The first time I went to Horta I met a man with heavy-callused hands who told me stories about master mariners from Faial Island.
The hardships those sea-men endured are what make this place so enjoyable, he told me. It’s through their sacrifice Horta now strives.
Today Horta stands as a metropolitan-port city that people visit from all over the world and it’s literally written on the marina walls.
A Brief History Lesson About Horta
The history of Horta began when the first migrants from southern Portugal discovered the central group of the Azores.
Although most of the settlers were from mainland Portugal, a Flemish aristocrat in the late 1400’s, named Josse van Huerter, brought in merchants, tradesmen, and artisans to help develop Horta’s economy and culture.
Fun fact: The name “Horta” comes from a transliteration of Jose van Huerter’s name.
Before gaining international importance through transatlantic trading routes, the people of Horta faced many challenges and setbacks that you can read about here. Over time, commerce in the whaling industry boomed and exports on oranges and local wine stabilised the economy.
In more recent history, Horta’s harbour has become a popular destination not only for sailors and yachtsmen, but also travellers from all over the world seeking adventure, culture, and history.
What To Do in Horta
Nowadays if you’re traveling in the Azores, Horta is a must see destination. Besides the metropolitan feel of the town’s centre, there’s some great places to check out while you’re there.
1. The Historical Marina
If you’re going to Horta it’s well worth strolling through the colourful and historical marina.
Today it’s internationally recognised and acts as a linking point for yachtsmen and regattas.
For decades sailors have painted their murals on the marina’s breakwater.
According to old-sailor superstition, painting your mural or logo on the breakwater gives divine protection from harsh conditions at sea!
2. Peter’s Sport Cafe & Scrimshaw Museum
After strolling through the marina check out Peter’s Sport Cafe.
This place is ideal for a light lunch and sunset drinks. The best part about it is the atmosphere inside. All the memorabilia gives a nostalgic, yet hip vibe.
During the summer you’ll hear Portuguese, English, French, German and Spanish all being spoken over a cold glass of gin & tonic.
Above the restaurant the Scrimshaw Museum is one of a kind. If you appreciate artwork and history, you’ll thoroughly enjoy the small but exceptional exhibit.
A guide works to tell the local history and answer any questions you have!
The entrance fee is around 3.00 euros.
3. Porto Pim Beach & Cafe
Porto Pim Beach, or locally known as Praia do Porto Pim, is one of the few beaches on Faial Island.
There are various cafes and restaurants nearby at your convenience.
This is an awesome spot to wind down at the end of the day with family and friends. The sunsets here are incredible!
4. Miradouro de Nossa Senhora da Conceição
The word “miradouro” literally translates to “golden sight.” These golden sights are scattered throughout the Azores by the hundreds.
Check out one of my favorites: Miradouro do Cabeço do Geraldo
Miradouro de Senhora da Conceição is located above Horta with a spectacular view of the entire city.
On clear days you can view ships crossing the channel between Faial and Pico with Portugals highest point, Pico Mountain, rising tall into the blue sky.
For religious reference, locals come here to pray and give thanks. “Nossa Senhora da Conceição” translates to “Our lady of conception” referring to the Virgin Marry.
5. Botanical Gardens
The botanical gardens (Jardin Botânico do Faial) are located a few kilometres away in the neighbouring town of Flamengos.
These gardens are for nature lovers and anyone interested in learning more about the endemic species of the Azores.
Here you’ll find evergreen bushes filled with Azorean hollies and blueberries, orange trees and blooming heathers. During the summer you’ll be surprised how vibrant the colours appear under the sunlight.
All across the Azores the mission of conservation groups are to protect the natural flora and promote scientific research and environmental awareness.
“When visiting this Garden, the visitors can get to know the rarest plants in the Azores, the traditional crops, a beautiful orchidarium, a collection of medicinal and aromatic plants, as well as the main invasive plants.”
