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15 Best Things to Do in Guimaraes

Guimaraes is one of those little cities you must visit at least once in your lifetime. It is in the northern part of Portugal, 120 kilometers from Vigo and about 60 km from Porto.

It is a fantastic excursion if you visit Porto for a few days. Porto is a beautiful city with gorgeous villages in its surroundings.

What to See in Guimaraes in a Day?

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Guimaraes has been a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 2001 and was the capital of European culture in 2012 and the European City of Sport in 2013.

The Portuguese consider Guimaraes the birthplace of Portugal as we know it today. In fact, at one of the entrances of its walls, there is a quote that makes it very clear “Portugal Was Born Here.”

The reason is that the Battle of S. Mamede was held in this city in which the infante Alfonso Enriques faced his mother, D. Teresa. Years later, Alfonso Enriques became the first king of Portugal.

So, Guimaraes is a city with more than a thousand years of history, like many in the Iberian Peninsula, that flows through its buildings, streets, and corners.

I propose in this post what to see and do in Guimaraes. This proposal has a logical order, so you do not have to go crazy going back and forth like what happened to us!

The Sacred Hill of Guimaraes

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You can start at the Sacred Hill of Guimaraes, made up of three monuments:

  • The Castle of Guimaraes,
  • the Church of San Miguel do Castelo,
  • and the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza.

The Castle of Guimaraes (Castelo do Guimarães)

Guimaraes Castle, must visit in guimaraes, Portugal

We recommend that you start by visiting the city in La Colina Sagrada, in the Castle of Guimaraes, and from there, you go down to the Doge’s Palace.

Guimaraes Castle was built in the mid-11th century on behalf of Countess Mumadona after being widowed to Count Hermenegildo Gonsalves between 950 and 957.

It was built for two reasons, the first to defend itself against the invasions of the Normans to the north and the Arabs to the south, and the second to strengthen its power and dominant position over the other feudal lords.

The Castle was an important defensive center but gradually lost importance, especially with the evolution of war tactics and weapons, until it was left abandoned.

In the twentieth century, it was finally recovered, and its restoration began as a cultural asset.

The Tower of Homage is closed to the public as it is precisely in the process of restoration and improvement.

Admission is free and open from 09:00 to 18:00. (9 am to 6 pm) The last entry is at 17:30 (5.30 pm)

Church of San Miguel do Castelo de Guimarães

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Right in front of the Castle is the Church of San Miguel. There’s no loss.

The Church of San Miguel do Castelo de Guimarães is a monument to which the Portuguese and the inhabitants of Guimaraes attach great importance.

Because it was here that King Alfonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal, was baptized, and so says in the baptismal font inside.

It is relatively small and sober and, like the Castle, ended up suffering from neglect until the nineteenth century, and thanks to private contributions, began its restoration.

The result of it is that it was named a National Monument in 1910. Definitely worth a visit. Admission is free of charge.

Palace of the Dukes of Braganza in Guimaraes

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The Palace of the Dukes of Braganza is a manor house of the fifteenth century. It is just the opposite of the Castle and the Church that are sober.

This palace is luxurious and majestic. It was ordered to be built by D. Alfonso, the 8th Count of Barcelos and the 1st Duke of Braganza, and, at that time, undoubtedly one of the wealthiest men in Portugal.

Like the other two monuments, this palace also fell into neglect and was also restored. However, today it is a very visited museum.

At the entrance of the palace was a woman selling seasonal fruit. It had a basket of peaches that looked spectacular, and they were delicious. That said, she charged us a euro for the piece.

The regular entrance price is € 5, and the 1st Sunday of each month can be visited free of charge.

Hours are from 9 am to 6 pm; the last entry is at 5:30 pm.

Related: Visit Porto on a weekend

Santo Antonio dos Capuchos Convent

It is a convent built in the seventeenth century in which the Casa da Misericordia installed its hospital in the mid-19th century.

You can take a tour; the entrance is € 2.

Convent of Santa Clara

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It has been the current town hall of Guimaraes since 1975. It was built in the sixteenth century and was a very important and rich convent. In it, the nuns prepared typical sweets and cakes of Guimaraes.

You can still buy these pastries in a few shops in the city. The cloister is very nice.

09.00h – 17.30h (5.30pm)
Free admission

Rua Santa Maria. Guimaraes

Rua de Santa Maria is one of the important streets of Guimaraes. At the time, it was one of the central streets of Guimaraes and still retains that medieval look.

It was very close to the convent of Santa Clara and came straight down from the Ducal Palace, so it was a street where famous people of the time lived.

Visit the City Walls

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Like any medieval city, it has (or had) walls. You can see some vestiges of the walls very close to the end of Rua Santa Maria.

This street ends in the center of Guimaraes. As I told you before, an inscription reads, “Portugal Was Born Here.”

Praça de S. Tiago

According to the legend, the Apostle James brought an image of the Virgin Mary and placed it in the square, which is why it is called St. Tiago’s Square.

