For a pleasant day trip from Porto, Portugal, try Guimarães. This town is about 55km (34 miles) northeast of Porto. Guimarães is considered the birthplace of Portugal. Although Portuguese dukes declared independence from this location as far back as the 12th century, true independence would not happen until the 17th century. As with many cities in Europe, the history of Guimarães dates back to ancient times, at least to the Roman period. The site of the castle and palace, called Holy Hill, is steeped in history too. I always love when several historic buildings are part of the same property.
The castle and palace described below are next door to each other and near the town center.
This castle is very small, mainly a crenelated wall with eight towers and a small tower keep in the center. In spite of being small, it is a national symbol of Portugal’s founding and struggle for independence.
You can partially walk around the castle walls, which provide a good view of the palace and surrounding countryside.
The best views of the castle are from the exterior. It was built originally in the 10th century to protect against the Norsemen and Moorish invaders.
Ducal Palace of Braganza
The palace is more interesting than the castle, with a large interior courtyard and rooms that make you feel like you’ve been transported right back to the 1400’s. The style is reminiscent of French architecture, and the whole palace looks like it belongs in Northern Europe.
Great tapestries hang from the huge room walls, and the furniture fits the palace’s original period pretty well.
Construction began in the early 15th century, as ordered by the Alfonso, Duke of Braganza.
The palace has been reconstructed over the years and served as a residence for the President of Portugal in the mid 20th century.
In addition to the castle and palace, Guimarães has a quaint town center and a convent (Misericórdia), which we did not take the time to visit, since we wanted also to visit a few sights near Lumego on the same day. Lumego is 119 km (74 miles) east of Guimarães.