What many refer to as “The Birthplace of Portugal,” Guimarães is such an important city to visit if you want to get nitty gritty into the education of Portuguese history. Less than an hour northeast of Porto by car, Guimarães is such an easy day trip since there are also numerous direct trains.
Why visit Guimarães?
Since it’s often called the foundation of Kingdom of Portugal, you’ll visit many museums, monuments and churches in Guimarães. It’s a cultural city to discover, especially if you want to fully understand and appreciate the Portuguese language, the architecture, and even its nationality.
Just some fun facts:
1. Guimarães’ ENTIRE town center is listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. Included in the district of Braga, Guimarães is awarded for its “exceptionally well-preserved and authentic example of the evolution of a medieval settlement into a modern town” in Europe. Upon arrival, you’ll completely understand why.
2. Due to its historical significance, Guimarães bears two nicknames: “birthplace of the Portuguese nationality” and “the cradle city”. All because Portugal’s first King, Afonso Henriques, was born here. Additionally, Battle of São Mamede occurred in Guimarães, and the fight is often considered as the foundation of the Kingdom of Portugal.
3. For several decades, Guimarães was the capital of Portugal. Then it moved to Coimbra, and eventually Lisbon.
How to get there by train:
From Porto’s famously gorgeous São Bento Train Station, the direct train will take 1 hour 15 minutes. One ticket costs €6.40, try to get an early train so you can fully enjoy the city.
By car, it’ll take less than an hour to reach Guimarães.
Here’s a list of quintessential must-do’s:
1. DO: Spend the morning in Guimarães historic center.
Right after getting out of the train station, walk toward Nossa Senhora da Consolação church, or Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Consolação. This Baroque-style church is dedicated to Our Lady of Consolation, and has been around since 1785. You’ll notice the two magnificent towers. After, walk toward the city center where you’ll stroll by ancient houses, vintage shops, lively squares and plazas. Why not sit down and have a cup of coffee in either squares: Praça de Santiago and Largo da Oliveira. If you’re a budget traveler, having lunch here might be a better option than below.
2. EAT: Lunch at A Cozinha.
Just a 4-minute walk, you’ll arrive at the delicious restaurant A Cozinha. Led by chef António Loureiro, this highly acclaimed eatery focuses on a simplicity approach to traditional Portuguese cuisine. Chef Loureiro ensures that all senses are stimulated with every dish, every bite. A fantastic meal, worth every dime.
3. SEE: Swing by Castle of Guimarães.
At no cost, you should check out the Castle of Guimarães, and the Misericórdia Convent (€2.00 admission) right next to it.
The castle will remind you of Scotland just for a little bit. It was commissioned around 968, when the countess of Galicia requested the castle to be built here so residents could be protected from Vikings attacks from the north and Muslim raids from the south.
The structure of the castle represents the start of a significant defense structure that set the trend for modern times, including: four towers guarding four corners of the walls. Many believe this is where the first King of Portugal, Afonso Henriques was born. Several important battles were fought here, until the end of the 14th century. The castle was the iconic integrity of the new Kingdom of Portugal.
4. SEE: Enter the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza.
Right by the Castle, it’s the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza (or, Paço Dos Duques De Bragança.) To enter, it costs €5.00 and you should spend at least an hour in both the museum and the palace.
Construction began in early 15th century, commissioned by Dukes of Braganza and inspired by French manor houses. The ground floor today is a museum of contemporary art, given by the painter José de Guimarães.
5. DO: The cable car ride to Penha Hill.
Walk 16 minutes south of the palace, you’ll reach Teleférico de Guimarães. For €4.50 (or single ticket: €2.30), you’ll see the most spectacular view of the city. We highly recommend doing the cable car ride up and down, since hiking down is quite time consuming. Make sure to check the cable car times since schedules change according to seasons.
6. EAT: Dinner at Histórico by Papaboa.
Set in a 17 century aristocratic mansion, Histórico by Papaboa is a locally famous restaurant that’s known for its ambiance just as well as its traditional menu. The patio is lovely, creates a vintage-chic vibe that’s stylish yet relaxing. Some nights, there are even live music. Here is a great place to end your beautiful day in Guimarães.
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