The best independent guide to north Portugal
The best independent guide to north Portugal
Guimaraes is a historic and characterful city that makes for a fantastic day trip from Porto.
Guimaraes is regarded fondly by the Portuguese as the birthplace of their country, as it has here the first king (Afonso Henriques) was born and was briefly the capital city of the fledgling country in 1096.
This extensive history of Guimaraes is reflected in the variety of historic buildings and national monuments found within the city. As a tourist destination, there is a lot to see and do in Guimarães, and it is a highly recommended day trip if you are on holiday in Porto.
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The ruins of the Castelo de Guimarães, which defended the early city from the Moors and the Kingdom of León.
The Paço dos Duques de Bragança, a sombre Gothic palace filled with exquisite 17th-century furniture
The Praça de São Tiago and Largo da Oliveira, the two medieval plazas at the heart of Guimarães
Penha hill with its stunning views, forested trails, and scenic cable car to the summit
Guimarães is an outstanding example of a traditional northern Portuguese city. Found within the compact centre are narrow cobbled streets, fine examples of medieval architecture and delightful plazas filled with open-air cafes.
The number of important historic monuments of the city was recognised by UNESCO, who declared it a World Heritage site in 2001.
Guimarães is more than just a historic relic; there is a buzz and purpose about the city, in part due to the large student population who attend the university.
The Nossa Senhora da Consolação church and the pretty Largo República do Brasil avenue
The famed "Here Portugal was Born" inscription on the city walls
One day is sufficient to see all of the sights Guimarães, and this makes the city popular as a day trip from Porto.
You may wish to spend a couple of days to explore at a more leisurely pace, which also provides an opportunity to visit the sights once the crowds of day-trippers have left. Also, a second day could provide additional time to hike along the trails of Penha Park.
You may be tempted to try to cram both Guimarães and Braga in a single day trip, but this is too much, and will only skim both destinations.
If you are limited by time, you could visit both destinations via an organised tour, and this ensures you see the highlights and removes the hassle of public transport or driving.
Some of the best tours of Guimaraes offered by GetYourGuide.com include:
Both Guimarães and Braga are popular day trips from Porto.
Braga is known as the religious capital of Portugal, as the first bishops of Portugal were based here, there is the oldest cathedral along with a plethora of other historic religious buildings. Just outside of Braga is the stunning Bom Jesus do Monte with its decorative Baroque stairway.
In your trip to northern Portugal, both cities should be visited, but in our opinion, Guimarães should be visited before Braga. Guimarães has more varied sights and more character, while the sheer number of churches in Braga can become overwhelming (or even repetitive).
Related articles: Braga guide - Day trips from Porto
Antiga Câmara Municipal, the Old Town Hall on the Largo da Oliveira
The Jardim do Largo Condessa do Juncal
The majority of visitors to Guimarães visit the city as a day trip from Porto.
Guimarães is ideal as a day trip from Porto; there are sufficient sights and activities to fill a full day of sightseeing, and there is excellent public transport between the two cities.
A typical day trip to Guimarães divides the day into three sections; the historic centre, the Largo Hill (Braganza Palace & castle) and the Penha Park.
The delightful historic centre is focused around the Largo da Oliveira, the Largo República do Brasil and the Largo do Toural. Most visitors begin with this section of the city as it is the closest to the train station. This area contains the most shops, restaurants and cafes, and it is the suggested area for lunch.
Largo Hill is to the north of the city and this area contains the most important historical monuments of Guimarães. Tourist attractions including the Castelo de Guimarães, the Braganza Palace, the São Miguel chapel and the Santo António convent.
The third area of Guimarães to explore is Penha Hill, also known as Monte de Santa Catarina. The hill provides wonderful views over the city, along with pleasant forest footpaths. A cable car connects the city to Penha Hill.
Below is an interactive map for our suggested 1-day tour to Guimarães. The tour of the city is highlighted in green, with the optional trip to Penha Hill marked in yellow.
Sights of Guimarães: 1) Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Consolação 2) Largo República do Brasil 3) Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira 4) Largo da Oliveira 5) Antiga câmara municipal 6) Praça de São Tiago 7) Convento de Santa Clara 8) Igreja Nossa Senhora do Carmo 9) Paço dos Duques de Bragança 10) Igreja de Sao Miguel 11) Castelo de Guimarães 12) Estátua a Dom Afonso Henriques 13) Convento de Santo António dos Capuchos 14) Largo do Toural 15) "Aqui Nasceu Portugal" 16) Capela de São Francisco
The pretty Largo da Oliveira
The state room in the Paço dos Duques de Bragança
Teleférico da Penha cable car
The view from Monte da Penha
Guimarães is 43km to the northeast of Porto, and it is very easy to travel to Guimarães using public transport.
There is a regular and direct train service, which departs from the Porto Sao Bento station and costs €6.20 for a return ticket.This is an "urban train" service which means the train stops many times and has a journey time of 1h10min.
Once at Guimarães, the train station is to the south of the historic centre, and it is a 10-minute walk to the main tourist area.
Related article: Porto to Guimarães
The Guimarães train waiting in Sao Bento station
Guimarães is regarded as the birthplace of Portugal, as it was here that the first king of Portugal (Afonso Henriques) was born in 1109.
Afonso was baptised in the ancient Igreja de São Miguel do Castelo, one of the oldest churches in Portugal. This small chapel stands in front of the castle, and the baptism font is still in its original location.
The battle of São Mamede in 1128, which established Portugal as an independent country, was fought just outside of Guimarães. This battle pitted Afonso Henriques against his mother, Teresa of Portugal, and the Kingdom of León.
After Afonso’s victory, Guimarães became the capital of the newly established kingdom, but after 20 years the capital was relocated to Coimbra.
The Igreja de São Miguel do Castelo