Once a safe haven for ships that sailed to and from India, Ponta Delgada grew and became one of the most important cities in Portugal. With the industrialisation of the country, the city lost its status but kept all of its architectural and natural beauty, with no match at a national level.
With over 500 years old, Ponta Delgada is now considered the economic capital of the Azores.
If you’re planning to visit the Azores, wait no more and go discover Ponta Delgada, one of the most beautiful cities in the archipelago, located at the wonderful island of São Miguel.
In this article, you’ll discover magnificent places that embellish Ponta Delgada city and its surroundings. Apart from this, find out some of the activities you can make during your stay, the festivities, where to sleep, where to eat and an itinerary for you to easily visit the wonders of Ponta Delgada.
Top of the places to visit in Ponta Delgada
1. Gruta do Carvão
Considered a regional natural monument, the cave Gruta do Carvão is a unique place not only in the island of São Miguel but at national level too. What stands out in this volcanic-origin cave is the fact that here you’ll find the biggest lava tunnel of the island. Know that you’ll have the opportunity to admire stalactites, stalagmites and other characteristics that originated with the lava flow.
When you visit Ponta Delgada, make sure you go to this cave that is an important and interesting site not only for tourists but also for scientists and even for school trips.
2. Jardim António Borges
Considered one of the biggest green areas in the city of Ponta Delgada, the garden Jardim António Borges is a true botanical garden. There, you’ll find dozens of exotic species, brought to São Miguel by António Borges, an Azorean politician with a special interest for agriculture and botany.
Visit this 19th-century garden and contemplate its Romanticism style, a place where you can stroll with your family and relax while admiring the small caves, the diversity of flora and even the bust of its patron.
3. Arte Urbana
Street art is one of the pleasant surprises you’ll find on the island and, more specifically, all over Ponta Delgada.
During your visit to the city, take the opportunity to make some stops to admire the beautiful graffiti and other displays. Among others, I must point out the streets: Rua de Lisboa, Rua Eng. Abel Ferin Coutinho, Rua 6 de Junho and Rua de São João (check map below).
Apart from the works of art you can enjoy all year round, I must mention Azores Arts Festival, Walk & Talk. The first edition of this festival happened in 2011 and its objective is to introduce people to the various art forms all over the city and island through exhibitions, concerts and other events that you can go to both in urban and rural public spaces.
4. Forte de São Brás
Built in the 16th century to deter privateers and pirates, São Brás Fort is a beautiful example of Portuguese military architecture of that time.
This fort was built close to the sea, in a strategic position in Ponta Delgada and it is today the headquarters to Azores Military Command; apart from that, this place also has a military museum and a monument to the fallen soldiers of the WWI.
5. Igreja de São José
Facing the square Praça 5 de Outubro, in the historic centre of Ponta Delgada, São José Church is one of the most beautiful churches located on the island of São Miguel.
Built in Baroque and Mannerism style, I must point out in this 18th-century church the magnificent facade that doesn’t go unnoticed by those strolling nearby. Don’t miss the opportunity to admire its interior embellished with beautiful glazed-tile panels and altars decorated with gilded wood.
6. Santuário de Nosso Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres
As it happens with São José Church, this sanctuary is facing the square Praça 5 de Outubro. Constituted by the Convent and Church of Nossa Senhora da Esperança and founded in the 16th century, this religious set underwent some modifications in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Inside, you’ll find a beautiful high altar and altarpiece adorned with gilded wood and, below, beautiful 17th-century glazed tiles. Apart from that, the convent is still the residence for the congregation Religiosas de Maria Imaculada. This is definitely one of the places you can’t miss during your visit to Ponta Delgada.
7. Portas da Cidade
Built in 1783 and considered as the landmark of the city of Ponta Delgada, the city gates are presently at the square Praça de Gonçalo Velho. But it wasn’t always at this location since, in the beginning, this landmark was close to the old pier, a few metres away. However, in 1952, due to the construction of the beautiful avenue Avenida Infante D. Henrique, the city gates had to be moved to their present location.
This Baroque-style construction has three perfect arches and carved in it you can admire the royal and the city’s coat of arms in a beautiful work where the contrast between the white (from marble) and the black (from basalt) stands out.
8. Igreja de São Sebastião
The main church of Ponta Delgada was built between 1531 and 1547 and it is today one of the landmarks of the city, located in the square Largo da Matriz, just a few metres away from the city gates.
