The city of Horta is one of the things that truly makes a difference between Faial and the other islands of the Azores. All along its history Horta has always been strongly influenced by people arriving from across the ocean. In the the beginning it was sailors stopping on their way to the new world. Sometimes there were unwanted visitors such as pirates or naval forces during several conflicts withing the Portuguese kingdom. Later came the steamboats and the whalers, followed by the technicians operating the submarine cables. During a short period in the 1940’s Horta was the “airport” of the Atlantic for the hydroplanes. Nowadays it is the sailors of the pleasure yachts and the tourists. All of them left their mark and gave Horta the flair of a truly cosmopolitan place. The citizens of Horta are proud of their past, sometimes one gets the feeling that they are not talking about a small town with 7000 inhabitants but about one of the major capitals of the world. When you are visiting Horta, there are some obvious landmarks, but if you want to feel the charm of the city, then you should walk the smaller roads and explore.
If you do not rush, then the following city walk in Horta will keep you busy for an entire day. As Horta is small, you can also just pick some of the points, most of them can be reached within a couple of minutes from the center. The itinerary starts and ends at the Praça Infante Don Henrique at the seafront.
Praça Infante Don Henrique
This small park has been created originally in 1897 and remodeled several times since. It is a nice green oasis with a great view on the marina and Pico. In the summer the cafes around the park have tables in the park.
The marina of Horta is one of the busiest ports in the Atlantic. It has been built in 1986 and extended in 2002. Walk out to some of the piers and check out the colorful paintings left by the crews that stayed in Horta.
Travessa da boa viagem
Nowadays a simple road, it used to be the place of one of the city gates, you can still see the remainders of the old city walls on the embankment of the main road. The building where now is the grocery store of Mercearia Silva used to be the hospital of Horta.
The city market has been opened at its current place in 1841, it has been partially destroyed during the earthquake of 1926. In its current layout it was opened in 2019, you can find shops, cafes and of course the green grocery merchants. On Saturdays, the market is very busy and there are even farmers from Pico selling their products.
Praça da República
Just next to the market is the park Praça da República where you can take a rest on your city walk in Horta. Inaugurated in 1903, depicting the romantic style of the 19th century with a small pond, peacocks and balck and white swans. Before being a park, the convent Convento de N. Sra. da Glória was at its place.
The theater of Faial, which also serves occasionally as movie theater and event location has inaugurated in 1916 and enlarged in 2003. The first theater in Faial was has ween opened in 1856.
Ribeira da Conceição
Leaving the inner city on our city walk in Horta, do not miss to walk up the steep street Calçada de Conceição to see one of the oldest parts of the city. Returning from there, follow the stream up the valley and you will find yourself surrounded by old orchards. If you peek into the gardens you will find bananas, coffee plants, fig trees and other subtropical plants thriving in this well protected area.
Torre do Relógio
Up the stairs and through a small passageway, you will reach the clock tower or Torre do Relógio, originally the tower of the old church of Matriz which has been demolished in 1825. The tower itself dates from the 18th century. Next to the tower the Jardim Florêncio Terra gives the opportunity for another rest.
Igreja do Carmo
The Carmelite convent of Horta was the first one of its order to be established of mainland Portugal. The church was inaugurated in 1698, the building itself though only completed in 1797. Subsequent to the abolishing of religious orders in 1834, the church was abandoned but miraculously not demolished. The church suffered from serious damage as a result of the earthquake of 1998, subsequently works started to safe it from complete destruction. Today it hosts the museum of sacred arts and the establishment of a five star hotel is planned as well.
Império dos Nobres
The Império dos Nobres is a chapel erected in remembrance of the eruption of the Cabeço do Fogo volcano in 1672, the chapel has been inaugurated in 1759. It is one of many chapels of the Divine Holy Spirit, a common cult in the Azores, more on these brotherhoods you can find in the following blog post.