6. Semana Do Mar
Semana do Mar or, “Sea week” is a music & arts festival set on the first week of August in Horta, Faial. People from the eight other islands gather here to enjoy concerts, art displays, traditional dances, and local food.
Everyone who lives in the Azores looks forward to the summer festivals since the winter season is terribly long and slow. It’s their time to have fun and let loose!
July and August are the ideal months for you to visit the Azores and if you’re here during the Festival weeks you must check it out!
See here for my photo blog of Semana Dos Baleeiros.
The Semana do Mar 2020 festival is already being organised. Check it out here if you have plans on visiting the Azores this summer!
Best Restaurants in Horta
No travel guide is complete without a food section. Here are some of my favourite restaurants in Horta that I know you’ll enjoy as well.
Restaurante Atletico was recommended to me various times during my stay in Horta. Now, I’m extending that recommendation to you.
The menu has a wide variety of fresh seafood, barbecue and local cuisine with a European-mediterranean touch.
I ordered the grilled limpets ( lapas grehladas) with garlic-butter sauce. It was scrumptious.
For my main meal I ordered the filet mignon that was cooked to culinary perfection. Besides one other restaurant here on Pico Island I haven’t had a steak that comes close.
Once you eat here, you’ll probably end up coming back at least one more time before your vacation ends.
This is the pizza joint to go to if you’re staying in Horta.
It’s simple, the pizza is delicious.
Do you know how back home you have that one favourite pizza place you go to anytime you crave pizza? Well among Horta’s locals, this is it.
They also serve hamburgers, sandwiches and vegetarian alternatives.
Cafe Volga is an awesome little place where you can get good food at a low price.
It’s located right in the centre of town and alot of people come here to socialise, watch futebol, and dink café.
I ordered the bistec, A fried egg atop a reasonable-sized steak with a side of french fries, rice, and vegetables for only 6 euros.
This place is perfect if you’re on a budget and still want to eat good like the locals do.
Padaria Popular is a bakery and cafe located in the busiest part of Horta. This place is celebrating 40 years as an establishment.
No business stays around that long without doing something right. The environment alone is inviting with a white and blue color scheme representative of Faial island’s nick name “Ilha Azul” or “Blue island.”
The bakers work morning and night to prepare and serve fresh bread, pastries and sandwiches to their customers. I stumbled upon them on my last visit to Horta and I thoroughly enjoyed sitting down drinking a “meia de leite” (an expresso with milk in a larger mug) and a chocolate croissant.
Padaria Popular is a perfect place to grab a quick breakfast, an afternoon coffee or pick up a cake for the celebration.
Where to Stay?
When you come to Horta there are many options for you to choose from.
Your stay in Horta depends on three things:
- Your budget.
- Your comfort preferences.
- What you want in a travel experience.
If you’re traveling to Horta on a budget, no worries.
If I were you, I would check out Booking.com for the best prices. However, I stayed at Hotel São Francisco for like 25 euros which included breakfast. The staff were friendly and I met some nice people who were staying there as well.
If comfort is the deciding factor and you don’t need to worry so much about your budget, I would check out some of Horta’s finest hotels like Azores Faial Garden Resort Hotel. You’ll be treated to the great views of Horta, the ocean, and Pico Island in the distance. It has a good-sized pool, a work-out room, and sauna for those of you wanting to keep In shape while you’re eating all the delicious food.
For an optimal travel experience I always recommend to my friends to either stay at a local’s home or the nearest hostel.
Unless your accustomed to hostel life, I think it’s a great option to save money, meet like-minded travellers and stay in the heart of the city. On the other hand, if you’ve been there done that, I would tell you to stay at a local resident’s home. This mode of traveling allows for complete immersion and, if you connect well with your host, you get the added benefit of that person’s knowledge and recommendations.
So, Are you ready?
I hope this travel guide helped you out!
Get an inside look at Horta
Let me know in the comments, or shoot me an email if you have any further comments and questions about Horta, or the Azores in general. I’m happy to help!