The city of Guimaraes was originally settled in the 9th century and is widely regarded as being “the cradle of the Portuguese nationality.” It served as center of government for the historic county of Portugal after the Moorish invaders were pushed out by the Kingdom of Galicia in the 10th century. It was also the site of the Battle of São Mamede in 1128, and may have been the birthplace of Afonso I of Portugal, the first Portuguese king.
Today the historic city center of Guimaraes is a UNESCO World Heritage site because it’s said to be an authentic example of the evolution of a medieval town into a modern city. Among the well-preserved 15th to 19th-century Portuguese architecture is the medieval Guimaraes Castle, and the famed Palace of the Dukes of Bragança.
Today, Guimaraes has been described by the New York Times as one of the emerging cultural hotspots of the Iberian Peninsula. Among the innumerable museums, monuments, and art galleries the Vila Flor Cultural Center stands out. Housed in the renovated Vila Flor Palace it has a concert cafe, exhibition gallery, and award-winning gardens. Guimaraes is also famous for its Guimaraes' pies, and Toucinho do céu, translated as “bacon from heaven.”
Guimaraes is about a four-hour rail journey from Lisbon, and can also be reached from most major Portuguese cities by direct Rede Expressos bus. Within the city center, getting around is easiest by foot, but a public bus service is also available. Entrance at most public sights, including Vila Flor Cultural Center and Guimaraes Castle, is free, while others, including the Palace of the Dukes, have admission fees.