Have you heard of Guimarães, Portugal? I certainly hadn’t until Lauren of Spanish Sabores blogged about the city, calling it one of Europe’s most romantic. My interest was piqued–Guimarães went on the travel wishlist. Luckily, the city is connected to Porto by commuter train*–with a trip to Porto in the cards, visiting Guimarães was suddenly a reality. Travel time was about an hour and 40 minutes, and the beautiful sights in store were worth the trip.
Guimarães proved it was not just a pretty face; it has been culturally fixed on the map since being named a European Capital of Culture for 2012. The city reminded me a lot of Tallinn, Estonia, which, oddly enough, held this cultural crown in 2011. Parallels between the two places were the colorful façades, cobblestone walkways, beautiful night lighting, and an old town straight from a storybook. Now I’m curious to see which cities will be the European Capitals of Culture in 2013**!
Guimarães’ castle, which we were able to explore
A duke once lived next door to the castle–this was his humble abode
As we were climbing the castle, the setting sun made for terrific photo ops
Next, we strolled back down the hill from the castle to the town
As night fell, the streets were noticeably empty of day-tourists
Quirky statues stood guard over the city’s historic heart
Chairs filled the terraces, but for the most part restaurants and bars were empty
Christmas lights added to the charm
The city center was gorgeous and–shall I use this word?–romantic
Oh Portugal…more colorful façades!
Conclusion: Guimarães is indeed a charming city, especially at night
*Logistics: From Porto you can reach Guimarães by the train at the São Bento train station (this is located by, but not connected to, a metro station called São Bento). Buy your ticket at the little machines on the platform. The trip took 90 minutes on the way there, but nearly 1 hour and 45 minutes on the return. The cost–in January 2013–was 6,50 Euros round-trip.
**Ok, I admit, I looked ’em up – anyone wanna travel to Marseille, France or Košice, Slovakia this year?