There is a shell engraved on the ground and the first words of a letter from Fuero granted by D. Henrique to the inhabitants of Guimaraes.

Old Paços do Consello

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They are between the square of S. Tiago and Largo da Oliveira. Above the arches that join these two squares. In this building, the rulers met to make decisions. It’s from the 15th century.

Visit Oliveira Square (Largo da Oliveira)

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This square is named after the legend about a miracle about it. In this square, there was an olive tree that was dry right in front of the church.

A Norman cross was placed in the square in 1342, and at that time, the dry olive tree was reborn and flourished. It was considered a miracle of the Virgin, and the news ran like gunpowder.

For this reason, the square began to be called Largo da Oliveira, and the Church of Our Lady of Oliveira and the Virgin began to be called Our Lady of Oliveira.

In 1870, the olive tree was removed from the square against the people’s will, and although, in 1985, another olive tree was placed, it no longer took the same effect that the previous tree had had in the square for centuries.

Church of Our Lady of Oliveira

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This church is as old as Guimaraes Castle. In addition, Guimaraes was an important center of passage on the way to Santiago.

Let us not forget that the Legend of the Rooster of Portugal is due to a pilgrim of Santiago’s road (Camino de Santiago) and originates in Barcelos, a town neighboring Guimaraes.

Therefore, this church was the obligatory visit point for pilgrims heading to Santiago de Compostela.

In addition, it was in the square where the famous flowering olive tree was located and reached by many pilgrims and believers. Thus, it was a place of important pilgrimage and Collegiate from the twelfth century until 1911.

The collegiate church, Insigne e Real Collegiada de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira, has its origin in the monastery dedicated to the Savior of the World, the Virgin Mary, and the Holy Apostles and was founded in the 10th century by Countess Mumadona Dias.

The building of the Church of Nossa Senhora da Oliveira, as we see it today, is made up of elements dating from different eras, among which the Gothic style of the 14th century stands out.

It is the result of a reconstruction ordered by King Juan I, according to a master João García de Toledo project, in gratitude for a prayer addressed to the Virgin Mary on the eve of the battle of Aljubarrota.

This temple was consecrated in 1401. Its name Our Lady of Oliveira, to which it is dedicated, comes from an olive tree that was in the square.

At the end of the 17th century, Pedro II had the choir enlarged there, whose vault is still adorned with his royal coat of arms. Inside, also take a look at the paintings dating back to the 18th century, attributed to Pedro Alexandrino de Carvalho.

The tower is from 1513 and houses the tombs of the parents of the prior Dom Diogo Pinheiro, who had it rebuilt.

Padrão do Salado

A Padrao is a monument commemorating a great event. Padrão do Salado is located in Plaza de Oliveira itself and is a monument commemorating the salt’s battle.

Its four arches joined together, forming a kind of “porch.” Inside the Padrao is a Norman cross. The Norman cross inside is the famous cross that gave rise to the miracle of the Olive.

This cross was a gift from a famous merchant, Pere Esteves, two years after the Battle of the Salt.

Alberto Sampaio Museum

best things to see in guimaraes, Portugal

It is a museum that is located in the building that, at the time, belonged to the Collegiate Church of Our Lady of Oliveira.

The ticket is 3 euros, and you can buy a joint entrance with the ducal palace for 6 euros.

Largo do Toural

It is the most important and largest square in Guimaraes. It is called long do Toural by bulls and cattle because it was in this square where cattle fairs and bullfights were held.

Church of N. Sra. da Consolação e Santos Passos

This church is from the eighteenth century, although there was in its place a hermitage of the sixteenth century before.

It is better known as Igreja de S. Gualter, who is the city’s patron saint and celebrates the Gualterian Festivals.

Guimaraes Cable Car

It is a cable car that takes you to the Montanha da Penha, where you have spectacular views of the whole area and the real village. The ticket price is 5 euros round trip and is worth it.

We have come across cable cars and monuments much more expensive than this.

Guimaraes City Center

Located in the north of Portugal, Guimarães has a very well-preserved medieval old town listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

We recommend that you get carried away by the historic center, but do not forget to visit the essential places. Here is a summary:

  • Largo de Oliveira or Praça da Oliveira
  • Old Town Hall
  • The balconies of the houses around the square
  • The Church of Our Lady of Oliveira
  • The Padrão do Salado, a monument to the Battle of Salado
  • Praça de São Tiago (St. James Square in English)

Montanha da Penha

The Montanha da Penha is a natural space in which there is a sanctuary of Nossa Senhora do Carmo da Penha and can be seen from Guimaraes itself. It is a place to walk and enjoy nature.

There are camping spots, walking areas, restaurants, bars, esplanades, grottoes, and viewpoints with pleasant views.

Enjoy this wonderful little village!

Plan Your Trip to Portugal

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Last Updated on 5 October, 2023 by Veronica

Disclosure: Some of the links on this post are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.

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