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Ponta Delgada

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Ponta Delgada

Ponta Delgada
Municipality (Concelho)
The modern tower and SolMar Avenida Center mall, seen from the Portas do Mar complex in the city's Baixa area
Coat of arms
Official name: Concelho de Ponta Delgada
Name origin: Portuguese for thin point
Country  Portugal
Autonomous Region  Azores
Island São Miguel
Civil Parishes Ajuda da Bretanha, Arrifes, Candelária, Capelas, Covoada, Fajã de Baixo, Fajã de Cima, Fenais da Luz, Feteiras, Ginetes, Livramento, Mosteiros, Pilar da Bretanha, Relva, Remédios, Santa Bárbara, Santa Clara, Santo António, São José, São Pedro, São Roque, São Sebastião, São Vicente Ferreira, Sete Cidades
Center Lagoa Empadadas
 - elevation 761 m (2,497 ft)
 - coordinates
Highest point Éguas
 - location Sete Cidades Massif
 - elevation 873 m (2,864 ft)
 - coordinates
Lowest point Sea level
 - location Atlantic Ocean
 - elevation 0 m (0 ft)
Area 232.99 km2 (90 sq mi)
 - water 4.8 km2 (2 sq mi)
 - urban 22.0 km2 (8 sq mi)
 - metro 7.95 km2 (3 sq mi)
Population 68,809 (2011)
Density 295 / km2 (764 / sq mi)
Settlement c. 1450
 - Village 29 May 1507
 - Municipality 2 April 1546
LAU Câmara Municipal
 - location Praça do Município, São Sebastião
 - elevation 12 m (39 ft)
 - coordinates
President José Manuel Bolieiro (PPD-PSD)
Municipal Chair Francisco Rêgo Costa (PPD-PSD)
Timezone Azores (UTC-1)
 - summer (DST) Azores (UTC0)
Postal Zone 9504-523
Area Code & Prefix (+351) 292 XX XX XX
Demonym Ponta-delgadense
Patron Saint Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres
Municipal Holidays Monday following the Sunday of festival of Senhor Santo Cristo
Location of the municipality of Ponta Delgada in the archipelago of the Azores
Wikimedia Commons:
Statistics: Instituto Nacional de Estatística[1]
Geographic detail from CAOP (2010)[2] produced by Instituto Geográfico Português (IGP)

Ponta Delgada (Portuguese pronunciation: ) is the largest municipality and administrative capital of the Autonomous Region of the Azores in Portugal. It is located on São Miguel Island, the largest and most populous in the archipelago. The population in 2011 was 68,809,[3] in an area of 232.99 km².[4] There are 17,629 residents in the three central civil parishes that comprise the historical city: São Pedro, São Sebastião, and São José.[3] Ponta Delgada became the region's administrative capital under the revised constitution of 1976; the judiciary and Catholic see remained in the historical capital of Angra do Heroísmo while the Legislative Assembly of the Azores was established in Horta.


  • History 1
  • Geography 2
    • Physical geography 2.1
    • Climate 2.2
    • Human geography 2.3
  • Economy 3
  • Transport 4
  • Education 5
  • Culture 6
    • Religious 6.1
    • Secular 6.2
  • Sport 7
  • International Relations 8
    • Twin towns—Sister cities 8.1
  • Notable citizens 9
  • See also 10
  • References 11


The Square, 1899
A street in Ponta Delgada, 1899
A view of the old wharf of Ponta Delgada, with Portas da Cidade in the distance
Ponta Delgada, January 21, 1918
The Portas da Cidade (Gates to the City), the historical entrance to the village of Ponta Delgada
The center of the Baixa (Downtown) of Ponta Delgada, as seen from the city hall
The Church of the Jesuit College, a religious sanctuary completed, when Ponta Delgada was a commercial trans-Atlantic stopover from the New World
The origin of the placename, was elaborated by the famous Portuguese chronicler, Father Gaspar Frutuoso, wrote:

Around 1450, Pêro de Teive, established a small fishing village that eventually grew into the urban agglomeration in Santa Clara.

