On our recent trip to Porto, we had a day trip to Guimarães, a historical city up in the mountains.
It’s an easy 75 minute train journey from São Bento station. Its historical centre is a UNESCO world heritage site, with medieval buildings. There’s even a castle. All in all, it’s pretty as a picture. This makes it the perfect day trip if you’re staying in Porto.
From the train station, we walked down to the city centre through not particularly promising beginnings – just normal residential streets. Closer to the centre, we started to get glimpses of older buildings, a hint of things to come. It only got better from then on in. Cobbled streets, tiled staircases, medieval archways and winding little alleyways with all sorts of shops. Most buildings were white, with colour coming from window boxes of flowers and patterned tiles (something we loved about Porto, too). Oh, and some very instagrammable doors.
After meandering round some independent shops (you won’t find the usual European plethora of H&Ms and Zaras here), we had an absolute bargain of a lunch at Alma Restaurante. If you’ve read our food and drink in Porto post, you’ll know we had high expectations on this holiday. The restaurant was, bizarrely, a Japanese-Portuguese fusion restaurant. This sounds like it shouldn’t work, but it did. We both had the ‘lunch of the day’. This concept is very well done by the Portuguese, far better than in other countries. You get a limited choice or a set option main meal off a menu, with a dessert and a drink, all for somewhere between 6 and 8 Euro. This particular one was 6 Euro. Beats a UK meal deal…
After eating, we meandered up to the castle. As you can probably tell, Guimarães is a place for meandering. The pace of our day was sedate and this seemed to fit with the city. The castle itself is on a small hill surrounded by gardens and a little church. You could pay to go in, but we didn’t bother because we prefer these sorts of things from the outside. Seen one stone interior wall, seen ’em all. Or something.
After a lap of the castle, we went back into the medieval centre for a drink just as the sun came out. There were plenty of bars to sit outside and do some people watching.
The highest point in Guimarães is Penha mountain. If we’d been there on a clearer day, we’d have gone up in the cable car, but unfortunately most of the day was cloudy and when the sun did come out, it was nearly time for our train ‘home’ to Porto.
Guimarães has the calmer atmosphere of a small city. With its winding streets and fairytale castle, it has a dreamlike quality to it, making it the perfect trip from bustling Porto.
Guimarães day trip: useful information
How to get there
It’s an easy 75 minute train journey from São Bento station in Porto.
Where to stay
We just went for the day, from Porto, which was an excellent base for this and other day trips.
How to get around
Everything is walkable.
When to go
We visited in August and the weather was beautiful – not too hot, but warm enough to walk around in summer clothes.