Guimarães, located in the northern Portugal district of Braga, is often referred to as the cradle of the Portuguese nationality. The history of Guimarães is closely associated with the creation of the national identity and language of Portugal. The city was the feudal territory of the Portuguese Dukes who declared the independence of Portugal in the mid-12th century. Founded in the 4th century, Guimarães became the first capital of Portugal in the 12th century. Guimarães is considered the birthplace of Portugal because Afonso Henriques, who went on to be the first king of Portugal, was born here.

Guimarães Castle, was a place of secure refuge both for the town’s inhabitants and the monks and nuns of a monastery on the site of what is now the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira. The original fortress on the site was constructed in the 10th century by Mumadona Dias, the widow of Count Hermenegildo Gonçalves. It was enlarged in the 11th century and it was here Afonso Henriques, the first King of Portugal, was born in 1111.

The castle was remodelled by King Denis (1261-1325) in the late 13th and early 14th centuries, and withstood two sieges in the 14th century. It fell into decline in the subsequent centuries, and was used briefly as a debtors’ prison in the 19th century. The castle was declared a national monument in 1910 and restoration work began in the 1930’s.

The Palace of the Dukes of Braganza, Paço dos Duques de Bragança, is a medieval estate and former residence of the first Dukes of Braganza. It was built between 1420 and 1422 by Afonso, Count of Barcelos, the illegitimate son of John I of Portugal and future Duke of Bragança, after his marriage to his second wife. The Palace was only occupied permanently during the 15th Century. The 16th Century saw the beginning of period of ruin, which was aggravated during the 19th century, when the local population used the palace as a personal quarry. During the Estado Novo regime, a controversial restoration restored the Palace, while implying a grandeur that may not have existed. The Palace was classified as a National Monument in 1910, and has been an official residence for the Presidency.

Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira

The historic centre of Guimarães is a well preserved example of the evolution of a medieval settlement into a modern town, and the development of Portuguese architecture from the 15th to the 19th centuries. This variety of different building types documents the responses to the evolving needs of the community. A particular type of construction developed here in the Middle Ages was used widely in the then Portuguese colonies. It featured a ground floor in granite with a half-timbered structure above, a technology that was used in Portuguese colonies in Africa and the New World, becoming their characteristic feature.

Praça de São Tiago a very old part of the city, the square is surrounded by 16th and 17th-century houses with typically northern features, simple three-storey constructions with wooden balconies. Rua de Santa Maria, is one of the first streets to be built in Guimarães in the 12th century.

The weather finally put a stop to our activities, when the heavy rain made it difficult to walk around the city. As always we had a leisurely lunch in a lovely restaurant.

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