can't-miss spot for dinner. Like most restaurants here, the menu features plenty of fresh seafood cooked to perfection. You shouldn’t forgo the cheese plate, filled with Azorean cheeses. We also recommend the slow-cooked beef, as well as the handmade ice cream for dessert. Be sure to sample as many local Azorean wines as your stomach (and brain) will allow.

Enjoy an evening stroll along the harbor

Ponta Delgada is a port city, so you can expect to find a bustling waterfront worth exploring. Stroll the waterfront promenade, Avenida Infante Dom Henrique. If you start at the western end, you’ll see the 16th-century Forte de São Brás, a fortress still in use today by the Portuguese navy. It also houses the Military Museum of the Azores, should you want to spend some time learning about the region's military history. Continue walking and you'll eventually reach the famous (and photogenic) three arches of the original city gates, which date back to the 18th century.

(Photo by Juergen-Sack/Getty Images)

Related: 11 things to see and do when you visit the Azores

Eat freshly baked queijadas da Vila

Come morning, you may need a quick pick-me-up. Each of the Azorean islands has a special queijada (Portuguese milk and egg pastry). Those found on São Miguel, called queijadas da Vila, were created by nuns from St. Andrew’s Convent in Vila Franca do Campo. Adelino Morgado in Ponta Delgada began making the special queijadas in 1961. You’ll see their paper-wrapped pastries throughout the city, but for the freshest ones around, head to the factory shop and have one (or two) with tea or coffee to start your day.

Go whale watching

A bit past the city gates is the marina, where dozens of companies offer three-hour whale and dolphin watching tours. The surrounding Atlantic waters teem with sea life, including various whale species. You can see dolphins and resident sperm whales year-round, while larger species like blue, fin and sei whales make an appearance in April and May. Arrive in October for a chance to see majestic humpback whales swimming in São Miguel's surrounding waters.

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Explore the town square

When you’ve gotten your fill of the water, head through the city gates and into Largo da Matriz, the main town square where the beautiful 16th-century landmark church and bell tower, Igreja de São Sebastião, reside. The square is extremely picturesque, with patterned stonework on the ground. Charming cafes and shops line all four sides of the square, as well as along the side streets leading into the square.

(Photo by José-Gouveia-EyeEm/Getty Images)

Sample goods at the farmers market

When hunger strikes, make your way to the covered Mercado da Graça, which sits right in the city center. Here, you’ll find stalls with vendors selling everything from tinned and fresh seafood to traditional liquors and spices. Pick up some locally made cheeses and regional staples — including the market's famous pineapples — to enjoy for lunch after stocking up on souvenirs and snacks for the rest of your trip.

Related: A guide to the food and wine of the Azores

Walk among palace gardens

About 10 minutes north of downtown Ponta Delgada, you'll discover the stunning Palácio de Sant’Ana. The bright red neoclassical building is the official residence of the region's president. Although the palace itself is not open to the public, the surrounding gardens are. You’ll see manicured lawns, a pond, towering trees, greenhouses and walkable paths as you explore. Try to also save time for a visit to the Jardim Botânico José de Canto, a separate botanical garden right next door.

(Photo courtesy of Jardim Jose do Canto/Facebook)

Savor traditional Portuguese food at A Tasca

This popular restaurant in the heart of the city is casual and tasty, serving many classic Azorean and Portuguese dishes, including petiscos, the Portuguese version of tapas. The eatery only uses ingredients sourced from the island to create dishes like breaded octopus rings with sweet-and-sour onion chutney, grilled pork sausage with pineapple and limpets, a local delicacy that's smothered in garlic butter. For dessert, look for anything with locally grown pineapple.

See the Chapel of the Holy Christ of Miracles

Any visit to Ponta Delgada should include a stop at one of the city's most well-known attractions: Nossa Senhora da Esperança Convent. The historic São Francisco Square site dates back to 1541. Inside, you'll find the gilded Chapel of the Holy Christ of Miracles, a pilgrimage site for many Azoreans. It is covered with 18th-century azulejo tiles, as well as lots of religious art, statues, jewels and more.

Discover the Carlos Machado Museum

Named after its founder, a local naturalist and professor, the small Carlos Machado Museum occupies a former monastery from the 16th century. It features a hodgepodge of quirky finds, including antique toys, religious and period art and taxidermic animals. It makes for a perfect last stop before heading on to other parts of São Miguel or another island.

Related: 6 off-the-beaten-path places to see in Europe

Featured image by Getty Images/iStockphoto
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
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  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees