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Guimarães - Portugal

A Guide to Guimarães in Northern Portugal

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Visiting Guimarães: the best things to do

Located some 50 minutes from Porto, Guimarães – nicknamed the “Cradle of Portugal” – is a must-see for any visitor exploring northern Portugal.

What are the top sights & tourist activities in Guimarães? How to get to Guimaraes? Where to stay for the night? Follow the guide!

Contents:
👉 Guimarães in a few words
👉 Getting to Guimarães
👉 Getting around Guimarães
👉 Visiting Guimarães
👉 Where to stay in Guimarães?

Guimarães in a few words

Guimarães’ secrets to charm visitors? A rich and eventful history, a historic center listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and exceptional landscapes in the city’s surroundings.

Known as the “cradle of Portugal” – it was the birthplace of the country’s first king – Guimarães has lost none of its historical charm.

Located some 60 kilometers / 40 miles from Porto and 20 kilometers / 12 miles from Braga, Guimarães ranks high on the list of must-sees in Northern Portugal. Follow the guide!

Guimarães - Portugal

Getting to Guimarães

Good news: Guimarães is easily accessible from Porto and Braga! Several options:

  • 🚘 The car: if you’re asking Captain Ulysses, it is the best way to explore Northern Portugal as you’ll be able to navigate freely between the main places of interest of the region and stop whenever you want to admire the landscape! If you’re not planning on coming to Portugal with your own car, the Captain recommends renting a car on Rentalcars.
  • 🚅 Train: both convenient and cheap, the train is another great way of getting around Northern Portugal. You can easily reach Guimarães from Porto or Braga. The only drawback is that the tourist sites in the region are not always located in the city centers (for example the Citânia de Briteiros in Guimarães or the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus in Braga) and you’ll lose quite a lot of time and energy in buses to reach your destination.
  • 🚐 Day tours: GetYourGuide and Civitatis offer many day tours to Guimaraes from Porto and Braga. This is an interesting option if you’d rather travel around the region while staying in Porto and/or Braga. Among the many activities to be found on these websites, Captain Ulysses recommends this excursion to Braga and Guimarães from Porto.

Getting around Guimarães

Guimarães is a small city that’s quite easy to explore on foot. That said, if you can’t/won’t walk, you can also opt for an hop-on hop-off bus tour.

Visiting Guimarães: the top sites and monuments

👍 The Captain’s tip 👍
Captain Ulysses warmly recommends this free tour of the city (in English) to visit Guimarães with a passionate guide.
You’re free to choose how much you wish to tip the tour guide at the end of the tour!

The Castle of Guimarães

Perched on a rocky promontory, the Castle of Guimarães is a medieval fortress built in the 10th century to protect the local population from Viking and Moorish invasions.

Afonso Henriques – who was to becpme the first king of Portugal under the title of Alfonso Ist – was born in this very castle.

Between the 13th and 14th centuries, the fortress was the scene of several battles between Castile and Portugal, the latter fighting for to retain independence. After the 14th century, the Castle of Guimarães was abandoned and gradually fell into oblivion.

Extremely well preserved, it now offers an incredible insight into the city’s long history. The +: the view from the dungeon is breathtaking. .

💡 Practical information 💡
Location: opposite the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza, a stone’s throw from the center of Guimarães
Address: R. Conde Dom Henrique, 4800-412 Guimarães, Portugal
Admission rates: €2
Opening hours: every day from 10am to 6pm (ticket office closes at 5:30pm)

The Palace of the Dukes of Braganza

Despite its confusing name, the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza is actually located in Guimarães and not in Bragança, which is located further north-east, on the border with Spain.

Built in the 15th century, the palace is a marvelous example of Gothic architecture blending Burgundian influences! It was considered for years as one of the most beautiful residences in the Iberian Peninsula.

With its chandeliers, antique furniture and sumptuous tapestries, the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza invites visitors to travel to 15th century Portugal. During the summer months, actors in period costume participate in historical re-enactments in the inner courtyard of the palace.

💡 Practical information 💡
Location: opposite the Castle of Guimarães, a stone’s throw from the city center
Address: R. Conde Dom Henrique 3, 4800-412 Guimarães, Portugal
Price: 5 € for the day
Opening hours: every day from 10am to 6pm (ticket office closes at 5:30pm)

The historical center of Guimarães

Listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site, the historic center of Guimarães is wonderfully well preserved. The medieval streets are lined with historical buildings built between the Middle Ages and the 19th century.

The architecture of the city center is simple and understated: a choice aimed at asserting the Portuguese identity and contrasting with the exuberant baroque fashionable in Spain at the time.

