Also known as the “birthplace of Portugal”, Guimarães is a city full of history and it will surely amaze you! Located in Northern Portugal, it was here that some of the most important politic and military events took place in 1128, events that led to the independence and creation of a new nation.
At that time, the County of Portugal, controlled by Dª. Teresa de Leão, D. Afonso Henriques mother, was a “province” of the kingdom of León (a territory composed by Northwestern Spain and Northern and Central Portugal).
D. Afonso Henriques was not too fond of the increasing proximity between his mother and the “province” of Galicia and, to avoid a union between these two provinces, he went to war against Dª. Teresa de Leão troops.
In 1128, he won the battle of São Mamede and took control of the County of Portugal. In 1139, D. Afonso Henriques won the important Battle of Ourique against the Muslim troops and was subsequently proclaimed as the first king of Portugal.
As you can see, Guimarães is one of the most important cities in the country and its historic centre one of the most beautiful, listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Before finding out the places to visit, where to sleep, where to eat a good meal as well as useful information to prepare your trip, I urge you to watch my video below and discover the wonders this city has to offer:
Things to do in Guimarães:
1. Guimarães Castle
In the mid-10th century, the Countess Mumadona Dias commissioned the construction of a monastery. With the constant raids by the Moors, she decided to commission the construction of a fortress to protect the monks and the Christian community that lived in the surrounding area. Hence the primitive Guimarães castle was born.
In the 12th century, Count Dom Henrique and Dª. Teresa de Leão started living in Guimarães castle and it was probably here that Dom Afonso Henriques was born.
As its defensive function started losing importance, the castle went through constant deterioration and was abandoned up to the 20th century. At that time, the castle was declared a Portuguese national monument and restoration works followed.
Close to the castle, you’ll find the chapel Capela de São Miguel do Castelo where, according to local belief, the first king of Portugal was baptised.
However, according to historical facts, it is just a legend since the chapel was built only in the 12th century. Still, the baptismal font used in the ceremony is kept here.
2. Duques de Bragança Palace
Built in the 15th century by D. Afonso, the first count of Bragança, the palace Paço dos Duques de Bragança was transformed in a barracks in the 19th century.
In the mid-20th century, after a period of abandonment, the palace was restored and transformed in a museum. The second floor is the official residence for the President of the Portuguese Republic when he travels to the North of Portugal.
When you visit this monument, you’ll have the opportunity to admire the beautiful halls, a chapel and a permanent exhibition of the 17th and 18th centuries.
This palace is definitely one of the places you can’t miss when you visit Guimarães!
- Opening hours and tickets: http://www.patrimoniocultural.gov.pt/
Information: if you’re going to visit the castle, the palace Paço dos Duques and the museum Museu Alberto Sampaio, you should buy the combined ticket (it is cheaper than buying the tickets individually).
3. Rua de Santa Maria
The street Rua de Santa Maria was one of the first streets created in Guimarães (in the 12th century). This street connected Santa Clara Convent (present day Guimarães city hall), in the lowest part of the city, and the castle, located on a higher place.
Along this street, you’ll find architectural traces from its past: the houses Casa do Arco (n° 28), Casa dos Peixotos (n° 39), Casa de Valadares de Carvalho (n° 9), Casa dos Carneiro, present day Raul Brandão Library (n° 58), among others.
4. Praça de São Tiago
Here stood a small chapel dedicated to Saint James, a chapel that was demolished in the end of the 19th century. Today, one can still spot its exact location thanks to the granite pavement you can find there.
The square Praça de São Tiago is today a welcoming place at any time of the day. You can stroll through this area and rest for a while in one of the bars or restaurants located here. At night, the square is the place where teenagers as well as adults meet, making this location one of the most important meeting points in the city.
5. Largo da Oliveira
Separated from the square Praça de São Tiago by the Domus Municipalis (the old city hall building), you can admire at the square Largo da Oliveira the beautiful church Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira, built in 1387, the monument Padrão do Salado, a unique monument in the country, and its beautiful medieval buildings.
As I mentioned before, between these two squares you can find the city hall old building, a building that dates back to the 14th century. In the photo below, you can admire the balcony supported by five Gothic arches, the six windows and a statue, in the facade, that represents Guimarães.
6. Museu de Alberto Sampaio
Created in 1928 to receive the assets from the religious orders of this region that became extinct in the 19th century, the museum Museu Alberto Sampaio has an important religious art collection with over 2000 pieces.