Even though it underwent several changes throughout the centuries, this church was built in Gothic style but has unique details of Manueline style and Baroque style too. In this regard, you can admire the magnificent porticos that stand out in the church’s facade. Inside, don’t miss the opportunity to admire the gilded wood decoration and several pieces of religious art.
9. Mercado da Graça
A place where you can truly feel the authenticity of Ponta Delgada’s inhabitants, the market Mercado da Graça appeared in the 19th century due to the need for a specific place to sell agricultural goods and livestock.
During your visit to this city, take the opportunity to visit this market and purchase some regional products.
10. Ermida da Mãe de Deus
Mãe de Deus Chapel, that you can admire today in Ponta Delgada, is a replica of another one that was demolished during WWI due to the supposed geostrategic importance of this place.
This religious building has some Neobaroque-style features and what stands out is the work in black-colour basalt.
The location of Mãe de Deus Chapel is also a viewpoint and from there you’ll have the possibility to admire Ponta Delgada in every direction and even the Atlantic Ocean.
11. Museu Carlos Machado
Inaugurated in 1876, Carlos Machado Museum is installed in the old Santo André Convent, the second convent to be built in the city, after the already mentioned Nossa Senhora da Esperança Convent.
When the museum was inaugurated in this place, it became possible to assemble several collections that were, until then, dispersed throughout Ponta Delgada. In addition, it became possible to conserve the building.
Know that, nowadays, the collections of Carlos Machado Museum are located in three different spaces: Santo André Convent, Santa Bárbara Museological Centre, close to the convent, and the Religious Art Museological Centre, installed since 2006 at the Jesuit College Church. In these places you’ll have the opportunity to admire collections of natural history, painting, sculpture, religious art and ethnography.
12. Igreja do Colégio dos Jesuítas
Due to its historical and religious importance, this building is one of the monuments you can’t miss during your visit to the Azores and, more specifically, to the city of Ponta Delgada. Here you’ll find the Religious Art Museological Centre of Carlos Machado Museum with beautiful paintings and sculptures from the 17th and 18th centuries.
Built, in a first stage, in the end of the 16th century, it was during the 17th century that the Jesuit College Church gained its current appearance. What stands out in this monument is definitely the Baroque-style magnificent facade in volcanic rock. Apart from that, you can also admire the beautiful glazed-tile panels from the 1700’s. Don’t miss it!
13. Jardim Botânico José do Canto
An obligatory visit in São Miguel island, the José do Canto Botanical Garden is a unique place both for its landscape and natural richness.
Here, you’ll have the opportunity to admire trees that amaze people for their morphology as well as their imposing size. Apart from this natural richness, you can also contemplate an 18th-century manor, an old greenhouse, a chapel and a beautiful stairway. You should also know there are some rooms available here ensuring a unique experience to their guests.
What to visit in Ponta Delgada surrounding area
14. Miradouro Pico do Carvão
Located 14 km away from the historic centre of Ponta Delgada, Pico do Carvão is a volcanic elevation that reaches 813 metres of altitude. From Pico do Carvão viewpoint you can enjoy the wonderful views over the island’s north and south coastline.
Apart from the landscape, know that you’ll find here the beautiful Carvão Aqueduct that was built as a way to take the water coming from the lagoons Lagoa do Canário and Lagoa das Empadadas to the city of Ponta Delgada.
15. Lagoa do Canário & Miradouro da Boca do Inferno
The lagoon Lagoa do Canário is located 17 km away from Ponta Delgada and, apart from having the opportunity to see it up close, you can also go for a hike to Boca do Inferno Viewpoint.
As an alternative, you can drive to the viewpoint and, this way, avoid walking 2 km total.
At this viewpoint you can enjoy the wonderful views over the lagoons Lagoa das Sete Cidades, Lagoa de Santiago and Lagoa Rasa. You should also know that this is for me one of the most beautiful viewpoints in São Miguel and will definitely be one of the highlights of your stay in the island.
17. Miradouro da Vista do Rei
One of the places where you can take some amazing photos, Vista do Rei Viewpoint is located in the southern part of the lagoon Lagoa das Sete Cidades and from here you’ll have a panoramic view of the lagoon but also of the calderas Caldeira Seca, Caldeira do Alferes and over Sete Cidades village.
