Travel throughout five centuries of history to the island of Terceira, one of the most important islands in Azores along with São Miguel, and find out the legacy left in Angra do Heroísmo in the different periods and architectural styles, proof of the experiences of a fishing cosmopolitan location that embraced the world.
Side by side with the Atlantic Ocean, Angra do Heroísmo was a stopover during the Age of Discoveries, an oasis for seafarers in the middle of the ocean, a safe harbour that protected them against pirates and privateers that coveted their riches. Here, people traded spices, precious metals from America, ivory, rich fabrics, wood and religious art.
Devastated by the earthquake of 1st of January 1980, Angra rose from the ashes and was rebuilt, maintaining the typical design of its streets, monuments and houses. Strolling through the streets and looking for historical and architectural landmarks, that led UNESCO to list the historic centre as a World Heritage Site in 1983, is one of those things you must do!
Its location, the rich soil, the safe bay and its overall beauty made Angra do Heroísmo an important city, acknowledged throughout the world.
This is a charming city, not only for its history and culture but also for its architecture, nature and people. Along the cobblestoned-narrow streets, bakeries whet the appetite of visitors with traditional sweets and the bay lures visitors for a stroll or even a dive in the crystal clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean, enjoying a small beach nearby.
Do you want to explore Angra do Heroísmo but don’t know where to start? Discover in this article the most beautiful places in Angra do Heroísmo, the best itinerary, the best activities and tours, where to sleep, where to eat and the traditions and festivities.
Top 20 Things to do in Angra do Heroísmo
1. Forte de São Sebastião
A must-see place for people visiting Angra do Heroísmo, the fort Forte de São Sebastião was the first sea fortress of the city, with walls built in the 16th century to protect Terceira island.
Even though you can still visit it today, the fort is presently a hotel from the Pousadas de Portugal (affiliate link) hotel chain, a magnificent and unique accommodation where you can spend the night during your visit to the city.
2. Marina d’Angra
Angra do Heroísmo has a harbour that is actually more of a marina than a fishing harbour. Years ago, Angra’s harbour was known as Porto das Pipas, the location of the fort Forte de São Sebastião. In this new marina, built in 2004, you’ll find mainly sailboats and most of the boats dedicated to private tours, both for snorkelling or cetacean watching purposes.
From this marina you can go discover the other islands of Azores archipelago or, at least, some of them. Even if you don’t want to go on a private tour, you can go for a walk and discover the other points of interest nearby such as the church Igreja da Misericórdia and the fort Forte de São Sebastião.
3. Vasco da Gama Monument
In 1499, when Vasco da Gama fleet returned to Lisbon from their trip to India, they took a longer root in order to get fair wind. Vasco da Gama’s brother, Paulo da Gama, was very sick and, because of that, the fleet headed to Azores and disembarked in Terceira.
Paulo da Gama didn’t survive and was buried, according to Damião de Góis, “in a shallow grave, over which a marble tombstone was placed with his name; this grave is located at the portico of the sacristy of the chapel capela de Nossa Senhora da Guia” (present location of Angra do Heroísmo Museum). According to other scholars, Vasco da Gama was deeply upset with his brother’s death that he decided to remain on the island for some weeks.
To honor the stay of this Portuguese explorer on the island, people erected a beautiful statue at the square Pátio da Alfândega, close to the marina.
4. Igreja da Misericórdia
In the centre of Angra do Heroísmo, you’ll find the church Igreja da Misericórdia, a building that amazes everyone, even the non-religious, because of its beautiful facade.
Built in the beginning of the 18th century at the old location of the hospital, this church has a single nave where you can admire six side chapels and a beautiful chancel.
5. Praça Velha
Considered as one of the best known places in Angra do Heroísmo, the square Praça Velha is the nerve centre of the city. This square displays Renaissance-style lines and, despite having been renovated, it was originally built during the Middle Ages.
After admiring this square, you can go explore the surrounding streets, the main arteries of Angra do Heroísmo, like the street Rua da Sé.
6. MAH – Museu de Angra do Heroísmo
Located at an old Franciscan convent from the 17th century, here you’ll find a diverse collection with cars, ceramics, weapons, medals, coins, navigation equipment, sculptures, paintings, furniture, porcelain and much more!
Apart from the museum, the old convent is also the location of the church Igreja de São Francisco, also known as the church Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Guia, a beautiful example of religious architecture from the 17th century, that displays wonderful wood works both in the retables and in the altar.
Information: to enjoy the beauty of this museum, you’ll need at least three hours. This is, definitely, one of the most amazing museums in Portugal!