Populated since 1444, the island of São Miguel was a vast territory, with small settlements scattered about, except for Manuel in Lisbon to petition that the community be emancipated. In Abrantes, King Manuel conferred a foral on 29 May 1507, elevating the settlement to the status of village (Portuguese: vila).

Then, it 1522 an earthquake and landslide devastated the provincial capital, destroying many of the buildings and killing various people. Ponta Delgada became the only centre with an infrastructure to support the Azorean bureaucracy and supplant its important economic links. Quickly, its role changed, and eventually, it was elevated to status of city, during the reign of King D. João III by decree, dated 2 April 1546.

The naval Battle of Ponta Delgada (also known as the Battle of São Miguel) took place on 26 July 1582, off the coast, as part of the 1580 Portuguese succession crisis. An Anglo-French corsair expedition sailed against Spain to preserve Portuguese control of the Azores, which had aligned itself with the pretender António, Prior of Crato, thereby preventing Spanish control (it was the largest French force sent overseas before the age of Louis XIV).

It was during the 19th Century, that the municipality experienced its greatest boost of economic activity, with the funnelling of citrus exports to United Kingdom and the growth of foreign-owned businesses in the historic center, many of them Jewish merchants after 1818.[6] As with other centres across the archipelago, the town of Ponta Delgada experienced many of the trends common for the period, including the "greening" of the communities (with the construction of the gardens of António Borges, José do Canto, Jácome Correia and the Viscount of Porto Formoso, which would become part of the University of the Azores), the construction of many of the ornate homes/estates, the clearing of animals from urban spaces, the opening of newer, larger, roadways, the moving of cemeteries to the periphery, and relocation of markets for fish, meat and fruits. Due to these changes, and growth of the mercantile class, Ponta Delgada became the third largest town in Portugal, in economic riches and the number of residents. The poet Bulhão Pato, writing of Ponta Delgada, was surprised by the extraordinary riches of the plantation owners, the "gentlemen farmers" that lived within the urbanized core: exporters of oranges and corn, bankers, investors, industrialists and shippers, all contributing to a privileged class of economic and social thinkers and philanthropists.

At the beginning of the 20th Century, Ponta Delgada's position was relatively high (eighth largest), although the changing importance of rural economies steadily chipped-away at its growth. But, it remained the MFA government to implement land reforms.[7] The Micalense Farmers' Protest, forced his resignation, and inspired a series of terrorist acts that plunged the Azores into political turmoil.[7][8] After a clandestine round-up of arrests and detentions by the Military Governor, the Autonomous District of Ponta Delgada was extinguished, along with the other districts (Horta and Angra do Heroísmo) on 22 August 1975, with the establishment of theJunta Regional dos Açores (Regional Junta of the Azores), the provisional government that assumed the competencies of the administration during the region's transition to constitutional autonomy.[7]


Physical geography

The municipality of Ponta Delgada is one of the larger administrative divisions in the archipelago, extending from the center of the island to the western coast. Ponta Delgada is bordered on the northeast by the municipality of Riberia Grande, and southeast by relatively new municipality of Lagoa.