The museum is located at a beautiful building, close to the church Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira, that was once used by religious institutions. Apart from the religious art collection, you can also admire the 13th century cloister and São Brás funeral chapel, that dates back to 1419.
Information: if you visit the museum Museu Alberto Sampaio, Guimarães Castle and the palace Paço dos Duques de Bragança, you should buy the combined ticket (it’s cheaper than buying the tickets individually).
- Opening hours and tickets: http://www.culturanorte.pt/
7. Largo do Toural
In the 17th century, this beautiful square was located outside the city walls, facing the main gate. Here, there was an important bovine cattle market that named this place (Toural).
In the centre of the square, you’ll have the opportunity to admire some drawings that seem to make no sense, however, if you look from above you’ll notice a map of the historic centre.
Southeast of the square, in one of the towers of the old ramparts, you’ll see the inscription “Aqui nasceu Portugal” (“Portugal was born here”), reminding visitors that the country was founded after the battle won by D. Afonso Henriques.
Don’t miss the opportunity to take a photograph of this postcard from Guimarães.
8. Nossa Senhora da Consolação e Santos Passos Church
Built between the 16th and 18th centuries, the church Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Consolação e Santos Passos stands where an old chapel used to be.
The two towers were added a century later as well as the stairway and the balustrade.
- Opening hours: https://www.cm-guimaraes.pt/
Here is the itinerary that I suggest you do when you visit all these points of interest in the historic centre of Guimarães:
9. Penha Sanctuary
Inaugurated in 1947, this sanctuary is located at the highest point of the municipality of Guimarães, Monte da Penha.
In addition to this sanctuary, you’ll find in this 60-hectare park a statue of the Pope Pius IX in a location where you can enjoy an amazing view over the city and its surroundings, a view that stretches all the way to the sea in clear days.
At Monte da Penha, you’ll also find other points of interest like a campsite, restaurants, a hotel, minigolf, a tourist mini-train, an equestrian centre, some picnic areas, some chapels, walking routes, caves and several viewpoints.
I urge you to spend some hours exploring this wonder and especially, admire the magnificent sunset from one of the viewpoints. It is definitely an unforgettable moment!
You can get to Monte da Penha (located 6 km away from Guimarães historic centre) by car or, as an alternative, you can take the cable car in the street Rua Aristides Sousa Mendes, nº 37, 450 metres away from the church Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Consolação e Santos Passos.
- Site: www.penhaguimaraes.com
10. Citânia de Briteiros
Located 14 km outside Guimarães, Citânia de Briteiros is an impressive set of ruins of a village that settled here over 2000 years ago, in a time known by archaeologists as the Iron Age. The village is one of the most interesting examples of the castro culture that evolved during the 2nd century BC in northwestern Iberian Peninsula.
- Site: www.guimaraesturismo.com
- Necessary days to visit Guimarães and its surroundings: 1.5 days.
Where to sleep in Guimarães
When I last visited Guimarães, I spent the night in one of Joana’s apartments, rated 9.3/10 (by the time I wrote this article) in Booking.com.
Posh Residences is located close to the square Praça de São Tiago and has apartments with kitchen and living room.
PR Suites is located close to the square Largo do Toural and has studios with modern decoration and private bathroom with free toiletries.
The two accommodations have wi-fi connection, television, air-conditioned, free parking close by and the icing on the cake is the wonderful breakfast served every morning in the accommodation.
Apart from all the amenities mentioned above, Joana and her staff are extremely helpful and are always there to make you feel at home!
Hotel da Oliveira **** (affiliate link)
Hotel da Oliveira is located at Guimarães historic centre, the rooms are equipped with air-conditioned and private bathrooms with free toiletries and hairdryer. In addition, you can also enjoy cable television and a tablet.
The rooms also have a minibar and, in some cases, you can relax in the balcony. All the rooms are decorated with a different theme related to a historic figure from Guimarães.
Guest House Vimaranes (affiliate link)
This accommodation is located in a typical building of the historic centre of Guimarães and offers to his guests rooms with modern decoration and free wi-fi access. Guest House Vimaranes is just at a 10-minute walking distance from Guimarães castle and the train station.
This guest house has double rooms and independent studios with kitchenettes fully equipped. All the rooms have television and some also have a balcony.
My Hostel (affiliate link)
The accommodation My Hostel has dorms and private rooms and is located at a 2-minute walking distance from Guimarães historic centre. It has a terrace where you can relax and view to the garden; the castle is 10 minutes away.
