Where We Be
Guimarães is a lovely medieval town in northern
Portugal. We particularly enjoyed its two plazas
joined in the middle by arches. The plazas are
filled with outdoor cafes and shade-providing
umbrellas. Locals and tourists alike meet and
mingle here. We felt happy to be staying put for
an entire week in this small Portuguese town
with just enough but not too much to explore,
leaving plenty of time for relaxing.
Guimarães is called the “Birthplace of Portugal”
because Afonso Henriques (1109-85), Portugal's
first king, was born here -- and the Battle of São
Mamede, the seminal battle in the foundation of
Portugal, took place near here. The town is
popular with Portuguese tourists discovering
their country's roots, but we saw only a handful
of foreigners despite the town's charming
medieval feel. Ambling through the historic
district on a sunny day, we especially enjoyed
seeing the town's two medieval highlights: the
imposing 10th century Castle of Guimarães and
the 15th century Ducal Palace of Braganza.
|Guimarães (pronounced GEE-MAR-AYSH with a hard "G") is off the beaten path
for foreign tourists but well known to the Portuguese as the Cradle of Portugal
|Guimarães is recognized by UNESCO for its exceptionally
well-preserved and authentic historic center
|This is the larger of the two connected plazas, known as
Largo de Oliveira for its resident olive tree (left corner of photo)
|This building with arches connects the two plazas
|The second plaza, Praça São Tiago, is a little quieter. Both are great places
to unwind, drink the local vinho verde wine, and taste some local specialties.
|Guimarães strikes a good balance, offering plenty of amenities
for tourists while retaining its tranquil small-town appeal
|We stayed at a one-week rental close to this former convent decorated
with traditional Portuguese blue tile (Venerável Ordem de São Francisco)
|The town has many churches, including Nossa Senhora
da Consolação with its lovely manicured gardens
|Some of the town's hotels are beautifully
refurbished from medieval buildings
|Largo do Trovador is located just to the south of the historic center and
makes a reasonably central and affordable base for exploring the city
|We stayed at Trovador City Guest House (Unit 1). We appreciated its excellent wifi,
balcony overlooking the old tannery district, and proximity to a Froiz supermarket.
|The old vats for dying leather are still preserved a block behind our lodging
|Practically next door to us was Taberna Trovador, a great place for vinho verde and huge plates
of tapas. We particularly recommend the chorizo grilled over an open flame right on the table.
|We also have to mention the amazing gourmet lunch we had at Le Babachris Restaurant. Our meal
started with a delightful watermelon soup with bits of tomato and sausage (!) and dabs of olive oil.
|Vinho verde is a Portuguese specialty -- a slightly effervesent white wine
poured from on high by your friendly waiter and oh-so-refreshing
|The Castle of Guimarães lies to the north of the historic
center on a hill. If you like castles, this is the real deal.
|The fortress was built in the 10th century
to defend against Moors and Norsemen
|We marveled at the enormous boulders
around which the castle walls were built
|The freestanding castle keep was the last bastion of defense.
Today it's reachable by a connecting bridge from the parapet.
|Inside the keep, Robin tried on a medieval helmet and held a broadsword.
She looked almost as fierce as Afonso Henriques, Portugal's first king.
|Seeing the castle and other historic buildings lit up at
night is a good reason to wander around after dusk
|The 15th century Ducal Palace of Braganza is huge.
This is the view of it from the castle walls.
|Here's a closer view of the palace's front facade.
In the background you can see the castle.
|Multiple tall chimneys give the palace a distinctive
look. Most every room inside has its own fireplace.
|This enormous mansion of stone has room after room
for you to explore. Check out the gigantic banquet hall!
|On the second floor is a chapel, just
visible from the courtyard entrance
|Implements of medieval war are on full display
|We paid a little extra to see a special exhibit on catapults and siege machines. We hadn't realized how early some of
these machines were developed – like 500 BC. The mathematics and engineering to create them were quite complex.
|Robin is dwarfed by this shield used for attacking a castle's walls
|On our last day we took the teleferico (cable car) up to the
top of Penha Park for terrific views of the surrounding area
|Penha Park is chock-full of absolutely enormous boulders. The boulders are
strewn all over the place, and the trails wind up, down, and between them.
|The trails also lead to a modern church spectacularly
situated at the highest point in the area
|Steep staircases and narrow passageways
made for fun exploring. We wore ourselves out!
|Green moss, stone seats, and stone picnic tables
abound. We were glad we didn't skip this place.
|We happened to be in Portugal during Euro Cup 2016 -- which Portugal won! We watched the semi-final match
in Guimaraes. Shown above is a giant Ronaldo poster next to celebrations on the main plaza right after the first goal.
|Babachris' menu del dia was only €9.75 each for truly outstanding food. Shown here is a pasta starter with seafood and some of the
tenderest salmon we've ever tasted, crisped on the edges and meltingly good. At these prices we could afford to eat gourmet every day.
|The streets in the historic center are a pleasure to explore
|Roughly translated: "Here Was Born Portugal." Guimarães is closely associated
with the emergence of the Portuguese national identity in the 12th century.
|Guimaraes lies along the Portuguese Camino route to
Santiago. Saint James is believed to have visited here.
|The hole for the wooden door brace was so
deep Robin could stick most of her arm in
|Do you think they made
the doors tall enough?
|The rooms are tastefully decorated
with tapestries and period pieces
|Along with a Templar official seal
|Literally a battering ram