Geomorphologically, Ponta Delgada covers a volcanic area composed of two structures: the Picos Region and Sete Cidades Massif. The Picos Region extends from the shadow of the ancient volcano of the Água de Pau Massif (known locally for the lake that rests within its volcanic crater: Lagoa do Fogo) until the area around the Sete Cidades caldera. It is a volcanic axial zone oriented generally in a northwest-southeast direction, essentially defined by several spatter cones and lava flows and predominantly covered by dense vegetation and pasture-lands. Its relief is relatively planar, especially along the northern and southern coasts, where many of the urban communities are located. The Sete Cidades Massif, the other geomorphological structure that makes up the municipality of Ponta Delgada, consists of a central volcanic caldera and lake-filled cones which surround the crater. It occupies the extreme western part of the island, oriented along a similar northwest-southwest orientation, with many regional radial fractures marked by lava domes and spatter cones. The Sete Cidades Volcano at the center of the Massif consists of a caldera and a polygenetic volcanic field within it, that includes four lakes (two of which Lagoa Azul, the Blue Lake, and Lagoa Verde, the Green Lake, are linked). The caldera is almost circular and has evolved over the course of three phases. The first occurred 36,000 years ago forming the collapsed principal structure. The second phase conforms to a period approximately 29,000 years ago, when volcanic eruptions collapsed the northwest part of the structure. Finally, the third phase (about 16,000 years ago) caused the collapse of the north and northeastern portions of the caldera. Geologically, within the last 5,000 years, the central cone has been active (17 eruptions) and responsible for causing most of the activity in the archipelago, during that period. These geological eruptions were essentially trachyte eruptions of the sub-Plinian or Plinian type, with hydro-magmatic characteristics. The last eruption, at about 500 years ago, gave rise to the Caldeira Seca cone. Although there has been no historical activity today, its active status continues to be debated by the scientific community.

Most recently, its diverse geography includes various types of basaltic volcanism, both effusive and less explosive (essentially Strombolian and Hawaiian) along its flanks, usually conditioned by local and radial faults. The Mosteiros Graben is also an important feature in this area, representing collapse of lands on the northwestern flank of the caldera. Although there are no active aerial volcanic characteristics (like the fumaroles of Furnas), submarine vents around the region of Ponta da Ferraria and the beach at Mosteiros have been identified.

Panorama of the Sete Cidades Massif, showing the Green and Blue Lakes of the civil parish Sete Cidades


The municipality's climate, much like the rest of the Azores, is shaped by the Gulf Stream allowing a small variation in temperatures, with mean temperatures of 14.1°C in February and 22.1°C in August, typical to a Mediterranean or humid subtropical climate. However, due to high levels of precipitation throughout the year combined with less sunshine, the Azores' climate could be rather considered as a lukewarm (very mild) oceanic climate. The Gulf Stream also contributes to an unstable weather that varies greatly during the autumn and spring, making weather forecasting on a daily basis difficult. Levels of humidity are significant enough (usually 90–100%) that temperatures fluctuations feel comparable to those experienced in locations on similar latitudes. Temperature differences between seasons are much smaller than those expected in continental Portugal, with milder winters and cooler summers than Lisbon.

Climate data for Ponta Delgada, Azores (1981–2010)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 20.2
Average high °C (°F) 16.8
Daily mean °C (°F) 14.5
Average low °C (°F) 12.2
Record low °C (°F) 4.4
Average rainfall mm (inches) 96.9
Average rainy days (≥ 0.1 mm) 22.5 19.4 19.5 19.5 18.7 16.3 15.9 15.1 18.5 20.5 20.9 22.7 229.5
Mean monthly sunshine hours 97 103 120 141 174 163 208 213 175 142 109 93 1,738
Source #1: Instituto de Meteorologia,[9] Weatherbase (some records)[10]
Source #2: NOAA (sunshine hours only) [11]

Human geography

Much like other communities in the archipelago of the Azores, the municipality is shaped by its geography; most homes are clustered along the regional road network that circles the island, with many ancillary or agricultural access roads bisecting the central portion of the island (primarily in the Picos Region) along a north-south axis.

Administratively, the municipality is composed of 24 parishes, that handle development, in the defense of local social, cultural, recreation and environmental concerns:

