Guimaraes and Paco dos Duques de Braganca

We are used to talking about the creation of the Portuguese nation as originating in Lisbon, but while the capital city of Portugal is definitely a great economic hub and cultural center, there are other cities whose history dates back to time immemorial.

Guimaraes and Paco dos Duques de Braganca make the subject of today’s discussion. Called Vimaranes in the 9th century, when it was settled – making it an important element in the Portuguese nation building, if not even the cradle of the Portuguese – Guimaraes is an impressive historical site whose old town center is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Having been a European cultural capital in 2012, Guimaraes is pure history. Though highly industrialized today (particularly in the fields of textiles, shoes and mechanics), Guimaraes is first and foremost a cultural city. Vernissages, concerts and events take place here, while the visitor has a wide variety of museums and monuments to admire.

If you are interested in medieval art, you might like to visit the Alberto Sampaio Museum, featuring pieces from the 14th – 16th centuries. If archeology is what you enjoy, you are invited to the Martins Sarmento Society. Events are usually hosted by the Vila Flor Cultural Center, featuring two auditoriums, a cafe and exhibition gallery.

An important place in the life of the town is occupied by Paco dos Duques de Braganca (the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza). The palace was commissioned by the Count of Barcelos, Alfonso, the illegitimate son of John I of Portugal around the year 1420. This happened when Alfonso returned to Portugal after a long period of functioning as a diplomat in France. The castle was built following the architectural trends of the age, a rectangular nobiliary construction with an extensive courtyard and a chapel. The interior is rather austere, with walls made of granite and wood ceilings and floors and narrow corridors.

To visit the beautiful region of Northern Portugal, you’d better book a Porto taxi and enjoy the ride.