The Rua de Santa Maria was first mentioned in documents dating back to the 12th century, therefore it is one of the first streets of Guimaraes.
Typical for the houses at Rua Santa Maria are the narrow balconies and grey granite window sills.
The Rua de Santa Maria leads from the castle in the upper town down to the convent in the heart of the historic city centre.
Guimarães is a pleasant city to visit. Main must sees of the so-called birthplace of Portugal are the castle, the palace and the church of S. Miguel, all situated in the same area. Also, the historic centre classified by Unesco as World Heritage site should not be missed.
Apart from the spots in the historic centre listed by Unesco, there are also several beautiful churches in Guimarães, such as the Church of S. Gualter, Church of S. Pedro and Church of N. Sra. da Oliveira.
Other characteristic that pleased me a lot in Guimarães were the quiet squares in less touristy areas of the historic centre. These small squares have benches shaded by big trees, and are covered by tree leaves, which were turning yellow/brown when I visited in October.
I came to Guimaraes in May 2009 just one week after it had been chosen as European capital of culture in 2012.
Besides Guimaraes the European Commission designated the city of Maribor in Slovenia as European capital of culture in 2012.
Favorite thing: Guimarães is commonly referred to as the cradle of Portugal. The reason for this is that D. Afonso Henriques rebelled against his mother – D. Teresa, a Spanish noble from the kingdom of Castilla y Leon – and won the battle against her that took place in S. Mamede (Guimarães) in 1128. He “won” the county and later on he declared a new kingdom called “Condado Portucalense” (from which derived the name of Portugal) and proclaimed himself king of the new kingdom (1139). Guimarães was declared the capital of the new kingdom.
In 2001 Guimarães historic centre was declared World Heritage site by Unesco. The classified area comprises the street D. Maria, Praça de Santiago (Square of Santiago) and also Praça do Toural (Square of Toural).
In these squares and street you will come across fine examples of manor houses and also some nice typical architecture of Guimarães, some of which were recovered and are extremely well preserved.
Houses in Guimarães are very pleasant and kind of "cute". The ones situated on the historic centre still maintain their medieval feel – very small houses with nice wooden windows and typical balconies decorated with flower vases. Some of them are, fortunately, very well-kept.
There are some other buildings to mention, as is the case of the houses that surround Praça do Toural, which are beautiful on my opinion. And while strolling around other streets of the city, also on the historic centre but off the main routes, I came across a lot of nice houses, both buildings and manor houses, some of them more elaborate and some more simple, but all very pleasant and generally speakoing well-kept. Some of them are even very colourful, providing a “lively” look to the city.
Favorite thing: To get information about the city and the major monuments visit the Tourism Office. There are two offices in the city: one of them situated in the historic centre and the second by the castle (I visited the later). I’d say that this later is a good option, as the castle and the Palace are a good starting point to discover the city. Parking here is somewhat easy (and free) and after visiting the castle and palace you may easily walk down the Street D. Maria to the squares. Just follow the map.
Favorite thing: UNESCO world heritage, Guimarães has carefully preserved its historic center, well prepared for tourism. It's nice to be attracted for a traditional building, with a nice yard, and verify that is no more than... a cafe. Strolling in the historic center is a pleasant experience.
The hilltop is covered with stone paths winding from homestead to homestead, from field to field all the way to the top where you have a fine view of the surroundings (well what you can see through the trees anyway).
The last photo here shows the ring wall that surrounded the upper section of Citania de Briteiros. Only about 2 meters high, but apparently enough to protect the people from whatever was attacking them, or at least till the Romans showed up.
Favorite thing: You will need to be quick, or quiet to catch this small irridescent light and dark green lizard of Citania de Briteiros. The light green, almost a lime color, makes the dark green coloration look almost black when he is out of the sunlight. When he ran into the sunlight the colors seemed to sparkle.
Favorite thing: The old town of Guimaraes is one of the best preserved we have seen, it seems to be in almost pristine condition, as if it was a living musuem. Breathing, but not touched. On the day we visited it seemed that the center was deserted, we enjoyed walking from point to point almost without hinderance, no bumping of elbows or jostling of camera or cars whizzing past, VERY FEW people and sometimes NO people let us enjoy the UNESCO preserved architecture of the old town of Guimaraes before we began our climb toward the castle at the top of the hill.
From the center of the old town in Guimaraes it is hike up the hill to the top where you will find the statue of Afonso Enriques with the Castelo de Guimaraes as a backdrop. You approach the castle through a nice park where you can also visit Paco dos Duques (the home of the first duke of Braganca and the Igreja de Sao Miguel (church).
Castelo de Guimaraes is a small castle in size and not so oppressive as some we have seen, nor is it forbidding or overwhelming..."comfortable" might be a better word if you could apply that word to a castle made of stone blocks.
Climb the crenelated outer walls to enjoy a beautiful view over the park and city.
If you want more of the history, try:
And this site has some photos that I liked:
Favorite thing: Here you can see a few of those views over the city and looking into the castle along the exterior walls. The wooden bridge leads into the central tower in the castle where there is a small display of armor and other items.
Favorite thing: Inside the park that encompases the Castelo de Guimaraes, Paco do Duques and the staute of Afonso Henriques, there is a small church. Not much remains aside from the walls and the floor, but there are some interesting carvings to be found that mark the burial places of knights who fought with Afonso Henriques.
Near Guimaraes are the ancient ruins of Citania de Briteiros, a must see for those of us who love ancient history. Since Citania de Briteiros is dated at over 2,000 years old, then it is well in the catagory of "ancient". I really loved wandering the stone paths through this iron age settlement on its hilltop overlooking the surrounding countryside.
Try this site if you are interested in more historical and photographic information.
The photos here show various round living structures (or what is left of them) .
There is also a photo with Zohara standing in front of a reconstructed house.