  • Ajuda da Bretanha: new rural community, broken-off in 2002 from the parish of Bretanha, with a population of less than 1500 inhabitants;
  • Arrifes: the largest milk-producing region of the Azores, Arrifes' population in 2001 was less than 7000 inhabitants, concentrated in three areas: Milagres, Piedade, and Saude;
  • Candelária: 1184 residents lived in this community in 2001, an agricultural zone that is also highly forested;
  • Capelas: often assumed to be the location of many religious sanctuaries, this agricultural community (3,759 inhabitants in 2001) was named for the volcanic structures that populated the coastal areas;
  • Covoada: de-annexed from Relva in 1980, it is an agricultural community populated by small lakes, with 1259 inhabitants;
  • Fajã de Baixo: one of the peripheral suburbs of the city of Ponta Delgada, it is highly concentrated, dense parish with 1,124.2 inhabitants/km²;
  • Fajã de Cima: the northern limits of the city of Ponta Delgada, with a large residential population of 3634 inhabitants (2001);
  • Fenais da Luz: the community is primarily located along a plain of productive farmland, its population less than 2000 residents (2001);
  • Feteiras: a southern coastal community primarily concentrated on farming, with a population of 1709 inhabitants (2001);
  • Ginetes: an agricultural and fishing community in the western part of the municipality, there were 1267 residents living in this parish in 2001;
  • Livramento: also referred to as Rosto do Cão, it is a contiuation of the urbanized area of Ponta Delgada, and home to less than 3500 residents;
  • Mosteiros: known for the islets, and hydro-thermal vents off-shore, this is the western most parish of 1196 inhabitants;
  • Pilar da Bretanha: de-annexed in 2002 from the parish of Bretanha, this parish includes 750 residents dispersed in the foothills of the Sete Cidades Massif;
  • Relva: known as the location of the international airport, Relva is an important suburb and industrial center, with 2703 residents in 2001;
  • Remédios: nestled between Bretanha and Santa Bárbara, along the northern coast, it is an area of dairy farming, with 997 inhabitants;
  • Santa Bárbara: a parish with less than 100 inhabitants, between Santo António and Remedios, concentrated on agriculture;
  • Santa Clara: an industrial center in the city of Ponta Delgada, known for its football club, as the center of the commercial fishery and manufacturing, as well as the island's fuel deposit;
  • Santo António: another agricultural community along the northern coast, whose population in 2001 was more than 2000 inhabitants;
  • São José (Ponta Delgada): one of the traditional centers of the urbanized core of Ponta Delgada, that includes many of the historical buildings, including Campo de São Francisco, Church of São José and the sanctuary of the Convent of Esperança (location of the devotional image of Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres, used in annual celebrations around Easter);
  • São Pedro (Ponta Delgada): a central parish in the city of Ponta Delgada, home to the University of the Azores, the Marina, hotels and commercial businesses, and many blocks of apartments along Avenida D. João III and Avenida Natalia Correia;
  • São Roque: also part of the Rosto do Cão area, it encompasses Ponta Delgada's primary beaches (Praia das Malícias and Praia do Pópulo), seaside avenues, as well as the city's municipal stadium and industrial park (Azores Parque);
  • São Sebastião (Ponta Delgada): the central baixa of the city, includes all the historical buildings, traditional commercial business, and tourist attractions, including the Municipal buildings, Portas da Cidade, Matriz Church, Hospital do Divino Espirito Santo and Courts;
  • São Vicente Ferreira: consists of primarily agricultural tracts along the northern coast and population of 1664 inhabitants (2001);
  • Sete Cidades: located within the crater of the Sete Cidades Massif, the parish is bordered by twin lakes, and considered an ex-libris of the island of São Miguel.

Panorama of the Marina Pêro de Teive, a yachting centre and tourist area near the port of Ponta Delgada (the Marine Atlantic Hotel in the background)

Along the southern coast is the urbanized core of the historic village/town of Ponta Delgada, which includes the principal civic infrastructures, high-capacity motorways (Portuguese: Vias-rápidas), tourist and culture attractions, as well as the businesses and government services. This city of Ponta Delgada includes specifically the civil parishes of Santa Clara, São José, São Sebastião and São Pedro, which is divided by the motorways with the urbanized contour of Fajã de Cima and Fajã de Baixo. Not to be confused with a traditional city, the city of Ponta Delgada has no legal jurisdiction or mayor, but the municipality of Ponta Delgada has an elected official, the Presidente da Câmara Municipal who administers and Assembleia Municipal, which is the representative council, while dispersed parish councils (and elected presidents) governthe localities that circle the western edge of São Miguel.

