Perched on Mount São Romão, between Guimarães and Braga, the Citânia de Briteiros is without a doubt one of the most beautiful archaeological sites in the north of the Iberian Peninsula.
This impressive fortified city dating back to the Iron Age is well worth a visit. Follow the guide!
👍 The Captain’s tips 👍
Want to learn more about Guimarães’ history? 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!
Want to know more about Guimarães’ top landmarks & monuments? Be sure to check out the Captain’s Guide to Guimarães.
A short history of the Citânia de Briteiros
First occupation of the site
Although archaeologists have found traces of occupation of the site dating back to as early as the first millennium BC (Bronze Age), the Citânia de Briteiros was built much later, between the1st and 2nd century BC.
The culture of the castros
Thanks to the remains discovered on site, historians were able to postulate that the Citânia de Briteiros belonged to the culture of the Castros, a civilization that lived in the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula from the 9th century BC to the 1st century AD, and known for having built many fortified villages – “castros” – in the region .
According to historians, the inhabitants of the Citânia de Briteiros belonged to a Celtic tribe, as attested by triskels, found engraved on monoliths.
Roman settlers & Romanization
In the 1st century AD, the Citânia de Briteiros was most probably occupied by Roman settlers. Historians have discovered coins bearing the effigy of Augustus and Tiberius, as well as amphorae and pottery typical of ancient Rome. The very organization of the fortified city shows (slight) signs of romanization (street layout, architecture of the houses…)
The end of the Citânia de Briteiros
At its peak, the Citânia de Briteiros counted between 600 and 1500 inhabitants. Specialists believe that it was subsequently abandoned during the2nd century AD before being briefly occupied again during the Middle Ages, as evidenced by the medieval chapel and the cemetery.
Discovery of the Citânia de Briteiros
The Citânia de Briteiros was discovered by the Portuguese archaeologist Francisco Martins Sarmento in the 1870s. Sarmento also reconstructed the two dwellings still visible today on the site. New excavations were carried out between the 1930s and 1960s, in the 1970s and again in the 2000s. In 1910, the Citânia de Briteiros was declared a national monument.
Visiting the Citânia de Briteiros
If the Citânia de Briteiros is worth a visit, it is as much for its bucolic setting as for its historical ruins!
An exceptional setting
Perched on the São Romão mountain (491 meters / 1610 feet above sea level), the Citânia de Briteiros offers a beautiful panorama of the Ave valley and the Ave river below.
Located between the Douro and Minho valleys, the city enjoyed a very favorable geographical situation and was a trading center for the fishermen of the coast and the inhabitants of the mountains.
The region, rich in natural and fertile resources, allowed the city to prosper for several centuries.
Overview of the site
Surrounded by 3 stone walls, the Citânia de Briteiros occupied a total of 24 hectares / 60 acres (only 7 hectares / 17 acres have been excavated to date). In the heart of the ramparts, the city, built in granite, followed a 250 meter / 270 yard long and 150 meter / 165 yard wide oval layout.
The city was organized along two main axes and criss-crossed by a multitude of secondary streets. The acropolis was perched on top of Mount São Romão.
About a hundred dwellings were discovered: they were organized in “blocks”. Each residential complex included the dwelling itself as well as annexes (stables, sheds…)
Ruins and remains of the fortified city
- The ramparts: the ramparts measure 1 to 3 meters / 3 to 9 feet in width for a height of approximately 2 meters / 6 feet. They were pierced with doors equipped with mobile palisades.
- The dwellings: most of the dwellings were circular in shape (although some rectangular dwellings – reminiscent of Roman influence – were also found on site). At the top of the city, visitors can discover two reconstructions that make it easier to imagine the daily life of the inhabitants.
- The thermal baths: the public baths of the Citânia de Briteiros were discovered during road works in the 1930s. Check out the “Pedra formosa”, a 3-square-meter / 32 square feet monolith decorated with symbols.
- The water pipes: remains of old water pipes are also visible near the thermal baths. The city’s water supply came from an artesian well (a spring from which water springs spontaneously) as well as the Ave River below.
Remains discovered on site are on display in the Martins Sarmento Museum in Guimarães.
Getting to the Citânia de Briteiros
To get to the Citânia de Briteiros, the easiest way is by car. Driving is by far the most practical option to explore Northern Portugal. If you did not come down to Portugal with your own car, the Captain strongly recommends renting one for a few days. You will find a large choice at very competitive rates on Rentalcars.
Opening hours and admission
The Citânia de Briteiros is open from 10am to 12:30pm and from 2pm to 5pm (6pm in summer). The entrance ticket is €3.
👉 Find the perfect place to stay in Northern Portugal!
Looking for tips and recommendations? Here are all of Captain Ulysses’ tips & recommendations in Guimarães!
🛏️ Accommodation: to book your accommodation in Guimarães, Captain Ulysses warmly recommends Booking.com. 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, he recommends Hotel Mestre de Avis. As for mid-range hotels, the Captain recommends Hotel Toural.
If you can afford it, he suggests Hotel da Oliveira or Casa do Juncal.
📍 Getting to Guimarães: to get to Guimarães, several options:
– the car (if you plan to rent a car in Portugal, Captain Ulysses can only recommend Rentalcars, on which you’ll be able to compare the offers of countless rental companies including Avis, Budget, Europcar, Sixt…)
– train or bus (several trips per day from Porto or Braga)
– day tours (Captain Ulysses recommends this excursion to Braga and Guimarães from Porto)
🚌 Local transportation: Guimarães is a small city that is very easy to explore on foot. That said, if you can’t/won’t walk, you can also opt for the hop-on hop-off tourist bus tour.
✈️ Flights and trains: the closest airport to Guimarães is Porto. To book your flights, Captain Ulysses highly recommends Skyscanner. You’ll be able to compare countless offers to find the best deal. If your dates are flexible, you can also compare prices over several months to find the cheapest flights possible.