17 Best Things to Do in Guimarães, Portugal in 2024

17 Best Things to Do in Guimarães, Portugal in 2024

Guimarães just may be the most underrated city in Portugal. While most people visit Guimaraes on a day trip from Porto they truly miss out if they don’t give this historic city in Northern Portugal at least a few days on their Portugal Itinerary. Often referred to as the birthplace of Portugal, this ancient city was the first capital of Portugal. As you wander its cobblestone streets, it is easy to understand why it is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Every stone tells a story of battles fought, kingdoms born, and cultures merged.

Guimarães – The Birthplace of Portugal

We spent a week in Guimarães and two full days on a guided tour of the old town and Vino Verde wine region. We fell in love with this remarkable city and will show you why it should be added to your Portugal itinerary.

Known as Cradle City, Guimaraes is located in the northwest region of Portugal, just a short distance from Porto. We flew into Porto and then took a private transfer to the city. However, Guimarães is well-connected by train. When returning to Porto we hopped on the public train for just a few euros and were there within the hour.

For those arriving by air, Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport in Porto is the closest international gateway, located approximately 50 kilometers away. From the airport, visitors can catch a direct train from Porto’s São Bento or Campanhã stations.

Driving to Guimarães is another great option. We rented a car when in Portugal and loved having the flexibility to get around. Car rentals are reasonable in Portugal, and the highways are well-maintained and easy to navigate.

Most people visit Guimarães on day trips, but it is worth spending at least two nights in this beautiful town in the north of the country.

Top Things to Do in Guimarães

Top things to do in Guimaraes Portugal

While Guimarães is often overlooked for the likes of Lisbon, The Duoro Valley, or Porto, you will be surprised with just how many things there are to do in Guimarães. It is the jumping-off point for exploring the Vino Verde wine region, there is a fascinating old city and plenty of bars and restaurants like its other more famous cities, but there are far fewer crowds making it one of our favorite places to visit in Portugal. So, let’s explore the many reasons to visit Guimarães, Portugal.

1. Explore Guimarães Castle (Castelo de Guimarães)

Best things to do in Guimaraes Portugal Guimaraes Castle

Guimarães Castle (Castelo de Guimarães) is a symbol of Portuguese identity and independence and is designated as a national monument. Guimaraes was the birthplace of the first king of Portugal, King Afonso Henriques, and Guimaraes Castle was where he held court. It was originally built in the 10th century as a fortress and was expanded over time. This fortress is the first place you should visit in Guimarães to learn about the city’s history and admire its well-preserved interior.

A towering symbol of Portugal’s storied past and cultural heritage, it is a must-visit attraction for history enthusiasts and travelers alike. Perched atop a hill in the charming city of Guimarães, it was built to defend against invading forces and played a pivotal role in forming the Portuguese nation.

When you visit Guimarães, make sure to wander through its historic corridors, climb its towers for panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, and immerse yourself in the legends of knights and kings that echo through its halls.

2. Walk the City Walls

Best things to do in Guimaraes Portugal City Walls

When you are finished at Guimaraes Castle, you can walk toward the city centre along the city walls. Located in the heart of the city, these historic walls are free to explore. Construction was started by the first King of Portugal and finished during the reign of King Dinis. Originally it was two km long and the towers had eight gates with nine towers. Today they are just a short walk along a steel platform, but one tower still stands, and its a fun way to see the historical center from a different perspective.

From the walls, you can see Guimarães Castle, the ancient Ducal Palace, and panoramic views of the old town and its surroundings.

3. Church of Nossa Senhora da Consolação

Best Things to do in Guimaraes Portugal visit Church of Nossa Senhora da Consolacao

From the walls, you will catch your first glimpse of the most iconic symbol of Guimaraes, the Church of Nossa Senhora da Consolação. Bus tours make the Church of Nossa Senhora da Consolação the first stop in Guimaraes, and for good reason. It is a beautiful site.

It is the setting that makes this Baroque church so famous. It sits at the bottom of a long hill with a colorful weaving garden stretching to its entrance. It is often considered the prettiest church in Portugal.

Entry to the church is free to enter, and the church’s façade and interior are adorned with intricate carvings and azulejos (traditional Portuguese tiles).

4. Wander Through the Historic Center

Best things to do in Guimaraes Historic Centre

The Historic Centre of Guimarães is not to be missed. The entire city center is a UNESCO World Heritage site renowned for its exceptionally well-preserved architecture. This medieval settlement has remained unchanged for decades with architecture spanning from the Middle Ages to the 19th century.