A view of the commercial-industrial centre of Ponta Delgada from a B737 departing John Paul II International Airport
Part of the fisherman's wharf of the Port of Ponta Delgada: a centre of fish catchers in southern São Miguel
SATA Air Açores headquarters
The rectory building of the University of the Azores

The urban core includes the baixa or lower town, referring to the historic centre of buildings, shops and landmarks that gathered over the centuries around the square of São Sebastião and Praça Gonçalo Velho (dedicated to the island's discoverer). Immediately around this urban core are the municipal hall, the Gates to the City (Portuguese: Portas da Cidade) and old customhouse buildings in front of the main roadway that follows the coast (itself passing the Fort of São Brás and Campo do São Francisco in the west). Other important landmarks include the Portas do Mar (Gates of the Sea), main tower of the SolMar Avenida Center mall and Theatre Micalense.


In actuality, the municipality of Ponta Delgada presents a glimpse of the divergent economic events that exist in the Azores.[12] With a strong concentration of service activities, the municipality is an important industrial and agricultural centre.[12] The Arrifes-Covoada basin is the main bread-basket on the island of São Miguel, in addition to all the parishes located around the rim of the Sete Cidades Massif.[12] In 1999, there were 1039 companies whose operational seat were in Ponta Delgada, 45.4% of the companies of the Azores.[12] Of these companies, 4.4% were in the primary sector, 13.7% in secondary industries and 81.9% in the tertiary service sector.[12] The volume of sales (in 2000) was equivalent to 1,458 million Euros.[12] This value strongly lean to those service industries that have concentrated their sales volumes in the region, including banking, computer programming/services, corporate and commercial services and tourism.[12]

It is also the primary location of the services provided by the government, with many of the ministries located in this municipal seat, including the Regional Presidency and several secretariats.[12]

In tourism, Ponta Delgada accounted for a 34% the hotel spaces in the region, and 46% of overnight trips (1997).[12]

Several newspapers are published in Ponta Delgada, including Acoriano Oriental (one of the oldest continuing daily newspapers in the country) and the Diario dos Acores.


Served by an international airport in the parish of Relva (Ponta Delgada-João Paulo II International Airport), the municipality is the principal port of entry for goods entering and people arriving in the Azores.[12] SATA International and SATA Air Açores have their head offices in Ponta Delgada.[13][14]

Near the harbour of Ponta Delgada a broad gauge railway was used several times to build and enlarge the harbor. The track used a seven-foot gauge, but it is unclear if this was Isambard Kingdom Brunel's 7 ft (2,134 mm) Brunel gauge.[15][16][17]


Ponta Delgada is home to the central nucleus of the University of the Azores, a multi-disciplinary institution that ranges from courses in tourism, computer engineering, social sciences and business management. From its principal campus in São Pedro, the rectory manages three poles spread throughout the Azores, including Horta (with courses in Marine Biology, affiliated with the Department of Oceangraphy and Fishing) and Angra do Heroísmo (with a broad course calendar of courses in teaching, business and agricultural sciences).



The image of the Lord Holy Christ of the Miracles: this venerable celebration is the largest and oldest religious event in Portugal.
The front façade of the Convent of Our Lady of Hope, in Campo de São Francisco, during the events of The Lord Holy Christ of the Miracles.

Ponta Delgada is the traditional centre of the annual religious celebrations associated with the Feast of the Lord Holy Christ of the Miracles, in the Campo de São Francisco (located in front of the Fort of São Brás). This venerable feast day, occurs the fifth Sunday of Easter, and attracts locals, other member islands, groups from within the Portuguese diaspora and tourists on vacation, as it paralyzes the streets of the city. Associated with the Roman Catholic veneration of a Ecce Homo representation of Jesus Christ after the passion (retold in Luke 23:1-25 in the New Testament) that was gifted to the sisters of the Convent of Caloura in the mid-16th century. Since its move to the Convent of Our Lady of Hope, the figure was (under the inspiration of Venerable Mother Teresa da Anunciada) used in religious processions that wind the streets of the city. The cortege, which includes clergy, politicians and lay folk is a popular event, attracting both religious (to the procession, sanctuary and open-air mass) and secular participants (to view and see the procession, imagery and taste traditional foods from the barracas located along the main avenue).

