Visit Angra do Heroismo, on Terceira Island, Azores, and travel back in time between UNESCO’s world heritage and stunning panoramic views.
Far from mass tourism, Angra do Heroismo is the main city of Terceira Island, in the Azores. In the middle of great natural beauty, it is a city full of history, influenced mainly by the maritime expansion of the Portuguese and Spanish powers of the 15th and 16th centuries.
Angra do Heroísmo was a mandatory port of call (for refueling and restocking) of ships and galleons full with gold and silver of the Americas, and spices and treasures of the East, which left a fusion of cultures in the city.
Furthermore, these boats loaded with valuable goods were protected by the fortifications at the entrance of the city: São Sebastião Castle and Fortress of São João Batista.
The city owes its name to the patriotic spirit demonstrated in the 19th Century Liberal Wars (Civil War in Portugal). When the Kingdom regency was installed in Angra, its name was changed to Angra do Heroísmo (heroism in English).
Map of Angra do Heroismo
The numbers (#) on the Map and Text identify places to visit:
What to do in Angra do Heroismo
A) Walking through the historic center (UNESCO Heritage)
Angra do Heroismo’s central area is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and includes the Historic Center and the extinct volcano of Monte Brasil (present-day Forest Park). So strolling the cobbled streets and alleyways is like visiting the past, with Manor Houses with beautiful balconies, gardens, monuments and well-kept museums.
The Praça Velha (1), in the historical center, is undeniably the main piece of Angra do Heroismo. In this square stands the richly crafted Portuguese sidewalk, all around with terraces, cafes and restaurants and also the building of the Paços do Concelho (city hall).
Here we watch several live music shows during the day and at night. Therefore, it is a pleasant place that serves as a meeting point for city dwellers and many tourists. From Praça Velha starts two of the main streets of the city, namely Rua da Sé and Rua Direita.
Dominating Praça Velha is the City Hall (2) (Paços do Concelho) of the Angra do Heroismo Municipality. In fact, it is a building dating from the 19th century, inspired by the old City Hall of Oporto which succeeded two other “town halls” that the city’s expansion led to their replacement.
In the City Hall of Angra there are two rooms, with stained glass, paintings and period furniture, and the noble hall, one of the most “charming” we visited in Portugal.
Rua da Sé
Rua da Sé (3) is the main street of the historic center of Angra do Heroismo. In fact, it is a cobbled Portuguese street, surrounded by traditional shops and regional products, restaurants, bars, patisseries and terraces.
Walking down this street is as if we were living the past, with beautiful, well-kept manor houses, spectacular wrought iron balconies, and overhanging eaves, similar to the Sobrado Brazilian houses (equivalent to the Anglo-American townhouse).
Here are several convents, monasteries and churches with bell towers that stand out in the urban landscape. Not forgetting the beautiful Joaquim Duque da Terceira Garden.
Rua Direita / Rua de São João / Tourist Office
Rua Direita (4) and Rua de São João are two of the cobbled streets leading to Angra pier, where you will find houses of typical Angra do Heroísmo architecture.
These are well-kept houses, where the wrought-iron balconies and the overhanging eaves stand out. Although part of them had to be rebuilt after the 1980 earthquake.
Rua Direita was once the main street of the city, connecting Praça Velha and Capitão-Donatário’s (Captain-major) house to the Angra pier. In this street is the Tourist Office, where you can find more information about Terceira Island.
Portas do Mar
Portas do Mar (5), also called City or Pier Doors, are located in the Customs Courtyard (Pátio da Alfândega), where the statue of the navigator Vasco da Gama is located. To here converge Rua Direita and Rua do Espírito Santo. At Portas do Mar you can see the beautiful bay and Angra Marina.
In Pátio da Alfândega stands out the blue and white façade of the 18th century Church of Mercy (Igreja da Misericórdia) (6), with two large bell towers. In the place there was the first hospital of the Azores, whose one of the founders was João Vaz Corte-Real, Captain-major (Capitão-Donatário) of Angra and discoverer of Newfoundland.
The Church resulted from the merger of two chapels that existed here, surprisingly maintaining the two altars. In addition, inside there is an interesting collection of sculpture and painting of the 18th century.
