Last Updated on March 26, 2022 by queenie mak
Guimarães Portugal is a well-preserved medieval town in the district of Braga. The city has a long history that dates back to the 4th century and it is considered as the birthplace of Portugal as this is where Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal, was born.
There are many things to do in Guimarães that you may need a few days. But I put together an efficient one-day itinerary for independent travellers who want to travel on their own from Porto to Guimarães.
During a day trip to Guimarães, you will see a fortified castle, Gothic churches, a pilgrimage site with grottos, chapels and panoramic views, and the historical centre of Guimarães, which is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
So if you are spending a few days in Porto and want to venture out and see other parts of Northern Portugal, keep reading and find out how you can take a day trip from Porto to Guimarães Portugal.
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What you need to know before spending a day in Guimarães Portugal
Before you take a day trip to Guimarães, take a look at these travel tips below:
- Take a day trip to Guimarães any day of the week but try to avoid Mondays since some attractions are closed.
- I recommend starting your Guimarães day trip as early as possible. Arrive in Guimarães no later than 9:30. That will give you plenty of time to see everything in Guimarães.
- Wear your comfortable shoes for walking around Penha Mountain and the historical town.
- It is possible to hike up Serra de Penha but it will take an hour. Take the cable car to save some energy and time.
- Use GoogleMaps app to navigate around Guimarães.
- Bring your credit card as many places accept credit cards only. Also, bring cash for smaller purchases.
How to get to Guimarães from Porto
The cheapest and easiest way to travel from Porto to Guimarães is by taking the urban train. Start the journey from either São Bento Station or Campanha Station in Porto.
All you have to do is buy a ticket from the counter or kiosk. This means you pay €0.50 for the reusable Siga card and one title (means one ticket) for the cost of the train journey to Guimarães.
Porto to Guimarães by train
- Urban train: from Porto São Bento Station to Guimarães Station
- Time: 1 hour 12 minutes (about 1 train per hour)
- Cost: €3.25 (plus €0.50 for the Siga reusable card)
- Check: Comboios de Portugal website for prices and schedules
Remember to keep the card so you can take the train from Guimarães to Porto. And make sure to validate your card before getting on the train.
Guimarães day trip: 1-day itinerary
While you can stay in Guimarães and take your time and explore the town in a few days, I put together an efficient one-day itinerary so you can see all the best attractions in Guimarães in just one day.
The Guimarães itinerary has two parts: Penha Mountain in the morning and the historical centre of Guimarães in the afternoon.
All you have to do is follow the numbered red pins on the interactive map and read the descriptions below.
Are you ready for your Guimarães day trip? Here we go!
1. Take the Teleférico de Guimarães up to Serra de Penha
Address: Rua Aristides Sousa Mendes 37, Guimarães | Hours: 10:00 am to 5:30 pm | Cost: €4 one way and €7.50 round trip
When you arrive at Guimarães Station, walk 15 minutes to the lower station at Teleférico de Guimarães (Penha Cable Car) and take the cable car up to Serra de Penha (Penha Mountain). Take the main road, Av. Dom João IV and turn right on R. do Rei Pegu.
It is possible to hike up Penha Mountain but it will take more than an hour. So, to save time, spend €7.50 on a round trip ticket. Plus, you can enjoy panoramic views of Guimarães from the cable car ride!
Serra de Santa Catarina, the ancient name of Serra de Penha, was an important pilgrimage site. Today, it is one of the most famous attractions in Guimarães.
The 617m mountain is the highest point in the urban areas of Guimarães. It has over 60 hectares of forest and greenery and the park has many giant granite rocks covered with green moss and hiking trails.
Besides the serene natural surroundings, there are granite rock with carvings, grottos, churches and panoramic viewpoints where you can see the ancient city from above.
While there are many things to see on Penha Mountain, I will highlight all the best attractions that are worth seeing.