Among the points of interest in the historical center of Guimarães:

  • Santa Maria Street: lined with 14th and 15th century houses, it is one of the oldest (and most charming) streets in the city center
  • Largo da Oliveira : in the heart of the historical center, Largo da Oliveira is well worth a visit for its 14th century gothic arch commemorating a military victory of King Alfonso IV and for the church of Nossa Senhora da Oliveira… not to mention its pleasant café terraces, as well as the beautiful old town hall of Guimarães.
  • Praça São Tiago: with its beautiful corbelled houses, Praça São Tiago has retained all its medieval charm. A must see!
  • The Largo do Toural: built in the 17th century, the Largo do Toural was at the time of its construction located outside the city walls. You will find the famous inscription “Aqui Nasceu Portugal” (“Here Portugal was born”) a stone’s throw from this beautiful square and its old houses with large windows and wrought iron balconies.

The churches of Guimarães

When it comes to historical churches, Guimarães is rather well stocked! Among the many religious buildings of the city, don’t miss:

  • The convent Nossa Senhora da Oliveira : founded in the 10th century by the countess Mumadona and enlarged during the following centuries, the convent shelters today the Alberto Sampaio Museum
  • The church of Our Lady of Consolation: designed by the architect André Soares in the 18th century,
  • Nossa Senhora do Carmo: built at the end of the 17th century, it is worth a visit for its baroque decoration and its beautiful azulejos
  • São Miguel do Castelo: the first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques, was baptized in this small Romanesque church dating from the 12th century, located between the Castle of Guimarães and the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza.
  • The Mosteiro de Guimarães : now transformed into a very luxurious hotel (pousada), the Mosteiro de Guimarães is a former convent dating from the 12th century and located some 2 kilometers / 1.2 miles from the city center. Find out more: Pousada Mosteiro de Guimarães.

The Alberto Sampaio Museum

Nestled in the heart of the historic center of Guimarães, in an former church (Nossa Senhora da Oliveira) built in the 13th century, the Alberto Sampaio Museum was created in 1928 to house the artistic collections of various churches and convent in the area.

On the menu: sculptures, altarpieces, silverware, jewelry, paintings, clothing, earthenware … All in an exceptional setting. The cloister is particularly beautiful!

💡 Practical information 💡
Location: in the historical center, in the former church of Nossa Senhora da Oliveira
Address: R. Alfredo Guimarães, 4800-407 Guimarães, Portugal
Price: 3€.
Opening hours: from 10am to 6pm (closed on Monday)

The cable car of Mount Penha

There’s nothing like a little cable car ride for beautiful panoramic views!

The cable car connects the city center to the Penha mountain, at an altitude of about 400 meters / 1300 ft. The ride lasts about ten minutes during which the cabins “fly” over the forest.

At the top, you’ll find beautiful views of the surroundings of Guimarães as well as a small sanctuary (the Sanctuary of Penha) and a plethora of tourist facilities (bars, restaurants, hotel, camping, mini-golf …)

💡 Practical information 💡
Address: Rua Aristides de Sousa Mendes, Guimaraes 4810-025, Portugal (departure point of the cable car)
Fares: 7€ round trip / 4€ one way
Schedules: departure every 30 minutes from 10am to 5:30pm from Friday to Sunday (last boarding 15 minutes before closing time)

The Citânia of Briteiros

Perched on Mount São Romão in the middle of an exceptional landscape, between the Douro and Minho valleys, the Citânia de Briteiros is one of the most beautiful archaeological sites in Portugal.

Built between the1st and2nd centuries BC (during the Iron Age), this ancient walled city is incredibly well preserved. At its peak, it counted between 600 and 1500 inhabitants. Today, visitors can discover the remains of dwellings, streets and public baths.

The Citânia de Briteiros is one of Captain Ulysses’ favorites in Guimaraes.

💡 Practical information 💡
Location: some 15 km / 9 miles north of Guimarães
Address: Estrada Nacional 309, km 55, 4805-181 Salvador de Briteiros, Portugal
Price: 3 €.
Opening hours: from 10am to 12:30pm and from 2pm to 5pm (6pm in summer)

Staying in Guimarães: hotels & accommodations

Captain Ulysses warmly recommends Booking.com to book your accommodation in Guimaraes.  From youth hostels to luxury boutique hotels: there’s plenty to choose from.

If you are looking for a hostel, the Captain suggests GuimaraesLiving – Hostel & Adventure. If you are looking for an affordable hotel, Hotel Mestre de Avis should to do the trick.

As far as mid-range hotels are concerned, the Captain recommends Hotel Toural.

If you can afford it, the Captain suggests staying at Hotel da Oliveira or Casa do Juncal.

🤓 Want more tips & recommendations for visiting Portugal? 🤓
Find all of Captain Ulysses’ articles on Porto, Guimarães, Braga… here.

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