A weekend in Guimaraes, Northern Portugal
To spend a weekend in Guimaraes is a marvellous choice as the city offers all visitors culture, history, nature and a magnificent gastronomy.
“It is funny how I am feeling like a medieval peasant, like the ones we see at those movies with kings and queens, in spite of wearing my modern and fashionable clothes!” – and so with these words my 12 years old daughter described – with that innocent wisdom only children have – the exact sensation that hit us as soon as we enter the historic centre of Guimaraes, World Heritage since 2001. In fact, the well-preserved medieval architecture takes you into a voyage in time, namely to the early days of Portugal, making you to ignore the obvious signs of modernity like electricity, people modern looks, outdoor cafes, restaurants and bars where you may sit down to have a magnificent meal or a relaxing drink while enjoying the unique fairy tale ambience.
If Lisbon is the place to go to experience the glory days of the Age of Discoveries, Guimaraes is the commendatory stop for all who want to understand the birth of the Portuguese nation. Wandering through the narrow and enchanted medieval streets of the city will get into the right mood to visit the magnificent Guimaraes castle where supposedly Afonso Henriques the first Portuguese king was born, the nearby Church of St. Michael where our king was baptized and, finally, the Ducal Palace, built during the 15th century under the orders of D. Afonso, the illegitimate son of king John I and Inês Pires Esteves and 1st Duque of the House of Bragança. Of course, don’t miss the chance to take a photo next to the statue of Afonso Henriques, the king who fulfilled his father’s dream of transforming the County of Portugal, part of the Kingdom of León, into the independent Kingdom of Portugal, defeating his mother and her Galician allies at São Mamede battle that occurred at São Mamede field, near Guimaraes castle, on June 24th, 1128. For further information on this impressive heritage core I advise you to go to http://pduques.imc-ip.pt/en-GB/Default.aspxa>.
Yet, Guimaraes is not just about our past, Guimaraes is also about our present and our future. Elected as European Capital of Culture 2012, the city is boosting with life. Cultural events are held not only indoors in theatres, museums or art galleries (all worthy of a visit!) for instance but also outdoors in the streets – we were thrilled with a capoeira demonstration held on Praça de Santiago, the heart of the historic centre along with Largo da Oliveira. Speaking about hearts, it is incredible what locals have done with the symbol of the event, a heart; remarkably there are hearts for every taste decorating the shops windows, illustrating local pride and commitment to the event. If you are interest in knowing more about the agenda of Guimaraes European Capital of Culture, just click here.
Your stay in Guimaraes should not end without a visit to Penha Mountain also named Saint Catherine Mountain, the highest peak of the Guimaraes area from where you may see as far as to the sea. Besides its natural beauty, this pilgrimage place is renowned by Penha Sanctuary, the statue of Pope Pio IX, the innumerous caves and belvederes. Even though there is a road, the best way to get up there is by the cable car that links Guimaraes and Penha in about 10 minutes voyage, which allows you to enjoy the magnificent views over the valley and the mountain.
With an amazing gastronomy, and a a great offer of hotels, Guimaraes is surely a good choice for a perfect weekend. Lonely Planet seems to agree with me as it elected the city as one of the top 10 cities for 2012.
- Palace of the Dukes of Bragança, Castle of Guimaraes and Church of St. Michael:From Tuesday to Sunday, from 10.00 h to 18.00 h
Last admission: 17:30 h
Closes Mondays and following public holidays: 1st of January, Easter Sunday, 1st of May and 25th December.
Entrance fees – Ducal Palace
- Normal fee: 5.00€
- Free entrance:
Sundays and holidays – until 2:00 PM*;
Children under 14 years old;
Members of APOM/ICOM, upon documents presentation;
* The free entrance for groups is limited and must be schedule (at least 8 days) by e-mail, where must be the entity identification, number of persons, the visit’s date and hour, and a contact of the group’s responsible. The authorization given by the Ducal Palace Director must be printed and shown at the Palace reception on the visit’s day.
- Discount of 60%:
- Discount of 50%:
Persons over 65 years old.
- Special Discounts:
Family ticket – 50% of discount for children (sons) between 15 and 18 years old when accompanied by one of the parents.
Groups over 100 persons (tickets must be bought in advance – at least 24h)