Near the Angra pier is Prainha (7). This is a small beach, a quiet place where you can relax on the dark sand (of volcanic origin) and enjoy a sea bath in the calm waters. Here you can enjoy a great view of the sea and the green Monte Brasil and also enjoy the existing restaurants and bars.
B) GO up to Monte Brasil VIEWPOINTS
Monte Brasil (8), situated on the peninsula opposite Angra do Heroismo, is a pleasant place of great natural beauty, not to be missed!
Monte Brasil along with the Historical Center of Angra do Heroismo are part of the UNESCO World Heritage. In short, this is a place where there was a volcano, classified as Angra do Heroísmo Recreational Forest Reserve, where you can breathe nature.
You reach Monte Brasil by car or on foot, as it is right by the city. There are several points of interest that justify the visit, namely the viewpoints, the Relvão Park, the São João Batista Fortress and the hiking trails to see the fauna and flora.
Monte Brasil Viewpoints
In Monte Brasil you have several viewpoints, with spectacular views, for example at the top of the hill, Pico das Cruzinhas.
On one side of Monte Brasil, you can see the bay and the city of Angra do Heroismo and the Islet of Cabras in the background. On the other side you can see Fanal Bay and Vila Maria Bay. By the way, on clear days you can even see the islands of Pico and São Jorge.
The Relvão Municipal Park (9) is a leisure area with a huge lawn, picnic area, playground and fitness circuit with various equipment, where you can do physical activities.
Below is the Figueirinha Pier. Relvão Park served as a military maneuvering field in the 19th century, in the Liberal Wars.
Fortress of São João Baptista
The Fortress of São João Baptista of Monte Brasil (10), or São Filipe Castle, of the 16th century, is the largest fortress built by the Spanish Empire outside Spain.
It was commissioned by King Dom Felipe II of Spain and I of Portugal to control the moorings of Angra and Fanal, protecting ships from India and the Americas.
The fortress walls surround the entire Monte Brasil peninsula and have a length of 3.1mi (or 5 km), having contained 400 artillery pieces and 1,500 men.
The Fortress of São João Baptista is the oldest fortress continuously occupied by Portuguese troops (in operation for 5 centuries!).
Inside there is a huge Praça de Armas (Praça de Rendição do Castelo), the Governor’s Palace, the Church of São João Baptista, a Chapel, a Prison, wells and a cistern (with capacity for 1.5 million liters of water).
In addition, it includes a battery of anti-aircraft guns of World War II, given the geo-strategic importance of the archipelago of the Azores. Meanwhile, the main door is accessed through a stone bridge over a moat, which has small “checkered walls” that make it difficult to climb the wall.
Walking trails in Monte Brasil
In Monte Brasil there are several marked walking trails, which allow you to observe the variety of fauna and flora and lead to interesting spots, with shady areas and garden benches to rest.
The flora is very rich, with native plants of Terceira Island, as well as other species from abroad, such as those in the dragon tree grove.
To kids and adults delight, the fauna is also diverse, you can find many animals, such as birds and deer on the loose (that’s right, “bambies” on the loose!).
So don’t forget the camera and take good pictures.
C) Explore The Duque da Terceira Garden
Duque da Terceira Garden (11) not to be missed on Rua da Sé near the historic centre!
In fact, it is a beautiful and well-kept garden from the 19th century, which is a good place to rest and enjoy the wide variety of flora, while hearing birds chirping.
There are several species of plants, flowers, as well as fabulous and centennial trees from around the world, many of them exotic, tropical and subtropical, which give colour to the garden.
Moreover, we found it very interesting of having, near the trees, a nameplate with the current name, scientific name and its origin.
This municipal garden invites you for a walk through the various floors.
At the lower levels there is a gazebo, drinking fountains, fountains and small lakes with fish and frogs. For children there is a playground and a small library.
Meanwhile, go up the staircase to the top floor, which has the romantic lake.
Then go up a little further and you’ll reach the monument of Alto da Memória. Although it has a good number of steps, it is worth the effort, because from there the view over the city is magnificent!
D) go to alto da memória
The Alto da Memória (12), also called ‘Monumento’ or ‘Outeiro da Memória’, is a significant place, especially for the Brazilian people.
