Walking around is no doubt the best option to explore Guimarães. Guimarães' historic centre is somewhat small (but beautifull!) and everything is within a short walking distance. Also, while strolling around you may take some time to admire the architecture, watch people and mingle with locals. Furthermore, there are no steep climbs or uneven pavements, so I’m sure you will feel quite comfortable walking around the city.
The castle and Paço dos Duques, which are a bit off centre, are neverthless situated within walking distance, so it’s no use in moving around by car or bus.
If you plan to visit a bit further than Guimarães' historic centre and monuments, such as Mosteiro de Santa Marinha on the slopes of Monte da Penha or even a bit further such as Citânia de Briteiros or Mosteiro de Tibães, then walking is not enough and a car or a bike would be very convenient as using public transportation may not be enough for these (the later I mentioned).
Arriving in Guimarães by car is fast and easy (by highway), both when driving from Porto or Braga, the main cities nearby. Also, from Lisbon the access is by highway (toll payment). Highways and local roads to Guimarães are very well signalized so you should have no trouble in finding your way to Guimarães.
Once in Guimarães park your car as the city’s main attractions are situated in the historic centre, where roads are very narrow and some of them only allow one way. Some of them are pedestrianized. We parked our car near the historic centre and then explored it on foot. Another option is to park by the castle and then walk “down” into the city.
Guimarães is European Capital of Culture in 2012; so, for now, as I write this, the city is pampering itself and getting even more beautiful and ready for the upcoming events. The city is under major refurbishments and traffic is chaotic. No places to park your car, temporary road signs, different directions, a lot of scaffolding, noise and dust. So, you'd better try your luck parking by the castle, where it is free of charge.
If you plan to visit a bit further than Guimarães' historic centre and monuments, such as Mosteiro de Santa Marinha on the slopes of Monte da Penha or even a bit further such as Citânia de Briteiros or Mosteiro de Tibães, a car (or a bike) would be very convenient as using public transportation may not be enough for these (the later I mentioned).
From Guimaraes to Penha by cable car
From Guimaraes I also visited the Penha Mountain which is located about 6 km southeast of the city centre.
The Penha Mountain is served by a cable car (teleferico) from just outside the city centre of Guimaraes.
The cable car covers a distance of 1700 m and climbs 400 m in altitude. The trip offers panoramic views of Guimaraes.
Operating hours are from 10:00 h until 20:00 h in summertime and shorter in winter. I paid 4 Euro for a return trip. Just note that during less rush the cable car only operates every 30 minutes.
Please have a look at my video which I took during the cable car trip from Penha down to Guimaraes.
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Explore Guimaraes on foot
With about 50.000 inhabitants Guimaraes is still a relatively small city and therefore can be best explored on foot.
Most of the main sights are located within the so called historic city centre (centro historico).
In this area there are many pedestrianised streets and pathways which are not accessible to cars or public transportation anyway.
For orientation purposes you find large maps on display, which point you to the sights and buildings all around the town.
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By train to Guimaraes
I went to Guimaraes by train from Porto.
Trains to Guimaraes leave from both Campanha and Sao Bento Station in Porto.
There is an almost hourly service between the cities by suburban trains.
Some of the connections require a change of trains in e.g. Lousado or Ermesinde.
The train trip takes about 75 minutes and a single ticket sets you back only 2,15 Euro (2009). Tickets can be bought from ticket machines.
The train station of Guimaraes is located about 1 km south of the historic city centre.
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Guimarães is just 1 hour and 15 minutes away from Porto by train, so that, a day trip is highly recommended.
- The railway station is on Av. D. João IV, and from there you only have to walk no more than 10 minutes to the city centre.
- From Porto: São Bento station (Praça Almeida Garret; metro: São Bento, line D/yellow, in the city centre) or Campanhã (metro: lines A, B, C and E), and take the Guimarães urban line/linha urbanos.
- Internet: www.cp.pt/cp/displayPage.do?vgnextoid=eb51f9e12a584010VgnVCM1000007b01a8c0RCRD (GuimarÒes line)
By Car: How far/how long...?
Road distances between Guimarães and:
- Porto: 55 kms,
- Lisbon: 365 kms.
- Madrid (Spain): 555 kms.
- Rome (Italy): 2.338 kms.
The site will give you more info together with driving distances and the best routes:
Train from Porto
Train from Sao Bento station (passing through Campanha station) and back depart every few minutes. They are sleek, clean and modern. The cost for the trip is about E1 one way. Be sure to get the ticket, as it's virtually guaranteed that the controller will pass by asking to check yours. You can buy it at the automated machine. You push a button for your destination, and then insert coins until you reach the required amount.
Once in Guimarães, you don't need any other mean of transportation but your feet. All sights are very close.
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