Earning UNESCO World Heritage status in the Minho region of northern Portugal, Guimarães is reverentially referred to as the “Cradle of the Nation.” Besides being the birthplace of the country’s first king, Afonso Henriques, Guimarães was the first capital of the newly created kingdom of “Portucale” and is rightly proud of its place in Portuguese history. Its landmark castle , a medieval marvel, dominates the skyline of the old town. The ancient stronghold, together with the nearby Paço dos Duques, is indicative of the abundance of well-preserved buildings and historical monuments that embellish the maze of picturesque narrow streets, converging on the city’s tourist-friendly central square, Largo da Oliveira. Adding to the allure are some fantastic museums housed in beautiful monasteries and monasteries. Sightseeing extends to the city’s outlying districts, where green forests and fun water parks are waiting to be explored. And not far from Guimarães is one of Portugal’s most impressive archaeological sites and a deserved tourist attraction in its own right, the evocative Citânia de Briteiros .
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1 Guimarães Castle
The Castle of Guimarães, large in the center of the city, is one of the most complete and best preserved medieval strongholds in Portugal. Dating from the 10th century, the enormous square tower and the eight crenellated towers that surround it remain a well-known and beloved monument. The castle is believed to be the birthplace in 1110 of Portugal’s first king, Afonso Henriques, and as such is considered by many to be a national shrine; the much-frequented font in which he was baptized is kept in the Romanesque chapel of São Miguel, hidden in the western end of the castle. Mass is celebrated here annually on the king’s birthday to commemorate the event. The aforementioned keep – known as the Torre de Menagem – reportedly housed an 11th-century Benedictine monastery founded by the Countess Mumadona. Visitors can walk up the heavy curtain walls and scale the narrow steps to the top of the tower, where fine views of the city and landscape can be admired
Address: Rua Conde Dom Henrique, Guimarães
Official site: https://pduques.culturanorte.pt/pt-PT/castelo/ContentDetail.aspx
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Guimaraes
2 Palace of the Dukes of Bragança
Palace of the Dukes of Bragança
At the foot of the castle hill is the palace of the Dukes of Braganza. Begun in 1401 on the orders of Dom Afonso, the first Duke of Bragança, this beautiful royal residence follows a Burgundian style of architecture in deference to Dom Afonso’s taste for all things French. The palace was completed in 1442 but fell into disuse after the seat of the Bragança family was transferred to Vila Viçosa in the early 16th century. In 1933, the building was extensively renovated to become the official presidential residence during the dictatorship of António Salazar. A tour of the palace takes in most of the rooms and their 16th-century furnishings and includes a visit to a small museum displaying Persian carpets, Flemish carpets, medieval weapons and a collection of rare paintings. The chapel is known for its vibrant stained glass windows. The city is located about 200 kilometers from GuimarãesBragança , the original seat of the House of Bragança, which ruled in Portugal from 1640 to 1910.
Address: Rua Conde Dom Henrique, Guimarães
Official site: https://pduques.culturanorte.pt
3 Alberto Sampaio Museum
Enjoy a fantastic filming location in the serene Romanesque monastery of Nossa Senhora da Oliveira, the Alberto Sampaio Museum was created to showcase the religious works of art belonging to the monastery and other churches in the Guimarães region. The repository of ecclesiastical treasures spans the 14th to 18th centuries and includes an impressive collection of medieval and Renaissance sculpture, paintings and ceramics; embroidered robes; an excellent array of rare jewelry; and items such as processional crosses and gold and silver chalices. The Santa Clara Room is an Aladdin’s lair of gilded carvings. Central to the permanent exhibition is the beautiful 14th-century gilded silver altarpiece and the tunic worn by João I at the battle of Aljubarrota in 1385.
Address: Rua Alfredo Guimarães, Guimarães
Official site: https://masampaio.culturanorte.pt
4 Largo da Oliveira
With its picture postcard appearance and venerable atmosphere, Largo da Oliveira exudes a truly medieval aspect. Surrounded by time-worn cobblestone streets and heavily landscaped granite facades, the old square is the historic center of old Guimarães. Some of the city’s most recognized tourist attractions are located in the square’s beautiful arcades. A the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira , dominates the location. This former monastery, founded by Afonso Henriques in the 12th century, stands on the site of an earlier monastery built 200 years earlier. Much of the original structure has been demolished and the current church is largely 16th century – the Manueline bell tower was added in the early 16th century. The quiet monastery houses itMuseu de Alberto Sampaio . In front of the church is the Padrão do Salado , a 14th-century Gothic sanctuary shielding a cross. The monument is said to mark the spot where an olive tree was transplanted in the 13th century to provide oil for the altar lamp.
Location: Largo da Oliveira, Guimarães
5 Martins Sarmento Museum
Archeology enthusiasts are in for a treat at the Martins Sarmento Museum. It is no coincidence that the facility is named after the man who excavated Citânia de Briteiros in 1875 – one of the most impressive archaeological sites in Portugal. The museum is imaginatively housed in the cloister of the 14th-century Monastery of São Domingos , and the Gothic setting gives the collection a mysterious and strangely romantic feel. The majority of the exhibition consists of Celtiberian artifacts excavated from prehistoric Citânia de Briteiros and Castro de Sabroso, but also included are a large number of finds from other northern Portuguese Iron Age sites. Some of these date back to the Stone Age and together offer the visitor a fascinating glimpse into the region’s Palaeolithic and Neolithic past.