2. Santuário da Penha
Address: Varanda de Pilatos, Guimarães | Hours: 10:30 am to 5:00 pm (Monday to Friday), 9:30 am to 6:00 pm (Saturdays and Sundays)
Santuário da Penha (Santuary of Penha) is the first attraction you will see when you arrive at the top of Penha Mountain.
Inaugurated in 1947, the hilltop church was once a pilgrimage site. The building itself was made with granite from the region, so the church can blend in the environment that surrounds it.
You can tour the inside of the church and see the Art Deco styled interior. And make sure to walk to the back and see a magnificent view of Guimarães
If you visit the Sanctuary of Penha around the second Sunday of September, you might even catch the annual pilgrimage and festival.
3. Gruta Nossa Senhora de Lourdes
Address: R. das 3 Bicas, Guimarães
Next, walk in the southeast direction and find Gruta Nossa Senhora de Lourdes (Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes).
When you arrive at the grotto, you will see the marble image of the Virgin of Lourdes inside a rock cavity. The image was sculpted as a gesture of gratitude and praise to Our Lady of Penha and the people of Guimarães.
Today, visiting the grotto is part of the annual pilgrimage to Penha Mountain.
It is quite interesting to roam around the area next to the grotto. Walk through a few narrow paths between the giant boulders and stone stairways until you reach an area west of the grotto. The area opens up to a rocky viewpoint where you can see the Santuary of Penha in the distance and with Guimarães as a backdrop.
4 & 5. Monument of Pius IX Penha and Capela de Santa Catarina
Monument of Pius IX Penha Address: R. das 3 Bicas, Guimarães
Capela de Santa Catarina Address: R. de Santa Catarina, Guimarães | Hours: ?
To the east of the rocky viewpoint is the Monument of Pius IX Penha, a monument dedicated to Pope Pius IX Penha who allowed Penha to become a sacred place of worship. To commemorate the kind gesture by Pope Pius IX, the city built a 5m tall Carrara marble statue on top of a large platform overlooking Guimarães.
Next, follow the paved path and find Capela de Santa Catarina, a hidden temple between the giant boulders. It is said that the 18th century small chapel has a portable pulpit made out of wood and in the shape of a chalice.
But I didn’t see the pulpit as the chapel wasn’t open. In fact, I can’t find the hours of operation anywhere. But if you are visiting Penha Mountain, try your luck and see if you can peak inside the chapel.
There isn’t much south of the chapel other than a mini-golf course and campsites. Walk in the north direction and see the next attraction on Penha Mountain.
Address: R. dos Carvelhos, Guimarães
On the way to see another grotto in Penha Mountain, you will come across a religious symbol called Cruzeiro. It is a stone statue consists of several steps at the base, a carved pedestal and a sphere with a Latin cross on the top.
When I was researching about the cruzeiro, there are many versions of this type of statue around Northern Portugal. And later in the afternoon, you will see another one in the historical centre of Guimarães.
7 & 8. Gruta Ermida Nossa Senhora do Carmo, Saint Elias and Capela de São Cristóvão
Address: R. Nossa Sra. da Penha 8, Guimarães
Walk all the way to the north side of the park and see an important pilgrimage site from the 18th century. When you reach the a cave formed by giant boulders and has a chapel and tower on top, this is where Gruta Ermida Nossa Senhora do Carmo (Grotto of Our Lady of Carmo), Saint Elias and Capela de São Cristóvão (St Christopher’s Chapel) resides.
First, walk into the grotto and see the image of Saint Elias at the entrance. Saint Elias is the Patron Saint of the Sleep, who is regarded highly by visitors. It is rather small but you can’t miss it.
Then, turn right into the grotto and see inside the cave. This is the Grotto of Our Lady of Carmo. There is an altar with the Virgin Mary and two side altars.
Walk back to Saint Elias, and walk up the flight of stairway. It will lead you to the small St Christopher’s Chapel on top of the boulders. This is also part of the pilgrimage site but many visitors come here to see a panoramic view of Guimarães.
