A couple of months ago, I rescued some photos from a visit to Guimarães in Portugal, from a trip we did about 10 years ago. Last week, I decided to take my car and drive south to see if the city was as charming as I remembered. Here is what I found:
A permanent city in evolution
From the first time I visited Guimaraes, I only remember the medieval buildings, the wooden balconies, the winding roads and the cobblestones. There were castles and warriors and a middle ages fair; and it seems that I missed half of the city.
“The historic town of Guimarães is associated with the emergence of the Portuguese national identity in the 12th century. An exceptionally well-preserved and authentic example of the evolution of a medieval settlement into a modern town, its rich building typology exemplifies the specific development of Portuguese architecture from the 15th to 19th century through the consistent use of traditional building materials and techniques.” — Unesco
Had the city changed as much? Was my memory so bad? Probably no and no. As far as the old city of Guimaraes has remained the same, the surrounding city has evolved into a more vibrant and interesting choice. It’s not new buildings they’ve built, but they way they’ve given new uses to old structures, to beautiful buildings dating back from the XV to the XIX century.
You won’t find enormous structures in the middle of a medieval square or XXI century skyscrapers pointing up in the skyline. And that, today is something very uncommon.
Plus, it’s not only the city who’s evolved. It’s me whose eyes have changed and looks into things a different way. I don’t know if it’s travel or life or people I’ve met. I believe there is something about the timing that makes books, movies and even cities different depending on the time you read, watch or visit. Me, the reader, the writer, the spectator is different and yes, I still love this tiny town.
So why visit Guimaraes?
Of course, there are churches and monuments, museums and castles worth a visit. But these are my 5 reasons to visit Guimaraes:
- Because you’ll love walking it’s cobblestone streets and stopping at every artisan shop you find in your way, and it won’t cost you a penny
- Because everything is within a walking distance, except for Santuário da Penha. And even for that, you have a Cable Car (less than 5€ return ticket)
- Because it’s never crowded, although Guimaraes is a Unesco World Heritage Site since 2001
- Because food is great and the people charming (won’t find many McDonalds or pizza places around town) and ,being a touristic spot, it’s not expensive nor pretentious
- Because there is a house you’ll fall in love with, or a castle, a shop… The one below is my favourite
No, I didn’t use a fisheye or distort the lens or alter the image and there’s no Photoshop in this strange rickety house. Would have loved to get inside the house, see how it feels to be inside :D
There are many more reasons. Some of them you’ll find at the pictures below.
Like the monument Padrão do Salado, and the church Nosa Senhora de Oliveira, both built to remember victories over the Spanish army and celebrate independence from the Spaniards. The only portuguese Pope, Joao XXI, left to Rome from here too.
Or the many statues, signs and posts that will tell you that the first king, D. Afonso Henriques, was born here. And within the high towers and walls of the medieval castle, he defeated his mother’s armies in 1128 and built the basis of the portuguese realm.
Or the little details in every corner, the windows, the doors… Everything seems out of place and at the same time it all fits together perfectly.
Plus, imagine it on a nice sunny day ;)