Guimarães Castle stands at the top of the historic center and as we moved our way down through the narrow streets we passed the impressive Palace of the Dukes of Braganza, and the picturesque Largo da Oliveira.

In the center, there are historical landmarks and museums to enjoy local cuisine at traditional Portuguese restaurants. There are various architectural styles, from Romanesque to Baroque, and with fewer crowds than the old towns of Lisbon and Porto, we could relax and enjoy the local atmosphere. The historic city centre of Guimaraes invites travelers to step back in time and experience the wealth of one of Portugal’s most enchanting cities.

5. Visit the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza

Best things to do in Guimaraes Palace of the Dukes of Braganza

Visiting the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza offers a glimpse into the lifestyle of the nobility during the 15th and 16th centuries. The Dukes of Braganza were one of the most powerful families in Portugal during the Middle Ages.  

Best things to do in Guimaraes Palace of the Dukes of Braganza Interior

Located in the historic center, this magnificent palace is one of the most visited attractions. Travelers can explore the intricately decorated rooms, admire the extensive collection of tapestries, furnishings, and portraits, and wander through the beautifully maintained gardens.

Note: Photography is prohibited inside. The entrance fee is approximately €6.

6. Stroll Along Santa Maria Street

Best things to do in Guimaraes Santa Maria Street

Running through the historical centre is the longest street in Guimarães, Santa Maria Street. This pedestrian street is a mosaic of medieval architecture, historical landmarks, and contemporary life lined with shops and cafes.

Walking along Santa Maria Street is free and offers an opportunity to see iconic sights such as the ancient convents, charming plazas, and the captivating Largo da Oliveira with its emblematic Padrão do Salado.

Best things to do in Guimaraes Convent of Santa Clara

City Hall stands at the center of the street. How often do you see a town hall set in a 16th-century building that was the former Convent of Santa Clara? You will pass under a medieval archway, and make sure to look up to see the wooden balconies and colorful buildings.

Paula Frederico Atelier

Located on Santa Maria Street is a quirky little shop called Paula Frederico Atelier. Make sure to go inside to pick up a souvenir and you can take a pottery class if you like as well.

7. Take the Cable Car up Penha Hill

Best things to do in Guimaraes Cable Car up Penha Hill

We took the 10-minute Teleferico (cable car) up Penha Hill. This is a fun ride for the whole family, and it offers stunning views of the old and modern town.

The cost is 7.50 return for the cable car, and it feels like you are heading up a ski hill for a fun adventure. Which it is! A trip up Penha Mountain was one of our favorite activities in Guimaraes.

You can also drive up Monte da Penha which we did when going for dinner at the restaurant, but riding the cable car is much more fun.

8. Hike on Monte da Penha (Mount Penha)

Best things to do in Guimaraes Hiking Mount Penha

The landscape of Mount Penha is absolutely stunning and there are plenty of hiking trails making for a great day trip. Take in the views of massive boulders, narrow grottos, caves, lookouts, and viewpoints. When you reach the top, you can also visit the striking Penha Sanctuary.

Best things to do in Guimaraes Penha Sanctuary

Penha Sanctuary isn’t an old church, but it is a beautiful church standing proudly overlooking the city centre.

9. See the Old Tanneries

Best things to do in Guimaraes Portugal Old Tanneries

Known as the Couros Zone (Zona dos Couros), the Tanneries were one of the most fascinating stops on our visit to Guimaraes. Located just outside the historical center, they offer a unique glimpse into the city’s once-thriving industrial center for leather processing.

This area has been beautifully preserved, allowing visitors to step back in time and discover the traditional leather production methods that contributed significantly to Guimarães’ economy.

Entry to the Couros Zone is free and as you wander through this district, you’ll encounter ancient tanks from the MIddle Ages that were once used in the tanning process.

You can take a self-guided tour as you follow along with informative plaques that detail the history of leather-making in Guimarães.

10. Largo da Oliveira

Best things to do in Guimaraes Portugal Largo da Oliveira

Largo da Oliveira is the iconic square in Guimarães named after a centuries-old olive tree that stands at its center. This square is a buzz with activity with street performers, outdoor dining, and cafés lining the sidewalks. You’ll also see the Old Town Hall.

The Alberto Sampaio Museum is also located nearby containing medieval art and artifacts. With an entrance fee of just around €3, visitors can explore an impressive collection that includes ecclesiastical treasures, stunning silverware, and rare pieces of sculpture and painting from the 12th to the 18th centuries. The museum is housed in a former convent, adding an extra layer of historical intrigue to the visit.

