Looking for some Porto day trips ideas? What do you think about to go and visit Guimarães?
As the first capital of Portugal and birthplace of the nation’s first king, Guimarães is one of the country’s most historic cities, and its World Heritage medieval streets with well-preserved monuments make it one of the most attractive places to visit in Portugal.
The imposing medieval castle with eight crenelated towers 28m (92ft) high, was built in the 10th century to protect the population from attacks by the Moors and the Normans. It was then extended to its present size in the 12th century by Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal, who was baptized in the small Romanesque chapel next to the castle.
Across from the chapel is the Palace of the Dukes of Bragança, built in the 15th century as a medieval palace, with 39 unusual brick chimneys showing strong Northern European influence. It was used as recently as a few decades ago during the Salazar dictatorship as an official residence for the president. Inside is an impressive banqueting hall with a splendid wooden ceiling, and an extensive collection of portraits, furniture, carpets, and porcelain dating mainly from the 17th and 18th centuries.
Among the several churches in Guimarães, the finest and a must see in Guimarães is São Francisco Church on the south side of the city gardens. Built in 1400 in Gothic style, it was restored in the 18th century and features a series of magnificent tiles and an elegant Renaissance cloister and fountain.
From the castle, the beautiful cobbled Rua de Santa Maria has remained essentially unchanged for centuries, and leads down into the heart of the old town, where there are superbly restored historic buildings. One of those buildings is the former 16th-century Baroque convent of Santa Maria, now serving as the City Hall.
At the end of the street are two delightful squares with outdoor cafes and balconied houses, Praça de Santiago and Largo da Oliveira. At Largo da Oliveira is the old Town Hall and the Church of Nossa Senhora da Oliveira, with a Gothic shrine erected in 1340 standing before it. There are many legends about its origins, but a popular story says it marks the legendary spot where Wamba, elected king of the Visigoths, refused his title and drove a pole into the ground swearing that he would not reign until it blossomed, and it then sprouted immediately.
In the church’s Romanesque cloister is the Alberto Sampaio Museum, exhibiting some outstanding religious art. The biggest treasures are a tunic worn by João I in the Battle of Aljubarrota in 1385 and a silver altarpiece reportedly taken from the defeated Spanish king.
Another noteworthy collection is that of Martins Sarmento Museum, consisting of fascinating finds (from jewelry to Lusitanian granite warriors) from the Celtic settlement of Citania de Briteiros.
Citania de Briteiros
Citania de Briteiros was inhabited from about 300 BC to 300 AD and its ruins were discovered in 1875. This fascinating archeological site is open to visitors (also easily accessible from from Braga), with the foundations of more than 150 stone huts, with two of them having been restored to show their original appearance. Objects unearthed in the excavations such as fragments of painted pottery, carved stones, weapons, and jewelry, are also on display in a museum dedicated to these Iron Age settlements called “castros” in the village of Briteiros, not too far from Guimarães. If you visit the site, don’t miss this museum, as well as Guimarães’ Martins Sarmento Museum.
When to go to Guirmarães:
To experience medieval Guimarães, visit the city in the first week of August for a festival of medieval art and costume. The three-day celebration dates from the middle of the 15th century, and includes a torchlight procession and a medieval parade.