OPORTO PORTOGALLO: an essential excursion to Guimaraes and Penha Park

 

 

 

Guimaraes is a delicious town about 60 km north from Porto: it’s thanks to its proximity that this town lends itself  very well to a classical trip out. The most convenient mean of transport to reach Guimaraes is surely the train: from Sao Bento station in Porto the journey takes about an hour, only go.

It’s a town I suggest you to visit because:

  • out of the usual touristic circuits;
  • it’s a real medieval gem, a town that seems remained back in time, very suitable for a “slow tour”: a very quiet visit enjoying the typical athmosphere of the place;
  • Unesco Heritage from 2001 thanks to its wonderful position surrounded by green hills. Not only, also thanks to its history, and to the fact that right here it was born the first King of Portugal, so that Guimaraes is also called ” the cradle of the nation”;
  • it’s possible a brief trip to the wonderful natural site of Penha Park by cableway.

Curious? So leave together and see what Guimaraes has to offer in details.

 

From the station you’ll take about 15 minutes on foot to reach the centre town, passing by the church “Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Consolacao”, with its spiers rising to the sky and its well maintained gardens just in front: this was our welcome to the town.

Oporto Portogallo escursioni Guimaraes
Guimaraes

 

 

 

The first square we met was  Largo da Oliveira, where we were immediately impressed by the gothic lodge that rises right in front of the church “Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira”: the square isn’t very big, like all the historical centre, but it’s surely very visual! It’s linked to another delicious square, “Plaza de Santiago”, through a porch.

Oporto Portogallo escursioni Guimaraes
Guimaraes
Oporto Portogallo escursioni Guimaraes
Guimaraes

 

 

The whole historical centre of Guimaraes is very well maintained: we found really picturesque the two little squares with low buildings, with the classical iron balconies typical of the traditional portuguese houese: they reminded me to the ones in Porto! Here are concentrated most of restaurants and bars: having lunch surrounded by such a beauty it’s not something you do everyday! While we were walking through the town, were attracted by the narrow streets, by reliefs from Middle Age, from churches and historical monuments  preserved by the ravages of time.

Oporto Portogallo escursioni Guimaraes
Guimaraes
Oporto Portogallo escursioni Guimaraes
Guimaraes
Oporto Portogallo escursioni Guimaraes
Guimaraes – Monastery of Santa Clara
Oporto Portogallo escursioni Guimaraes
Guimaraes

 

 

 

 

Leaving the centre, we reached, through Rua de Santa Maria, the wonderful Castle of Guimaraes: its shape and aspect are severe and it’s surrounded by a great big area. The Countess Mumadona Dias ordered to build it to defend the monks and the Christian community, that lived in the surroundings, from the Moors and the Normans. Here is probably born the first King of Portugal. Left its defensive function, the castle  fell into decline until XX century, when it was restored and declared National Momument.

Oporto Portogallo escursioni Guimaraes
Guimaraes – castle

 

From the castle remain only the walls, you can walk safely. There aren’t furnitures, but I suggest you to visit it anyway because it’s very suggestive to admire it from different points of view, and enjoy the view from above. Crossing a little drawbridge, it’s possible to to enter in a room containing representations and objects belonged to the medieval age.

Oporto Portogallo escursioni Guimaraes
Guimaraes – castle
Oporto Portogallo escursioni Guimaraes
Guimaraes – castle
Oporto Portogallo escursioni Guimaraes
Guimaraes – castle
Oporto Portogallo escursioni Guimaraes
Guimaraes – castle

 

 

 

 

From the castle you can already glimpse the residence of the Dukes of Braganza, “Paco dos Duques de Braganca”: a majestic mansion in the Gothic style, that became a royal property in 1485. It was then abandoned and it soon fell into decline; at the beginning of the nineteenth century it was restored in its original forms. The palace has big dimensions and it’s surrounded by a wide garden. We were impressed by its sloping roofs and cylindrical chimneys, that underline the influence of the stately architecture of the North of Europe.

Oporto Portogallo escursioni Guimaraes
Guimaraes – Royal Palace
Oporto Portogallo escursioni Guimaraes
Guimaraes – Royal Palace

 

Inside this palace is simply wonderful: the first floor hosts a museum with original furniture dated back to the XVI-XVIII century, portuguese but also french and Flemish tapestries of the same period, carpets, potteries and an important arm collection.

Oporto Portogallo escursioni Guimaraes
Guimaraes – Royal Palace
Oporto Portogallo escursioni Guimaraes
Guimaraes – Royal Palace
Oporto Portogallo escursioni Guimaraes
Guimaraes – Royal Palace
Oporto Portogallo escursioni Guimaraes
Guimaraes – Royal Palace
Oporto Portogallo escursioni Guimaraes
Guimaraes – Royal Palace

 

 

 

 

In front of it there’s a church in the Romanesque style, Igreja de Sao Miguel do Castelo, where probably Alfonso Henriques, King of Portigal, was baptized.

