Portugal's roots begin in Guimarães. It was here that its first king was born and it was the country's first capital before Lisbon took its place.
Walking through the city today, you can't help but immerse yourself in history. From the ruins of a Celtiberian tribe to its well-kept medieval castle and its numerous churches, Guimarães has earned its World Heritage title.
On top of its historic charm, is the natural landscape of the Penha mountain and a lively cultural scene influenced by its young student population.
If you're wondering what to do in Guimarães, below is our one-day itinerary featuring tips of where to eat and where to stay.
Before reaching the centre of Guimarães, it's worth taking a detour to
see the Citânia de Briteiros, located a few miles north from the city.
Nestled in the countryside, this archaeological site has Celtic roots
and dates back to the 1st century BC. Defensive walls and stone huts are
spread across the site, forming a fortified village known as citânia. Amid the ruins are two reconstructed huts (castros) that reveal
how people lived in those days. Also noteworthy is the Pedra Formosa,
a carved monolith belonging to an old bathhouse.
What better place to begin a tour of Guimarães than by its imposing
medieval castle? Originally erected around the 10th century, it's
considered the nation's cradle, thought to be the place where Portugal's
first king was born. The castle was left abandoned for a while, but
luckily it was restored to its full glory. The square towers that once
protected the city against invaders now offer great views of the city
and the Penha mountain. Take a walk along the ramparts and then climb
the keep for an even better view.
Not far from the castle is the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza. This
15th-century palace sticks out with its crenellated towers and brick
chimneys popping out from the roof. Afonso (Count of Barcelos) was the
first Duke of Braganza, and his family resided here for many centuries
before they moved down to Vila Viçosa. The palace got a makeover in the
20th century when it served as the residency of president Salazar.
Visitors can now wander inside and admire a vast collection of
tapestries, ceramics and medieval weapons.
As you make your way down the hill, take a turn and follow Rua da Santa
Maria, one of the oldest streets in Guimarães. Planted on both sides of
the street is a series of historic buildings dating back to the 12th and
the 13th century. This narrow street was initially created to make the
connection between the castle, on the upper part of town, and a convent founded by the countess Mumadona Dias on the lower end.
Largo da Oliveira is the heart of the city's old town and a lively
meeting point for the locals. It gets its name from the olive tree
(oliveira in Portuguese) that grows on this square. As you approach
Largo da Oliveira, two monuments stand out: the Igreja de Nossa Senhora
da Oliveira and the Padrão do Salado. Established around the 12th
century, the church of Nossa Senhora da Oliveira draws you in with its
imposing bell tower rising amid the square. Facing the church is the
infamous Padrão do Salado, a Gothic shrine built to celebrate Portugal's
victory against the Moors during the battle of Salado. After visiting
the church, you can grab a drink in one of the many cafés dotted around
Another square that deserves a visit is Largo do Toural. Contrasting
against the city's medieval centre, at Largo do Toural you'll find
yourself surrounded by 18th-century buildings. Take a stroll along the
square and look up to admire the colourful façades. Nearby is one of
Guimarães most famous landmarks, an old medieval tower which states in
bold letters:"Aqui nasceu Portugal", meaning Portugal was born here.
End your morning with a visit to the Museu Martins Sarmento. Established
in 1881, it features a collection of archaeological items, including
Roman columns and carved Celtiberian stones brought over from Citânia de
Briteiros by archaeologist Martins Sarmento. Housed inside a
14th-century convent, the museum showcases most of the artefacts in the
Just a few steps from the city centre, you'll find the Palácio Vila
Flor. This 18th-century palace was created for the local aristocrat
Tadeu Luís Fonseca, but it's now part of a cultural centre opening
occasionally for art exhibits. Still, it's worth coming here to admire
the palace's Baroque façade, decorated with statues of Portuguese kings,
and wander around its pretty gardens. Attached to the palace is the
Centro Cultural Vila Flor, a modern building founded in 2005 that hosts
many of the city's cultural events.
After touring the gardens, head towards the Igreja de São Francisco.
While established in the 13th century, the church combines a mix of
architectural styles, from the Gothic to the Baroque. You can't help
capturing the blue and white tiles decorating the exterior walls, but
it's worth stepping inside to admire its stunning gilded altar.
Largo República do Brasil is the ideal spot for a picture in Guimarães.
Standing on the edge of this square, you can capture the colourful
gardens leading the way to the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Consolação, a
Baroque masterpiece completed in 1785. Rising behind the church are the
wooded hills of Penha.
