The picturesque medieval town of Guimarães is located about 30 miles northeast of Porto, in the heart of the Minho region.
It is the birthplace of Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal, and was the country’s first capital. The town is a UNESCO World Heritage site and will be the European Capital of Culture in 2012.
The historic center of town is well preserved and has a number of stone buildings that date from the 10th to the 15th centuries, and a quaint main square, Largo da Oliveira (Olive Tree Square). Just a short walk from the square is the 15th C. Palace of the Dukes of Bragança. The nearby 10th C. Castle is closely linked to the military history of the founding of the nation. Positioned between the castle and the palace is the Church of São Miguel do Castelo. Legend has it that Afonso Henrique was baptized in this church.
On a hilltop just outside of town is a 12th C. Augustinian monastery that was built by Teresa, the mother of Afonso Henriques. There is also a Manueline church that still offers Mass on Sunday, along with extensive grounds and beautifully maintained gardens. For more information, click here.
Today the monastery welcomes guests as the Pousada de Guimarães, Santa Marinha. It is one of the most impressive hotels in the Pousadas group, and was awarded the coveted Europa Nostra prize for its renovation and restoration. The Pousada has 49 rooms and 2 suites that are outfitted in traditional Portuguese style and have been equipped with modern amenities. Guests can enjoy the views of the city below from the beautiful outdoor swimming pool and gardens that surround the hotel. For more information and reservations, click here.
Photo credit: Turismo de Guimarães / Câmara Municipal de Guimarães
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