We were having a hard time choosing between the day trip to either Guimaraes (known as where Portugal is born) or Braga (the famous Bom Jesus de Monte). We started early at 8 am as the train journey took 1 hr and 15 min to Guimaraes directly from Sao Bento Train Station and only cost €3,10 per person one way. At the train station purchasing ticket that can be reloaded:
While Jason was taking photos of the beautiful blue tile wall arts in the Sao Bento Train Station, incredible isn’t it?
Just to show you how massive those paintings are!
It’s not a big train station so it is very easily to find your trains!
The “red” line to Guimaraes whereas the “green” line to Braga but there isn’t any station that closely linked the two, even though from the map they are really not that far apart!
The views are nice to see the fog covered valley of Porto and then to the rural. Arrived Guimaraes Train Station which located around 15 minutes walk to get to the city historical center; the direction was easy using our phone HERE GPS map. We arrived at Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Consolação e Santos Passos, a lovely church. The postcard photos were taken here of the zig-zag flower arrangement with the church as the backdrop. We arrived at the church so we were facing the opposite direction to the center instead of the church LOL!
There…..but it was in shadow due to the time of the day.
We better have breakfast before the activities and there is a cafe right on the square filled with motorcyclists! Forgot the name of the cafe but I think it is Café Vieneza. Without any English on the label tag of the pastries, I went by my instinct to point haha! The fluffy looking cake was interesting and not as sweet as other Portuguese desserts so it was fine, the middle ones were actually had meat fillings inside which I really liked, and the pastel de nata was surprisingly good. I went back for a second round to order the meat filling ones and the pastel de nata 🙂 It cost less than 5 euros with the water!
After breakfast, we walked into the “old town” and first stop at the square in front of Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira.
We went inside out of curiosity and it is actually a courtyard where locals sell stuff like hand-made crafts.
I did not have a list of “must visit sights” so we just roaming around into back roads for photos of its lovely and unique architectural style houses!
Wandered into the back roads to avoid tour groups and better for photos 🙂 Aren’t those houses beautiful?
Guimaraes has many, many, many churches! Locals were having their Sunday services.
The map of its historical center……I recommend you to stop by the visitor information center to obtain a map….it’s quite hidden; not in the main road!
We were aiming to walk up to Guimaraes castle; that was all I know it’s located up the hill so we kept walking up and up until we reached this…which I thought is the castle…
It happened to be free that day for some reason…
I really like those chandeliers made up with those cones-like cups!
This probably used as a stage for events?
And then a little chapel that has those huge tall and thin steps! People were having difficulties walking out, not sure why they built it like that!
But the cute little chapel inside is pretty!
What is this? Some kind of weapon?
We toured this place and I finally realized this is not the Guimaraes Castle afterward LOL! This is Paço Dos Duques De Bragança, a palace, not the castle! The castle is a little bit away/behind this LOL! Oh well too late!
We walked back down to the center and stopped along the way by cute walls, corners, and buildings like those:
Probably the smallest “church” ever?
The Câmara Municipal de Guimarães:
I like this little bridge!
The tourist information center is near that little bridge! We went in and asked for direction on where to catch the bus to Braga, the lady inside spoke good English and pointed us the way and schedule…I looked at the schedule, not as frequent as I thought and since it was a Sunday even fewer buses!
The bus station is outside of the historical center and it’s right on the Guimaraes shopping center, the streets in Guimaraes are curved so easy to turned into a wrong street…which we did! But thanks to the GPS, we were able to get back on the right street down at Avenida Conde de Margarid to the bus station! Inside, I went to a counter and asked, the lady said pay to the bus station and the bus will be leaving from platform 2. We were sitting there waiting for the bus and a few locals were there, no wonder buses aren’t as frequent because not much demand…
The bus fare to Braga is €3.20 and took 45 minutes! We arrived at 1:25 pm but have no clue where we are!!! The bus station of Braga is located out of the historical center too and the GPS saved the day again!!! If not the GPS, I don’t think I’ll have the courage to navigate out of the center without knowing any Portuguese!
