Whenever I visit somewhere new, if there is a military museum, you can bet that it’s near the top of my list of places to check out. I’m a huge military history buff and always find the museums to be fascinating and enlightening.
Unfortunately, they are usually the most under-visited places by tourists in most countries despite the rich information they hold about the events, that in many cases, shaped the history and culture of a destination. I digress.
I spent a rainy afternoon exploring the Military Museum of the Azores, which is housed in Fort of São Brás, a 16-century military fort and architectural wonder originally erected to ward off pirates. The Azores, despite being relatively unknown to most people, have a strong military history that includes the Portuguese Civil War and the Carnation Revolution that eventually gained the islands their independence from mainland Portugal.
For a small fee, 3€, you can take a leisurely stroll through the museum, including its many underground tunnels.
The tunnels would make an excellent backdrop for filming some a horror movie, complete with the dripping water and eerie sounds…
Once you’re in the fort, it’s a maze of tunnels that lead you from room to room, or in my case, in circles. It’s easy to end up in the same room twice but you can find your way out eventually. I was really surprised by the amount of effort that seemingly went into maintaining the authenticity of the fort. There was literally a surprise around every corner. From old musical instruments and radio equipment to shells and armor, the layout and attention to detail made it seem like you popped into an active fort frozen in time to take a look around while everyone was on lunch break.
As to be expected, there was a lot of artillery and other weapons around in remarkably good condition.
Then there were some unexpected surprises, like wonderful light fixtures (we all know how much I love a good light fixture) and a fully set dining table where ostensibly the officers dined when the fort wasn’t under attack.
After roaming all the corners of the underground levels, I made my way up the stairs to check some of the large tankers and launchers on the main level.
While exploring the main-level, a soldier backing up a truck almost ran me over and that kind of killed my vibe. So, I spotted a stair case in the corner and decided to see where it led.
The staircase took me up to the top of the fort, which turned out to be my favorite part. After trying to look through the holes soldiers used to shoot through, I realized that short people were likely not stationed up top.
Obviously, the view from the top was great and gave you a real sense of what it was like to be stationed up there warding off the enemy. There were lots of cannons, and mounts for guns the inlets that provided protection from incoming fire.
When I was going back down, I noticed a bunch of signs on top of the fort that said No Entry and Authorized Persons Only. So, I am not entirely sure that I was supposed to be up there…but there were no signs going up…if you check it out, proceed with a little caution just in case.
Overall, I really enjoyed the museum and would certainly recommend stopping by during your visit to Ponta Delgada. The fort sits right in the center of down on the way to the main downtown area.
Military Museum of the Azores
Forte de S. Brás – Av. Infante D. Henrique 9500-150, Ponta Delgada
Open: Tue-Fri, 10:00-17:30 & Sat. 10:00-17:30