After leaving the airport, the tourist is welcomed by the city of Ponta Delgada which is the largest and most populous city of the Azores.
A network of high quality hotels and restaurants are readily available
During your stay in the city it is imperative to observe the many magnificent buildings of tremendous architectural value. The majority of these are presently used to accommodate the various political, administrative, religious and cultural offices of São Miguel and the Azores.
The City Gates, “Portas da Cidade”, constructed in the form of three arches during the 18th century, deserve special mention and launch your cultural tour through the city to observe the following sites.
The three imposing churches of the city, “Matriz de São Sebastião”, “São Pedro”, and “São João” are authentic pieces of art from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries;
St.Sebastian’s (São Sebastião) Church- Construction of the church was concluded in 1547on the same spot where the St.Sebastian chapel once stood. Gothic in structure, with a Manueline exterior. The entrance was modified in a baroque style during the 18th century. In the interior, embroideries in gold thread are found in addition to some rare wood such as “Pau Santo” (from Brazil).
St.Joseph’s (São José) Church - Built in 1709. A hispano-mexican influence seen in the sculptured religious statues, blue and white tiles and wood work done in Jacarandá wood, baroque style.
- St.Peter’s (São Pedro) Church - Statues from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries are found here, guilded alters and a famous painting by Pedro Alexandrinho Carvalho called “Pentecostes”.
- The Mosteiro da Esparança - In April 1540 constant pirate attacks along the coast, forced the religious order to leave the convent in Caloura. They took with them the Christ of Miracles statue to the Esperança Monastery built by the founder Rui Gonçalves da Câmara. During the second half of the 17th century the monastery was remodelled with famous painted tiles (by Antonio Oliveira Bernardes) that still exist today along the lower level. This Religious order, Mary Immaculate, was the 4th to occupy the Convent.
- The Convent and Chapel of Our Lady of Hope, “Nossa Senhora de Esperança” generally known as “Convento de Esperança” or simply Saint Christ’s Church “Igreja do Santo Cristo”, is home to the magnificent statue of “Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres” Christ of Miracles, the patron of the largest religious festival place in the Azores.
- The Colégio Church, “Igreja do Colégio” or “Todos-os-Santos”, the old Jesuit College (presently being restored) with its majestic facade in the baroque style, the Church of Santa Barbara an interesting monastic complex, and the Church of Sant’Ana also presents a gracious architecture of the baroque style;
- The “Forte de São Brás”, constructed during the renascence period (1552) was used to defend the city against the many pirates and the “Mãe de Deus” fortress was erected in defence of Ponta Delgada and is presently a lookout point.
Of further interest is The Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, “Nossa Senhora da Conceição”, which is next to the Palace “Palácio da Conceição”, the seat of various government offices. The Fonte Bela Palace is presently a secondary school, and the Santa Catarina Palace, the residence of the Governor during the 18th century contains a beautiful chapel and interesting patio;
- The Sant’Ana Palace, a 19th century construction surrounded by beautiful gardens is presently home to the President of the Regional Government of the Azores. The City Hall, “Paços do Concelho”, is an interesting example of the baroque style. It currently houses the offices of the Municipality;
- The Saint André Convent, “Convento Santo André”, presently functions as the Carlos Machado Museum. Permanent exhibitions, rich in paintings, sculptures, engravings, ornamental tiles, botanical and zoological collections in addition to an ethnographic section demonstrating scenes of Azorean life, are available for your pleasure. (The Açorean Museum began in the local highschool (Liceu Nacional) in 1880 with exhibits in zoology, botany, geology, mineralogy and later in art and ethnography. In 1930 the museum was moved to the St. Andrew monastery which is also home to many national collections; paintings, sculptures, porcelain, tiles, jewellery, toys and other original exhibits.)
There are many other buildings throughout the city which portray the urban architecture from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Wandering through the streets to discovering both the curious and the beautiful is a favourite pastime of all visitors.
One of the important business centres is located on the Avenida Marginal, the avenue which follows the coastline of Ponta Delgada. The entrance to the Port where all the maritime traffic docks on the island is located at the extreme west end of the avenue. During the day traffic along the avenue is constant and on hot summer nights it becomes a popular meeting place.
The Marina complex is located at the east end of the avenue and it is also a place where you can find rest and relaxation. Included in the Marinas’ facilities are:
- the yacht club now has a new clubhouse with modern facilities to accommodate the members and special guests. During the summer of 2001 the club celebrated its’ 100 year aniversary, making it the oldest sports club in the Azores.
- the municipal pool that offers excellent conditions for you to spend the day within the city limits;
- a marina which harbours many Azorean recreational boats (which belong to the local yacht club) and many foreign yachts which stop to replenish supplies and for the crew members to rest during their transatlantic runs.
The stone benches and outdoor cafes along the avenue make for a perfect place to meet with friends and to make new ones.