Address: R.de Penha, Guimarães | Hours: 12:00 pm to 7:00 pm (Closed Wednesdays)
It’s almost lunch time! And if you are famished and want to try a local favourite, then walk two minutes to Adega do Ermitão.
The outdoor restaurant serves affordable snacks like sardines (€.30 each), codfish croquette (€0.80), flatbread with pork belly (€3) and many more things that are made on the grill. They wrap the cooked food with a big piece of paper and you can bring it to a nearby picnic table and use the paper as a table cloth.
All the locals know about it – that’s why there is always a long queue!
Otherwise, backtrack all the way to the cable car upper station and take the next cable car back down to Guimarães.
9 & 10. Igreja e Oratórios de Nossa Senhora da Consolação e Santos Passos at Lago da República do Brasil
Address: Largo de São Brás 42, Guimarães | Hours: 7:30 am to 12:00 pm (Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Sundays), 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm (Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays)
The walk to Igreja e Oratórios de Nossa Senhora da Consolação e Santos Passos is not that far. You would’ve seen it earlier on the way to the Penha Cable Car lower station.
The 19th century Baroque church has a beautiful stone and blue-and-white azejelos tile curved facade with two bell towers on each side. There is an image of San Gualter and a Rococo styled altarpiece inside the church.
However, you can only see the inside of the church if you make it before noon on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Sunday. It might be a stretch for timing but I included the church in this itinerary because seeing the exterior of the church is just as nice.
And also the beautiful Lago da República do Brasil right in front of the church. The square has a well-maintained manicured garden and a large fountain. I read somewhere that the city plants different types of flowers to keep this garden fresh and interesting.
11, 12 & 13. Padrão do Salado and Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira in Largo da Oliveira
Padrão do Salado Address: Largo da Oliveira 6, Guimarães
Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira Address: Largo da Oliveira 8, Guimarães | Hours: 8:30 am to 12:00 pm and 3:30 pm to 7:30 pm (Mondays to Saturdays) and 9:00 am to 1:00 pm and 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm (Sundays)
Keep walking in the direction of northwest and enter the historical centre of Guimarães, a UNESCO World Heritage site. As you enter Largo da Oliveira, you’ll see two important landmarks in this medieval square: Padrão do Salado and Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira.
Padrão do Salado is a Gothic square stone monument with four arches and a raised cross with various images of saints. It was constructed in the 14th century to commemorates the Battle of Salado of 1340 against the Moors and it was classified as a National Monument in 1910.
Remember the Cruzeiro on Penha Mountain? Padrão do Salado has a raised cross with all the same characteristics but in a much smaller scale.
And right next to the monument is Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira, Guimarães’ most iconic church.
The 15th church is one of the best Gothic churches in Northern Portugal. But throughout the years, the church was reconstructed and other architectural styles were introduced. Which is why there are elements of Romanesque, Manueline, Neoclassical and of course, Gothic architectural features.
See the pristine interior of Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira, including the silver alter of the Capela do Santíssimo Sacramento, the ornate altarpiece and various Baroque artwork.
14. Have lunch at Praça de São Tiago
Address: Praça de São Tiago, Guimarães
If you didn’t have a snack at the top of Penha Mountain then you must be starving by now. So for the next stop, it includes a delicious lunch in the one of the oldest squares in Guimarães.
Praça de São Tiago (Santiago Square) is named after the apostle São Tiago, who brought the image of the Virgin Mary to Guimarães and placed it in a pagan temple in this square.
Today, Praça de São Tiago has many well-preserved buildings lining the perimeter of the square. You can see typical Portuguese architecture from the 15th to 19th century as well as preserved medieval designs.
Moreover, many restaurants in Guimarães are located in this medieval square, which makes Praça de São Tiago the perfect spot for lunch and a bit of rest. Walk around and see the menus at each of the restaurants before sitting down.
I had lunch at Cozinha Regional Santiago which is located near the north end of the square. They serve many traditional Portuguese dishes and a lot of seafood options. I had a typical Portuguese meal which includes grilled fish, boiled vegetables and potatoes. It was affordable and quite delicious!
