Following my stay in Guimarães, I had a few days to discover the city and see why it’s so special. Here are my suggestions of places to visit, eat and hang out.
One Day In Guimarães
In The Morning – Start your day with a visit to the historical center, classified by UNESCO as Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Lose yourself in the narrow cobbled streets and you’ll feel like you’re back in medieval times. While walking around the center I ended up at a leather tannery from the XIX century. There were no tourists and no English explanation of what it was but it was great to make guesses of what it could be while walking around and taking pictures of the area.
In the meantime, I made a little research and it was interesting to find out that all the tanks belonged to a factory called Mirandas, Ferreira & Carvalho, Lda that stopped working in the XX century. It started with a small conglomerate of small industries which got together and formed the company. They would also rent the space to individuals who wanted to treat their own animal skins and produce leather. If you want to know more about the process used to transform animal skin into leather you can go here but let’s just say it involved having the animals’ skin dipped in urine and then soaking it in animal feces, in particular dog and pigeon feces, also called dung.
In the afternoon – Right, after this lovely description and if you are still up for lunch head up to O Histórico, it’s one of the most known restaurants in the city. Here you’ll be able to sample some of the flavors of Minho.
After a big meal which I am sure they will serve you, it’s time for a sesta, portuguese for nap, at least that’s what I would do. But if you still have some strength to keep going, I would suggest you head to the palace of the Dukes of Bragança. At the front desk, you will be able to buy a ticket for the three of the attractions in the area. For 8 euros you will get an entry to this palace, the Castle and the Alberto Sampaio Museum (they offer discounts for children). Starting at the Palace of the Dukes de Bragança, here you will see Decorative Arts from the 17th and 18th centuries, armors and weapons, tapestry and porcelain from the Portuguese East India Company. What struck me about this palace was the fact that it was built around 1420. The palace was also used as a military building during Napoleon Invasions and it was the official residence of the Portuguese dictator Salazar. And this is just a brief glimpse of what you can discover inside.
After the palace, head up to the Guimarães Castle. Built in the 10th century, it was intended to protect a monastery from the Moors and Norsemen (scandinavian vikings) and eventually was the birthplace of Portugal’s first king Afonso I.
Very close by, is the Alberto Sampaio Museum. This museum features classical religious art and inside you can find a beautiful garden.
If you’re anything like me, at this time you will be tired of so much history. If you want to take a break, and experience history in a different way, visit the Pastelaria Clarinha. Nothing beats the quintessential Portuguese experience of stopping at a bakery and enjoying an expresso or a meia de leite (half a cup of coffee and milk) with a delicious cake. You can stop by at any bakery, most of the ones I tried were great, but this one was highly recommended by everyone.
Nighttime – I know I’ve just mentioned stopping to get some food but here we go again. I would start the night with dinner at the Real Plazza, which is a no-frills restaurant with endless choices of francesinhas.
The francesinha, which in English means “the frenchie”, is a sandwich made with bread, cured ham, chorizo, roast meat, fresh sausage, melted cheese and covered in hot tomato and beer sauce, which is usually a secret, served with french fries. It’s a dish originally from Porto but if you try it here you won’t be disappointed.
End the night at the Largo do Toural, trying some drinks in some of the bars in this area. I did kind of a pub crawl around here and I had a lot of fun.
What to Put on your phone GPS
Rua de Couros or Largo da Cidade for the Leather Tannery (Zona dos Couros in Portuguese)
Restaurant O Histórico
R. de Valdonas 4, Guimarães
Palace of the Dukes of Braganza – R. Conde Dom Henrique, 4810-245 Guimarães
For a snack
Pastelaria Clarinha (The Bakery) – Largo do Toural 86-88, Guimarães 4810-427, Portugal
Real Plazza – Rua Fernando Pessoa 101, Guimaraes 4800-176
Tour the several bars in the square – Largo do Toural