This historic capital of the Island of Terceira is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of three regional capitals in the Azores along with Horta and Ponta Delgada.
This important port town and old 16th century fort have been strategically important to both Portuguese and Spanish merchants and traders over the centuries using the city’s sheltered harbour as a stop-off point between Africa, Europe and the West Indies and Americas.
The explorer Vasco da Gama buried his brother here in 1499 after his long voyage to India, while in the 17th century the port received Spanish galleons laden with treasure from the New World.
Its rapid growth as a maritime trading centre led to it being designated the first city in the Azores in the 1530s while Pope Paul III appointed Angra as a diocese with religious jurisdiction over the rest of the archipelago.
Angra went on to play important roles in the history of Portugal during the Succession Crisis of 1580 when it refused to accept Phillip of Spain’s suzerainty and supported the alternative candidate to the Portuguese throne, Antonio I, who established a government in exile here for two years between 1580 and 1582.
Later when the Portuguese monarchy was restored in the Restoration of 1640, the town forced out the Spanish occupiers who had taken control of the Monte Brazil Fort and for its pains was awarded the title ‘Ever Loyal City’ by King Joao IV in 1641.
Later on another Portuguese king, Afonso VI, took refuge in the fort from 1669 to 1684 after being deposed by his brother King Pedro II.
Interestingly enough the port of Angra was given the suffix Heroismo (Heroism) by Portuguese Queen Maria II in the 19th century in recognition for its part in the Liberal parliamentary struggles that took place early in the 19th century following the Peninsular Wars in which the city became a focus of Liberal support and as such was dubbed the Constitutional Capital of the Kingdom during the Portuguese Civil War of 1828-1834.
The city also proved a refuge for the same briefly exiled queen between 1830 and 1833 and the writer, orator and politician João Baptista da Silva Leitão de Almeida Garrett, during the Peninsular Wars, while naturalist and evolutionary theorist Charles Darwin visited the island on the HMS Beagle in 1836 before going on to Sao Miguel and famously stating “Nothing of interest here to report.” The city suffered considerable damage, now restored, during the terrible earthquake in 1980.
Places to See
A fabulous view over the Angra Bay is to be had from the top of this volcanic crater which is also a popular picnic site.
Sao Joao Baptista Castle
This castle was built during the Spanish Occupation between 1580 and 1640 as both an armoury and treasury and is still used by the Portuguese armed forces to this day. It boasts wonderful views over the surrounding bay and countryside.
Alto da Memoria
Another high point from which to admire the town below are the two twin church towers of Angra’s main church or Se which dates from the 16th century and was restored in the 1980s after a fire.
Angra do Heroismo Museum
Tells the history of the city and island as well as having an impressive collection of arms, maps, painting and sculpture. Afterwards why not take a stroll around the peaceful and charming gardens which were once part of the Sao Francisco Convent.
Sulphur Geysers & Caverns
The island of Terceira has numerous natural wonders as a result of past volcanic activity and these include not only the huge 3km wide Caldeira de Guilherme Moniz crater but also enormous underground caverns at Algar do Carvao and the dramatic and steamy Sulpher Pools and Geysers surrounded by mud and rock sediment in spectacular colours.
The island of Terceira has a long wine growing tradition using a Portuguese cast of grape known as Verdelho, which is also used in Madeira wines and white Port wine in the Douro Valley. The wine used to be exported to Russia in the 19th century where it was popular at the Russian court. At the Wine Museum at Biscoitos you can sample some of these wines and buy a few bottles to take home.