Portugal is a country that is often overlooked by travelers to Western Europe. Those who do make the journey usually only go to the capital, Lisbon, and completely skip over the North. However, with its beautiful landscapes, castles, well-preserved historical sites, and delicious culinary traditions, it is a region that should not be missed! One of the top cities to visit in Northern Portugal is Guimarães, the city where Portuguese culture was born.
My last visit to Portugal was back in April, during Semana Santa, or Holy Week in Spain. My father came to visit and asked me to plan a trip to somewhere I would like to visit and have never been to. I had always wanted to go to Northern Portugal because I, like most visitors to Europe, had only seen Lisbon. So, on my father’s 2nd day in Europe, we took off for Porto and Northern Portugal. On our 2nd day in Portugal, we decided to explore the region more by visiting the historically significant albeit lesser-known city of Guimarães.
Located in the Braga district of Portugal, Guimarães is a quaint medieval city with loads of charm. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Guimarães is visited by many international and Portuguese tourists alike. Its windy pedestrian-friendly streets, historical buildings, and landscape do not disappoint.
Guimarães is known as the “Cradle City of Portugal.” This nickname stems from different events of historical importance in the region. Some historians think that Guimarães was the birthplace of King Alfonso I of Portugal, the country’s first king. Others believe the origin of its nickname lies in its role during the Battle of São Mamede, which was extremely important in the founding of Portugal.
One of the main attractions in Guimarães is its castle which dates back to the 10th century. The castle is a national symbol which is also seen as the birthplace of Portugal. It was the palace of Portugal’s first king, Alfonso Henriques.
The castle sits high above the city center, on top of a grassy hill which was a strategic location for protecting the city from invaders.
Across from the castle you can find another must-see attraction, the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza. It was the former residence of the Dukes of Braganza, the historic heirs to the Portuguese crown. Today, after restorations in the middle of the 20th century, part of the palace has been converted into a museum and is open to the public.
I’m very glad I was able to visit Guimarães. It is a beautiful city whose medieval streets, castle, and cathedrals bring the history of Portugal alive. It is a wonderful compliment to any trip to Porto, or any other city in Northern Portugal, because of its location, history, and culture.