Behold the majesty of Guimarães, birthplace of the first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques, first capital of Portugal, foundation of the Portuguese identity, and Mother of Dragons(???).
A cultural mecca, the city is home to a number of ancient buildings, medieval bridges, cultural landmarks and architecture dating back to the founding of the country. They are usually found in the Old Town, and are typically situated within walking distance of each other. It’s also possible to venture slightly out of town (to the Santuário da Penha) for a breath-taking view of the region and the lush vastness that surrounds.
As it’s a place of extreme cultural importance to Portugal, Guimarães hosts a number of important events during the year, the two most popular being in June and November. The month of June finds the Feira Afonsina, a medieval-themed street fair with old-timey food, medieval costumes and traditional artisanal crafts. In November, the city opens its doors for Guimarães Jazz, a collection of wide-ranging talents and musical styles focused on showcasing the modern face of jazz. Ever evolving, ever eclectic, Guimarães Jazz stands as one of the country’s premier annual events.
Situated directly in the Vinho Verde region, the city also provides access to a number of vineyards, with an increasing level of eno-tourism. Vinho Verde is a Portuguese-only style of wine, and incorporates traditional grape varieties found in the northern regions. Examples include: Alvarinho, Avesso & Loureiro. Vinho Verde is not extraordinarily known outside Portugal, but it is fresh, light and excellent as a simple table wine. This type of wine is definitively celebrated during the city’s most important wine festival, Festa das Colheitas, which falls during the second weekend of October each year.
Finally, adventure tours are easily accessible within the region. The mountain biking centre of Mondim de Basto, with over 155km of biking trails, is within a close distance to Guimarães, and the city serves as a perfect jumping off point to both Mondim de Basto (to the West) and the Peneda-Geres National Park (to the North).
All in all, this ancient hamlet proves to be an excellent option for those seeking something different than Porto, and a gateway to the charms that Portugal’s North claims directly as part of its national birthright.