On first sighting, the town of Óbidos comes as another of those Centro de Portugal classics; a fortified castle sitting atop a rocky hillside, its long crenelated walls and turrets protectively embracing the outcrop on which it stands, a perfect mediaeval silhouette in the Portuguese evening sunshine. But the pristinely manicured, compact and beguiling little town comes with more than just a well-defined history, ranging from the Roman invasion to the Visigoths, Moors and the eventual reclamation by the Portuguese kings. Óbidos is a city with a future.

Emanuele Siracusa - Centro de Portugal - Oeste - Obidos-8The future of the town is being re-imagined through the pages of books; more correctly, through the pages of tens of thousands of books. Less than an hour north of the Portuguese capital, the town has become known endearingly as ‘Óbidos Literary Town’ through an imaginative and inspiring project conceived by the Óbidos City Hall in partnership with the bookshop, ‘Ler Devagar’ (named by the NY Times as one of the top ten bookstores in the world).

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The idea is simple and overwhelmingly appealing to book lovers the world over; to create a town dedicated to literature in all of its guises. Through the promotion of both reading and writing the project conducts literary festivals, meetings and conferences, concerts, theatre and all manner of entertainments associated with the written word.

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Inside the welcoming doors of the 30 bedrooms, Literary Man hotel books are everywhere. Throughout the hotel’s interior, it is impossible not to interact with paperbacks, educational tomes, encyclopaedias, novels, and literary classics at every turning. The hotel’s reception area, the relaxing bar space, the beautifully appointed rooms themselves and the wine cellar (also a massage room) are awash with the works of the unknown, the great, and the revered in every language. Similar can be said of the Church of Santiago, now converted into a library and bookshop. Its 13th-century interior is shelved from floor to ceiling with all manner of titles and the building is a regular outlet for movies, book releases, readings, and exhibitions.

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More innovatively, inside the Livraria do Mercado Biológico (an organic market) – housed in the former refectory of the Óbidos Town Hall, on a hundred groaning shelves, books stand side by side with organic produce. Saramago vies for position with salads, peppers reflect the leather bound covers of Pessoa, Camões tempts you with coffee, and  O’Neill reflects on the History of Ancient Ireland. Situated on a narrow bougainvillea lined street, the Livraria do Mercado Biológico is indeed an enticing prospect.

Emanuele Siracusa - Centro de Portugal - Oeste - Obidos-7Along with these three examples of the town’s fascinating literary project, literary and cultural treats can be found on every quaint, winding backstreet in the shadow of the castle’s behemoth walls; the Municipal Museum, the Casa Museu Abílio de Mattos e Silva (a former prison), the Galeria Ogiva, the Interior Design Centre located next to the Torre de Facho one of the city’s most prominent sites, and the reading library O Bichinho do Conto, housed in a former primary school.

Emanuele Siracusa - Centro de Portugal - Oeste - Obidos-6Through this association with books and literature, and through the goodwill of the town’s inhabitants and leaders, Óbidos Literary Town is a project which assuredly will only go from strength to strength. Obidos in Centro de Portugal is already a major tourist attraction, where the town’s streets are filled with day-trippers from the nearby capital, it is in the evening when the town truly finds it literary calling. As the sun sets find yourself some quiet place to settle down; the cosy corner of a hotel bar, or the terrace of a welcoming coffee house, a park bench in the shade of a mighty oak, or wherever you choose, with a book in hand and the tranquillity of the countryside as your backing track, you will be at peace in Obidos in Centro de Portugal.

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This Obidos in Centro de Portugal post is a part of a series of  11 posts I wrote based on my journey to the Oeste Region in July 2016. Please find the links o the other articles bellow:

Oeste in Centro de Portugal

Peniche in Centro de Portugal

Berlengas Islands in Centro de Portugal

Nazaré in Centro de Portugal

Alcobaça in Centro de Portugal

Tomar in Centro de Portugal

Batalha in Centro de Portugal

Areias do Seixo Hotel

Disclaimer: 

This Obidos in Centro de Portugal post was written by my inspiring friend Brendan Harding as part of my ongoing collaboration with the Centro de Portugal Tourism Board. All opinions are my own. Photo credits to Emanuele Siracusa.