The pyramid that exists there serves as a “memory” for the passage through the place of Dom Pedro I, Emperor of Brazil, also Dom Pedro IV, King of Portugal, during the preparation of the landing of constitutional troops in mainland Portugal in the 19th century.
At the site there was, in the 15th century, the first fortress of the Azores (called Castelo dos Moinhos), whose stones served to build the current Alto da Memoria. To get there you can reach the stairs from Jardim Duque da Terceira or by car or taxi, through Rua da Pereira.
The Alto da Memoria convey the feeling of being in the “acropolis” of the city, from where you have one of the best panoramic views of Angra do Heroísmo.
So, from here you can see the Jardim Duque da Terceira, the city of Angra do Heroísmo, the Marina de Angra, Monte Brasil and the sea with the Islet of Cabras and the islands of São Jorge and Pico in the background.
There you can also see a signpost showing the distances (in Km) to the main cities in the world.
D) EXPLORE THE angra do heroismo MUSEUM
Located at Rua da Boavista, the Angra do Heroismo Museum (13) is the main museum of the city. It is housed in the former San Francisco Convent of the 17th century.
In short, it is a very instructive and didactic museum, with permanent and temporary exhibitions. For example, it features various objects and videos to learn about the history of the city, Terceira Island and international trade from the 15th and 16th centuries.
On site you will find countless pieces of historical and cultural interest for all ages, including coaches, furniture, astrolabes, costumes, armor, musical instruments, tile panels, gilded carvings and much more.
Convent of São Francisco
The 17th-century Convent of São Francisco (14) has large dimensions and austere lines, with pillared facades and yellow brown window spans. In the Convent Church there are the gilded altarpieces, baroque images and paintings, as well as great tile compositions.
In addition, there are buried João Vaz Corte-Real, discoverer of Newfoundland and Captain-Donatary of Angra, and Paulo Gama (brother of Vasco da Gama) who died on the return of his first trip to India.
E) Visit the Capitães-Generais Palace
On Rua do Palácio, is the 16th-century, Capitães-Generais Palace (15), which is housed in the former Jesuit College.
This well-kept palace served as the residence of the 1st Captain General of the Azores, who was given the administration of the Azores Archipelago, then based on Terceira Island.
Twice, the place served as Royal Palace by kings Dom Pedro IV and Dom Carlos I (in the 19th and 20th centuries). It is currently the official residence of the Presidency of the Regional Government of the Azores.
Inside the Capitães-Generais Palace, which retains the structure of the time, there is an interesting museum, several rooms with antique hand-crafted furniture, oil paintings (portraits of Kings of Portugal) and porcelain pieces, which helps to tell the story of Angra do Heroísmo and Terceira Island. However, it also has one of the best collections of 17th century Dutch tiles (existing outside the Netherlands).
Next to the Palace there is the Church, with gilded carvings, statues and panels of 17th century painting, and a beautiful garden.
F) Enjoy the Cathedral
In Rua da Sé (Cathedral in english) stands as the name implies the Cathedral (16).
This building stands out in the city for its two white and yellow bell towers and has the particularity of being facing north, while the custom at the time was for the churches with chancel to face Jerusalem.
The Catedral features wooden panels with 16th-century paintings, the Indo-Portuguese-style reading bookcase, Brazilian rosewood furniture, the oversized pipe organ and the silver front of the 18th-century altar, which is a fine example of the jewelry of Terceira Island. In the Sé is buried, among others, the provider of weapons Pero Anes de Castro.
G) Stroll along the Angra Marina
From the historic center you can stroll along a seawall that follows Angra Marina (17) and takes you to Porto das Pipas, so you can watch the pleasure boats that are in or coming from fishing.
In this place there was formerly a former shipyard, focused on construction and repair, of the boats that made the Indian and American roads.
H) Explore the view of The fort of São Sebastião
On the hill over Porto das Pipas, at the entrance of Angra do Heroismo Bay, is the Fort of São Sebastião (18), also called São Sebastião Castle or Castelinho. It is a 16th-century Italian-style fort aimed at defending the harbor.
There were welcomed vessels loaded with riches from the Americas, the East, and Africa. From the walls you have a great view over the city and Monte Brasil.
Inside there is a Pousada de Portugal (where we stayed), a large lawn with swimming pool and a stunning view of the sea and the Islet of Cabras. In addition, you will also find the old guardhouse, barracks and a cistern.