Address: Rua Paio Galvão, Guimarães
6 Convent and Church of São Francisco
Located outside the old city center, the ornate Monastery and Church of São Francisco is celebrated for the 18th-century azulejos that adorn its choir. The tiles depict the life of St Anthony in a series of vibrant blue and white panels that flow in style and harmony with the Gothic dome of the main chapel. The church foundations date back to the 1400s, but the building underwent significant reconstruction in the 1740s. In addition to the tilework, visitors should look out for the beautiful carvings that decorate the nave, whose wooden roof is a beautiful example of trompe l’oeil painting. Other notable features include the large arch of gilded woodwork that separates the choir from the Gothic transept, and the two-tiered cloister.
Address: Largo de São Francisco, Guimarães
7 Penha de Santa Catarina
Penha de Santa Catarina
Reached by a picturesque mountain road that winds and meanders through green rolling forests, the Penha de Santa Catarina Park is an ideal excursion for those tourists seeking tranquility in the city, especially during the often stifling summer heat. Rising to a height of 620 meters and yet only seven kilometers southeast of the center of Guimarães, the green space is part of a National Ecological Reserve and covers 50 hectares. A true haven of flora and fauna, it is a serious area for picnicking and is a favorite destination for families. A labyrinth of hiking trails can be followed that trace through a lush environment of ancient trees and enormous granite boulders, many carved with steps. On the lower slopes of the hill is the former monastery of Santa Marinha da Costa.pousada hotel property, but the gardens and chapel are open to the general public. Climbing to the top (which, by the way, is accessible by cable car) is the Santuário Nossa Senhora do Carmo da Penha , an important pilgrimage site. The terrace surrounding the church offers fantastic views over Guimarães.
Location: Monte da Penha, Guimarães
Official site: https://www.penhaguimaraes.com
8 Citânia de Briteiros
The Iron Age settlement of Citânia de Briteiros, located 15 kilometers north of Guimarães, is one of the most important archaeological sites in Portugal. It is worth spending time exploring the settlement, founded by Celtiberians around 500 BC but most likely under Roman rule from 20 BC. The old town, surrounded by weathered walls, includes the foundations of 150 single-room houses, round, oval or rectangular in plan and built of stone. Some huts have been reconstructed to give an idea of their design. Excavations reveal an extensive urban network of paved streets, underground cisterns, sewers, water pipes and even a fountain.
Fragments of pottery, carved stones, jewelry and other artifacts unearthed during the excavations are now on display at the Museu Martins Sarmento , named after the archaeologist who discovered the site in 1874. Already evocative in its beautiful isolation, the best views of the site can be reached by following the thick cobblestone path to the top of the hill.
Address: EN 309, Monte São Romão, Briteiros Salvador, Guimarães
Official site: https://citania.csarmento.uminho.pt/default.asp?language=2
9 Scorpio Water Park
For those traveling in the area with kids in mid-summer and looking for a way to keep them occupied, Scorpio Water Park’s plethora of themed attractions will work wonders. This first-class leisure site, two kilometers from the city centre, is one of the most popular things to do for families. It consists of two swimming pools, one for adults and older children; the other for young people. But the fun really starts at Fantasyland, the park’s purpose-built arena based on Guimarães Castle, where kids can enjoy using multi-track water slides, playing under fountains and getting to grips with the pool’s toy aquatic animals. Those feeling fat can ride the “Scorpio Tower”, a 30-meter water tube. But the real test is the “Waterslide”, a 40-meter aqua splash slide that rises a dizzying distance of six meters from the ground.
Adres: Community Sports and Leisure Center, Multipurpose of Guimarães, Guimarães
Tips and tours: how to make the most of your visit to Guimãraes
Portugal’s Minho region is a lush, mountainous province of enviable beauty, dotted with noble cities and national monuments. This is an area of surprising contrasts, not least in relation to the weather; summer can be stifling hot, while winter often brings heavy rain and even snow. Whatever time of year you visit, the easiest way to absorb the region’s sights is to join a guided tour with an expert guide.
- Day Trip from Porto: The Guimarães and Braga Small Group Tour with Lunch from Porto takes in two important historical destinations, each exuding a fascinating medieval atmosphere. Stroll through their charming streets and squares to see top attractions such as the Palace of the Dukes of Bragança and Castle in Guimarães and the beautiful Cathedral and Shrine of Bom Jesus in Braga. Entrance fees, lunch, and hotel pickup and drop-off are included.
More Must-See Places to Visit near Guimãraes
Its central location in the Minho region allows visitors to plan some great trips through the northern areas of the country from Guimarães. Study our itinerary page to find out which route suits you. Along the way you will be welcomed by some of the best places to visit in Portugal, such as Porto and Braga, and some of the top-rated tourist attractions in the country.