Guimarães was one of my favorite stops on our visit to Portugal. We spent most of the day visiting Guimarães Castle and its neighbor, Braganza Palace. The castle is one of the most important places in the country, known as the “Birthplace of Portugal” because it was here that Afonso Henriques, Portugal’s first king, was born in 1106.
The castle was not the first fortification on this spot. In the tenth century, Momadona Dias, one of the most powerful women in Portugal’s long history, had a castle built on the hill to protect the nearby monastery that she had founded.
Henry of Burgundy, the first Count of the County of Portugal, had the original castle demolished and a new castle built on its spot. It’s near here where the young Afonso, during the Battle of São Mamede, defeated the forces led by his mother in 1128 and declared himself Prince of Portugal. In 1139 Afonso was declared King of Portugal and, in 1143, the neighboring nations recognized his sovereignty.
It doesn’t take long to explore the castle, but it’s worth the time. In addition to the walls and towers, the central keep houses an interesting little museum outlining the history of Guimarães and Afonso. You also get plenty of great views of the surrounding area, including Braganza Palace.