Guimarães is a city and municipality located in the north of Portugal. The urban population is approximately 80,000 inhabitants, comprising the city of Guimarães and three other independent municipalities.
The municipality of Guimarães is one of the most prosperous in northern Portugal and the largest municipality (by area) in the historical region of Minho.
Its economy is based mainly on services and high-quality agricultural production.
The main activities are: commerce, banking, industry, agro-business and tourism.
Industrial activities are mainly small companies involved in food-processing and metalworking. The paper industry has always been important but is no longer a major employer. Guimarães has a few industrial estates that house many businesses, mainly small and medium-sized.
The city is also a centre for higher education and research, with its two universities and its polytechnic institute. Another important factor in drawing students to Guimarães is the presence of a major hospital, the largest in the north of Portugal.
Guimarães has one of Portugal’s most impressive historical centres. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most visited places in Portugal. Guimarães is the birthplace of Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal. The city was established by the Romans and was called “Scallabis”.
The Castle of Guimarães dates from before 1146 when it was donated by D. Afonso Henriques to his counsellor Pêro Annes de Barbudo and his wife D. Teresa, who lived in the Castle for eleven years and had several children. In the 12th century, the castle was rebuilt by D. Afonso Henriques into one of the most important fortresses of his nascent kingdom. It was later enlarged by King Denis in 1210 (during his siege of Lisbon). The battlements were reinforced during the reigns of D. Sancho I and D. Afonso IV. The Counts of Arraiolos were first granted lands around Guimarães after its conquest by D. Afonso Henriques in 1148. In 1210, the lands were ceded to D. Afonso II who granted the first foral in 1211.
Ferreira (Furnishings) Palace dates from the 15th century, although it was altered in the 16th century and again in the 19th century. It was reconstructed and redecorated by D. Afonso V and given to his son D. Pedro. In the Portuguese Restoration War, it was rebuilt and remodelled by Mateus Vicente de Oliveira in 1645, while the Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Conceição dates from 1834. It was partially destroyed in the 1940 earthquake and reconstructed in 1950.
The Parish Church of Santa Maria Maior (St. Mary, patron saint of Guimarães) is one of the most famous examples of Romanesque architecture in Portugal. Today it is the center of the Diocese of Braga, one of the oldest in Portugal. It was first built in 1146 and was subsequently reconstructed by King Denis (12 th century), King Dinis (13th century) and Queen Maria II (18 th century). The Baroque altarpiece (1625) belonged to the Misericórdia Hospital of Guimarães.
The Tower of Homem, also known as the Tower of D. Pedro, was used as a watchtower in the Middle Ages. It was part of a fortification constructed after Guimarães was conquered by King Afonso Henriques and donated to his counsellor Pêro Annes de Barbudo in 1144. The upper part of the tower is dated to the 12 th century, while the base dates to the 14 th . The castle served as a royal residence until the 16 th century.
The Santa Clara Convento was founded in 1460 by Queen Elizabeth of Portugal and housed noblewomen from noble families in Portugal. The building was reconstructed in 1571 and received its current appearance in 1817. The Convent was dissolved in 1834 and turned into a prison. It became a military court and police station after this period.
Vieira Square was the centre of Guimarães in the Middle Ages and today it is the heart of the city. Before 1211, it was a swampy area, but after King Afonso Henriques granted a foral (charter) to Guimarães, it became a square. The square was used for fairs and tournaments, and has been the site of important events in the history of Guimarães. The architecture in Vieira Square is a blend of styles from different eras.
The former Jewish Quarter is located on the southeast side of Vieira Square. It was established during the reigns of D. Afonso VI and D. Manuel I, but it disappeared after 1496 when King Manuel I decreed that all Jews had to convert to Christianity or leave Portugal (the Edict of Portugal). The neighbourhood was home to the Jewish community and synagogue, where they lived until the Edict of Portugal in 1496. Today the area is home to many restaurants and shops.
The Church of São Domingos (Saint Dominic) was built on the site of a previous Romanesque church in 1444. The present building dates from 1681 when it was completely rebuilt on orders from the Archbishop D. Frei Luís de Moura e Bragança, and consecrated by D. António de Castro, Archbishop of Lisbon. The church is known for its Baroque altarpieces, which date from the 18 th and 19 th centuries, and its 18th century pulpit.
The Church of São Salvador (St. Saviour) was constructed in the 13th century and rebuilt in 1713 with a new façade dating from this period. It was located in the former Jewish Quarter which was destroyed after 1496 (the Edict of Portugal). The construction of this church was ordered by the Bishop of Guimarães D. João de Castilho, who dedicated it to St. Saviour, a saint who is associated with Jesus Christ, and is believed to have been one of his disciples.
The Church of São Francisco (Saint Francis) was built between 1785 and 1805 on orders from King José I. It is the most important Baroque monument in Guimarães and housed the court of law. It was used as a court of law until 1834, after which it was used as a prison. In 1839 it became a Provincial Museum.
The Church of the Convento do Carmo (Carmelite Convent) is one of the largest convents in Portugal, with an area of 13,250 square meters and 330 rooms. It was founded by D. Pedro, the Master of Aviz, and was built in 1551 on the site of a former Celtiberian village and an ancient Roman cemetery.
Saint Vincent Church with its double cloister is found at the entrance to the town. The church dates from 1252 when it was consecrated under the name of São Vicente Ferreira (Saint Vincent Ferrier), patron Saint of Lisbon, who was born in Guimarães. It was rebuilt in 1631 on the orders of King Philip IV, and in 1685 the church was expanded. The church is adorned with beautiful Renaissance azulejos (blue and white glazed tiles) and has a splendid Baroque main altarpiece from the 18 th century.
The Church of São Vicente de Paulo (Saint Vincent of St Paul) is a temple of Manueline style built between 1554 and 1570 with an interior covered in azulejos. It is located at Arco de Almedina, in the historical centre of Guimarães.
The Church of São João Baptista (Saint John the Baptist), consecrated in 1443, was built over an old Romanesque church dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. The church was completely destroyed during the 1755 earthquake and was rebuilt between 1756 and 1764 by architect Carlos Amarante. The bell tower is the only existing part of the original 15 th century structure. The interior of the church is covered with beautiful azulejos and has a Baroque main altarpiece and a Flamboyant pulpit.
The gothic Church of Santa Cruz (Saint Cross) — also known as Igreja de São Miguel (Saint Michael’s Church) — lies at Arco de São Miguel, in the historical centre of Guimarães. The church has a Romanesque-style apse. In the interior, there are two Gothic tombs (one of them is the tomb of Fernão Gonçalves de Valadares, one of the main characters of the Battle of São Mamede), and a Renaissance pulpit. The Church of Santa Cruz also has a Baroque alabaster retable by Joaquim Machado de Castro. This church was classified as National Monument in 1910.
Guimarães was declared Portuguese national heritage on 23 June 1922.