The rooms have plenty of light and have a modern decoration; some have a private bathroom and others have a shared bathroom. You can use the fully equipped kitchen to prepare your meals and you’ll also find vending machines with snacks and beverages. Local restaurants are just 500 metres away.
Where to eat in Guimarães
Inaugurated in 2018 close to the square Largo do Toural, 34 is definitely one of the best restaurants in Guimarães (it’s not by chance that it was rated 5/5 when I wrote this article, with almost 100 reviews in TripAdvisor).
What I most enjoyed in this small restaurant was the diversity of flavours in each dish and the staff, always helpful. Here, you can enjoy an exquisite and international gastronomy with affordable prices.
Since there are few tables, I urge you to book one, especially if you want to have dinner there.
Cor de Tangerina is a vegetarian restaurant and café, a place that prioritises natural products of biologic origin and free trade.
Here, they produce almost all the products they serve. Cor de Tangerina is located at the heart of Guimarães, right in front of the palace Paço dos Duques de Bragança and close to Guimarães castle.
The restaurant Casa Amarela is located at the historic centre of Guimarães, close to the square Praça da Oliveira. It is an ancient house but the architectural restoration made this place modern and welcoming.
Here, you can enjoy an exquisite gastronomy with traditional dishes served with a modern touch.
If you’re looking for a typical Portuguese restaurant with traditional dishes and affordable prices, then I suggest you try Cantinho dos Sabores, located close to the historic centre.
Important dates in Guimarães
Festas Gualterianas: visit Guimarães in the first weekend of August and enjoy the Festas Gualterianas that bring joy to the city for over a century.
The main event of these festivities is the Procession honouring São Gualter that takes place on Sunday, but the vast animation program offers other interesting moments like the historical parade, the flower battles, horse races, fireworks and Portuguese traditional music.
How to get to and move around in Guimarães
To get to Guimarães, you have four options: car, train, bus or a guided tour (affiliate link) leaving from Porto.
If you want to visit Citânia de Briteiros, then you should choose the car as your means of transportation. If you only want to visit the historic centre and Monte da Penha, you can take the train or the bus to get to Guimarães.
The urban train (comboio urbano) connects Porto to Guimarães several times a day in just 1h12 for around 3 €. Avoid taking the intercity train (comboio intercidades) since it is four times more expensive and only 15 minutes faster.
The buses from the companies Transdev, Rodonorte and RedeExpressos connect at least one time a day the cities of Braga and Guimarães in just 25 minutes. These companies also connect Porto to Guimarães in 50 minutes.
Information: do you want to discover the birthplace of the Portuguese nation and discover some of its secrets with the help of an experienced guide? If that’s the case, book this 9-hour activity (affiliate link) leaving from Porto and heading for the fantastic historical centre of Guimarães, listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site since 2001.
Here, you can admire the well-preserved medieval places of this city, including the beautiful castle and the palace Paço dos Duques de Bragança.
In the afternoon, go visit one of the oldest Christian cities in the world, Braga. Here, you will have the possibility to explore the historic centre and visit its beautiful cathedral. Afterwards and before returning to Porto, you will also have the opportunity to complement this activity (affiliate link) with a visit to the sanctuary Santuário do Bom Jesus do Monte, also listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. A must-see!
Leaving from Porto, choose this tour (affiliate link) that will take you on a discovery of the birthplace of the Portuguese nation in 4 hours. In Guimarães, you will have the opportunity to travel back in time until the 12th century and admire the castle that, for a long time, protected the population.
All this in the company of an experienced guide who will tell you more about the rich history of this city, in a tour that will take you to the most beautiful streets and squares and where you can also admire beautiful gardens and enjoy the local pastry.
If you arrive by car, I suggest you park in the area behind the castle – it is free but you can’t park there at night.
If you arrive by bus, you should leave in the bus station where you can take the TUG bus that will take you to the historic centre, otherwise you can walk for one kilometre.
Information: close to the bus station you’ll find a big shopping centre where you can have cheaper meals.
If you arrive by train, you’ll find a TUG bus stop close to the train station where you can take a bus to the historic centre or you can also walk there – it’s just one kilometre away.
When you get to Guimarães, visit the historic centre and then take the cable car to visit Monte da Penha.
Information: click the top right corner of the map so that you can expand it and print it or zoom in or out.
Are you going to visit Guimarães? Then don’t hesitate to book your hotel room, your car or the best activities by clicking the links below. This way you are helping me in the development of my blog and I’ll be able to offer you free tips and travel guides so that you can better prepare your visit to Portugal. Thank you!
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