Guimarães: The Complete Guide

Hall Of The Dukes Of Bragança In Guimarães, Portugal
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Feliciano Guimarães

Guimarães, often regarded by the Portuguese as the birthplace of their country, is blessed with an abundance of riches that can be almost overwhelming. Nestled at the base of a mountain range, this city, which served as the first capital of Portugal, has managed to preserve a medieval ambience at its core. It was in Guimarães where Afonso Henríques, the first king of Portugal and son of Henri de Bourgogne, a French nobleman, and his wife, Teresa, the daughter of the king of León and Castile, was born. Teresa, who received the county of Portucale as her dowry, eventually gave rise to the name “Portugal.” The area that comprised Portucale was the land that lay between the Douro and the Minho, which included present-day Porto. Teresa and Henri chose Guimarães as their court, where Afonso Henríques was born.

After the death of Henri, Teresa became the regent for the infant king. However, her affair with a count from Galicia and her strong ties with her native Spain caused her to fall out of favor with her subjects. Afonso, as a young man, led a rebellion against the regent’s forces outside Guimarães in 1128. His major victory came in 1139 when he defeated the Moors near Santarém. He broke away from León and Castile and declared himself king of Portucale. In 1143, Spain recognized the newly established kingdom.

In addition to Afonso Henríques, Guimarães was also the birthplace of Gil Vicente (1465–1537?), who is considered the father of Portuguese theatre and is often called the Shakespeare of Portugal. Although trained as a goldsmith, Vicente entertained the courts of both João II and Manuel I with his farces and tragicomedies, as well as his religious dramas.

Nowadays, Guimarães is a bustling town with a keen interest in trade, particularly in weaving, tanning, and the production of kitchenware and cutlery. It is also renowned for its handicraft industries, such as pottery, silver- and goldsmithing, and embroidery.

History of Guimarães

Guimarães is one of Portugal’s most historically significant cities, often celebrated as the “birthplace of the nation.” It was here that Afonso Henriques, who would become the first king of Portugal, was born in the 12th century. The city’s history is closely tied to the foundation and identity of Portugal as a nation.

Medieval Origins:

  • The city was established in the 9th century as Vimaranes, believed to be named after a founding lord Vimara Peres. Its strategic importance was recognized early on due to its favorable position at the crossroads of major trade routes.

12th Century:

  • Guimarães rose to prominence when Afonso Henriques declared it the capital of the Kingdom of Portugal after his victory at the Battle of São Mamede in 1128, fought near the city’s castle. This event is often considered the pivotal moment in the emergence of Portugal as a sovereign nation.

UNESCO World Heritage Site:

  • The historical center of Guimarães was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001, recognized for its exceptionally well-preserved medieval buildings and its role in Portuguese history.

Throughout the centuries, Guimarães has maintained its historical significance and continued to preserve its medieval character, offering a window into Portugal’s past with its ancient buildings, cobbled streets, and monumental landmarks. Today, it is a vibrant city that honors its rich heritage while embracing modernity, making it a must-visit for anyone interested in Portuguese culture and history.

Visiting Guimarães for the first time and wondering what are the top places to see in the city? In this complete guide, I share the best things to do in Guimarães on the first visit. To help you plan your trip, I have also included an interactive map and practical tips for visiting!

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17 Best places to See in Guimarães

This complete guide to Guimarães not only tells you about the very best sights and tourist attractions for first-time visitors to the city but also provide insights into a few of our personal favorite things to do.

This is a practical guide to visiting the best places to see in Guimarães and is filled with tips and info that should answer all your questions!

Alberto Sampaio Museum

Museu De Alberto Sampaio In Guimaraes
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Krzysztof Golik
Established in 1928, the Alberto Sampaio Museum was created to house the art and various artifacts belonging to the former Collegiate Church of Nossa Senhora da Oliveira, as well as other churches and convents in Guimarães. The museum is located in the heart of the old historic centre of the city, which has been designated […]
Location: Museu de Alberto Sampaio, Rua Alfredo Guimarães, Guimaraes, Portugal | Hours: 10am-6pm Tue-Sun | Price: adult/child €3/free, Sun morning free | Website | Distance: 0.00km
Visiting Alberto Sampaio Museum

We recommend to rent a car in Portugal through Discover Cars, they compare prices and review multiple car rental agencies. Book your rental car here.

