“In Guimarães Portugal was born!” Would you like to use your vacation to get to know Portugal better? In that case, Guimarães is the right choice!
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This northern city already has over a millennium of history and is considered the cradle of the Portuguese nation. For this reason, it is a city of enormous importance at a national level. To know and explore Guimarães is to make a real trip back in time, to the beginning of the kingdom of Portugal! Guimarães is an important tourist center in the North of Portugal. Let yourself be enchanted by its unique monuments, delicious cuisine and the hospitality of its people. Visit the “cradle city” and take with you moments and sensations that will be forever etched in your memory!
WHERE IS IT AND HOW TO GET TO GUIMARÃES?
Guimarães is a city in northern Portugal that belongs to the Braga district. From Lisbon, the trip by car takes about three and a half hours to complete. If you depart from Porto, you reach Guimarães in about forty minutes. It is also possible to travel to Guimarães by train. In Lisbon, the trip departs from Santa Apolónia. In Porto, go to Campanhã station. In the latter case, the ticket will cost you less than 5 euros!
WHEN TO VISIT GUIMARÃES?
The tourism practiced in Guimarães is a city tourism, which consists mainly in visiting monuments and other points of interest. This means that it can be done at any time of the year. Still, we believe that the best time to visit Guimarães is between the months of July and September. This is because the best way to get to know the city is by walking around it, and these are the months when the weather is more pleasant. In Guimarães the weather is humid in the summer, but with nice temperatures. Winters are generally cold and rainy. Between October and January is when it rains the most, so you should avoid visiting during this time. If your goal is to make the most of your stay to tour the city, then schedule your trip for the summer months.
HISTORY OF GUIMARÃES
Guimarães is located in a region that has had human occupation since prehistoric times. It is known for being the founding place of the Portuguese nation, one of the oldest in Europe. This town gains central importance in the Middle Ages, as it is disputed by several powers. In 1128, near its castle, takes place the Battle of São Mamede, which would result in the formation of Portugal.
In the 12th century it is the administrative center of the Condado Portucalense and becomes the capital of the kingdom. Later, it was replaced by Coimbra and then Lisbon, but it has always remained an important urban center in the northern region of the country. It was elevated to the category of city in 1853. At this time, the city undergoes major changes. However, an effort was made to keep the historic center intact, due to its symbolic importance to the Portuguese.
WHAT TO VISIT IN GUIMARÃES?
Below is a map with the main attractions of the city of Guimarães. We hope it will be useful to you!
GUIMARÃES HISTORIC CENTER
Wherever you look you will find buildings and monuments of enormous beauty and value in the historic center of Guimarães. Allow us the redundancy but the historic center of this city overflows with History! It is certainly not by chance that in 2001 it became a World Heritage Site!
The center is very well preserved and mirrors a very rich cultural heritage. Strolling through its squares and streets is an excellent way to observe the evolution of architecture, as you can find buildings here from the 13th century to the 20th century!
Santa Maria is the street that connects the castle, in the upper zone, with the convent, in the lower zone. It is one of the best surviving examples of medieval urbanism in Guimarães.
Another must-see is Largo da Oliveira, where you will find 17th century “porch” houses, the important Church of Nossa da Oliveira and the Padrão do Salado. The Padrão do Salado, installed in the square, is a Gothic porch. It was built to celebrate the victory in the Battle of Salado, in 1340. It has a rectangular structure with arches and, in the center, a cross with images of Christ and the Virgin, as well as a coat of arms with the arms of Portugal.
In Largo da Oliveira you can also see the building of the old Town Hall, which stands out for its gothic arcades. Crossing these centuries-old arcades, you will come to Praça de Santiago, where you will find houses from the 17th and 18th centuries.
Guimarães Castle stands on the Campo de São Mamede. Originally, the castle was built by Mumadona Dias, countess of the Condado Portucalense. Its function was to defend the monastery founded by the countess and the population of the region. About a century later, D. Henrique chose it as his residence and the castle was transformed. It is thought that it was here that D. Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal, was born.
In the 15th century, the castle loses its defensive function and, with the passage of time, eventually falls into ruin. It was restored and reopened in 1940. It is currently open to the public and it is possible to walk the beaten path along the ramparts.
VISIT SÃO MAMEDE FIELD
The Campo de São Mamede, next to the Guimarães Castle, was a decisive place in the formation of Portugal. For this reason, it has an enormous symbolic importance. It was in this field that the Battle of São Mamede was fought, on June 24, 1128. This battle pitted Afonso Henriques’ troops against those of the Galician count Fernão Peres de Trava, who supported Teresa de Leão, who wanted to rule the Condado Portucalense. After Afonso Henriques’ victory, he ruled the County and later became king of Portugal.