I) Photograph the Bull Monument
The Bull Monument (19) is located at the top of Jácome de Bruges Avenue, at the roundabout next to the Bullring. This impressive monument, given its dimensions, portrays the bull related traditions and the importance of cattle on Terceira Island.
Cattle wins at Salga Battle
When we visited Terceira Island we were told this interesting story, which we share.
By the time Portugal was ruled by King Philip II of Spain, the Terceira Island resisted and was where D. António, Prior of Crato (formerly acclaimed king) took refuge.
In 1581 the Spanish navy, with 1,000 soldiers, landed at Salga Bay (parish of Porto Judeu) and began fighting the few armed men. Dona Brianda Pereira, a noble lady whose husband and son were injured, armed elderly women and men with shovels and hoes and urged them to fight.
To help, however, a friar gathered large numbers of cows, which he then shooed over the Castilians. These were decimated, part of them fleeing to the sea (because they could not swim or their armor was heavy), others returned to the ships.
Later, a new fleet returned, and Portugal was governed entirely by the Spanish for 60 years!
H) Other Places of Interest
At Rua do Marquês 14, there is the Captain-Major House (21), (Casa do Capitão Donatário) which consists of several houses built to serve as housing for João Vaz Corte-Real, Captain Donatário de Angra and discoverer of Newfoundland.
These buildings were strategically located at the base of the Moinhos Castle (which existed here) and at the top of Rua Direita that leads to the Marina.
The Angrense Theater (22) is located at Rua da Esperança 48. It is a 19th century “horseshoe shaped” theater with neoclassical influences that was much sought after for Italian opera and romantic theater performances.
Duke of Bragança Market
At Rua do Rego nº 70 is the Duque de Bragança Market (23) which is the municipal market of the city. It is well worth a visit, especially to observe the colors of the variety of local products for sale.
The Bettencourt Palace (24) is located at 47 Rua da Rosa. It is a 17th century building of Baroque architecture, which currently serves as the Municipal Library and Regional Archive of Angra do Heroísmo. In fact, it is a fine example of the town’s manor houses, which on the main façade has a large stonework portico of the region, with two Solomon columns, topped by capitals, architrave and coat of arms of the Bettencourt family.
Convent of São Gonçalo
Still at Rua da Rosa nº 68 is the Convent of São Gonçalo (25). This is the oldest convent of Angra do Heroismo, from the 16th century. It contains two cloisters, fence, church and choirs (high and low). Among its valuable collections are the high choir chair with fantastic figures, the 17th and 18th century tile panels and paintings, as well as the gilded carvings.
Boa Nova Hospital
In the Largo da Boa Nova (at the entrance of Monte Brasil) is the former Boa Nova Hospital (26). It is thought to be the oldest military hospital in the world, built in the 17th century. It was built during the Spanish occupation to take care of its military personnel in service in the Castle of São Filipe of Monte Brazil.
House of Conde de Vila Flor
At Rua Direita nº 115 is the House of Conde de Vila Flor (27) where António José Severim de Noronha lived. This 7th Count of Vila Flor was the 11th Captain General of the Azores, later Duke of Terceira. Having led the liberal army in the battle of 11/08/1829 that took place at Praia, later called “Praia da Vitória”.
When to Go to Angra do Heroismo (Climate and Weather)
Any time of year is a good time to visit Angra do Heroismo, in Terceira Island, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean (North). The Azores’s archipelago enjoys a temperate climate influenced by the Gulf Stream. On the other hand, there aren’t too many tourists going around (for now…!)
In general, air temperatures are between 55.4ºF (or 13ºC) and 71.6ºF (or 22ºC). The highest temperature occurs from June to September. Average seawater temperatures are around 60.8ºF (or 16ºC) in winter and 69.8ºF (or 21ºC) in summer, reaching up to 77ºF (or 25ºC).
About the weather in the archipelago, it is said that “4 seasons occur in one day”, ie during the day it can be sunny, rain, heat, cold, fog, etc. Terceira Island is no exception, sun and rain can occur at any time. That’s exactly what happened to us!
