Guimaraes city guide

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GUIMARAES IS ...

• The Cidade Berço (Cradle City) where Portugal's first king, Afonso Henriques, is said to have been born, and where he fought the crucial Battle of São Mamede.
• An "exceptionally well-preserved and authentic example of the evolution of a medieval settlement into a modern town", according to UNESCO.
• Home to around 160,000 inhabitants, many of them employed in the local textile, shoe and metalwork industries.
• An old city full of young people; half of the inhabitants of Guimaraes are under 30.
• The 2012 European Capital of Culture – an honour Guimaraes shared with Maribor in Slovenia.

WHERE IT IS

Located in the Braga district of northern Portugal, Guimaraes is in one of the most industrialised regions of Portugal, but also forms part of the historic Minho province. It is around 1,150km from Paris, 3,600km from Moscow and 8,000km from Rio de Janeiro.

STADIUM

Estádio D. Afonso Henriques
Estádio D. Afonso Henriques©Getty Images

• Opened in 1965, the Estádio D. Afonso Henriques has a capacity of 30,000 and is staging its third major UEFA tournament.
• Reopened after extensive renovations in 2003, the venue held two games at UEFA EURO 2004, and two more at the 2006 UEFA European Under-21 Championship.
• Not to be confused with Vitória FC (aka Vitória Setúbal), Vitória SC are the home side at the stadium; only Portugal's 'Big Three' regularly command larger home crowds.
• Originally the Estádio Municipal de Guimarães, the stadium was renamed in honour of a local boy, the first king of Portugal — Dom Afonso Henriques (reign: 1139–85).
• The stadium is easily accessible from all over Guimaraes' compact town centre, and a 15-minute walk from the train station.

GETTING THERE

By air: Porto's Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport is a 50-minute shuttle-bus journey away from Guimaraes. Alternatively, take the Line E metro from Porto Airport to Campanhã station, which has a regular service to Guimaraes.

By road: The Portuguese motorway system is well developed, with nearby Porto a major transport hub. To keep things simple, get to Porto first and take the A3 highway north and then the A7 east to Guimaraes.

By rail: Trains are cheap and reliable. Direct services from Lisbon are not particularly frequent, and take around four hours to reach Guimaraes. Far simpler – for all international travellers – is to aim for Porto first and catch one of the regular connections to Guimaraes.

MOVING AROUND

An aerial view of Guimaraes
An aerial view of Guimaraes©Getty Images

Walk: The centre of Guimaraes is easy to navigate by foot, with all the major attractions within walking distance of the train station and stadium.

Public transport: A tourist bus service provides a useful way of looking around the city centre, but most prefer to walk. To go up Penha Mountain, meanwhile, the best solution is catching the cable car, Teleférico da Penha.

Taxi: If a taxi has a green light, it can be hailed easily enough, and there are taxi ranks at some of the bigger hubs to make matters easier. All licensed cabs must have a visible meter to show charges, with rates calculated by time and distance travelled.

Bike: Bicycles can be hired easily from a number of locations in the city centre. There are a couple of interesting routes within the city, while a 15km ride out to Fafe represents a great way to take in the local countryside.

WHERE TO STAY

Guimaraes has plenty of places to stay – budget hostels as well as hotels. See useful links below.

WHAT TO SEE

For culture: The imposing Guimarães Castle is an architectural treasure that attracts a large number of visitors each year. A military fortification, parts of which date back to the tenth century, it became an official royal residence in 1139, when Portugal broke away from the Kingdom of León.

Largo da Oliveira in Guimaraes
Largo da Oliveira in Guimaraes©Getty Images

For atmosphere: Named after a centuries-old olive tree that was planted here, Largo da Oliveira square is one of the city's focal points, along with the nearby Largo da São Tiago. At its heart is a gothic shrine, built in the reign of Afonso IV to commemorate the 1340 Battle of Río Salado.

For fresh air: A 600m-high granite mountain, the Serra da Penha towers over Guimaraes. It can be reached by road, but the best way up is the ten-minute cable-car ride. The views from the top are fantastic, and there is plenty more to enjoy on the mountain, including a campsite, an equestrian centre and mini-golf.

EATING AND DRINKING

Guimaraes is proud of its status as a city of food and drink.

Typical of the regional cuisine are traditional recipes such as Arroz de Cabidela (cabidela rice), a Portuguese dish made with poultry cooked in its own blood added to water, as well cod with corn bread, and Rojões (flavoursome chunks of pork loin). 

Vinho verde (literally 'green wine') is a Minho-region speciality, while Guimaraes itself has its own signature dessert, Toucinho do céu (translation: heaven's bacon) – a kind of almond cake.

FOOTBALL IN GUIMARAES

Formed in 1922, Vitória SC endured several seasons in the local Braga league before earning their first promotion to the national top flight in 1941. SC Braga are their main local rivals, the Minho derby considered one of the most intensely contested games in Portuguese football.

Vitória SC reached their first Portuguese Cup final in 1942, but lost 2-0 to Belenenses. They were losers in four subsequent deciders before finally winning their only significant trophy in 2012/13, beating Benfica 2-1. Meanwhile, their most successful European campaign took them to the quarter-finals of the 1986/87 UEFA Cup, where they fell to Borussia Mönchengladbach.

GET OUT OF THE CITY

Praça da Republica Square in Braga
Praça da Republica Square in Braga©Getty Images

Guimaraes is just a 24km drive from picturesque Braga, with Porto less than an hour away, though perhaps more spectacular is Viana do Castelo. One of the most beautiful cities in the north of Portugal, Viana do Castelo played a huge part in the Portuguese discoveries of the 15th and 16th centuries, as well as the local cod industry.

There are also Iron Age villages within closer range of Guimaraes, with Citânia de Briteiros a particularly spectacular hill fort. Well worth seeing too is the Peneda-Gerês National Park – an earthly paradise around an hour's drive from Guimaraes.

YOUR PORTUGUESE PHRASEBOOK

English is reasonably widely spoken, but a few polite words in Portuguese may be appreciated ...

Hello – Olá (oh-LAH)
How are you? – Como vai? (KOH-moh VIGH?)
Please – Por favor (poor fah-VOHR)
Thank you – Obrigado (oh-bree-GAH-doh)
Goodbye – Adeus (ah-DEH-oosh)

USEFUL LINKS

Visit Guimaraes: https://www.guimaraesturismo.com/
Lonely Planet:
https://www.lonelyplanet.com/portugal/guimaraes
Guimaraes portal:
https://www.cm-guimaraes.pt/pages/685
Porto Airport:
https://www.aeroportoporto.pt/
Wikipedia:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guimar%C3%A3es
Portuguese Football Federation (FPF):
https://www.fpf.pt/

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