Guimarães, the cradle of Portugal

Toural Square

Toural Square

We wanted to take advantage of our short holidays to visit the city where Portugal was born. But the weather wasn’t very cooperative. After several visits to the forecast website to try to figure out which was the best day for our trip, we decided to choose Saturday 28th April 2012. It was a good choice. It was a wonderful weather, a sunny day with a mild temperature.

That Saturday we were woken up by our alarm clock at 5:50. It was a little bit hard to get out of the bed, but we had a train to catch at 7:18 and there was no time for laziness.

Guimarães Castle

Guimarães Castle

Despite the early hour and the fact that it was weekend, the train station was a little bit busy. We saw a group of people that was going to do the “Camiño de Santiago” (The Way of St. James) by bike from Porto (Oporto). I met a friend of mine among them.

The suburban train to Guimarães departs from Porto. Therefore, we had to make a stop at Porto Campanhã Station to change for the train that goes to Guimarães, where we arrived at 9:36.
Further information about the timetables and routes of the Portuguese trains can be found at this website.

04_guimaraes_casasGuimarães, the European Capital of Culture in 2012, had its origins in the 10th century, when the Countess Mumadona Dias ordered the construction of a monastery and of a castle, which contributed to the growth of the population in Vimaranes (as Guimarães was named at that time).

The city is often referred as the “Cidade Berço” (Cradle City) or as the birthplace of the Portuguese nation. It is one of the most important historical cities of Portugal, with its historical center being a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Salado Memorial

Salado Memorial

The train station is located at a few minutes walking from the historic center.
We visited the historic center during the morning, then we followed the pedestrian route “Rota da Penha” and we went back to the city center to buy some regional pastries.

We started by visiting the “Castelo de Guimarães” (Guimarães Castle) and then the “Capela de S. Miguel” (Saint Michael’s Chapel), where D. Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal was baptized. Not too far from the Chapel, we found the biggest monument of Guimarães, the “Paço dos Duques de Bragança” (Palace of the Dukes of Braganza), built in the XV century buy order of Afonso I of Bragança.

We continued walking around, passing by the “Praça de Santiago” (Santiago Square), the “Padrão do Salado” (Salado Memorial), the Alberto Sampaio Museum , the “Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira” (Church of Our Lady of Oliveira), the “Praça do Toural” (Toural Square) and several other places of interest.

The “Padrão do Salado”, classified as National Monument, is a Gothic monument from the reign of King Afonso IV to commemorate the victory in the Battle of Salado, in which the King had participated.

Almond plaits

Almond plaits

Next to the “Padrão do Salado” we find one of the most significant pieces of the Gothic architecture from the North of Portugal, the Church of Nossa Senhora da Oliveira. This Church was founded by King Afonso Henriques and restored by order of King João I in gratitude for the victory at the Battle of Aljubarrota in 1385.

It was lunch time by then. The first restaurant we entered, “Nora Zé da Curva”, was already full reserved. We went back to the Santiago Square and we had lunch at the Santiago Restaurant. We had a nice meal there, with a good price/quality relation. One thing that I found very curious was the presence of several coins from all around the world on the wall.

After lunch we looked for the Church of Nossa Senhora da Consolação e Santos Passos, where we began the PR3 – “Rota da Penha” (Penha Route), a pedestrian route that goes from the city to the “Monte da Penha” (Penha Mountain).Of course we could not leave the city without buying some of the traditional sweets from Guimarães. We tasted the “tortas de Guimarães” (Guimarães’ pies), the “jesuítas” (jesuits) and the “tranças de amêndoa” (almond plaits). We also wanted to taste “toucinho do céu” ( bacon from heaven), but none of the cake shops we went in had it.

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