How to get to Angra do Heroísmo
By plane – LaJes AIRPORT
Most visitors from Angra do Heroísmo, on Terceira Island, arrive by plane to Lajes Airport, located near Praia da Vitória. This airport is located near the Base of Lajes, used by the Portuguese and US Air Forces, due to its strategic importance in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
To Terceira Island there are several international, national and regional airlines, part of them with direct and low cost flights.
More information: www.azoresairlines.pt/en
FROM BOAT TO Angra do Heroismo
Angra do Heroismo Marina (17) is a popular summer harbor for cruises, pleasure boats and sailboats. There are regular sea connections between Terceira Island and other Azorean islands that allow you to appreciate the beauty of the islands’ coast and the sea. Weather conditions sometimes affect ship connections to other Azorean islands.
More information: www.atlanticoline.pt
Where to Stay in Angra do Heroismo
Angra do Heroismo concentrates much of the hotel offer of Terceira Island, with various hotels, local accommodation and rural accommodation. From the city you can easily reach the main attractions of the island, as it is relatively small (18 mi or 29 km long and 11 mi or 18 km wide). When we were in Angra do Heroísmo we slept at Pousada de Angra (20), located in Fort of São Sebastião, overlooking the sea, which is part of Pousadas de Portugal.
How to Get Around in Angra do Heroismo
Within Angra do Heroismo and above all due to its size, we always walked. There is nothing better than being able to get around among the various points of interest and enjoy the charm of the city!
Car Hire In Angra do Heroismo
If you are in Angra and want to visit Terceira Island there are several options for local, national and international car rental companies.
What to eat and drink in Angra do Heroísmo
Gastronomy in Angra do Heroísmo
In Terceira Island there are several typical dishes, especially the alcatras (usually beef, but also can be with fish, chicken, beans or fava beans). These are slowly cooked in clay pots with wine, onion, garlic, bay leaf, bacon and pepper. Then they are placed on slices of cake of sweet bread.
In addition, there are also shellfish and grilled fish from the Azorean seas, such as the boca negra (red and white, with dark mouth) or veja (parrot fish). We especially liked the grilled limpets! Not forgetting the Vaquinha cheese (spicy or not and that you can taste and buy at the factory), produced with milk of “happy” cows.
The desserts of Terceira Island include the delicious Donas Amélias, which have cake making but cheese shape (corn and wheat flour, sugar, eggs, cane honey, raisins, cinnamon and nutmeg). There are also doces de vinagre (vinegar sweets), which do not taste vinegar (milk, sugar, eggs and vinegar), camafeus (nuts, eggs and sugar syrup), cornucópias (flour, toasted bread, almonds, lard and sugar) and fofas (baked lemon-cream-filled ‘filhoses’ – which are Portuguese typically deep fried sugared pastries), with fewer calories than fried version!
To drink we highlight the Verdelho Wine, typical of Terceira Island, which is a white wine produced mainly in the “curraletas” and the Kima passion fruit soda, that despite not being from Terceira Island, justifies to try, since it’s the most famous soda of Azores!
RESTAURANTS In Angra do Heroísmo
In Angra do Heroismo there are several places with good food, like others on Terceira Island, such as:
- Casa de Pasto A Canadinha: Located at Av. Infante Dom Henrique, 24, in Angra do Heroísmo, was our place of choice in price / quality / service. It has a typical decor. There we tasted several typical Azorean dishes and it was where we enjoyed the best grilled limpets!
- Tasca das Tias, O Chico and Cais de Angra;
- Near Angra, in São Mateus, 4 km away, is the Restaurante Beira-Mar. With the fishing port in front. It has a wide range of fresh fish and shellfish. Noteworthy are the seafood soup in bread, the mixed kebabs and grilled fishes. It was not easy to get a table due to the great demand but it was well worth it.
What to See and Do on Terceira Island
Situated between North America and Europe, Terceira Island is the third largest island in the Azores, 29 km long and 18 km wide. It was the third island to be discovered in the Azores archipelago in the fifteenth century, that’s why it’s called Terceira (‘third’ in Portuguese).
It’ s an island of volcanic origin of great beauty, with pastures surrounded by stone walls and Laurissilva forests, natural pools and sandy beaches and ancient historical centers in Angra do Heroismo (the capital) and Praia da Vitória. Given its location, Terceira Island is an important port of call for international maritime navigation.
Find out more here in the Terceira Island Travel Guide.
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