VISIT THE STATUE OF DOM AFONSO HENRIQUES
A visit to Guimarães is not complete without a stop at the statue of D. Afonso Henriques! This statue is located at the main access to the Paço dos Duques de Bragança and represents the first Portuguese monarch. It was inaugurated in 1887 and was designed by the sculptor António Manuel Soares dos Reis.
CHAPEL OF SAINT MIGUEL DO CASTELO
The chapel receives this name due to its proximity to the Guimarães Castle. Sometimes, it is also called Igreja de São Miguel do Castelo. The date of construction is not known, but it was probably ordered by the Collegiate Order of Nossa Senhora da Oliveira. It has a style that combines Romanesque and Gothic elements and was deeply restored in the nineteenth century. The importance of this small monument is due to the fact that it is believed that it was here that D. Afonso Henriques was baptized. The baptismal font used by the future king is still here.
DUKES OF BRAGANÇA PALACE
The Paço dos Duques de Bragança is one of the most visited museological spaces in the country! It was built in the 15th century by the first Duke of the House of Bragança, D. Afonso. During that century it was used as a dwelling for the dukes, but as time went by it was abandoned. It has a Burgundian style, very much in vogue in Europe at the time.
It is currently divided into three distinct areas. It is the official residence of the President of the Republic in the North, a museum and also has a space for cultural activities. In the museum, highlights include the portrait of D. Catarina de Bragança, Flemish tapestries, and a painting attributed to Josefa de Óbidos.
OUR LADY OF THE CARMO CHURCH
The Church of Our Lady of Carmo began construction in 1685 and followed the Baroque style. Originally, this church was dedicated to Saint Teresa. However, in 1700, an image of Our Lady of Carmo was placed on the main altar and the church began to be referred to by this name.
A visit to the interior of this church is worthwhile for its side altars, which are of enormous beauty and artistic quality. One of them is dedicated to Saint Anne and the other to Our Lady of Mount Carmo. You can visit the church from Monday to Friday from 10am to 5pm, closed between 12:30pm and 2pm (it closes at 4pm on Wednesdays).
SANTA CLARA CONVENT
The Convent of Santa Clara was built in the 16th century and was one of the wealthiest in the region. Nowadays, the City Hall is located in this building. In the Convent, of baroque style, the statue of Santa Clara stands out, inserted in the center of the façade. Another element worth mentioning are the two-story cloisters. These cloisters are open to the public and are worth a visit for their beauty. Due to the pandemic context, they were closed, but we hope that this reality will change in the near future.
OUR LADY OF THE OLIVE TREE CHURCH (IGREJA DA NOSSA SENHORA DA OLIVEIRA)
The Church of Nossa Senhora da Oliveira is also called Insigne e Real Colegiada de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira. It is a major example of Gothic architecture in northern Portugal. It was built on the site where the monastery of Mumadona Dias used to be, erected around 950. In the 12th century it is used by the Colegiada, an important religious institution of the Middle Ages. Already in the fourteenth century, the church becomes a place of pilgrimage. This imposing monument has elements of late Gothic on the exterior. Inside, the chancel, later with classical elements, stands out.
The area of Couros received its name because it is the place where, since the Middle Ages, leather work was practiced in Guimarães. This area is made up of a set of streets that were formerly located near the wall and near the river that passed through here, which was indispensable to this activity. This area is very interesting because it allows you to see an urban agglomeration that was built in order to take advantage of the course of the river to make the tanneries and that was organized according to the different associated tasks. The manufacture of hides has been done in Guimarães since the Middle Ages, but it has developed greatly since the 19th century, contributing to the economic development of the region.
CHURCH OF OUR LADY OF CONSOLATION AND SANTOS PASSOS
The Church of Nossa Senhora da Consolação e Santos Passos is an impressive building that is located in the center of Guimarães. It was built on a site where a hermitage dedicated to Nossa Senhora da Consolação from the mid-16th century used to stand. The construction work was completed in 1785. The church follows the baroque style. However, the two towers, which are the most eye-catching element on the exterior, were added as early as the 19th century, as were the balustrade and the staircase.
The Penha Mountain is an elevation with 586 meters, where you can find several structures and services. There are 60 hectares of green area with sanctuary and chapels, camping site, hotel, restaurants and bars, equestrian center and more! On this mountain you will find several viewpoints that offer excellent views of the surroundings. In addition, there are also caves that can be visited. The mountain hosts an annual pilgrimage, which takes place on the second Sunday in September.
