This post is also available in: French
I’ve rencently told you about an awesome weekend in Porto, the perfect destination to spend an extended weekend during bank holidays. If you are spending four days in Porto, you will even have time to plan a day trip outside of Porto. That’s what we did. We headed to Guimarães, a medium-sized medieval town, registered as a UNESCO World Heritage. It is located in the North of the country, in Minho region.
Guimarães is considered at the origin of the Portuguese nation. Alfonso Henriques declared Portugal’s independence right here in 1139.
It’s streets and squares are so charming to walk around. It’s very enjoyable to wander and get lost in the history of Portugal.
I absolutely loved walking in these quiet streets with its particular houses, very narrow and touching each others, each having a different facade color. It was also super pleasant at this time of year, November: the bars and restaurants terraces were empty from tourists, except a few crazy like us. We could see the locals hanging their clothes at their windows or go about their business without the bustle from tourists.
Then we went right in the medieval history of Guimarães: we visited its castle. Built in the X th century, it is mostly ruins. You can walk around the exterior and in the courtyard inside but there isn’t much left. Inside, a falconer is doing the show with his birds. You can make a bird land on your arms in exchange for a few Euros.
Just next to the castle is the Palace, Paço dos Duques (5€), and a small chapel São Miguel do Castelo. While you are walking back in the center town, do not miss the church Nossa Senhora da Consolação e Santos Passos. Its external facade will remind you of Barcelona’s style with a few azulejos on top.
But the most interesting part of this town is located higher, on the Montanha da Penha. You have to take the cable cars (return trip 4,40€) to get to the top where you will find yourself in another world. Indeed, what awaits you on top is unexpected. Huge rocks covered in moss in a luxuriant forest. We don’t know how those rocks landed here but the atmosphere is rather otherworldly or as I would say, it felt like Alice in Wonderland. Check-out the photos and see for yourself.
Look how big the area is (source map) and all the activities that you can do up there. There are lots of hiking trails for nice walks, pic-nic tables or you can just enjoy the panoramic view on Guimarães from behind the Penha Sanctuary.
I’m sure visiting Guimarães will remain one of your best memory from North Portugal. It’s an ideal day trip from Porto. If you stay in Porto for more than 3 days, do not hesitate to catch a train and to wander in the Douro or Minho region. It will allow you to escape the tumult from busy tourists in exchange for a more authentic destination in Portuguese countryside. A countryside which is filled with history, as much as the big cities.
Have you ever visited Guimarães ? What other destination would you recommend as a day trip from Porto ?