Bom dia! Welcome to Guimaraes, a remarkable Portuguese town known as the birthplace of the Kingdom of Portugal. It’s full of history and its medieval streets invite you to take a step back in time. You’ll for sure feel like in the Middle Ages. To be honest, we totally fell in love with Guimaraes! It won our hearts in the blink of an eye and quickly topped the list of our favorite cities in Portugal. Believe us, if you’re visiting North Portugal, you can’t miss out on seeing this truly spectacular and one-of-a-kind city. Vamos, let’s discover the best things to do in Guimaraes, Portugal in one day.
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Best Things To Do In Guimaraes, Portugal In One Day
Guimarães is located in Northern Portugal in the Alto Minho region in Braga District in very close proximity to Portugal’s only National Park – Peneda-Geres National Park. It’s also located only 55km from Porto, 80km from Viana do Castelo, and 25km from Braga which makes it a perfect one-day trip destination.
Guimaraes is best known for being a city where Afonso Henrique, the first Portugal king, was born. That’s why it’s considered the birthplace of the Kingdom of Portugal. It’s also a place where in June 1128 the Battle of Sao Mamede happened. This battle is considered the seminal event for the foundation of the Kingdom of Portugal. The city is also well-known for the Castle of Guimarães, which probably is the most famous city landmark. Guimaraes was also the country’s first capital before Lisbon took its place.
But that’s not all that Guimaraes has to offer… In 2001, Guimarães historic center has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in recognition of being an “exceptionally well-preserved and authentic example of the evolution of a medieval settlement into a modern town” in Europe. Just take a walk around Guimaraes old town streets and squares and you’ll understand what all the fuss is about. We are not surprised at all why Guimaraes is considered one of the most beautiful cities in Portugal!
We cannot answer otherwise than… yes, yes, yes! Guimaraes is absolutely worth visiting. The exceptional old town, medieval streets and squares, beautiful well-preserved castle and so many more great cultural and historical things to do are waiting for you in Guimarães. Also, Guimaraes reminded us of one of our favorite towns in the United Kingdom – beautiful, medieval York. Add Guimaraes to your bucket list, you won’t regret it.
For us, Guimaraes wins, without a doubt. But it all depends on preferences and interests. If you’re into medieval towns and unique vibes – Guimaraes should be higher on your North Portugal bucket list. But if you’re rather into spiritual experiences and taking a tour around dozens of churches – you should visit Braga first.
Things To Do In Guimaraes Old Town
It’s a pure delight to slowly stroll around Guimaraes Old Town, which without a doubt is one of the most beautiful, charming, and authentic historic centers you’ll find in Portugal. Narrow streets, old stone houses with typical medieval wooden upper parts, and vibrant squares can make you feel like stepping back in time hundreds of years. What’s more, Guimaraes Old Town was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site! Getting lost and discovering an old town is definitely one of the best things to do in Guimaraes!
In Guimaraes Old Town you’ll find points of interest like Largo da Oliveira with the Church of Nossa Senhora da Oliveira and Padrão do Salado shrine, Largo da Sao Tiago, Largo do Toural squares, Guimaraes Castle, Santa Maria street, Palace of the Dukes of Braganza, medieval walls, and of course churches a few of which are worth noting. Let’s go and take a closer look at each.
Largo da Oliveira Square
One of the best things you can do in Guimaraes Old Town is to visit the beautiful Largo da Oliveira Square. It’s a very atmospheric and lively place, surrounded by an array of old colorful medieval house buildings, as well as restaurants and cafes which are perfect for a quick break with a cup of coffee or Vinho Verde. One thing is for sure – if you’re after old-world charm, you’ll find it in Largo da Oliveira Square.
Largo da Oliveira Square got its name after a centuries-old olive tree (pt. oliveira). According to the legend, an olive tree was planted in the square, in front of the church to supply olive oil for the altar lamps. When it got sick and stopped bearing fruits a local merchant placed a cross on the site and a real miracle happened… The Olive tree came back to life! This happened in 1342, and that was when the square got its name. Unfortunately in the 19th century, the original olive tree was cut down and one you can admire today was planted only in 1985.
There are three noteworthy places in the square:
- Nossa Senhora da Oliveira Church (pt. Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira) is a late 15th-century Gothic church with a baroque interior. It also houses a religious-art Alberto Sampaio Museum.
- Padrao do Salado is a gothic monument with 4 arches and a cross, located right in front of the Nossa Senhora da Oliveira Church. It commemorates a victorious Battle of Río Salado that took place in 1340 near Tarifa between Portuguese and Castilian armies against the Moorish.
