The Portuguese city of Guimarães is often heralded as where “Portugal was born”, thanks to a wealth of history. From the beautiful palace to the commanding castle, it’s no wonder that Guimaraes was selected to host the European Capital of Culture in 2012. Located in the northern district of Braga, the Historic Centre of Guimarães is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Explore Guimarães Castle
The imposing Guimarães Castle is at the very heart of the city and was constructed in the 10th century. Built by order from Dona Mumadona Dias, the castle was to defend the city against attacks from both the Normans and Muslims over the centuries. Originally known as the São Mamede Castle by Mumadona, the castle is most notable as it is fully intact, a rare feat indeed considering the battles it has seen over the centuries. The first king to reside here was Afonso Henriques who took victory at the Battle of São Mamede. The castle is one of the most important structures in Portugal and is listed with UNESCO.
Discover the Dukes of Braganza Palace
The ‘Paço dos Duques de Bragança’ palace was constructed in 1422 for the first dukes of Braganza. The first to reside here was Afonso, the Count of Barcelos (who was actually the illegitimate son of King John I). The medieval palace soars to a height of 220 meters and, along with Guimarães Castle, is a culturally important part of the city. The Palace is regarded today as a National Monument which is also home to a public museum.
Walk the Centro Historico de Guimaraes
Prepare to fall in love with the very heart of Guimaraes which oozes ancient Portuguese charm and traditional architecture. The city itself is pretty laidback and peaceful, as it’s largely off the well-worn tourist trail. The town was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001 and so is incredibly carefully preserved. Wander the streets, enjoy a leisurely coffee and ready yourself for some serious sightseeing; this city was designated a European Capital of Culture for a reason!
Take a break in Olive Square
Spend some time in the Largo da Oliveira, Olive Square, which is a beautiful spot to admire the history and local culture. Rest awhile; enjoy a coffee or a meal surrounded by old buildings and typically Portuguese architecture. From here you can also explore the Olive Church ‘Igreja da Oliveira’ and the Padrão do Salado monument.
Get a birdseye view over Guimarães at Penha Mountain
If you’re up for a hiking or climbing challenge, try tackling the exceptionally beautiful Penha Mountains. Towering over the city of Guimarães, the view from the top is absolutely breaking. Of course if you’re feeling less than adventurous, you can also opt for a sedate 1,700 meter cable car ride up the mountain instead. Penha is devoted to the Lady of Penha (Sra. da Penha) and as such is a revered site enshrined in folklore and devotion