7. Alto da Memória
The monument Alto da Memória, also known as Outeiro da Memória, was built in the 19th century to honour the visit of king D. Pedro IV to the island.
It is definitely one of the places that deserves to be on this list of things to do and places to visit in Angra do Heroísmo. Apart from its historical importance, from this location you can enjoy panoramic views over the city.
8. Jardim Duque da Terceira
Another place you can’t miss during your visit to Angra do Heroísmo is the garden Jardim do Duque da Terceira, a municipal park that will amaze you for its beauty.
Its construction began in 1882 as a homage to the Duke of Terceira of that period. There are fountains and biodiversity in this garden where you’ll find all types of art styles – you’ll feel like being in a classic movie.
You should also know that you’ll find in this park the restaurant-cafeteria Casa do Jardim, a pleasant place to savour organic food and enjoy the view over the garden while resting.
Information: after visiting the monument Alto da Memória, climb down the stairs in front of it to access the garden.
9. Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Carmo
Presently property of the Carmelites, this church, built in the mid 1600’s, is considered a good example of the missionary spirit of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits.
The austerity of the church’s facade, typical of that period, contrasts with the interior with Portuguese Baroque and Mannerist gilded wood, paintings from Portuguese artists, Portuguese and Dutch glazed tiles, sculptures and a beautiful sedan chair with a image of Nossa Senhora da Assunção.
10. Palácio dos Capitães-Generais
Named Colégio da Ascensão since 1595, this building belonged to the Jesuits and here they would teach foreign languages, Philosophy and Theology.
In 1766, after the religious orders were banned from Portugal, the 1st Captain General of Azores, Antão de Almada, started converting this building into a palace and, in the following centuries, it was the royal court for two times (during the reign of D. Pedro IV, in 1832, and D. Carlos I, in 1901).
Even though this palace is one of the official residences of the President of Azores Regional Government, you can visit it and here you’ll have the opportunity to admire beautiful pieces from the 18th and 19th centuries like oil paintings on canvas and old furniture and porcelain.
11. Igreja da Sé
The church Igreja do Santíssimo Salvador da Sé, presently the cathedral of Angra do Heroísmo, was built in the end of the 16th century with the purpose of being the headquarters of the city’s diocese, established in 1534 by Pope Paul II.
Seen as the biggest religious construction in the archipelago of Azores, here you’ll have the opportunity to admire the beautiful facade with two bell towers and a clock tower in the centre.
Inside, you can admire some chapels and many religious pieces both here and in the museum Museu de Arte Sacra, including panels with the passion of Christ, some sculptures, glazed tiles and much more!
12. Prainha de Angra
The steep topography of Terceira island prevents it from having many beaches, so, if you want to go for a swim in the sea during your visit to this Portuguese island, the best options are the beaches of Praia da Vitória or Praia de Angra do Heroísmo, also known as Prainha de Angra.
Contrary to the beaches you’re used to, here the sand is dark and the city is just a few metres away. Located in the bay Baía de Angra de Heroísmo, this beach is the perfect location to go for a swim because it is protected by Monte Brasil on one side and by the marina’s pier on the other side.
13. Fortaleza de São João Batista
Located in the access point to Monte Brasil, the fortress Fortaleza de São João Batista was designed in the 16th century and built during the Spanish occupation of Terceira island. This fortress was a new approach to coastal defense, due to the necessity of protecting and serving the sea ports.
Due to its strategic position and apart from the barracks of Spanish troops to defend the island, the fortress had as its mission to protect the ships returning from the colonies, with riches, to the Iberian Peninsula.
Presently, the fortress houses the Garrison Regiment N° 1 (RG1), the westernmost military presence of Portugal and Europe. Aside from that, it is also the oldest military headquarters in Portugal (five centuries).
Information: even though it is a military site, you should know that you can visit the fortress Fortaleza de São João Batista everyday from 10h to 11h and from 14h to 17h or 18h (in the summer).
14. Reserva Natural do Monte Brasil
Another place you must explore during your visit to Angra do Heroísmo is Monte Brasil, the “green lung” of the city. Here, you can admire a volcanic cone covered with many trees and many walking trails throughout, a picnic area on the top and magnificent views over Angra do Heroísmo and the sea.
Monte Brasil is well defended and was one of the first fortifications in Angra do Heroísmo, built in the 16th century. In fact, to access Monte Brasil, you’ll have to pass through the above-mentioned fortress Fortaleza de São João Batista.
There is a walking trail marked with signs within the lush vegetation. During your walk, you can make stops at different viewpoints like Pico das Cruzinhas that offer amazing 180 degree-views over Angra do Heroísmo, Ribeirinha and São Mateus.