15. Rua da Santa Maria
Address: Rua da Santa Maria, Guimarães
On the way to the castle, you’ll have to walk through Rua da Santa Maria, one of the oldest streets in Guimarães.
The medieval street was the main connection between the lower and the upper part of the village back in the day. And it was considered as an elite street because it was inhabited by people of prestige.
Today, it is one of the most beautiful streets in the historic centre of Guimarães. There are simple houses with wrought iron balconies and other decorative architectural elements. And there are many interesting points along Rua da Santa Maria include Antigo Convento de Santa Clara, Casa dos Valadares, and Casa do Arco.
Divina Gula Address: R. de Santa Maria 44, Guimarães | Hours: 10:00 am to 7:00 pm and 8:30 pm to 10:00 pm (except Mondays)
And when you are in Guimarães, you have to try one (or all) of the typical Guimarães desserts. They are different from other types of Portuguese desserts and you can only find them in Guimarães.
There are several desserts shops on Rua da Santa Maria selling typical Guimarães sweets. Divina Gula is a cute little cafe and they sell many types of Guimarães desserts. Grab some sweets on your way to the castle or have it on the way back.
Here are the names of the typical Guimarães desserts:
- Tortas de Guimarães – traditional almond cake made with crispy dough filled with egg yolk, crushed almond and spaghetti squash. Also known as Toucinho do Céu (bacon from heaven)
- Toucinho-do-céu de Guimarães – egg yolk, crushed almond and spagetti squash covered with powdered sugar
- Douradinhas de Guimarães – egg yolk, crushed almond and spaghetti squash in crunchy pastry
16. Paço dos Duques de Bragança
Address: R. Conde Dom Henrique 3, Guimarães | Hours: 10:00 am to 6:00 pm | Admission: €6 (for both Palace Duques de Bragança and Castelo de Guimarães)
When you arrive at Paço dos Duques de Bragança and Castelo de Guimarães, you have to buy the admission ticket at the ticket office first. Since I wanted to see both, I bought the combination ticket for €6.
First, visit Paço dos Duques de Bragança (Ducal Palace of the Braganza). The palace was constructed on the orders of Afonso de Barcelos, son of King João, in the early 15th century. He later became the first Duke of Braganza and he lived at the palace with his second wife, Constança of Noronha. When she became a widow, the Ducal Palace became a shelter for the needy.
Today, the Paço dos Duques de Bragança is classified as a National Monument.
As for the design of the palace, the building was designed based on French manor houses. The palace is structured around a central rectangular courtyard with six chimneys. The ground floor has a kitchen, store rooms, a long covered corridor along the inside of the courtyard and the bedrooms for the Duke and Duchess. The second floor has the chapel and some open spaces for temporary exhibitions.
Follow the guided path to see these rooms and see a diverse collection of 17th and 18th century decorative arts including furniture, carpets, tapestries, ceramics, porcelain, weapons and armour.
17. Igreja de São Miguel
Address: R. Conde Dom Henrique 3, Guimarães | Hours: 10:00 am to 6:00 pm (closed Thursdays) | Admission: free
Igreja de São Miguel (Church of São Miguel) is a small and plain chapel between the palace and castle. But it is special because of the history of the church. It is said that Dom Afonso Henriques, who would become the first king of Portugal, was baptized here.
You can go inside and walk around the perimeter of the single nave church and see the floor in the centre which is paved with graves of noble warriors.
Like many important buildings in Guimarães, the Church of São Miguel is also classified as a National Monument.
18. Castelo de Guimarães
Address: R. Conde Dom Henrique, Guimarães | Hours: 10:00 am to 6:00 pm | Admission: €6 (for both Castelo de Guimarães and Palace Duques de Bragança)
And finally, you’ve arrived at the main attraction in Guimarães: Castelo de Guimarães (Guimarães Castle). Walk up to the top of Monte Largo (Broad Hill) and enter the castle with your combination ticket that you bought earlier.