Before you leave Guimarães, you must visit Serra da Penha, a mountain
towering over the city. You can drive up there or hop on a cable car
which departs from Rua Aristides Sousa Mendes. The journey only takes a
few minutes, but it's a memorable one as you gently rise above the
trees towards the top of the hill.
Standing over 600 metres
high, this mountain boasts incredible views over Guimarães. The first
thing you'll notice when you arrive is the Sanctuary of Penha. Built in
the 1930s, it stands out with its Art Deco exterior and remains a
popular pilgrimage site.
Scattered around the woods, you'll
find granite boulders, hidden caves and a couple of cafés and
restaurants. Other facilities include a picnic area, minigolf and
a camping site.
Guimarães is the perfect spot for a family holiday. The historic centre is small enough to explore on foot, and there are many attractions that you can visit together, including the castle and the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza. Kids will love ridding the cable car to the Penha Mountain, too. There, you’ll find a series of attractions, including mini golf, bike trails and a mini train. Alternatively, you can head to Parque da Cidade, a large park on the city’s outskirts featuring a playground and plenty of space for a picnic. In winter you can watch a film in the Guimarães Shopping Centre. Most children’s movies in Portugal feature a screening in Portuguese and the original version.
Where To Eat In Guimarães
Our top favourite restaurants in Guimarães are A Cozinha, Taberna Trovador, Resvés and Le Babachris.
Largo do Serralho in the old town, A Cozinha is the city’s only
Michelin-star restaurant. Chef António Loureiro curates the menu, which
focuses on local and sustainable ingredients, some of which come from
the restaurant’s herb garden on the terrace.
Near the Igreja de São Francisco is the Taberna Trovador. This laid-back
tavern serves a mix of traditional dishes. Highlights include the
chicken gizzards, pork cheeks and tomato rice.
Resvés is a stylish restaurant located in the historic centre. Here, you
can try a mix of dishes, from pork belly gyozas to garlic shrimp and
black Angus steak, all paired with a glass of wine. It’s worth reserving
ahead to guarantee a spot.
Last but not least is Le Babachris, a contemporary restaurant run by the French chef Christian Rullán. The menu changes every week but always focuses on fresh and seasonal ingredients. Lunch includes a set meal with starters, main dish and dessert, while dinner is more of a degustation with four or six dishes to try.
Where to stay in Guimarães
If you’re thinking of staying in Guimarães for the night, we suggest
booking a room at Hotel da Oliveira or Pousada Mosteiro de Guimarães.
Hotel da Oliveira
is a charming boutique hotel located in the historic centre of
Guimarães. It has 20 rooms, and each one includes an art piece inspired
by the city’s local history. From the windows, you can see the iconic
monument Padrão do Salado. The hotel also offers a restaurant serving
traditional Portuguese food, with an outdoor terrace facing Largo de
Housed in a 12th-century convent, Pousada Mosteiro de Guimarães is a remarkable 4-star hotel. It’s a few kilometres away from the centre, but it’s worth staying here for the historical setting. Set above a hill, the hotel offers incredible views from its rooms, which face the city or the hotel’s gardens. There’s also an outdoor swimming pool, a children’s playground, a bar and a restaurant set in the old wine cellars. Attached to the hotel is the Igreja de Santa Marinha da Costa, which is open to all visitors.
The best time to visit Guimarães is
between April to September. This way, you can catch many of the city’s
traditional festivals and take advantage of the warm weather. Spring is
usually less busy, but summer tends to welcome most of the crowds. The
temperatures remain pleasant around autumn, but in winter, they can drop
down to 5ºC. It also rains a lot more around this time, so you’re best
off doing indoor activities, such as touring the city’s museums and
churches. If you come in early December, you can also catch the
remainder of the Festas Nicolinas.
Feira Afonsina - In late June, the city travels back to the medieval era
with this four-day festival. The event features historical
reenactments, food stalls with medieval treats and shops selling
Festas Gualterianas: Held on the first weekend of August, this is one of
the city’s most famous festivals. It started in the 20th century as a
celebration of Saint Gualter, Guimarães patron saint. Today, thousands
of people gather here to witness the event, which includes parades, live
music, theatre and dancing.
Festas Nicolinas: Dating back to the 17th century, this festival is held by the students of Guimarães to honour Saint Nicholas, the students' patron saint. It usually starts on the 29th of November and ends on the 7th of December. The festivities include religious ceremonies, a bonfire, parades, plays and a ball.