7 Best Things to Do in Guimaraes

Written By Lara Silva

Guimaraes, a beautiful city located in northern Portugal, is known for its rich history and charming atmosphere. As the birthplace of Portugal’s first king, Afonso Henriques, Guimarães is often referred to as the “Cradle City” and is a popular destination for those seeking to explore the country’s cultural heritage.

If you are planning a visit, you are in luck! Guimarães offers visitors a variety of activities and attractions to enjoy. Let’s take a look at the 7 best things to do in Guimaraes that you must not miss!

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1. Castle of Guimarães

The Castle of Guimaraes is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a must-see when you visit this northern city. This castle is considered one of the most important monuments in Portugal and is an incredible visit for anyone interested in history and architecture.

The castle was built in the 10th century and was the birthplace of Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal. It was originally built as a simple fortification, but over time, it was expanded and transformed into the impressive structure that we see today.

The entrance to the castle is through a drawbridge, and once inside, visitors can explore its towers, walls, and dungeons. 

The Castle of Guimaraes was the site of several battles and was a key strategic point during the Reconquista, the period when the Christians recaptured the Iberian Peninsula from the Moors.

Guimaraes Castle. Photo by luis castro (Unsplash)

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2. Palace of the Dukes of Braganza

The Palace of the Dukes of Braganza is an impressive 15th-century palace located in the historic center of Guimaraes. It was the residence of the Dukes of Braganza, one of the most powerful families in Portugal during the Middle Ages.

Today, the palace is a museum that showcases the history and culture of the region. The palace is a prime example of Gothic architecture and is made up of two main parts, the residential wing and the military wing.

Visitors to the palace can explore its lavish rooms and ornate decorations, including the impressive chapel, which is decorated with intricate carvings and frescoes.

The palace also features a beautiful courtyard and gardens, which offer a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. 

3. Walk through the Historic Center of Guimarães

The Historic Center of Guimaraes is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is considered one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Europe. We recommend taking a walk through the area, where you will find several historic landmarks, including the Castle of Guimaraes and the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza. 

The center is made up of picturesque streets and alleyways filled with colorful houses, cafes, and shops. The city’s main square, Largo da Oliveira, is a popular gathering spot for locals and visitors alike. 

Book Guimaraes Old Town Walking Tour

4. Take a cable car ride

Taking a cable car ride in Guimaraes is an exciting and unique way to explore the city and take in its stunning views. The cable car ride starts from the base of Penha Hill, just outside the city center, and takes visitors on a scenic journey up to the top of the hill, where they can enjoy panoramic views of the city and surrounding countryside.

Along the way, you will be able to take in breathtaking views of the city’s historic landmarks, including the Castle of Guimaraes and the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza. The ride lasts approximately 10 minutes; visitors can choose to ride one way or return.

At the top of Penha Hill, you can explore the Penha Sanctuary, which takes us to activity #5.

5. Serra da Penha

Serra da Penha is a stunning natural park located just outside the city of Guimaraes, and it is a must-visit destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. The park is home to lush forests, scenic trails, and breathtaking vistas, and it offers visitors a chance to explore the natural beauty of the region.

One of the highlights of Serra da Penha is the Penha Mountain, which towers over the park and you can get to through a cable ride from Penha Hill. 

Serra da Penha is home to several walking and hiking trails that wind through the park’s forests and hills. Visitors can explore the park’s diverse flora and fauna, including oak and chestnut trees, wildflowers, and a variety of bird species.

The park is also home to several picnic areas and rest stops, making it an excellent destination for a day trip or a weekend getaway.

In addition to its natural beauty, Serra da Penha is home to several historic landmarks, including the Penha Sanctuary, which dates back to the 18th century. The sanctuary features a beautiful chapel, gardens, and walking trails and is a popular destination for religious pilgrimages.

6. Alberto Sampaio Museum

The Alberto Sampaio Museum was founded in 1928 and named after Alberto Sampaio, a Portuguese historian and archivist who dedicated his life to the study and preservation of Portuguese history and culture.

The museum is housed in a former convent of the Augustinian Order, which was built in the 10th century and expanded in the 14th and 16th centuries. The building is a remarkable example of Portuguese religious architecture, with Gothic and Manueline elements, and it is classified as a National Monument.

The museum’s collection focuses on the religious art and history of the region of Minho, which includes Guimarães and its surroundings. It includes a large number of sculptures, paintings, textiles, and goldsmith works, dating from the 13th to the 19th century.

7. Discover the cuisine

Guimaraes is known for its rich gastronomy, combining the flavors of the countryside and the sea. The traditional cuisine of Guimarães is based on simple but flavorful dishes that use local ingredients, such as codfish, octopus, pork, and veal.

One of the most famous dishes is Arroz de Sarrabulho, a rice dish made with pork blood, meat, and spices. Another traditional dish is Papas de Sarrabulho, a soup made with pork meat and blood, bread, and spices.

The city is also known for its delicious desserts, such as Toucinho do Céu, a cake made with almonds, sugar, and eggs, and Pão-de-Ló, a fluffy sponge cake.

But where should you try these delicious dishes? One of the most popular restaurants in Guimaraes is Cozinha da Maria, located in the historical center of the city. Another top restaurant is Ferrugem, located in a rustic stone house on the outskirts of the city. 

Toucinho do Céu. Photo by PortoBay Experiences (Flickr)
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