Guimarães is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was the European Capital of Culture in 2012, two great accolades for the city. One of the country's most historical cities, it's known as the "Cradle of Portugal" since it was from there the "Condado Portucalense" grew into today's Portugal. The historical centre has a medieval castle and a royal palace open to visitors. The castle has been classified as one of the New Portuguese Seven Wonders. The first king, D. Afonso Henriques (aka Afonso I of Portugal), is still idolized by the city. About 50 km from Porto, Guimarães is near Penha, a mountain with wonderful views over the city.
The easiest way to go to Guimarães by plane is to fly to Francisco Sa Caneiro airport in Porto then, catch a train or a bus to Guimarães. By bus it's about one hour from Oporto to Guimarães and almost one and a half hours by train.
From the Porto Airport, one can catch the following transports to Guimarães.
Board the Metro Porto at the Airport Metro station and go to the Campanhã or São Bento railway stations in Porto, from there you will get a train to Guimarães (1 hr 15 min, about €5).
There are direct [http://www.getbus.eu inter-city bus connections between Guimarães and Porto Airport everyday (50 min, €7.50 one-way, €12 return).
The taxi rank is on the ground level in the street next to Porto's Airport main entrance and exit doors (40 min, about €60).
Train is the cheapest and the best way to arrive in Guimarães. The Portuguese Railways Company CP is the service provider. Travelling from Lisbon there are trains, but not many directly going to Guimarães. The trip from Lisbon lasts four hours or longer. From Porto (Oporto), there's a train every hour.
Travelling by train from Europe, on InterRail, for example, one always goes to Porto (Oporto) first, and there change to the Guimarães train. This trip offers the best of both worlds by being the cheapest and taking one along a line full of very scenic landscapes through villages and rural areas of Minho.
Guimarães is well served by the national road network system, from Braga, Porto, Felgueiras, Chaves, and others. If you are traveling from the south of Portugal it's not difficult. The Portuguese highways are well connected and to reach Guimarães, one needs to go via Porto (Oporto), when near Porto (Oporto) start looking out for the A7 Autostrada (Highway A7) signage which leads to Guimarães. It's quite easy.
Rede Expressos [dead link] is a national bus company and a nice option to get to Guimarães. With this company one can travel to almost every major city in Portugal.
If one travels from cities near Guimarães, like Braga or Porto for example, one may have to ask someone (a very common thing in Portugal) where is the bus terminus to Guimarães. A good strategy is to look for bus terminus near railway stations, since transport hubs are near each other (you can do this in cities within about 50 km). The bus may make many stops along the trip, but it's a way to get to know the northern part of Portugal better.
In Guimarães, there is a sightseeing bus that travels through the city centre. But being a small city centre, you probably will want to also walk around to get the feeling of the small old streets and enjoy what the historical center of this medieval city has to offer. If you normally like to purchase a multi trip ticket to travel in bigger cities, in Guimarães, being a small city, it's not worth it. But if you want to travel by bus, the ticket prices are about €1,25.
To go to Penha Mountain, the easy option to go up is on the Elevators - Teleférico da Penha -. If you want to stroll through the mountain it's very safe. If you decide to walk up the mountain, the roads are alright but it will take about 30 minutes.
Renting a car can be a nice solution, because in a small city there isn't much traffic congestion. If you want to stay in a place "far" from the centre, car rental is practical and not too expensive.
- 1 Guimarães Castle. in the very centre of the city, this castle have been constructed in the 10th century, ordered by Mumadona Dias, with the purpose to defend the city from the Muslims. The first name of the Castle was "São Mamede Castle", name given by Mumadona. The first king, Afonso Henriques, lived in this Ccstle, and started conquering Portugal from the Muslims from this place. Very well kept, the castle is of the greatest historical symbols in Portugal. It has been classified by UNESCO as World Heritage.
- 2 Dukes of Braganza Palace (Paço dos Duques de Bragança). Probably built between 1420 and 1422, for Afonso, Count of Barcelos - bastard son of king John I of Portugal and future Duke of Bragança. Today, the Palace of the dukes is classified as a National Monument. It has, in its structure, a museum; the main façade in the 2nd floor is the official residence for the Presidency of the Republic.
- 3 Penha Mountain. The only mountain in Guimarães, when you can have a wonderful view over the city. You can go there through an elevator, where you can taste a little more of the mountain spirit, and at the same time get different views of the city.
- 4 Largo da Oliveira (Olive Square). one of the most beautiful places in the city, where you can really feel the ancient times. It's a good place to sit, and have a drink, and look at old construction and typical houses. Here you have Igreja da Oliveira (Olive Church) and the Padrão do Salado(in the photo, at Praça da Oliveira).
- 5 Casa de Sezim (Sezim Manor) (in Nespereira, about 5 km away from the city centre). This old manor has astonishing saloons decorated with hand painted wallpaper from 19th century from the French painter Roquemont. Casa de Sezim became the ancestral home of the present family in 1376. The original vellum documents still exist and record that Maria Mendes Serrazinha gave Casa de Sezim to Afonso Martins, a descendant of D. João de Freitas, companion of the first king of Portugal, D. Afonso Henriques. The document states that Casa de Sezim was given to Afonso Martins in recognition of As boas graças que dele recebeu e espera receber e por crença que lhe fez, the good works received from him and hope to receive and for his trusting belief. The beauty of Casa de Sezim is not only in its harmonious lines or the impressive façade of its majestic entrance, as within its walls hang early 19th century panoramic wallpapers, scenes from both of the new and old world, of sufficient rarity to have become a motive of international curiosity. You can enjoy the gardens and the property, as well as taste the famous wine (vinho verde).The surroundings are attractive for the hiking and mountain biking. You can also sleep there on request.
- 6 Citânia de briteiros, Estrada Nacional 309, km 55, São Salvador de Briteiros (some 15 km north), ☏ . An important Celtic-Iberian era castro archaeological site with iron age roots. On the EN309 road, not far from Requeixo, this proto-urban site provides an insight into a indigenous people's way of life before being disrupted by the Roman invasions.
Watch football, i.e. soccer, at Vitória SC, who play in Primeira Liga, the top tier of Portuguese football. Their home ground Estádio D. Afonso Henriques (capacity 30,000) is just north of town centre.
- Mini Golfe Penha, Rua da Floresta (about 25 minute walk from the Penha Mountain main complex), ☏ . Friendly mini-golf course on the Penha Mountain attraction. It has a car park, toilets, cafe, and seating area. ~€2 per person.
- Festas de Cidade e Gualterianas, Guimarães town centre. First weekend in August (F-Su). The programme often includes music events, fireworks, and a drumming procession around the historic town centre. Free.
Templo da gula, Rua São Gonçalo, 1673, serves modern cuisine, with a menu that changes every season.
An escapade to Largo da Oliveira is always a good choice, cosmopolitan feel with lots of inviting cafes.
- Hotel Ibis Guimarães, Avenida Conde Margaride 12 Creixomil, ☏ .
- Hostel Prime Guimaraes, Rua da Liberdade 42+44 S.Sebastiao, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com.