Praia da Vitoria, Azores
Set on the east of is the seventh island in the Azores (if you’re starting from the west) Praia da Vitoria often gets overlooked on your way to reach the mainland after days at sea. While many assume the Azores archipelago only offer hardy respite – not to mention terra firma – for travellers who have been enjoying a transatlantic crossing, the archipelago is beginning to gain global recognition as destinations that are well worth visiting in their own right.
Praia da Vitoria literally translates as “the beach of victory” yet with such an auspicious name, one would be wrong to assume that it is only fun in the sun on the island. Laden with history dating back to the 15th century, Gaspar Frutuoso (the celebrated Azorean historian and priest), wrote about Praia in the 16th century calling it “noble and sumptuous”. The adjectives certainly ring true even today, with its jumble of narrow streets, recently modernised marina promenade and architectural marvels (the old town dates from 1480), Paria da Vitoria has lost nothing of its past grandeur. A stroll to the main square and its market place - unchanged since 1670, or down to the small 16th century fort south of the beach is proof of that!
An interesting quirk to note about the town is that due to the two orders Santo Cristo and Misericórdia in the 18th century and in order to please everyone, everything was built in double. This means that the lovely Igreja do Senhor Santo Cristo church (also known as da Misericórdia) has two high alters and two choirs. The church dates from 1521 and was partially destroyed in a fire in 1921.