Guimaraes Portugal is a delightful town to visit, especially if you are interested
in the country's history. The first capital of Portugal, Guimaraes enjoys a
reputation that is well defined. It is home to many historical attractions,
and thanks to its one time status, it is often labeled as the "Cradle of Portugal."
There is a lot to see and do when it comes to Guimaraes travel, which is why
a day trip from nearby Porto might not
suffice. The medieval core of the city alone could justify a stay of at least
a couple of days, as walking its labyrinth of streets is a joy worth experiencing
over and over.
The historic center of Guimaraes Portugal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and you might start your walking tour of it on Rua de Santa Maria. This street has changed little over the centuries, and it boasts some fascinating residences. Picturesque plazas with cafes and shops abound in the old town, and there are some good restaurants that you can visit as well when you fancy a break from sightseeing. The Rua de Santa Maria runs right into the very heart of the old town, where attractive buildings like the one that houses City Hall vie for space. The City Hall building was formerly a sixteenth century convent.
When you're not wandering around the tight streets in the old town district, stopping for a visit at the Castelo de Guimaraes is recommended. This castle dominates the town's skyline, and you might be surprised to know that work on it began in the tenth century. Extensions to the castle were added in the twelfth century. An imposing structure with eight crenelated towers, the Castelo de Guimaraes once served to protect the town's people from invading Moors and Normans.
Afonso Henriques, who was the first King of Portugal, is believed to have been born in the Castelo de Guimaraes, and some also speculate that he was likely baptized in the small, adjacent church. This church, which is locally known as the Igreja de Sao Miguel de Castelo, is a Romanesque structure that dates back to the twelfth century. If you pay to climb the stairs to the top of the keep at the castle, you'll enjoy views of the small church, as well as views of the Paco dos Duques palace, which is one of the other top attractions in Guimaraes.
Due to the fact that the Paco dos Duques palace has been restored to great length, many critics consider it to be lacking in interest. If you don't mind the fact that this structure, which was originally built in the fifteenth century, is heavily restored, a guided tour should prove rewarding. Churches are other things worth adding to your Guimaraes travel itinerary, and if you're short on time, you'll want to make a break for the Sao Francisco Church, which was originally built in 1400 and restored in the 1700s. It features both Gothic and Renaissance traits. In addition to keeping the attractions in Guimaraes in mind when planning your visit, you'll also do well to consider the local festivals.
Come early August, Guimaraes Portugal celebrates the Festas de Cidade e Gualterianas, which is a week-long festival that features a fair, plenty of live music, folk dancing exhibitions, bullfights, parades, and just about everything else that you can imagine. Another festival that you might base your Guimaraes travel plans around is the Jazz Festival, which is one of the best music festivals in the country. It takes place over the course of three weeks in November. Guimaraes Portugal certainly has a lot to offer, and since it's only 30 miles northeast of Porto, you could easily pair the two destinations together and make quite a vacation out of it. You just might want to book your stay at one of the Guimaraes hotels for an extended period. Between the attractions in Guimaraes and the attractions in Porto, staying busy won't be difficult.