Sociedade Amor da Pátria
The Sociedade Amor da Pátria is the seat of a masonic lodge founded in 1859, the lodge has ever since played an important role in the social, political and economical life of Faial. The art deco style building has been inaugurated in 1934, in 1976 the inaugural act of the first government of the autonomous region of the Azores was held in its premises. Until 1990 the regional parliament of the Azores held its plenary sessions in the building before moving to its current building a couple of hundred meters further up the hill.
Igreja do Santíssimo Salvador
The church of Matriz was originally built as Jesuit convent, works started in 1680, and it was completed in 1825. The south wing originally hosted the Jesuit convent, today it hosts the museum of Horta. The north wing is still occupied by seat of the municipality of Horta.
Casa Memória Manuel de Arriaga
Manuel de Arriaga, the first President of the Portuguese Republic, is probably the most famous Faialense. His birthplace hosts an exhibition on this life and the history of the first republic.
Igreja de São Francisco
The church and convent of São Francisco was inaugurated in 1700, after the abolishment of religious orders in Portugal the annexed hospital was handed over to the Santa Casa de Misericordia, which until today is located at the place and maintains an old age pension. The church has been severely damaged in a fire in 1899, since then conservation and restoration works are ongoing.
The buildings of the former German cable company are nowadays used by the regional government. You can find beautiful glassworks depicting the coats of arms of the member states of the German Empire. All along the the Rua Cônsul Dabney street you can find the former villas of the companies which operated the transatlantic cables, such as the Trinity house or the villa of the American cable company.
Observatório Príncipe Alberto do Mónaco
Prince Albert I of Monaco extensively researched the Azores at the beginning of the 20th century. The meteorological observatory opened in 1915 was named in 1923 in his honors. The building was heavily damaged in the earthquake 1998 and has been restored since. Today it hosts seismological equipment and is an observation post on global climatic measurements. From the observatory you have a beautiful view over the city, the bay of Horta and the bay of Porto Pim.
Igreja da Nossa Senhora das Angústias
The church of Angústias is located at the site of the first hermitage founded by the first Captain of Faial Joss van Hurtere, it was in this area where the first settlement of Horta was located. Works on the church began around 1640, it was completed in its current form in 1861. On the ceiling overt the altar, you can find the coats of arms of the noble families of Faial.
Forte de Porto Pim
The fortifications of Porto Pim are an intact part of the old fortifications of Horta. Through the gate you can reach the old quai of Porto Pim. Today the area with its coffee shops and restaurants are a popular spot to spend the evenings and watch the sunset over Porto Pim bay.
Castelo de São Sebastião
Part of the defensive constructions of Porto Pim, the Castelo de São Sebastião has been built in the early 17th century. Nowadays it serves as events location. A bit further out towards the ocean, you can find the Torre de Vigia, a small watchtower which was also part of the Porto Pim fortifications.
Walk through the small streets of Porto Pim and get a feeling of the old day Horta, take a drink in one of the bars or go down to the sandy beach of Port o Pim for a relaxing swim in the shallow waters.
Rua de Dentro / Rua da Ladeira
You might not find these two small streets in any of the guidebooks, but they are another example of the fact that Horta has a lot of hidden gems to offer.
Peter Café Sport
Peter Café Sport is probably the most famous bar of the Atlantic Ocean. Founded in 1918 by Henrique Azevedo it serves until today as post office, meeting point and of course bar for the sailors passing by in Horta. Do not miss out miss out to try Peter’s gin, best on the terrace while enjoying the view over the canal to Pico.
Forte de Santa Cruz da Horta
The Forte de Santa Cruz is the cornerstone of the fortifications of Horta and has been built between the 15th and 17th century. The fortress played an important role in the defense of Horta during the Spanish occupation in 1583 and the invasions by the Ear of Cumberland and the Earl of Essex in 1589 and 1596 respectively. In the 1930’s there were plans to demolish it, luckily they did not materialize and nowadays it operates as a hotel.
Casa da Baia
The latest addition to the tourism of Horta is the Casa de Baia hosting the tourism post of the Municipality of Horta and an exhibition on the history of the bay of Horta. It has been opened in 2021 and is part of Horta’s membership of the Club of the Most Beautiful Bays of the World.