My journey took me to the city that is called the birthplace of Portugal, as it was here that the first king of Portugal, D. Afonso Henriques, was born. Also, in 1128 a very important battle, Batalha de São Mamede (a place close to Guimarães), took place opposing D. Afonso Henriques against his own mother and her Spanish supporters (from Galiza) ending with the victory of our first king, D. Afonso Henriques. As a result, in 1143 Portugal become an independent country. Guimarães was also the first capital of Portugal.
Reasons to visit this exceptionally well preserved city in the north of Portugal are plenty: for its historic importance, the several monuments classified as UNESCO heritage, picturesque cobbled streets, a magnificent medieval historic centre, charming houses, excellent gastronomy and exceptional people that know how to welcome others into their city.
Now that I’ve made the introduction let’s go and start our journey.
Guimarães Castle (Castelo de Guimarães)
The original castle was built in the 10th century when the countess Mumadona Dias in order to protect the monks and the Christian community from the Moors and the Normans attacks decided to build a fortress; though it was during the 12th century that the parents of the first king of Portugal, D. Afonso Henriques came to live in Guimarães where the castle’s improvements and expansion occurs.
Visit the castle and learn more about all the transformations it faced through out times and understand a little bit more about the history of this great nation, Portugal.
Enjoy the views from the castle to the Penha mountain and the surrounding area with the amazing Palace of the Dukes of Bragança.
I bought a combined ticket for the Castle and the Palace of the Dukes of Bragança which cost me 6,00€. The castle and the Ducal Palace are open daily from 10 am to 6 pm (last admission is at 5.30 pm). It closes on Christmas day, New year, Easter Sunday and first of May.
Ducal Palace (Paço dos Duques de Bragança)
Built in the 15th century this majestic palace unique in all Iberian Peninsula, was the house of D. Afonso, Duke of Bragança the illegitimate son of the king D. João I and his second wife D.Constança de Noronha. It is classified as a national monument. The palace includes 3 floors, the ground floor for cultural activities, the first floor which is a museum that displays a collection of tapestries that narrate the events of the Portuguese Discoveries and a collection of Portuguese furniture from the post discovery period and the second floor that is the official residence of the Portuguese President.
The focus of this visit is the museum. Admire the beautiful banqueting hall with a roof in a shape of an upturned boat with a huge table at the centre and an amazing tapestry in the wall. Be amazed by the chapel, its marble columns and the beautiful stained glass, the balconies, the chestnut wood balustrade of the choir and pews. Visit the Duke’s and Catherine of Bragança’sbedchambers.
Did you know that it was Catherine of Bragança, princess of Portugal and Queen of England (as she got married to Charles II of England) that introduced the habit of drinking tea in England and taught the English how to use a fork?
Also spend some time admiring the magnificent exterior of this building and the various red clay chimneys that embezzled it.
This beautiful baroque church from the 17th century is located beside the old Carmelite convent (today a nursing home). The church has a beautiful altar made of golden woodwork and for 1 euro you can access the Coro Alto and admire the beautiful original paintings, the choir stalls and the first organ the city received.
Guimarães Cable Car
It was the first time I took the cable car which connects the city of Guimarães with the Penha Mountain, where the Penha Sanctuary is located at an altitude of around 620 metres. The cable car gradually climbs up to the top. The journey is 1.7 km long. Have a look at the small video I did during my journey.
Once you leave the cable car you will be engulfed by nature. Take some time to explore the vegetation and the enormous boulders that seem to threaten to fall at any moment.
At the top of the mountain you find the Penha sanctuary. Admire the unobstructed views of the city; breathe the air in and feel the quietness and peacefulness around you.
The cable car has a cost of 5€ for a return ticket. There are two timetables. During summer (April to October) it is open from 10 am to 6.30 pm (June and July from 10 am to 7 pm from Monday to Friday and until 8 pm during the weekend; in August it’s open from 10 am to 8 pm); during winter (November to March) it is only open Friday and weekends from 10 am to 5.30 pm.
Historic Centre of Guimarães (World Heritage Site of UNESCO since 2001)
This city has a beautiful and very well preserved medieval historic centre. Here you will find Padrão do Salado, a unique Gothic monument with four arcs that was built in the 14th century to celebrate the victory in the battle with the same name.
Enter the beautiful Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira from the 10th century built in a Gothic style.
Have a coffee at the beautiful Praça Santiago; take your time, don’t rush, slow down and appreciate the exquisite monuments, the people moving around, imagine what it would have been like living here in the 12th century.
Take a look at some pictures I collected from this amazing place.
You should know by now that I can’t resist coffee and the specialities this lovely country offers you. I’ve warned you before, if you come to Portugal you will end up with some extra pounds, it’s impossible to resist the amazing gastronomy and pastry! So here I went to Confeitaria Clarinha to try some of the specialities, tortas de Guimarães and toucinho do Céu (there are several others, blame the nuns because most of this pastry was introduced by the them).
By now you should be including this trip in your bucket list!