Though Braga is said to be the oldest city in Portugal, Guimaraes is considered to be the birthplace of the country. This is because the first king was born here. The town makes up for a great getaway. We have listed our favorite things to do while being in the city. Best of all are the two old plazas that are very welcoming.
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Guimaraes is on the UNESCO world Heritage Site
Afonso Henriques, born in 1109 ended up being the first king of Portugal. During a brief period, the city ended up being the capital. Even if it was only during a brief moment – the town still prides itself about its grandeur to this day. Located just 25 kilometers from the historical town of Braga, it makes a perfect day trip. In fact, this is also considered being one of the most popular excursions from Porto. The city is also (kind of) close to Peneda-Geres National park and the Roman hot springs in Spain.
There are a lot of things to visit in Guimaraes. However, we have listed our favorites of this beautiful town, whose historical city center is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. And, it’s not hard to understand why once you have walked around in the city center.
Tight and narrow streets, surrounded by buildings in granite makes this place a perfect walk. Make sure to stop and take a picture of the UNESCO sign. The cobbled streets are round and grind down since people have been walking the streets for centuries. Imagine what used to play out here and make sure to stop and read the signs that give you more information about the old buildings.
Even though this is a historical place – it’s not like walking inside a museum. No, this is a lively city where people are living, working and, it’s business as usual. Balconies in forge and the smoothened streets are really romantic and, as long as you’re wearing flats you’ll be fine.
Plaza de San Tiago och Largo da Oliveira
The two plazas are located close to each other and they are filled with lots of sights and attractions. For instance, there’s the Padrao do Salado – an old gothic monument. This is also the place where you can visit the church ”Igreja Nossa Senhora da Oliveira”. The church is beautiful and impressive. The red carpet makes it even more stunning and beautiful.
Walk from one square to the other and just enjoy spending time here. This is where most of the tours of the city start and where the restaurants and pubs are closely gathered. We ended up having lunch at Restaurant Paraxut where they served us an amazing piece of meat. The food was cooked to perfection and we had such a lovely time, eating and people watching.
Igreja Nossa Senhora da Consolacao & Largo República do Brasil avenue
The church is beautiful, no doubt about it. However, according to us, the avenue is the thing that makes this place so special. My first thought was to get married here and walk down the avenue up to the church. Oh, how awesome that would be. But, since we are married for more than 10 years now – this isn’t an option for us. But, at the same time – a girl can dream right?!
The church was built in 1769 and is made in barrock style. The designer was supposed to do the inside of the church as well but unfortunately, he ended up dying before it was finished. There are a lot of details inside the church that you might enjoy. But, once again – according to us, the most impressive thing is the avenue that takes you straight to the church.
Museo de Alberto Sampaio
A big collection of sacred art from the different monasteries around the region. There are more than 2 000 works of art housed inside the museum. Textiles, ceramics, paintings, and clothing – all with a rich history. The oldest part of the museum dates back to the 13th century.
By visiting the museum, you’ll learn more about the history and the religious relics that are found here. Make sure to visit the museum if you have the time. It is interesting and fascinating all at once. However, if you are short on time – we recommend you to visit the palace and castle of Guimaraes instead. They are even more impressive than this place and a must-see while being in Guimaraes.
Palace of the Dukes of Braganza
Built in the 1420s by Afonso, this place is a must while being in Guimaraes. Furniture, plates, paintings and lots of old and interesting things. One of the cabinets can only be described as taken from an escape room. It looks like something you need to solve, like a puzzle to be able to open. Another different thing that we observed is the mats that they have hanging on the walls instead of the more common thing like paintings.
Inside the palace, there’s also a chapel that you can visit. My favorite part is the colorful windows inside the chapel. What a lovely site! On the premises of the palace, there’s also the castle of Guimaraes. In fact, you can buy a combination ticket that will allow you to visit both places at a cheaper price.
The Castelo de Guimaraes
The castle is where king Afonso himself was born. It’s not as impressive as the palace but, it’s still worth visiting. From here, you’ll get a great view of the palace and you are allowed to roam around in the old castle. Ok, you are mostly looking at it from the outside but it makes for a great walk even if the castle looks like a traditional stone fort.
The castle was abandoned until the 1900s when it was restored and today it’s a national treasure. We ended up spending about an hour here, feeling the history and walking around. In the end, we were both really happy that we didn’t skip this place and just visited the palace. Guimaraes has such a rich history and by visiting these places, you’ll be sure to bring a part of history with you back home.
Monte da Penha
Lots of people take the cable car from Guimaraes to the top of the hill. From here, you can see the whole city of Guimaraes from above and more. Since we were visiting with our motorhome, we ended up driving to the top and that was no problem (our car is 5,9 meters). The hill is located 613 meters above sea level and there are a lot of terraces up here that will make you enjoy the views even more.
On the top, there is also a church, statues and lots of boulders that you can walk among. During our visit, they were cleaning out the park and there were small fires all around the place. It made it more mystical and special even if we stayed away from the fire. In total – Guimaraes is a lovely city that you want to visit while being in northern Portugal. And while visiting the city, make sure to visit yet another UNESCO world heritage site – Bom Jesus.