Guimarães Castle is the principal medieval castle in the northern region of Portugal. Ordered by the Countess Mumadona, the Romanesque castle was built in the 10th century to defend the Monastery of Santa Maria by attacks from the Vikings, Moors and Norsemen.
Between many heroic battles fought at the castle and the monarchs wanted to leave their imprint, the castle went through many improvements. But in the end, it was because of new military tactics that have developed over time that led to the castle to lose its defensive functionality.
The castle was restored in the 20th century and was classified as a National Monument.
And today, you can see the glorious castle in the restored state. With the entrance ticket, you can walk around the perimeter of the castle and see the great defensive structure. See the pentagram-shaped castle which includes eight quadrangular towers, a military square and a 27m central keep.
19 & 20. Chafariz do Toural in Largo do Toural
Address: Largo do Toural 78, Guimarães
And finally before you walk back to Guimarães Station to catch the next train back to Porto, visit Chafariz do Toural in Largo do Toural.
The Toural Fountain is a Renaissance fountain with three tiers (or three bowls) and an armillary sphere on the top. It was originally placed in the Toural Square in the 16th century but was moved to Largo Martins Sarmento in 1873. But the fountain was later returned to the original address in 2011 for the European Capital of Culture 2012.
As for Largo do Toural, it is one of the most central and important squares in Guimarães. Back in the 17th century, Toural Square was considered as the heart of the city as the square is just outside of the main gate of Guimarães. It was a place where merchants sell oxen and other goods.
Today, Toural Square is an open square with many cafes and shops around the perimeter.
Other things to do in Guimarães if you have more time
There are many more things to do in Guimarães and surrounding areas. If you have more time in Portugal and want to explore Guimarães, here are a few more things to do (see blue pins on the map):
- Museu de Alberto Sampaio – The museum has over 2,000 pieces of religious art, paintings, sculptures, and jewellery in a former monastery.
- Museo Arqueológico de Martins Sarmento – See a collection of pre-roman Celtiberian and Roman archaeological ruins in this former Gothic convent.
- Centro Internacional das Artes José de Guimarães – Admire José Guimarães’ three contemporary art collections: African Tribal Art, Pre-Columbian Art and Ancient Chinese Art.
- Casa da Memória de Guimarães – See displays of everyday objects that shaped the lives of Guimarães people.
- Centro Cultural Vila Flor – The cultural centre has many theatrical and performing arts shows. You can also stroll around the garden for free.
- Igreja de São Francisco – Don’t miss the blue-and-white azulejos tiles and gold altar inside this Catholic Church.
- Antigo Convento de Santa Clara – See one of the richest convent (which also houses the Guimarães City Council) in Guimarães.
- Igreja Nossa Senhora do Carmo – Visit the late 17th century Baroque church dedicated to Santa Teresa where the main altar has an image of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
- Citânia de Briteiros – If you have a car, drive half an hour to the ruins at the archaeological site of the Castro culture.
Where to stay in Guimarães Portugal
If you decide to spend more than one day in Guimarães, there are a handful of accommodations in Guimarães that are excellent for an overnight stay.
Here are some of my top picks:
- Hotel da Oliveira ($$) – Stay at the 4-star modern boutique hotel near Praça de São Tiago.
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
- EMAJ Boutique Hotel ($$) – Stay in a classified building from the 19th century in front of Largo do Toural.
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
- Santa Luzia Art Hotel ($$) – Get a single room at this minimalist boutique hotel just outside of city centre.
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
Are you ready to take a day trip to Guimarães Portugal?
Whether you stay a day or two, Guimarães is one of the best towns to visit in Northern Portugal for solo travellers. If you are in Porto and looking for an easy day trip, then look no further! Jump on the next train and visit the charming Guimarães!
Let me know in the comments if you followed my itinerary and have any suggestions to make it better. Or if you have any other questions.