Following Pentecosts, many of the parishes within the municipality participate in feasts dedicated to the Holy Spirit. A tradition across the islands of the Azores, the Cult of the Holy Spirit dates to medieval traditions, involving "promises" made to God (Portuguese: promessas), the processions of faith to and from the Church and feasts of meat-broth soup and bread donated to the poor. In comparison to other islands/parishes of the Azores, most neighborhoods of São Miguel allow the free participation of visitors, seen as fulfilling the tenants of the tradition, rather than the narrow sub-community of the Brotherhoods of the Holy Spirit.


One of the more popular non-religious events is the Noites de Verão (Nights of Summer): a summer event, normally held in the square of Campo do São Francisco that attracts family, friends and tourists, with many vendors selling food, refreshments or small goods.[18] In addition, this secular festival is highlighted by nightly musical events, from popular Azorean bands/singers, concert bands, folklore groups and some national/international stars.[18][19] Starting usually in late June, the "nights" run until September (four months), and is sponsored/supported by the municipal government.[18]


In addition to several parks providing green-spaces for multiple recreational activities, the city of Ponta Delgada is home to sporting associations and sites for racket sports, organized team and open-air activities. In addition to multiple water-sports, such as swimming, surf/board and canoeing/kayaking, there are cycling routes and spaces for running/walking. As centre of tourist activities, visitors to the region have access to tourist companies providing excursions to island trails, all-terrain paths and sea-oriented activities (such as diving, sport-fishing and boat tours.

The home to the Ponta Delgada Football Association, the region has a storied history of football, that includes teams that have made it to the 1st and 2nd Divisions of the National Football League. Among them are Club Desportivo Santa Clara (Honours League), Clube União Micaelense, (Portuguese Second Division) and Marítimo da Calheta (São Miguel Regional Championship League).

International Relations

Twin towns—Sister cities

Ponta Delgada is twinned with:[20]

Notable citizens

  • Teófilo Braga (24 February 1843; São José - 28 January 1924; Lisbon), a Portuguese writer, playwright, Republican politician, leader of the Republican Provisional Government, and 2nd President of the Republic;
  • Roberto Ivens (12 June 1850; São Pedro - 28 January 1898; Oeiras), a Portuguese explorer of Africa, geographer, colonial administrator, and an officer of the Portuguese Navy;
  • Antero de Quental (18 April 1842 – 11 September 1891), a Portuguese poet, philosopher and writer, whose works became a milestone in the Portuguese language, through his leadership in the Questão Coimbra movement of the 19th century;[21]
  • Pedro Miguel Carreiro Resendes, OIH (born 28 April 1973), commonly known as Pauleta, a footballer and all-time leading goal scorer for the Portuguese National Team;
  • Fernance B. Perry (1921–2014) was a successful business entrepreneur, philanthropist and broadcast executive, recipient of the Order of the British Empire, who emigrated to Bermuda with his parents in 1926.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b Instituto Nacional de Estatística
  4. ^ Eurostat
  5. ^ António Cordeiro, 1866, 182-183
  6. ^ Ponta Delgada was once home to five Synagogues with the oldest surviving synagogue being the Sahar Hassamain Synagogue (Gates of Heaven) in downtown.
  7. ^ a b c
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j
  13. ^ "Customer Care." SATA. Retrieved on 7 July 2010.
  14. ^ "Press Kit 2010." SATA. Retrieved on 7 July 2010. "The SATA Group comprises air transport companies whose decision centre is located in the city of Ponta Delgada, on the island of São Miguel, in the archipelago of Azores."
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ a b c
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
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