Guimarães is a town proud of its past, and this is evident in a series of delightful medieval buildings and streets. The Old Town's narrow, cobbled thoroughfares pass small bars that open onto sidewalks and pastel houses that overhang little squares and have flowers in their windowsills. In 2001 the historic center of Guimarães was classified as a World Heritage site by UNESCO, and more recently the town has served as the European Capital of Culture (2012), and the European Capital of Sport (2013). These recent designations have put Guimarães on the map, led to vast improvements in tourist infrastructure, and brought the city the attention it deserves.
Many come for the rich history that the town offers. Afonso Henriques was born in 1110 in Guimarães, and Portuguese schoolchildren are taught that "aqui nasceu Portugal" ("Portugal was born here") with him. Within 20 years he was referred to as king of Portucale (the united Portuguese lands between the Minho and Douro rivers) and had made Guimarães the seat of his power. From this first "Portuguese" capital, Afonso Henriques drove south, taking Lisbon back from the Moors in 1147.
The volume of tourists in Guimarães is a fraction of what Porto or Lisbon receives, so you'll have many of the city's winding cobblestone streets all to yourself. This truly authentic slice of Portuguese heritage deserves an overnight stay on any trip to the region.
Guimarães at a Glance
- Castelo de Guimarães
- Citânia de Briteiros
- Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Consolação e Santos Passos
- Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira
- Igreja de São Francisco