- Old Town Hall (pt. Antiga Camara Municipal) is a beautiful mostly 16th-century building, with 14th-century arches on the ground that separates Largo da Oliveira and Largo da Sao Tiago.
Largo da Sao Tiago
Largo da Sao Tiago is another very atmospheric square in Guimarães. It’s located right next to the Largo da Oliveira Square, just behind Old Town Hall arches. This square is full of quaint old houses made of stone and wood, and even more restaurants and cafes inviting for a quick break with a drink. Largo da Sao Tiago looks like it hasn’t changed a bit since the Middle Ages, which is truly remarkable. For us, Sao Tiago square is the number one place to see in Guimaraes that you definitely cannot miss.
Rua de Santa Maria
Rua de Santa Maria is one of the oldest and now one of the most visited streets in Guimaraes. It was built in the 12th century, to connect the castle in the upper part of the town with the Santa Clara Convent located in the lower part. Also, the street was once home to Guimaraes’s wealthy families and clergymen. While taking a stroll along Rua de Santa Maria you’ll find many remains of the old times like buildings dating back to the 12th and the 13th century (look for Casa do Arco – no. 28, Casa dos Peixotos – no. 39, or Casa de Valadares de Carvalho – no. 9), Santa Clara Convent, or archway. The area is now also home to some independent shops where you can buy yourself a nice souvenir.
Largo do Toural
Another square that deserves a visit in Guimaraes is Largo do Toural. It’s a huge square located on the border between the old town and its new part which until the 18th century was outside the city walls and served as a commercial square and a livestock market. Currently, you’ll find there beautiful 18th-century buildings, a 16th-century fountain, and St. Peter’s Basilica (pt. Basílica de São Pedro). Of course, there are also some restaurants and shops, encouraging you to look inside.
Also, literally a few steps from Largo do Toural, on Rue do Anjo, you’ll find an old medieval tower with the inscription “Aqui nasceu Portugal”, which means “Portugal was born here”.
Another must-have thing to do in Guimaraes is to visit Guimaraes Castle (pt. Castelo de Guimarães), which definitely is one of the city’s most important landmarks. It sits on a small hill with great views in the mid-10th century and served as a military fortification to protect villagers and monks from Moors invaders. Over the following centuries, it underwent several modifications and reconstructions and played an important role in many battles. Currently, Guimaraes Castle is one of the most complete and well-preserved medieval castles in Portugal and is a National Monument since 1881.
Guimaraes Castle looks really spectacular from to outside, but there is not much to see inside. You can walk the castle’s ramparts and towers and admire amazing panoramic views of the city and its surroundings. You can also visit Torre de Menagem, the highest tower in the middle of the fortifications, in which a small and very interesting museum is located, featuring medieval military techniques and weapons of combat.
Entrance to Guimaraes Castle costs €2 and is free for children under 12 years old. You can combine the ticket with a visit to the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza and then it costs €6 (April 2023). For current prices and opening hours please visit pacodosduques.gov.pt website.
Palace of the Dukes of Braganza
One more thing you can do while near Guimaraes Castle is visiting the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza (pt. Palace Duques de Bragança). It’s a medieval palace built in the first half of the 15th century for Alfonso, the 1st Duke of Bragança. In the 16th century, after the seat of the Bragança family was transferred to Vila Viçosa, it was abandoned. In the 19th century, it became a military barracks. The Palace of the Dukes of Braganza was restored in the 20th century and became the official residence of Portugal’s President Salazar in the North of the country.
The Palace of the Dukes of Braganza is open to the public since 1959 and now serves as a museum in which you’ll find a big collection of tapestries, ceramics, paintings, and medieval weapons. Palace rooms are full of antique pieces, thanks to which you can easily imagine how the place looked like when it was lived in. We skipped this Guimaraes attraction because it didn’t look like something that might be interesting for us.
Entrance to the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza costs €5 and is free for children under 12 years old. You can combine the ticket with a visit to the Guimaraes Castle and then it costs €6 (April 2023). For current prices and opening hours please visit pacodosduques.gov.pt website.
São Miguel do Castelo Church
Between Guimaraes Castle and the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza you’ll find São Miguel do Castelo church (Igreja de São Miguel do Castelo), a small and modest medieval Romanesque church constructed of granite. What makes this place special is the fact that first Portugal’s king, Afonso Henriques, was baptized here, and up to this day, on the king’s birthday, a mass is celebrated here. Well, to be honest, it’s not the best thing to see in Guimarães, but while near the castle be sure to make a quick stop there.
