Guimaraes Car Hire
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Guimares is a city located in northern Portugal in the Braga district, at the foot of the Serra de Santa Catarina (615 metres), to the northeast of the city of Porto. Despite the fact that this small town has over 50,000 inhabitants, it has the feel of a laid back village. The town was identified last year as the European Capital of Culture, as well as being a UNESCO city of World Heritage. It is rich in culture and history and is alleged to be the birthplace of Portugal, but also has the buzzing happening feel of a popular university town with an abundance of artistic events.
The cost of living is considerably cheaper than that of the UK and that’s evidenced by the economical deals on car hire. Presently, a Fiat 500 or similar mini-size car costs just £30 for 4 days and the compact Ford Focus is only £42 for 4 days, while even a compact elite car such as the Volkswagen T-Roc works out at just £19 a day. Rent a car with Enjoy from Porto to explore northern Portugal. There are a number of car rental choices at Porto Airport, provided by our trusted hire partners like Avis, Alamo, Budget, Enterprise, Europcar and Sixt, not to mention smaller local companies, and pre-booking online almost always provides discounts of 5% – 10%.
Guide to the Guimaraes
This adorable, medieval city, is historic and characterful and the prime example of a traditional city in northern portugal. The pedestrianized centre is composed of a web of twisting cobblestoned streets, interspersed only with large elegant plazas. The narrow streets are packed with cute little cafes and tiny bars which seem busy at all hours of the day (apart from during the siesta of course), as well as being lined with miniature, incredibly specialized boutiques selling anything from lacework to birdcages - it really is quite a unique sight !
The entire historical city centre is surrounded by the ancient city walls which are a fundamental part of its history. The architecture is a combination of golden houses contrasted with dark and white granite which is not only in the doorways, balconies and window frames, but also graceful iron verandas, arched ways connecting the narrow streets and beautiful old mansions and churches. The inner city really is quite unique in the fact that it makes you feel as though you are going back in time to the medieval era.
The city was founded in the 4th century but became renowned in the 12th century when it briefly became the nation’s first capital, when the nation’s first king, Alfonso Henriques, defeated the Moors, who had invaded southern Portugal and Spain and drove them back to North Africa. The town now carries the emblem: “Aqui Nasceu Portugal” - Portugal was born here. The city continued to evolve, being a popular place for the nobility to settle who then invested in the construction of mansions, Churches and monasteries. In the middle ages, under the reign of King Denis, the defensive wall was built to protect the expanding town.
What to do in the Guimaraes
The main reason to visit the city is for the endless culture and art to discover. Central to the town is of course the fairy-tale castle which dates back to the 10th century, which despite being empty on the inside offers spectacular views of the city if you climb the ramparts. The castle not only defended the castle against invasion from the Moors and the Kingdom of Leon but later became a prison. It finally opened to the public in 1940. Just across the road from the castle, is the 15-the century Braganza Palace of the Dukes, built by Afonso, Count of Barcelos, who was the illegitimate son of John, when he returned to Portugal after a series of diplomatic missions to the Courts of France, Venice, Aragon and Castille. Inside the palace, you will find an array of armoury and tapestries.
Just opposite the old market hall building, you will find the José de Guimaraes International, which is a large cluster of cubes which features the art of José de Guimaraes who was himself born in the fine city. Their collection is rather startling as it includes a wide variety from African tribal art, Chinese art and art from Central and South America.The neo- Romanesque Martins Sarmento Archeological museum hosts exhibitions of Celtic excavations which were found on the site of a Celtic fort at Citania de Briteiros in the 1870s, which is situated about 15 km away from Guimarães.
After the reconquista, the city also became wholly devoted to Catholicism, hence the incredible collection of religious monuments that can be visited. This includes three convents/ monasteries, one of them being the Santa Clara convent which is host to the Alberto Sampaio Museum, showcasing a wide range of religious icons from small painted statues of saints to giant angel candleholders. Other churches worth visiting include the Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Carmo, which is a baroque church from the 17th century with a hand painted interior, or the Igreja da Nossa Senhora da Oliviera which is supposedly the place where Afonso Henriques was baptised.
For a slightly more lively diversion away from the museums and historical visits, clear your head by reaching the clouds in a 10 minute cable-car ride which will take you up to the top 2000 ft high Mount Serra de Santa Catarina, known as Penhaa. The ascent will give you an opportunity to be nosy as you can peer into private gardens and when you reach the summit you will be blown away by the views. There is also a lot to do at the top other than gaze over the marvelous city, there are restaurants, cafes, grottoes to explore, and plenty of cycling and walking trails.
Eating out in the Guimaraes
To spend the evening grazing on Spanish tapas both old and new, Manifestis Probatum is the ideal venue for the early dinner accompanied by locally brewed beer or wine. The Castas e Tostas does a similar thing, in that it serves exquisite tapas and local wines in the central district. Résvés is another tapas restaurant spread over two floors with a grassy garden and a terrace on the first floor. There is a selection of delicious seafood, grilled meat and even gyozas!
On the other hand, if you are looking for something completely different, in a welcoming environment Bar Danubio will serve you the most delicious burgers unlike anything you will have ever tasted before! They not only reinvent the traditional burger there is also something for seafood fanatics.
Dona Mafalda not only will serve you a traditional 5 star meal but the experience will also match it : Not only are the staff friendly and professional, the venue is both impressive as well as historical. The restaurant is located in the old Monastery of Santa Marinha and the dining room is situated in an impressive room with large arches which used to be the wineries of the monastery. Similarly up market and with a Michelin star, A Cozinha presents you with innovative, beautifully presented amuse-bouches, a long with delicious main courses all made with locally sourced fresh ingredients.
Cor de Tangerina has earned its reputation despite focusing only on vegetarian food. The restaurant is charming, in the setting of a very old house situated just by the castle with a cute patio where you will find the tangerine tree along with the chef’s own herb garden. The chef himself is a herbal alchemist and brews his own teas and tonic and produces the most exquisite combination of flavors all for a very reasonable price.
For more of a sweet treat, do not miss Supreme Gosto, a pastelaria where you will enjoy all of the specialities with a view of the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Consolaçao e Santos.
The closest airport to Guimaraes is Porto's Francisco Sá Carniero Airport, which is about 30 miles away or a half an hour drive on N105-2 and N105. Porto has regular flights from London for a reasonable price. It’s a spacious, modern airport which consistently ranks among Europe’s top three.
Buses and trains:
Frequent daily trains make the roughly 1-hour, 10 minute run between Porto and Guimarães.The train station is situated to the south of the historic centre and it only take about 10 minutes to walk to the tourist centre.
From Braga buses make frequent 1-hour trips during the day. A single (one-way) bus ticket from Braga to the Guimarães bus station, Quinta das Lameiras, is reasonably priced. Tel. 253/42-35-00. There are also buses to Porto (50 mins), Lisbon (5 hours), Amarante, Braganca and Vila Real. Local buses in Guimarães are operated by TUG (Transurbanos de Guimarães).
Guimaraes Driving Tips
Drive on the right-hand side of the road in The Guimaraes. The speed limits are 120 km/h on the motorway, 100 km/h (60 mph) on expressways, 90 km/h (50mph) on other roads and 50 km/h (30 mph) in built-up areas. Also:
Drivers must carry an international driving licence, passport, insurance documents, MOT certificate if the car is more than three years old, and car hire documents.
Speed traps are common so don’t be tempted to speed (even though the locals will!).
Also be aware that the town centre is completely pedestrianized.