SANCTUARY OF OUR LADY OF CARMEL (CARMO)DA PENHA
It is one of the points of interest in the Penha Mountains. It is a modern building, built with granite from the region and has straight lines. The Sanctuary blends harmoniously into the surrounding landscape, characterized by a profusion of greens. It was inaugurated in 1947 and the project was designed by the architect Marques da Silva, who had a great affection for the place.
Largo do Toural is the heart of Guimarães. However, until the 17th century, it was located outside the walls, near the main entrance to the town. It was here that an important cattle fair used to take place. After the implantation of the Republic, the statue of D. Afonso Henriques was brought to this square to mark its importance. Years later it was transferred to the Castle Park, where it stands today. In 2011 a beautiful Renaissance fountain was placed in Largo do Toural, which today beautifies the area with its water games.
MONASTERY OF SAINT FRANCISCO
The building of the São Francisco Monastery dates back to 1400, but the presence of Franciscan monks in Guimarães dates back to the beginning of the 13th century. The construction of the monastery took several decades. That is why the building has Gothic elements, but also traces of the Mannerist style. Some architectural elements are reminiscent of the Batalha Monastery.
It is well worth visiting the church of this monastery, whose decoration is very rich. There are several gilded carved altarpieces and the ceiling is painted in a technique that creates the illusion of depth. The tomb of D. Constança de Noronha, the first Duchess of Bragança, is also located here.
VIRTUAL TOUR TO GUIMARÃES
OTHER ATTRACTIONS IN GUIMARÃES
So that you don’t get lost, we have created a map with the following suggestions for you!
ALBERTO SAMPAIO MUSEUM
The Alberto Sampaio Museum is located in the annexes of the Church of Nossa Senhora da Oliveira, in buildings dating from the 13th, 15th and 18th centuries. José Saramago defines it as one of the most beautiful museums in Portugal and an obligatory stop on a visit to the city of Guimarães.
It was created in 1928 and brings together artifacts from the region’s religious institutions, especially those from the former Colegiada. The collection consists of sacred art – painting, sculpture and decorative arts – mainly from the 14th to 16th centuries. The collection is invaluable and is said to contain twelve national treasures!
GO TO VILA FLOR CULTURAL CENTER
The Vila Flor Cultural Center opened in 2005 and is housed in the Vila Flor Palace, built in the 18th century. This cultural center has as its main focus the performing arts. It has two auditoriums for theater and dance, a restaurant and an exhibition area. It also includes a modern building for various shows. The agenda of Vila Flor Cultural Center is very full and diverse. If you visit, also take the opportunity to stroll in its gardens, from where you have a great view of the city.
VISIT THE ARTS AND CREATIVITY PLATFORM
The “Plataforma das Artes e da Criatividade” is a multipurpose space, focused on arts and culture. It is the result of the transformation of the old market space in Guimarães. It has ateliers and “creative laboratories” for artists and entrepreneurs. It also has a restaurant, bookstore and outdoor areas. These areas are a space for socializing and leisure for the community, as well as a stage for several activities. The Platform also houses the Centro Internacional das Artes de José de Guimarães, a contemporary art gallery that exhibits José de Guimarães’ collections as well as works by the artist.
VISIT THE ARCHEOLOGICAL MUSEUM
Martins Sarmento Archaeological Museum is one of the oldest archaeological museums in Portugal. It was founded in 1885 and is housed in the former Convent of São Domingos. The museum’s collection consists of the remains gathered by the archaeologist and ethnographer Francisco Martins Sarmento during his excavations in Citânia de Briteiros, Castro Sabroso and other regions of Northwestern Portugal. By visiting this museum, you will have the opportunity to get to know an important set of artifacts of the Castreja Culture.
WHAT TO VISIT NEAR GUIMARÃES?
CITÂNIA DE BRITEIROS
15 km from Guimarães we find Citânia de Briteiros, an important archaeological site from the Iron Age that was occupied until the Roman Period. Citânia de Briteiros is a settlement that displays the typical characteristics of this region, with its sets of walls, circular-plan houses and decorations with geometric motifs. It was discovered and studied by the archaeologist Martins Sarmento in 1875.
TYPICAL GASTRONOMY OF GUIMARÃES
In Guimarães we find a typical gastronomy of the Minho region. That is to say that in Guimarães you can eat very well! Some traditional dishes of the region that you should try are rojões, papas de sarrabulho, arroz de frango de “pica no chão” or the roasted kid. All accompanied by a good vinho verde, of course! Also be sure to try the famous “bôla”, which can be stuffed with meat, fish or sausages.
Like several other regions in Portugal, Guimarães’ sweets are conventual in origin. Eggs and sugar play a prominent role and result in delicious delicacies such as toucinho do céu and tortas de Guimarães.