You can explore this trail on foot, bicycle or even by car. The important thing is that you enjoy to the fullest the scenery you’ll find along the way. There are three viewpoints you can’t miss here: Miradouro do Pico das Cruzinhas, Miradouro do Zimbreiro and Miradouro do Pico do Facho.
Information: Monte Brasil Natural Reserve closes at 18h.
Information: if you want to discover the most beautiful places in Angra do Heroísmo and discover the history of this city listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, take my suggestion and book here a 3-hour guided walking tour (affiliate link).
What to visit in the outskirts of Angra do Heroísmo
15. Algar do Carvão
The big eruption of the volcano Vulcão Pico Alto, that occurred to the north of the present volcanic structure of Guilherme Moniz, threw its lava far away. Later, another eruption began the process that would lead to the formation of a Strombolian type volcano – Pico do Carvão.
In a first stage, it formed the area of the lagoon and the domes over it. In its final stage, the magma descended to the deepest canals and to the magma chamber, originating its very own cave, the “algar”.
According to studies made to one of the fossils formed at that time, Algar do Carvão should be close to 2100 years old. Due to this and other reasons, this place is classified as a natural monument.
After entering a tunnel, you’ll find a stairway that will take you to the first “viewpoint”. There, raise your head and admire the volcanic pipe.
Proceed and climb down to the “viewpoint” of the lagoon and enjoy the surrounding beauty. This lagoon is 15 metres deep and retains the water from the rain.
When you return to the surface but before leaving this natural treasure, go to the “Cathedral” to explore a bit more of Algar do Carvão.
16. Furnas do Enxofre
Located less than 3 km from Algar do Carvão and just 10 km away from Angra do Heroísmo, the sulphur fumaroles Furnas do Enxofre are a place where you can admire several volcanic phenomenons in which hot gases and water steam are released as a result of rainwater infiltration.
Information: if you have already visited the calderas Caldeiras das Furnas in São Miguel island, you’ll notice Furnas do Enxofre aren’t as amazing. The fumaroles of Caldeiras das Furnas are much more impressive!
17. Gruta do Natal
At the time of its formation, the entire cave Gruta do Natal was shaped by hot lava that flowed in different directions. Because of this, several tunnels and ramifications were formed. Presently, everything is solidified and the lava tunnel is 697 metres long, maintaining its original shape.
Inside the traditional house for support of visitors, it is possible to admire a photo exhibition about the social and historical activities occurring inside the cave, such as christenings, Masses and weddings.
18. Lagoa das Patas
The Lagoa das Patas Forest Reserve, also known as the lagoon Lagoa da Falca, is located away from the coast and was named after the beautiful artificial lake that gets its water from the mountain Serra de Santa Bárbara.
The lake is surrounded by azaleas and trees and there is also a leisure park where you can have a picnic and simply enjoy this wonderful and quiet place.
19. Miradouro da Serra de Santa Bárbara
Located at a 30-minute driving distance from Angra de Heroísmo, at a forest reserve, Serra de Santa Bárbara viewpoint offers breathtaking views over most of Terceira island (when it isn’t foggy), the Atlantic Ocean and other islands of the central group of the archipelago.
Here you can also enjoy the untouched natural landscape of the island, dominated by the endemic Azorean juniper. This forest reserve occupies most of the mountain Serra de Santa Bárbara and is located at the highest point of the island, situated at 1021 metres of altitude.
20. Miradouro da Ponta do Queimado
Ponta do Queimado viewpoint is located in Ponta do Queimado, at Serreta location. This is a viewpoint standing at the top of a cliff, over the sea, close to the lighthouse Farol da Serreta.
As this viewpoint is located on the westernmost point of the island, know that you can gaze other islands of the archipelago as well as the beauty of the Atlantic Ocean.
- Necessary days to discover Angra do Heroísmo: 2 days
Travel guide to visit the 20 most beautiful places in Angra do Heroísmo
An amazing city and, definitely, one of the most beautiful in Azores, Angra do Heroísmo should not be discarded, especially by people that love visiting World Heritage Sites.
When you go discover the historic centre of Angra do Heroísmo, I suggest you explore the streets on foot (following the points 1 to 14 as they’re presented in this article) so that you can admire all the beauty of this wonderful place. Take the opportunity to stop at a cafe and relax while admiring the colourful buildings and much more!
Outskirts of Angra do Heroísmo
To get to the locations further away from Angra do Heroísmo historic centre, you can choose one of these three options: take a taxi, a bus or hire a car.
