What To Do In Guimaraes
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.
Travel back in time at the Citânia de Briteiros
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.
Climb up the Guimarães Castle
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.
Step inside the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza
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.
Walk past Rua da Santa Maria
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.
Explore Largo da Oliveira
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
Stop by Largo do Toural
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.
Visit the Museu Martins Sarmento
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
Map for Morning Tour
Wander around the Jardins Palácio Vila Flor
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.
Visit the Igreja de São Francisco
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.
Near the church are the Tanques de Couros, an area with small tanning pits reminiscing of the city’s former leather industry.
Capture the Largo República do Brasil
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.
Admire the views from 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 an equestrian centre, minigolf and
a camping site.
Afternoon Tour Map