“Here Portugal was born” reads the sign on the old wall, which shows that this beautiful country was born in this city. Read on to find out everything there is things to do in Guimaraes and not miss anything.
Guimaraes is a small city within walking distance and everything is relatively close by. We traveled from Porto by train and from the train station to the center of Guimaraes you can walk through two avenues, Dom Afonso Henriques or Dom João IV.
From the first one you can reach the Largo Do Toural square and one of the existing parts of the wall, and from the second one the Church of Our Lady of Consolation. In any case, they are two direct paths to the historic center.
Why is Guimaraes said to be the cradle of Portugal? For two reasons.
One of them is that it is said that the first king of Portugal, Dom Afonso Henriques or Alfonso I of Portugal, was born in this city. The second is because the Battle of San Mamede was held in the vicinity of the city, in which Alfonso I disputed against his mother the possession of the lands of the Portucalense County. He is recognized as the “Conquistador” because he doubled the land he had inherited from his father.
🔘 Check out the rest of the World Heritage Sites we have visited.
So, what to see in Guimaraes in 1 day? We tell you from what we have come to travel:
1) Church of Our Lady of Consolation and its gardens
In front of some beautiful gardens in the middle of Brazil Avenue is the baroque church of Our Lady of Consolation, which was begun on top of an older one in the 18th century and completed in the following century.
Behind the church you can see the Monte da Penha to which you can go up in a cable car for a small fee and down, if you prefer, walking. At the top is the Chapel of Santa Catalina, a shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel and a statue of Pope Pius IX.
📷 Book here the free tour of Guimaraes to learn about its history and places of interest with a specialized guide.
2) Church of Nossa Senhora de Oliveira and Padrão do Salado
We immediately entered the historic center and found the main things to do in Guimaraes, which is small and without access to cars. It is easy to find the imposing Church of Nossa Senhora de Oliveira and many people enjoying its terraces.
The day we visited Guimaraes was August 14, which is when the anniversary of the victory in the Battle of Salado in Tarifa was celebrated in the 14th century. In this battle King Alfonso IV of Portugal, together with the Kingdom of Castile, defeated the Benimerines, the last kingdom of North Africa that would try to invade the Iberian Peninsula by battle. In commemoration of this victory, the king had the so-called Padrão de Salado built in front of the church on the site where a legendary olive tree once stood. It is a cross under a small stone vault with 4 arches. If you notice, the olive tree was moved to the side and is the only tree in the plaza.
📷 Do you want to tour the city in a different way? Book the tourist bus through Guimaraes. It is valid for 24 hours and you can hop on and off whenever you want.
In any case, the preparations we were seeing in the city were not related to such a decisive battle but to the Assumption of the Virgin, which would take place the following day. The small alleys were filled with colorful flowers on the ground, simulating a carpet that reached the door of the Church of Our Lady of Oliveira.
We visited the inside of the church where the image of the Virgin of Our Lady of Oliveira was ready to go out in procession. The church dates back to the 12th century, in baroque style and with several later modifications, it was declared a National Monument.
The church and the padrão is located in a closed and paved square called Largo de Oliveira, with the many little bars and restaurants where you can spend your time and the beautiful facades of the houses that surround it.
To leave the square, one of the ways is to go through one of the arches of the Council Palace, which is the old town hall, and thus enter another small hidden square. Guimaraes has many lost corners waiting to be discovered.
3) Guimaraes Castle and the Palace of the Dukes of Bragança
If you are travel to Guimaraes, you must visit the palace and the castle.
Before arriving at the Braganza Palace, you are greeted by a statue of Alfonso I of Portugal, in a defensive pose.
The Braganza Palace was built on Mount Latito by Alfonso I, Duke of Braganza (other than the aforementioned king) who was the illegitimate son of King John I of Portugal. Over the years it has undergone subsequent modifications as well as undeserved neglect. It was only at the beginning of the last century that an architect visited the site and restored it to maintain its historical memory over the years. The entrance fee is 5€.
Nearby is the Guimaraes castle which predates the palace, dating from the tenth century. It was a fortress that served as a defense against the attack of the Moors but eventually witnessed the birth of Portugal, since in its vicinity was held the Battle of San Mamede mentioned above. If you enter the palace, the entrance to the castle is included in the price, you only have to pay 1,50€ more if you want to go up to the keep.
4) Largo do Toural and St. Peter’s Church
The Largo do Toural, like all Portuguese “largos”, is a large but narrow square. This square has only seats for resting and houses two important points that you have to visit in Guimaraes:
- the Church of San Pedro, from the XVIII century;
- the facades of the surrounding buildings, with their white glazed windows.
5) Getting lost in the streets of the historic center of Guimaraes.
As mentioned above there are many little corners to see in Guimaraes and every time we passed by a lost street, I grabbed Juan by the hand and told him I wanted to go that way. Thus, we discovered many squares, passages, hidden houses and others not so much, because there are many stately homes such as the Casa de la Calle Nueva, Casa do Juncal, the Commercial and Industrial Association or the Court of Relations, all buildings that today are part of the history of the city.
Also do not miss the small churches, convents and monasteries throughout the city, such as the convent of San Francisco, the former convent of Santa Clara, which today is the current Guimaraes City Hall, the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, among others.
Practical information for your trip to Guimaraes
Summary of things to do in Guimaraes in one day
One day is enough to tour the city and these are the main points that we have visited:
✔ Guimaraes Castle
✔ Palace of the Dukes of Braganza
✔ Church of Nossa Senhora de Oliveira
✔ Padrão do Salado and the Olive Tree
✔ Largo de Oliveira and the Council Palace
✔ Largo de Toural and San Pedro Church
✔ Our Lady of Consolation Church
✔ Strolling through the medieval-style Old Town
Where to stay in Guimaraes
The historic center or the surrounding area is the best option for accommodation in Guimaraes. Our recommendations for sleeping in the city are as follows:
- Hotel Mestre de Avis: an elegant and design lodging a few meters from the historical center at a very good price. Spacious and comfortable rooms.
- Santiago 31 Hostel: located five minutes from the castle, it is housed in a restored historic building in Sao Tiago square. Simple and clean private and shared rooms
- Dom José Alojamentos: in an old building, has spacious rooms with classic furniture, good breakfast buffet and a small interior garden that is beautiful.
🏨 Do you want to look for other options? Find here the best hotels in Guimaraes.
The best way to get to Guimaraes from Oporto
We, like the vast majority, traveled to Guimaraes from Oporto in the day. Guimaraes is small and can be easily covered in a day.
We leave from the São Bento train station, which you should go with some time if you are traveling in the morning or around noon because it can be very crowded. One ticket per passenger is taken from the automatic machines. It can happen to you, as it did to us, that you get 10 people in front of you, miss the train you were planning to take and have to travel on a later one.
The ticket cost us about 2,50 € per person round trip.
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