Largo da Oliveira

Largo Da Oliveira Guimarães
CC BY-SA 2.0 / manuelfouce
Considered today as the heart of the city, in the 17th century it was an extramural square next to the main gate of the village, where the cattle fair and other products were held. It was named after a centuries-old olive tree that was planted here. In 1791 the Council allocated the land next to […]
Location: Largo da Oliveira, Guimaraes, Portugal | Distance: 0.10km
Visiting Largo da Oliveira

Click here to read our blog about Self-guided Tour of Guimarães (with photos & map!)

Praça de São Tiago

Edificios Na Praça De Santiago
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Feliciano Guimarães
Praça de São Tiago or Praça de Santiago is a plaza or square in Guimarães, Portugal. Legend has it that the apostle S. Tiago brought an image of the Virgin Mary to Guimarães, which was then placed in a pagan temple located in a square that later became known as Praça de S. Tiago. Despite […]
Location: Praça de São Tiago, Guimaraes, Portugal | Distance: 0.20km
Visiting Praça de São Tiago

Rua de Santa Maria

Rua De Santa Maria, Guimaraes
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Ramón
Rua de Santa Maria is the oldest and most picturesque street in Guimarães’ old town, it meanders down the slope from north to south. Rua de Santa Maria boasts many sophisticated examples of 15th and 16th century architecture that were popular among Guimarães’ nobility and affluent families. The street was initially designed to connect the […]
Location: Rua de Santa Maria, Guimarães, Portugal | Distance: 0.20km
Visiting Rua de Santa Maria

Igreja de São Francisco Guimarães

Igreja De São Francisco Guimarães
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Pedro
Igreja de Sao Francisco is a gothic church that underwent numerous changes, especially in the 18th century. In the main chapel, the most notable Johannine altarpiece in the city stands out, the gilded altarpieces, rocaille-style valances and tiles depicting scenes from the life of Christ. Also worth a close look are the sacristy, with its […]
Location: Igreja de São Francisco, Rua Padre Gaspar Roriz, Guimarães, Portugal | Hours: 9.30am-noon & 3-5pm Tue-Sat, 9.30am-1pm Sun | Distance: 0.20km
Visiting Igreja de São Francisco Guimarães

Convento de Santa Clara (Guimarães)

Convento De Santa Clara Guimarães
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Ramón
The former Convent of St. Clare (“Convento de Santa Clara de Guimarães”, in the Portuguese language), built back in 1548 and occupied by the nuns between 1562 and 1891 (when the last surviving nun died). In 1968 it was designated as the City Hall of Guimarães, housing also the municipal archives. The entrance is free […]
Location: Antigo Convento de Santa Clara, Largo Cónego José Maria Gomes, Guimarães, Portugal | Distance: 0.20km
Visiting Convento de Santa Clara (Guimarães)

Largo do Toural

Largo Do Toural
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Halley Oliveira
Largo do Toural holds a significant place as one of the most central and crucial squares in the city of Guimarães, Portugal. It has a rich history that dates back to the 17th century when it was used as a marketplace to sell oxen and other goods. Although it was once located outside the city […]
Location: Largo do Toural, Guimaraes, Portugal | Distance: 0.30km
Visiting Largo do Toural

Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Consolação (Guimarães)

