Brimming with local charm.
As part of our Portuguese road trip, we chose to base ourselves in the ancient city of Guimarães for a couple of nights.
And what a fantastic choice it was.
I was unaware before planning our stay at Guimarães that this historical city was the first capital of Portugal in the 12th century. It is widely believed that Portugal's first King, Afonso Henriques, was born there.
Go with the flow
What I particularly enjoyed about Guimarães, was that although this small city drew plenty of visitors to discover the ancient streets and architecture, it also still had a local feel.
Families playing in the squares, friends catching up and enjoying an afternoon coffee together. A general atmosphere of day to day living.
A reference guide
Our recent new found love is Portugal, it is such a beautiful country. While planning our trip, I used the DK Eyewitness books. I find them extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more.
We used a previous version of this book to plan our north to south Portuguese road trip, now you can grab the revised copy.
What does it have to offer?
Ok, so I can hear you saying, well, why did you choose Guimarães? That’s so easy to answer when you see what’s lying amongst the charming cobbled streets.
I’m going to start at the Palace of the Dukes, a medieval estate that was first occupied by the Dukes of Braganza from 1422.
It’s had a few different residents, some adding their own mark.
However, during the 16th century it remained unoccupied and fell into considerable disrepair until the 20th century.
In 1910, it became a National Monument, extensive restoration was carried out to return it to its former glory.
Just beyond the Palace is the Castle of Guimarães, a medieval castle built during the 10th century, to defend the monastery against attacks.
The castle had been through a number of changes and nearly demolished in the 19th century, and like the Palace of Dukes became a National Monument in 1910 and restored during the early 20th century.
Nestled between these two icons of the town is St. Michaels church. Built during the same era as the castle and served as a Royal chapel.
What I especially love about Portugal and I found this when visiting Lisbon, were its beautiful praças (squares to you and me, although praça sounds better I think).
With their distinct black and white cobbles on the ground, smoothed around the edges, through years of wandering feet.
Hidden around so many corners, take a stroll through the medieval lanes and search out Largo da Oliveira & Praça de Santiago. Particularly of an evening when they are illuminated.
Mixture of time
In the medieval square of Largo da Oliveira, you’ll see the arched Padrão do Salado. A Gothic monument to commemorate the Battle of Salado.
Heading off in any direction from here and the charming lanes take you through arches and courtyards waiting to be discovered.
What you initially notice within Guimarães is the incredible amount of ornately tiled buildings, with lovely balconies and decorated iron verandas.
Guimarães was once a walled city, and evidence of this can be found along Ave. Alberto Sampaio.
A treat around every corner
The old road to Porto
Rua D. João I, during the Middle Ages was the road to take to Porto.
Along its narrow street you can still see the old houses with their wooden balustrades and facades.
Porto is only 57km/35 miles away but would have taken considerably longer to reach in the Middle Ages than the 45 minutes it takes today.
An interesting part of Guimarães that we wandered around was the once flourishing leather district in Couros (which means leather in English).
You can see the old tanneries straddling the river and wander around the stone dying baths.
Now as we are in the Minho region of Portugal we had to sample the local tipple of Vinho Verde. I know it’s a hard task, but someone has to do it.
OK, so I let Gary have a glass as well.
As we were heading back on our second night, we stumbled upon a local bar and thought let’s give it a try. The staff were so friendly and introduced us to the local chilled red Vinho Verde, which apparently is drunk out of mugs.
(The last time we were served red wine in a mug, it was warm and we was in Germany - Why not check out 'Tipples on a German Christmas Market'?)
We found the local wines to be really reasonable in Guimarães, regardless if you are sitting in the main squares or a local bar, they were around €2 a glass or €7.5 a bottle.
Where we ate
Our second night in Guimarães was Liberation Day, the town was bustling with families enjoying the celebrations and listening to live bands.
We couldn’t resist sitting outside Pregaria de Guimarães and enjoying one of their many varieties of steak sandwich – soooo tasty.
Where we stayed
Our accommodation for the two nights we were in Guimarães, was at Casa Dos Pombais. This old manor house was just on the edge of the old town.
Perhaps an unusual place to stay but it had great parking was very reasonably priced.
Bizarrely there were swans in their gardens as well as tasty orange trees.
Would you like a little more?
We have created a little YouTube video of Guimarães
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Inspired to visit Guimarães?
It’s a wonderful little city and a fantastic place to base yourselves to tour the region.
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