It was in this medieval castle that Afonso Henriques was born. Within sight of its high walls, he would defeat the armies of his mother in 1128. Proclaimed heir to the Kingdom of Portucalense by the nobles of the Minho, the Prince, declared of striking beauty in chronicles of the time, would go onto become the first king of Portugal.
However, it is for its surviving built heritage that UNESCO declared the city of World Heritage status, a decision that soon becomes clear in its historic centre. There is a very authentic feel to the gracious iron verandas, the granite balconies and porchways, the outline of the turreted towers of noble residences, the archways that link narrow streets, the stone paving slabs worn by the passage of time and the cool freshness of the cloisters. For moments, one is plunged back into medieval times when the nobility was busy reflecting their own sense of importance in residences such as Mota Prego, the Vila Flor Palace, Toural and so many others that endow Guimarães with its unique ambience.
We shall leave you in the very heart of the city, the Nossa Senhora da Oliveira square, just one possible departure point for your tour. Here stands the impressive Collegiate Church of Guimarães from where Pedro Hispano set off to Rome to become John 21st, the only Portuguese Pope thus far in the history of the Catholic Church.
For another perspective on the city, take the cable car to the top of Penha and enjoy one of the most beautiful views out over northern Portugal.
In 2012, Guimarães will be the European Capital of Culture. Throughout the year, the city will host a large gathering of creators and creations in various artistic fields such as music, film, visual arts, architecture, theater, dance or street arts.