Igreja De Nossa Senhora Da Consolação E Santos Passos
CC BY-SA 2.0 / xlibber
At the termination of an extensive and graceful formal garden stands the slender Church of Our Lady of Consolation and the Holy Steps, which is considered one of Portugal’s most exquisite baroque churches. Its construction commenced in the 18th century, and two pointed towers were later added almost a century afterward. The steps and balustrade […]
Location: Igreja e Oratórios de Nossa Senhora da Consolação e Santos Passos, Largo de São Brás, Guimarães, Portugal | Hours: Monday to Saturday: 8 am-12 pm / 3 pm - 5 pm; Sunday 8 am-12 pm. | Distance: 0.30km
Visiting Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Consolação (Guimarães)

Largo dos Laranjais

Casa E Largo Dos Laranjais
CC BY-SA 2.0 / José Antonio Gil Martínez
Largo dos Laranjais or the Square of the Orange Trees is a charming small square adorned with stone benches and a delightful orange grove. The orange trees stand out beautifully against the square’s backdrop, creating a picturesque scene.  The square is overlooked by a tall medieval tower – the Casa dos Laranjais. Casa dos Laranjais […]
Location: Largo dos Laranjais, Guimaraes, Portugal | Hours: 24 Hours | Distance: 0.30km
Visiting Largo dos Laranjais

Fonte do Largo Dr. João da Mota Prego (Guimarães)

Fonte Do Largo Dr. João Da Mota Prego
CC BY-SA 4.0 / John Samuel
Fonte do Largo Dr. João da Mota Prego is a small green area in the heart of the Historic Centre, with two olive trees and a lavender plantation, which on summer days leaves an unforgettable scent on passers-by. This square is adorned by a Fountain, also known as “Tanque de Santo António” (its name comes […]
Visiting Fonte do Largo Dr. João da Mota Prego (Guimarães)

Muralhas de Guimaraes

Muralhas De Guimarães
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Reis Quarteu
The Muralhas or Walls of Guimaraes were built around the 9th century. The first part to be walled was the upper city or village, called Vila do Castelo. Construction of the wall started in the reign of D. Afonso III and was completed in the reign of D. Dinis. The wall stretched about two kilometres […]
Visiting Muralhas de Guimaraes

Paço dos Duques de Bragança

Paço Dos Duques De Bragança
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Donald Judge
The construction of the Palace of the Dukes of Bragança was initiated in the early 15th century, with a design based on French manor houses. It was commissioned by D. Afonso de Barcelos, the illegitimate son of D. João, Master of Avis and future king D. João I, who became the first Duke of Bragança. […]
Location: Paço dos Duques de Bragança, Rua Conde Dom Henrique, Guimaraes, Portugal | Hours: 10am-6pm | Price: adult/child €5/free | Website | Distance: 0.40km
Visiting Paço dos Duques de Bragança

Martins Sarmento Society

Soc Martins Sarmento
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Manuelvbotelho
Established in 1881, the Martins Sarmento Society is a cultural organization that boasts a diverse and valuable heritage. Among its notable possessions is the Martins Sarmento Archaeological Museum, a premier source of information on pre-Roman cultures in Portugal and one of the most significant museums dedicated to these cultures across Europe. Located within the 14th-century […]
Location: Sociedade Martins Sarmento, Rua Paio Galvão, Guimaraes, Portugal | Hours: Tuesday-Friday: 9:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m./ 2:30 p.m.–5:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday: 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m./ 2:30-5:30 p.m. Closed: Monday and public holidays | Website | Distance: 0.40km
Visiting Martins Sarmento Society

Igreja de São Miguel do Castelo

Portugal, Guimaraes, Paco Ducal, Estatua De Dom Afonso Henriques
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Stegop
According to tradition, the origins of the small church of São Miguel do Castelo date back to the 12th century when Count Dom Henrique (Henry of Burgundy) is said to have built it. It was believed that this was where he baptised his son, the 1st King of Portugal, Dom Afonso Henriques. Although officially constructed […]
Location: Igreja de São Miguel do Castelo, Rua Conde Dom Henrique, Guimaraes, Portugal | Hours: 10.00 a.m.-6.00p.m. (last entry 5.30 p.m.) Closed: 1 January, Easter sunday, 1 May and 25 December | Distance: 0.50km
Visiting Igreja de São Miguel do Castelo

