Guimarães was settled in the 9th century and became Portugal’s first capital city. You’ll find it in the Minho province of Northern Portugal in the Braga district.
The city center is a World Heritage site based on its role in the establishment of Portuguese national identity and language in the 12th century. Because of its booming cultural life (and booming population, half of which is under 30 years of age) Guimarães was capital of culture in 2012 and its medieval core has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001.
Palace of the Dukes of Braganza – Construction started around 1420 on this medieval estate that was the residence of the first dukes of Braganza. See the picture above, which includes the Monument of Alfons I in the foreground.
Unlike many castles, Guimarães Castle is right in the heart of the city. Portugal’s first king Afonso Henriques lived in this Castle.
Museum of Pre-Roman Culture – Located in a manor house that was once residence of Francisco Martins Sarmento, the museum concentrates on the unique culture found in pre-Roman Iberia.
Church of Nossa Senhora da Oliveira – Towards the end of the 14th century, King João I ordered the N. Sra. da Oliveira Church to be rebuilt in the 14th century, completing a vow he had made to the Virgin Mary in gratitude for his victory at Aljubarrota. Architect: Mestre João Garcia of Toledo.
St. Antony’s Convent was purchased by the Misericórdia de Guimarães which purchased it to use as a hospital in 1842. Today you can walk through the imposing edifice to visit the convent church with its 17 century sacristy and see the artifacts left by the convent and hospital.
St. Michael’s Chapel – According to legend, Alfonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal, received baptism in this small Romanesque chapel.
Archaeological Museum Martins Sarmento (Museu Arqueológico Martins Sarmento) – Martins Sarmento was a famous ethnologist and archaeologist born in Guimarães in 1833 and his museum tells the story of the local hill forts like Briteiros (see below).
The Centro Cultural Vila Flor is a performing arts center inside an 18th century palace.
Outside the Center
Penha Mountain – For a great city view, take the cable car from the city center to the top of Panha mountain (Elevators – Teleférico da Penha). See the valley Guimarães occupies right out to the Atlantic Ocean. You’ll find a lot of facilities here, from a pilgrimage center to mini golf, picnic spots and hiking trails. There is a video of the trip here.
Citânia of Briteiros (the archaeological ruins of Briteiros) 14 km – The ruins are caled a castor, a fortified hill town; artifacts can be seen in the Archaeological Museum Martins Sarmento Society. As at Numantia in Spain, there is a distinctly Celtic cultural presence here.
Where to Stay in Guimarães
To get a historical perspective during your stay, booking a room at a Pousada is the way to go. Pousada Mosteiro de Guimaraes inside a well-restored 12th century Augustin Convent is highly rated by visitors. It’s a trifle expensive, so if you’re on a budget you might want to check out other Guimaraes Hotels
How to Arrive at Guimarães
The closest major airport is Porto. From there, the Metro do Porto Line E to Campanhã station, where you’ll walk to the Railway station and take a Porto Urbanos train to Guimarães. The station is on the southern side of the city; you can walk to the center in six or seven minutes. Taxis and buses are found just outside the station if you’d rather not walk.
Detailed transportation information is found here: GUIMARÃES – how to get there by train or bus and how to get around.
What to Eat
Like many places in Portugal, the existence of a monastery meant a surplus of egg yolks which were made into confections like Tortas de Guimarães, similar to the Sfogliatelle you’ll find in Naples, except filled with a sweet filling of almond and egg.
Toucinho do Céu, “bacon from heaven” isn’t about bacon at all, but it’s a simple almond cake made with lots of egg yolks. The dish may have used lard in earlier times.
You’ll find lots of salt cod. A favorite local preparation is Bacalhau com Broa made with bread potatoes and greens and baked. Soups, as in most of Portugal, are favorite starters. Try the iconic Caldo Verde, made from potatoes, onions and kale.
Local cuisine is preserved at the Pousadas in Portugal. A meal at a pousada restaurant is likely to be special. Solar do Arco in the historic quarter is also popular, with menus starting at 18€. Histórico by Papaboa, a new restaurant on Rua de Valdonas, nr 4, is renowned for its interpretation of “new Portuguese cuisine” and headed by chef Isabel Vitorino.