Guimaraes Medieval Walls
In the 13th century, Guimaraes was surrounded by walls to protect the town and its inhabitants. This defensive structure surrounded both the upper part of the town, where the castle was located, and the lower one, dominated by Santa Maria Collegiate Church. It had in total 8 gates, of which 3 had towers. Today it’s possible to go for a very short and free walk on these defense walls and get some views of the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza and the city.
Churches in Guimaraes
As befits a Portuguese city, Guimaraes also has many churches. So if you’re interested in visiting churches here are some of the most interesting ones:
- Church of Saint Francis (pt. Igreja de São Francisco) is mostly famous for its 18th-century beautiful blue and white azulejos decorating the exterior walls.
- Church of Our Lady of Consolation (pt. Igreja e Oratórios de Nossa Senhora da Consolação) is from the 18th century and now it’s one of the most beautiful churches in Guimarães. It’s located on Largo República do Brasil, which thanks to the garden with colorful flowers in front of the church became one of the most popular photo spots in the city.
- Sanctuary of Penha (pt. Santuário da Penha) is located outside the Guimaraes Old Town, on the top of Penha Mountain (620m a.s.l). The best thing about this place? Fantastic views over Guimaraes and its surroundings. You can reach this place by car, on foot or by funicular.
How to get to Guimaraes, Portugal?
Where to park in Guimaraes, Portugal?
There are some paid parking lots in Guimaraes center, but if you don’t want to pay you can leave your car for free 1km (10min walk) from the old town, on José Luís de Pina street or one of the neighboring streets.
Airports near Guimaraes, Portugal
The closest airport to Guimaraes in Portugal is located in Porto (55km away). Other one is located in Spain, in Vigo (115km away). From each airport, you can get to Guimaraes by bus. To check the connections that interest you please visit rome2rio.com website.
To Guimaraes by bus
You can quite easily get to Guimaraes by bus. For example, the journey from Porto will take about 45min (€4-11), from Ponte de Lima 1h (€7-11), and 45min from Braga (€2-10). To learn more about bus connections that interest you visit rome2rio.com website.
To Guimaraes by train
Best things to do in Guimaraes, Portugal in one day – Summing up
Guimaraes is such an amazing city with so many great things to do and places to see, isn’t it? A super charming old town with cobbled streets, lively squares, countless medieval colorful buildings, and a well-kept castle makes an impressive combination! Thanks to all of that it’s clear why for many Guimaraes is one of the most beautiful cities in Portugal. Hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we did and our Guimaraes travel guide will help you plan a great trip!
Restaurants, accommodations, and map
Check out various recommended places below.
Where to eat in Guimaraes?
Here are your best, high-rated options in Guimaraes:
Where to sleep in Guimaraes?
Hotel Toural is a cosy and friendly hotel located in the heart of the historic city centre of Guimarães, just a 10-minute walk from Guimarães Castle. The hotel offers spacious and comfortable rooms with satellite TV and air conditioning, as well as a delicious breakfast served every morning.
Hotel Fundador in Guimaraes offers modern rooms with panoramic views of the UNESCO-listed centre, direct access to garage parking and free Wi-Fi. Guests can enjoy a buffet breakfast, Portuguese wines and local spirits at the top-floor bar, and the hotel's multilingual staff can assist with planning trips into the surroundings.
Hotel da Oliveira
Stay at Hotel da Oliveira in Guimaraes, a charming hotel located in the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage site, featuring individually decorated rooms with a historical theme, a rich breakfast buffet, an à la carte restaurant, car and bicycle rental services, and a library. With impeccable service, on-site parking, and excellent dining options, this hotel offers wonderful recreational facilities and is highly rated by past guests for its facilities and dining.
Hotel ibis Guimaraes
Stay in the heart of Guimaraes at ibis Guimaraes Centro Hotel, conveniently located next to the Guimaraes Shopping Centre and within walking distance to the historical center. Enjoy modern rooms with free Wi-Fi access and a 24-hour snack bar, as well as access to the hotel's fitness facility and on-site parking.
Pousada Mosteiro de Guimaraes
Stay in a 12th-century Augustin Convent at Pousada Mosteiro de Guimaraes- Monument Hotel and enjoy individually decorated rooms with modern amenities, landscaped gardens, and an outdoor pool. You can also take advantage of free Wi-Fi, car hire services, laundry services, and breakfast, as well as the hotel's fitness facility, massage, hot tub, steam room, spa, and sauna.
Stay Hotel Guimarães Centro
Stay Hotel Guimaraes Centro offers modern rooms with free WiFi, a generous breakfast buffet, and a 24-hour bar with a varied drinks menu. Located just outside the historic center of Guimarães, guests can easily explore the city's UNESCO World Heritage sites, and enjoy on-site amenities like bike hire, an internet corner, and a games room.
Accommodations photos source: booking.com