48km (30 miles) NE of Porto; 69km (43 miles) SW of Viana do Castelo; 364km (226 miles) N of Lisbon
The cradle of Portugal, Guimarães suffers from a near embarrassment of riches. At the foot of a range of serras (mountains), this first capital of Portugal has preserved a medieval atmosphere in its core. The city was the birthplace of Afonso Henríques, the first king of Portugal and son of a French nobleman, Henri de Bourgogne, and his wife, Teresa, daughter of the king of León and Castile. For her dowry, Teresa brought the county of Portucale, whose name eventually became Portugal. Portucale consisted of the land between the Minho and the Douro, taking in what is now the city of Porto. Teresa and Henri chose Guimarães as their court, and Afonso Henríques was born here.
After Henri died, Teresa became regent for the baby king. She soon fell into disfavor with her subjects for having an affair with a count from Galicia and developing strong ties with her native Spain. As a young man, Afonso revolted against the regent's forces outside Guimarães in 1128. A major victory for Afonso came in 1139, when he routed the Moors near Santarém. He broke from León and Castile and proclaimed himself king of Portucale. In 1143, Spain recognized the newly emerged kingdom.
Guimarães had another famous son, Gil Vicente (1465-1537?). Founder of the Portuguese theater, he's often referred to as the Shakespeare of Portugal. Although trained as a goldsmith, Vicente entertained the courts of both João II and Manuel I with his farces and tragicomedies. He also penned religious dramas.
Today Guimarães is a busy little town with an eye toward commerce, especially in weaving, tanning, and kitchenware and cutlery manufacturing. It's also known for its craft industries, particularly pottery, silver- and goldsmithing, and embroidery.