You should also know that close to the viewpoint you’ll find the old Hotel Monte Palace, a five-star hotel that closed in 1991. There are projects to reopen this hotel and, if that happens, it will surely be a benchmark at a national and international level and a place where you’ll want to spend the night.
Information: this viewpoint is known to many people!
16. Miradouro do Cerrado das Freiras
Located 23 km away from Ponta Delgada, Cerrado das Freiras Viewpoint is another of the viewpoints that offer breathtaking views over the lagoon Lagoa das Sete Cidades.
Behind this viewpoint there is another lagoon, Lagoa de Santiago. If you want to admire this place, you’ll just have to go down the road for 300 metres and enjoy the views from the viewpoint you’ll find there.
For the adventurers, there is the possibility to climb down the path to the left of Lagoa de Santiago Viewpoint to admire the lagoon up close.
18. Sete Cidades
Perhaps one of the best known locations both in São Miguel island and in the whole archipelago of the Azores, Sete Cidades is a village located side by side with the beautiful lagoon Lagoa das Sete Cidades. This lagoon is the biggest fresh water natural reservoir in the Azores and is a waypoint to several migratory birds.
Aside from the lagoon, know that Sete Cidades has other places to admire like São Nicolau Church, built in the 19th century in a neo-Gothic style.
19. Miradouro das Cumeeiras
This is one of the viewpoints that offer some of the best views over the amazing lagoon Lagoa das Sete Cidades and over the western part of São Miguel island. If you have the opportunity, enjoy the wonderful landscape while having a picnic (you can use the tables you’ll find there).
You should also know that this viewpoint is less known than Vista do Rei Viewpoint and offers the opposing views over the lagoon Lagoa das Sete Cidades. For these reasons, one can say that this is the perfect location for those who want to enjoy the natural beauty away from crowded places.
20. Ponta da Ferraria
Located in the westernmost part of São Miguel island and 26 km away from Ponta Delgada, Ponta da Ferraria is classified as a regional natural monument because of its unique beauty and it is today a bathing area due to its natural pools and warm-water springs, therapeutic and of volcanic origin.
Apart from having the possibility to go for a swim here, you can also explore this location and admire the surrounding natural beauty as well as the beautiful 18-metre high lighthouse.
- Days needed to explore Ponta Delgada: 2 days
Itinerary to visit the 20 most beautiful places in Ponta Delgada
In Ponta Delgada, you can and should explore the historic centre on foot since it is the best way to enjoy the architecture and monuments.
If you’re staying in another place of São Miguel and want to drive to Ponta Delgada, I recommend you start your itinerary at Gruta do Carvão (you can park your car right beside the cave).
Then, return to your car and go to the shopping centre Parque Atlântico (free parking) and visit the points of interest as presented in this article (from n° 2 to n° 13).
Ponta Delgada surroundings
To get to the other points of interest, further away from the historic centre of Ponta Delgada, you can choose one of two options: take a taxi or hire a car.
Depending on the number of days of your stay and to get to know all the points of interest outside Ponta Delgada historic centre, I suggest you hire your car here (affiliate link).
To easily discover all the wonders outside Ponta Delgada, visit the places as they are presented in this article (from n° 14 to n° 20).
Important information: to visit Cumeeiras Viewpoint, the GPS (or Google Maps) will tell you to follow a dirt road after Sete Cidades village. I don’t recommend you take that path unless you have rented a jeep!
Take the roads EN9-1A and EN1-1A (check map above) and turn right when you a see the sign Miradouro das Cumeeiras. That way, you’ll get to the viewpoint using the tarmac road.
To get to Ponta da Ferraria, take the same road you used to get to the viewpoint. Since it is downwards, you can take the dirt road instead that will take you to Sete Cidades, but don’t risk it if it’s foggy or raining.
The dirt road is shorter (less than 8 km), but it will take the same time as the national road.
If you don’t want to hire a car or if you don’t have much time to explore the island, you can choose to book one of the tours the local companies offer. Discover some of my suggestions below:
One of the best ways to discover the western coast of the island of São Miguel is definitely with the help of an experienced guide who already knows all the points of interest. In this regard, you can choose to book this tour and have the opportunity to discover amazing places like the lagoon Lagoa das Sete Cidades and some viewpoints surrounding it.
