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Guimerães, where Portugal was born.

Guimerães, where Portugal was born.

We travel to Guimerães for a day.

Yes indeed, even for us Portugal still has kilometres of unknown roads, at least as many places we have not yet visited, dishes and wines yet to be tried. The country is three times the size of the Netherlands, but a day remains just twenty-four hours. A sixty-minute trip in the Netherlands, takes just triple in Portugal. At least, if you have ended up at the wrong base. We are lucky that for northern Portugal we can actually reach everything within an hour [with a Dutch quarter]. And there is plenty!

So we travelled again to Portugal's first capital, Guimerães. The historic centre is picture-perfect. Large parts of the walls are still there and one of the towers therefore reads "Portugal was born here" in the year 1128: well, in my free translation. Among the remains of the wall, which has been beautifully restored, are impressive tall buildings made of stone, with beautiful tiled facades. No figurative tiles, no, just decoration and all in the hope of not having to paint every year. When you walk the outer ring around the historic centre, you always come upon one of Portugal's most beautiful squares. The sunlight there plays with the pavement, the facades and it is breathtaking ánd impressive. But that's all outside the historic centre.

Also outside the historic centre is the statue of the very first King Alfonso Henriques. The bronze statue was made in the 19th century, and a result of artful imagination. In fact, no real image of the king exists. This statue has ended up in all of Portugal's history books, and every Portuguese recognises Alfonso as the first king. Behind the statue are three historic buildings, of which the castle is considered one of the 10 most beautiful in Portugal. In front of the castle is the old chapel, where the king is said to have been baptised. At the bottom of the hill is the Palace of the Dukes. This palace, now a museum, has had all kinds of functions and is famous for its magnificent collection inside and out: inside mostly historical weapons and furniture and outside especially many chimneys.

The battle of St Mamede in Guimerães was supposedly prepared from the castle: in this battle, and there are several stories about it, the king's mother was killed or captured [also read my blog about Povoa do Lanoso]. Core of the story: the royal family disagreed and things never came right again. The infanta from Spain, Teresa of Leãu, also left, not to return to Spanish Leon. Fast forward to the old town.

A few decades ago, the city architect was given a free hand to restore the city to its former glory. He started cleaning up. Outdoor advertisements gone. Modern street lights and street furniture gone. Ruins gone. What he brought back was authentic [looking] restored buildings, medieval-looking pavement [not suitable for high heels], trees and traffic restrictions. The result was worth it. Soon the entire old centre was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Check out the 14 religious stations of Good Friday, which incidentally scream for paint. No big shops or big restaurants. Terraces and smaller restaurants abound, where you can enjoy delicious Portuguese meals with Vino Verde, or something you already know. No beggars [almost none]. During the festivities in June, at Easter and Christmas, it is breathtakingly decorated and Guimerães attracts even more visitors.

For travellers. Guimerães has a large bus station and train station. You can park your car relatively easily outside the old town, for a favourable parking rate ranging from nothing to dimes an hour.

This blog previously appeared in an adapted form on

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Published 02-02-2021 / Copyright © Villa Branca Barreiros Bed & Breakfast AL/98139