Amazing Day Trip from Porto to Guimarães
Guimarães is considered the birthplace of Portugal and its historic town centre is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site. So of course a lot of people do a day trip from Porto to Guimarães. I still expected a charming, small, quiet town after reading up on it. Well, it’s definitely charming and it’s small in the sense that all the sights are easily accessible by foot (except the viewpoint on a hill) but it’s definitely not quiet. I think it was the most touristy of all my day trips from Porto. But as usual, there’s a reason why there’re a lot of tourists, it’s a fantastic place to visit. The day trip from Porto to Guimarães was my favourite one. So I would recommend doing a day trip from Porto to Guimarães for the third day of my 3 day Porto itinerary.
It’s quite easy to get to Guimarães from Porto, it takes around one hour to get there by urban train. The train is €3.25 one way and sets off at São Bento station, a popular site in Porto known for its tile works. You can check the timetable on the Portuguese railway homepage.
Guimarães Castle and Ducal Palace
The main site of the city and probably the main reason people do a day trip to Guimarães is the Castle. It’s the reason why Guimarães is considered to be the birthplace of Portugal. The first king of Portugal, Afonso Henrique, was born there. The Castle is located north of the city centre, next to the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza. The park is free to visit and you get a lovely view of those two historical buildings. Even just wandering around this park is worth doing a day trip to Guimarães in my opinion. You don’t just get a good view of the palace and castle, you also get a glimpse of the whole city from the park.
You can enter the castle for a €2 fee (tickets have to be bought at the Palace). Inside you can walk on the castle walls and enjoy the view of the castle and the surrounding area. There’s an exhibition in the central tower, which wasn’t that interesting in my opinion. I mainly went into the tower in the hope of having a higher viewing point… no such luck, after climbing a lot of stairs the exhibition was over and there was no chance of looking outside.
The entrance to the Ducal palace is €5. If you visit both you get a discount of €1. The palace was built in the 15th century and was widely reconstructed in the 20th. Now it houses a large selection of furniture, textiles and so on. My highlights were the inner courtyard and the little chapel. The windows of the chapel are radiantly colourful (way better than in the picture).
Alberto Sampaio Museum
You can also buy a combined ticket for the Palace, the Castle and the Alberto Sampaio Museum for €8. I quickly googled the museum while I was queueing up at the palace. Since the reviews for the Museum were good, I decided to go for the combined ticket. The Museum is in the city centre next to Largo da Oliveira. The courtyard of the museum is very nice. I just love a good courtyard with loads of columns. The museum itself… well, let’s say it wasn’t my cup of tea. They try to combine old religious paintings with modern art.
As in every Portuguese city, there are also a lot of churches in Guimarães. Three were especially noticeable to me. My personal highlight was the church with the longest name I’ve ever seen: Nossa Senhora da Consolação e dos Santos Passos Church. The church itself is nice but the best thing is the walk there. You start at a nice fountain and keep getting closer while seeing nice flowerbeds.
The second most impressive church is Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira. You cannot miss that one, since it’s on the lively square “Largo da Oliveira” which felt like the heart of the city to me. The church with the Gothic monument in front is an amazing background view for all those who decide to sit down at the square to enjoy a drink. The entrance to the church is free, so when you’re already there, don’t miss out on a look inside.
The most beautiful church from the inside is the Church of Saint Francis. There you can marvel at the typical Portuguese tiles in case you haven’t seen enough of them by that point.
Guimarães has loads of small cute streets with little shops, especially near Largo da Oliveira. The city also seems to have way less traffic in the city centre than other Portuguese cities, with even a few car-free roads. At the time I visited there was a week-long festival going on which started evenings, unfortunately, I had to go back to Porto before I could see much of it. But they had little stalls with artisan crafts at the Jardim Público da Alameda and a live band. So before you choose the date for your day trip to Guimarães google if some event is going on.
Taking the cable car up to Penha to enjoy the view over the city and walking around in the park sounds like something worth doing but unfortunately, I had already made dinner plans in Porto and so I didn’t have enough time. That’s the only thing on this list I’ve not tried out myself but it definitely sounds like something I would’ve enjoyed and you’ll have enough time for it if you have the whole day in Guimarães. Sidenote: the Sanctuary of Penha is a church and still a pilgrimage destination for many catholic people but I read that now it’s mostly people enjoying the view.
In Guimarães the vegan food options are very limited compared to the many vegan restaurants in Porto. I decided to go for some food when I saw the long queue in front of the Ducal Palace and went to the only vegan place kind of close by Donna Veggie. The daily special consists of a soup, a small salad and a main (two options) and was very good and for just €10. Since I was there it seems they changed their concept and now they offer a vegan buffet.