Castelo de Guimarães

Castle Of Guimaraes
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Dudva
The castle at Monte Largo is steeped in legend, poetry, and heroism, evoking the beginning of Portuguese history. In the year 968, Countess Mumadona of Galicia ordered the construction of a castle on this site as a refuge for the population against Viking attacks from the north and Muslim raids from the south. Later, Count […]
Location: Castelo de Guimarães, Rua Conde Dom Henrique, Guimaraes, Portugal | Hours: 10am‑6pm | Price: adult/child €2/free | Website | Distance: 0.60km
Visiting Castelo de Guimarães

Centro Cultural Vila Flor

Centro Cultural Vila Flor
CC BY-SA 2.5 / Spicka
After undergoing restoration in 2005, one of the wealthiest mansions in the city was furnished with an impressive cultural centre. The modern wing features two auditoriums, one capable of accommodating up to 800 attendees and the other up to 200, where classical, as well as rock music performances, talks, and conferences are held. There is […]
Location: Centro Cultural Vila Flor (CCVF), Avenida Dom Afonso Henriques, Guimaraes, Portugal | Distance: 0.60km
Visiting Centro Cultural Vila Flor

Monte da Penha

Monte Da Penha
CC BY-SA 4.0 / RaquelRosa7
About 7km southeast of Guimarães, accessible by a winding, cobbled road or a short ride on an old cable car, is the forested peak of Penha (617m). It offers a breathtaking view of Guimarães and the surrounding areas, as it is the highest point for kilometers. The cool woods provide an excellent refuge from the […]
Location: Penha, Guimarães, Portugal | Hours: Winter: Open Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays 10 am - 5:15 pm | Price: Adults €7.50, Children €3.50. | Distance: 2.30km
Visiting Monte da Penha

Best Time to Visit Guimarães

Guimarães, often referred to as the birthplace of Portugal, offers a rich tapestry of history, culture, and architecture, making it a captivating destination year-round. However, some periods may enhance your visit depending on your interests:

Spring (March to May): Spring is an excellent time to visit Guimarães, as the weather is mild and the gardens and parks around the city are in full bloom. This season is perfect for exploring historical sites like the Guimarães Castle and the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza without the summer crowds.

Summer (June to August): Summer is the peak tourist season, characterized by warm weather and a bustling atmosphere. The city hosts several cultural events, including the popular Guimarães Jazz Festival and the Medieval Market. While it’s the busiest time of year, the lively street ambiance and extended daylight hours make it ideal for enjoying the outdoor cafes and vibrant nightlife.

Fall (September to November): Autumn is another favorable time to visit, with cooler temperatures and fewer tourists. The changing foliage offers a beautiful backdrop for photographs, especially in the city’s historical center, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Winter (December to February): Winters are generally mild in Guimarães, making it a good time for visitors who prefer a quieter experience. The city is less crowded, and you can enjoy the local cuisine and culture at a leisurely pace.

Average Temperatures in Guimarães

  • January 14°C 26
  • February 16°C 22
  • March 20°C 20
  • April 23°C 17
  • May 25°C 12
  • June 27°C 7
  • July 33°C 3
  • August 32°C 3
  • September 29°C 9
  • October 25°C 30
  • November 18°C 26
  • December 15°C 29

How to get to Guimarães

By Air:

  • The nearest airport to Guimarães is Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport in Porto, which is about 50 kilometers away.

By Train:

  • Regular trains connect Porto to Guimarães, with the journey taking approximately an hour. Trains depart from São Bento or Campanhã stations in Porto and are a convenient way to reach the city.

By Bus:

  • Buses also run frequently from Porto to Guimarães, with services provided by several bus companies including Rede Expressos. The bus ride takes around an hour and offers a cost-effective way to travel.

By Car:

  • Driving from Porto to Guimarães via the A3 and A7 highways is straightforward, taking about 40 minutes. This option provides flexibility to explore the region at your own pace.
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