Oporto Portogallo escursioni Guimaraes
Guimaraes

 

 

Hours and costs: 

CASTLE: from 10:00 to 18:0o (last entry at 17.30) / Euro 2; free until 12

PACO DOS DUQUES: from 10:00 to 18:00 (last entry at 17.30) / Euro 5; free until 12

We chose a combined ticket for these two attractions and spent 6 Euro per person. There are also other kinds of  combined tickets and discounted rates for certain categories of people. See here.

 

 

I found out only later that there are other two things to see in Guimaraes: Largo do Toural, a big square where you’ll find the sign “here Portugal was born” and the area de Couros, the square of the old tanneries. I think these two gems have to be visited!

 

 

In the end the green lung of the town, the Park with the Sanctuary of Penha, reachable by cableway in 10 minutes (otherwise bus or taxi). We weren’t sure to go there, but we don’t regret this destination! The Sanctuary itself is nothing particular, but we discovered that this is the favourite place for tourists and also for the inhabitants for its peace, for its amazing view from over there, for its green areas and for the fresh temperatures during the summer period. So if you’re visiting the North of Portugal during summer, you have a reason more to insert this park into your travel planning!

Oporto Portogallo escursioni Guimaraes
Guimaraes – Penha Park
Oporto Portogallo escursioni Guimaraes
Sanctuary Nossa Senhora da Penha
Oporto Portogallo escursioni Guimaraes
Sanctuary seen from Penha hills

 

 

 

The most surprising thing for us, just arrived by cableway, was the natural environment, where everything was dyed green, even the path, and where you’ll find a lot of moss for the strong humidity everywhere. And then very big and green boulders, so that it seemed to be inside a fairy tail for children, or in a wood full of  gnomes and elves, where you expect that these creatures come suddenly out from behind some boulders. It’s really incredible being flooded with so much colour while walking!

Oporto Portogallo escursioni Guimaraes
Guimaraes – Penha Park
Oporto Portogallo escursioni Guimaraes
Guimaraes – Penha Park
Oporto Portogallo escursioni Guimaraes
Guimaraes – Penha Park

 

 

 

 

The area is part of a national ecological reserve, and it’s also a very good place for a pic-nic at the shelter of very ancient trees and big boulders of singular beauty. There are also restaurants, cafès and bars, and other infrastructures  like the camping, rooms, a mini-golf camp, sports circuits, an equestrian centre. So a very peculiar place I suggest you not to skip, because it permits you to choose what to do, trying different activities among the ones you like more: relax, good food, walks, prayer.

Oporto Portogallo escursioni Guimaraes
Guimaraes – Penha Park

 

 

 

 

SOME TIPS FROM US

 

  • Dress with warm clothes, above all if you travel in the coldest season, like us: temperatures here up change a lot!

 

  • For the restaurants there are many, in the historical centre and also at Penha Park: we had an informal lunch in the centre, Largo de Oliveira, choosing for a fast lunch with soup, filled piadinas and a bier.

 

 

  • If you’ll take the cableway, it costs 5 Euro per person a/r from 10:00 to 17:00 in winter, while from 10:00 to 20:00 in summer: you’ll take about 10 minutes for 1,7 km to reach 400 mt hight. If you suffer from dizziness, don’t worry! Me too, but heights are not so dizzy!  

 

  • To take the cableway you have to go out from the central square and return back to the church, “Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Consolacao”, pass by it and turn immediately left. Continuing on the road for some minutes, you’ll see the cableway station.

 

  • To reach Guimaraes we took the train from the station Sao Bento in Porto, very good solution to avoid car parks: Euro 6,90 a/r per person, about an hour travel only go.

 

  • The last suggestion I feel to leave you is not to combine this excursion with Braga in the same day: I’ve never seen Braga, but surely Guimaraes needs a whole day, except if you want to skip the park of Penha and visit quickly Guimaraes, but it would be a pity!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THE MEANING OF TRAVEL FOR ME

In the last years I follow what Dalai Lama says:” At least once a year go to a place you’ve never been before”.

After years of sufferings and sacrifices, I’ve decided that life is too short and too unpredictable to continue waiting to do what I like and what makes me happy.

I like exploring the world where I live, take photos of it in general but also in its details, film it to hold back those subtle emotions that you could forget over time, and in the end share with you what I’ve seen and felt through my articles.

Travel is for me Love – Freedom – Gratitude

 

 

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