After enjoying the best of local gastronomy, enjoy your afternoon discovering places like the beautiful lagoon Lagoa do Fogo, classified as a natural reserve and located at an altitude of 575 metres.
In this four-hour tour, you’ll have the opportunity to discover Sete Cidades village and admire the amazing lagoon Lagoa das Sete Cidades, the postcard image for São Miguel island. Apart from discovering this natural beauty, you can also admire other lagoons less known but beautiful too, like Lagoa das Empadadas, Lagoa do Canário and Lagoa de Santiago.
Know that Pico do Carvão is another obligatory stop, a perfect place to enjoy the breathtaking views to the north and south of the island.
In this half-day tour, you can enjoy a ride on an off-road vehicle that will take you to magnificent places such as some viewpoints surrounding the lagoon Lagoa das Sete Cidades and more! Explore the village and visit the beautiful São Nicolau Church.
You should also know that, if you book this tour, as an alternative to a visit to Lagoa das Sete Cidades, you can choose to go to the beautiful lagoon Lagoa do Fogo or to Furnas location, a wonderful place with thermal-water natural pools.
How to get to Ponta Delgada
There aren’t many ways to get to Ponta Delgada, in São Miguel island. In fact, it’s only possible to get there by plane from the other islands of the archipelago but also from mainland Portugal and other countries.
As an alternative, you should know that, during high season, you can also get to the island by ferry if you’re staying in another island of the Azores.
If you’re coming from another location in São Miguel island, know that the city has the national road EN1-1A, a road that covers the whole island.
To move around in the city, you can take the minibus that connects many of the points of interest. To find out the schedule, routes and ticket prices, click here.
Where to sleep in Ponta Delgada
Vila Nova Hotel *** (affiliate link)
Vila Nova Hotel offers its guests the best amenities so that they can have unforgettable holidays. In that regard, I have to point out the amazing outdoor swimming pool, the game room and the comfortable rooms.
In the vicinities, you’ll find points of interest like the Fort of São Brás and São José Church.
Hotel Canadiano *** (affiliate link)
Guests staying at the Hotel Canadiano are guaranteed to have the necessary amenities to enjoy a wonderful stay in São Miguel island.
Apart from that, they can also have lunch/dinner at the restaurant or a drink at the hotel’s bar. Know that, a few metres away, you’ll have the opportunity to admire the beautiful Jesuit College Church as well as the Carlos Machado Museum.
Azor Hotel ***** (affiliate link)
Considered one of the favourite hotels for those visiting and staying in São Miguel island, Azor Hotel is facing the Atlantic Ocean and offers some of the best views one could ask in this island.
In this five-star hotel, you can enjoy an outdoor swimming pool with amazing views, a fitness centre and much more! Just 600 metres away, you can visit Mãe de Deus Chapel and contemplate the scenery.
Where to eat in Ponta Delgada
It is known that Portuguese gastronomy is one of the best in the world, however Azorean gastronomy and, in particular, the one from São Miguel has a specificity that you won’t find anywhere else.
Due to the proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, the restaurants in Ponta Delgada and in São Miguel serve unique and tasteful dishes like the mouth-watering tuna steak; there is also an infinite variety of seafood dishes to choose from.
However, it’s not only the sea that makes Azorean gastronomy since, as everyone knows, this archipelago is a paradise for cows that graze here freely. Because of this, people say that Azorean meat and sausages are the best one can try.
Next, discover some of the best places to savour Ponta Delgada gastronomy:
Events and Festivities in Ponta Delgada
Happening between March and April, the Festival Tremor is, perhaps, the first big event taking place in Ponta Delgada and in São Miguel island. This festival’s programme is diverse and includes concerts and other activities.
Perhaps the festivity that attracts more people in the city, the Festas do Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres is a religious festivity in honour of the image of Christ which is at the Nossa Senhora da Esperança Convent. Taking place on the fifth week after Easter, this festivity has as its highlight the processions and, of course, the fireworks show on Saturday night.
As I mentioned before, Ponta Delgada is an open-air canvas for street-art creators, in which beautiful graffiti stand out and embellish the streets of this city. In this regard, one of the events you can’t miss during your visit, between the end of June and beginning of July, is Walk & Talk, an event that gives the inhabitants and visitors the opportunity to get to know different kinds of street art and more.
Are you going to visit Ponta Delgada, 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!