Depending on the number of days of your stay and in order to get to all the points of interest in the outskirts of Angra do Heroísmo suggested in this article, and others on this island, I recommend you hire a car here (affiliate link).
To easily visit the wonders in the outskirts of Angra do Heroísmo, visit them as they are presented in this article (from point 15 to 20).
If you don’t want to hire a car or don’t have much time to explore the island, you can choose to book one of the tours that local companies offer. Find below some of my suggestions:
Visit to the west and east sides of Terceira island
Discover with these two activities the best that Terceira island has to offer. In one of the best activities of the Azores archipelago, you will have the opportunity to visit the western part of the island and enjoy fantastic landscapes!
You will have the opportunity to explore fascinating places like Algar do Carvão, Monte Brasil, Biscoitos, the Wine Museum, etc.
In the eastern part of the island, you can admire the most beautiful viewpoint in Terceira, Praia da Vitória and the natural pools.
If you have little time to explore the island, know that this will be one of the best ways to do so! During these tours, you will be accompanied by an experienced guide who knows the island and its secrets as few know.
Know that this activity (affiliate link) is probably the easiest and fastest way to get to know Terceira. Alternatively, choose this tour (affiliate link) that will take you to all the points of interest: rural, environmental and natural. Don’t miss out!
Terceira island natural treasures (affiliate link)
During this four-hour activity, you will have the opportunity to explore some of the most beautiful places mentioned in this article.
In addition to being able to visit the most beautiful viewpoint on the island, this activity will give you the possibility to explore Algar do Carvão and Furnas do Enxofre.
How to get to Angra do Heroísmo
There aren’t many options to get to Angra do Heroísmo, in Terceira island. In fact, you can only get there by taking a flight from the airline TAP (affiliate link), for example, between this and other islands of the archipelago but also mainland Portugal and some other international destinations.
As an alternative, you should also know that, during the high season, you can get to the island by ferry, if you’re staying in one of the other islands of Azores.
Where to sleep in Angra do Heroísmo
Pousada de Angra do Heroísmo **** (affiliate link)
Located in the fort Forte de São Sebastião, Pousada de Angra do Heroísmo is one of the best places to spend the night during your visit to the city.
Among other amenities, know that you’ll have at your disposal two pools: one for adults and another for children. There is also an amazing restaurant where you can enjoy wonderful regional dishes.
In this four-star hotel, you can enjoy the amazing views over the Atlantic Ocean and Monte Brasil Natural Reserve. Apart from this, its privileged location offers its guests the opportunity to easily access other points of interest on foot, like Marina d’Angra and the church Igreja da Misericórdia.
Hotel Beira Mar *** (affiliate link)
This three-star hotel offers its guests a great value for money and is located at the historic centre of Angra do Heroísmo, facing Prainha de Angra.
Apart from the comfortable rooms, enjoy the wonderful breakfast while admiring the landscape from the terrace, where Monte Brasil stands out.
Hotel Zenite ** (affiliate link)
Located at the heart of the historic centre of Angra do Heroísmo, Hotel Zenite is just 200 metres away from the Cathedral, 300 metres away from the garden Jardim Duque da Terceira and 450 metres away from the city’s museum MAH.
This two-star hotel has air-conditioned rooms and cable television. For the main courses, you can explore the streets close to the hotel where you can choose from a variety of restaurants and cafes.
Where to eat in Angra do Heroísmo
One of the things you must do while in Angra do Heroísmo is trying the local gastronomy, its typical dishes that are the delight for those visiting Terceira island. Below, discover my suggestions for the best restaurants in the city:
Traditions and Festivities in Angra de Heroísmo
The small chapels known as “Impérios” stand out during Festas do Divino Espírito Santo, festivities that are loved not only by the inhabitants of Angra do Heroísmo but of the whole island. The eight weeks between Easter Sunday and the Sunday of the Holy Trinity are full of festivities that entertain the most different locations of the island.
Sanjoaninas, festivities in honour of St. John (São João), take the streets of Angra do Heroísmo for ten days, during June. Concerts, bullfights, food stands, theatre, fireworks and sporting events culminate with the popular parades in the eve of St. John’s day. These are, eventually, the most beautiful and well-known festivities in the archipelago of Azores.
Angra do Heroísmo is also the home for an important music festival: AngraJazz International Festival that takes place in October, in the cultural centre Centro Cultural e Congressos de Angra do Heroísmo.
Are you going to visit Angra do Heroísmo, in Azores? Then don’t hesitate to book your hotel room, your car and the best activities by clicking the links below. This way you are helping me in the development of my blog and I’ll be able to offer you free tips and travel guides so that you can better prepare your visit to Portugal. Thank you!
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