11. Nossa Senhora da Oliveira

Best things to do in Guimaraes Portugal Nossa Senhora da Oliveira

While visiting Largo da Oliveira, don’t miss stopping to take in the view of the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira. This iconic church is a masterpiece of religious architecture, blending Gothic and Baroque styles.

Besides its architectural beauty, the church is steeped in history, dating back to a medieval battle victory commemorated by the founding of this sacred site. Entry to the church is free.

12. Praça de Santiago / Praça de São Tiago

Best things to do in Guimaraes Portugal Santiago Square

Santiago Square or Praça de São Tiago is another picturesque square surrounded by Portuguese architecture, with colorful facades and balconies adorned with flowers. It is the hub of activity, offering an array of cafés, restaurants, and small shops.

Here, you can savor authentic Portuguese cuisine or enjoy a cup of coffee while people-watching in one of the most atmospheric settings in the city.

13. Sample Vino Verde

Best things to do in Guimaraes Portugal Vino Verde

While most people think of the Duoro Valley when planning a wine vacation in Portugal, the region around Guimarães, Portugal is the wine-producing capital of the famous Vino Verde. Many of the vineyards offer dining, accommodation, and tours.

Quinta de Cancela

We visited, Quinta de Cancela where we took a tour of this family-run vineyard and enjoyed Sushi and Sunset with wine pairings followed by a delicious meal.

Quinta dos Encados

We also visited Quinta dos Encados for a tour of its beautiful accommodations overlooking the vineyards followed by a picnic lunch on ancient stone tables.

14. Citania de Biteros

Best things to do in Guimaraes Portugal Citania de Biteros

Did you know that you can visit an ancient city free from crowds in Quinta dos Guimarães, Portugal? Citania de Biteros is an ancient fort hill that dates back to the second century BC.

Located just a short drive from the heart of Guimarães, this extensive archaeological site, one of the most significant of the Iberian Peninsula’s Iron Age settlements. A walk through the ruins offers a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the Celtic tribes that once thrived here over 2,000 years ago.

With an entrance fee of around €2, visitors can explore the well-preserved ruins, including stone houses, defensive structures, and communal areas, all set against the backdrop of stunning panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. And the best part, there are no crowds.

15. Eat at a Michelin Star Restaurant

Best things to do in Guimaraes Portugal A Cozinha

We had the opportunity to eat at A Cozinha a one-star Michelin Restaurant that was divine. It mixes traditional Portuguese dishes with playful textures and flavors. Located in the heart of the Medieval Town, this restaurant feels unpretentious with its mid-century modern design and large portions. (for a Michelin Restaurant anyway).

16. José de Guimarães International Arts Centre (CIAJG)

Best things to do in Guimaraes Portugal Jose de Guimarães International Arts Centre

Guimaraes isn’t all about historical sites, we had the chance to visit the José de Guimarães International Arts Centre (CIAJG) which is a modern art gallery. It offers a unique fusion of contemporary art and ancient artifacts.

Located in the heart of the city, within the Platform of Arts and Creativity, this museum is one of Portugal’s most renowned contemporary art galleries and showcases a diverse collection that spans African, Pre-Columbian, and Chinese art, alongside Guimarães’ own works.

Admission to the museum is reasonably priced at around €4, making it an accessible cultural experience for all visitors.

17. Discover the Local Cuisine

Best things to do in Guimaraes Portugal local cuisine

Portuguese cuisine is celebrated for its diversity and rich flavors, and Guimarães is no exception. At the local taverns and restaurants, delight in traditional dishes like Bacalhau (salt cod), Francesinha (a type of sandwich), and Vinho Verde (a young wine). The culinary scene here offers a tantalizing taste of the region’s gastronomic heritage.

Where to Eat

We ate at many restaurants during our time up north. Here are a couple of standouts.

Cor de Tangarina – This was our favorite restaurant in Guimaraes serving farm-to-table menus. The outdoor seating is beautiful. A Mercearia da Zé – Lovely Cafe for coffee and pastries Divina Gula – a great spot for pastries, vino verde, and coffee

Guimarães is a treasure trove of history, culture, and natural beauty, offering a wide range of activities that cater to all interests. From exploring ancient castles and wandering through the historic centre to savoring local cuisine and attending lively cultural events, Guimarães promises an unforgettable experience. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore this cornerstone of Portuguese heritage on your next trip to Portugal.

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