Where are we???
Following the GPS, we walked out of the bus station and it looked nothing like Braga in photos I saw online! A little bit daunting at first but quickly, I know we were on track to the historical center. We turned and along this shopping street, pretty shops but all closed probably it’s Sunday! Then, all those hanging white umbrellas!
Braga looked more commercials, it’s nice but not our type of travel that we like to explore.
Their tourist information center is right on the square very easy to find but it’s closed and will re-open at 2 pm or something. We were so hungry by then and there is a cafe right in the square so we went in for a quick lunch. The cafe name is Café A Brasileira which looked very upscale!
But very affordable price so do not worry! Jason ordered a salmon salad and I ordered a chicken pie which was this massive piece and quite tasty too, we were surprised (usually cafes right in the big square are tourist trap ones).
The iced-cold Fanta and Coke Cola were a relief of our thirst! The lunch for both of us cost €11.80 only!!!
After lunch, we walked across to the visitor center to ask for where to wait for the bus to the famous Bom Jesus. Once again, infrequent and the next bus leaves at like 3 pm…sigh…the return schedule even worst arrives 15 minutes before the train leaves (train not that frequent either like one hour per)! We’ll just go with the flow…whatever we can and let’s see! There are flyers in the visitor center that advertise guided tours with transportation to Bom Jesus and other sights in Braga……one that cost only €10 or something like that and it looked interesting. I went up to the staff and asked about this tour and they said they don’t know anything about it….tour companies come in drop off flyers and leave…urggg and he recommended a tour but that one cost like ridiculous €30+ and we really don’t have time to do a long tour! We didn’t take the chance to wait for the €10 tour which supposingly meet right outside the visitor center at 3ish.
With half an hour to kill, we walked around the square…Convento dos Congregados:
This entrance way is interesting!
Love those balconies, they looked like in a drama ones!
When it was almost time, we walked to Rua 25 de Abril to wait for the bus. Sure enough it came almost on time and we paid the driver €2.80, the bus took another 30 minutes or so to get up the hill….to drop us off at an open area just enough to make a U-turn. From there, it was a short walk to the funiculars. What so special about this funiculars is that it is powered by water!!! Speaking of environmentally friendly, it was built in 1882! I purchased the roundtrip ticket which I forgot but not much only few euros, worth the experience. Best to be the first ones in line for the front row which is right outside the cabin. We were almost the last ones in line 😦
This is what we think how it works…..the two trains always go pair in pair in opposite direction which made us think….the theory:
The train on top is filled up with water so it’s heavier than the train on the bottom so then when you release the break, it being heavier will pull down which in return pull the opposite train up! Our train that we just got off, getting fill with water…see the big pipe where my watermark is?
When the train gets to the bottom you can hear the water releasing noises so we think that’s how it works 🙂
Alright now the Bom Jesus do Monte! Beautiful!
Inside which is free to walk in! I like the colors rather than the cold looking stone colored cathedrals.
The most impressive is its Baroque zigzag stairway!!! The sun was burning oh my really need my hat to block the sunlight, put on massive sunscreen, and drink water!
We are not going all the way down 381 feet because climbing back up would be a nightmare!!! The view of Braga….too far to see much!
Very neat architecture!
I can’t tell you how many times I had to stop to catch my breathe on the way up and we were running out of water yikes!
Finally, made it back up and I am almost dehyrdated!
Next to the cathedral is the hotel, what a cool place to stay right next to the site!
Thankfully, there are some cafes and food trucks that sell iced-cold drinks! What a relief from the heat! Look my face was red! We were the first ones in line for the funicular to get down 🙂
We got down and waited for the bus which seemed to take forever to arrive. I checked Uber and there was a car that just left ahhhhh!!!! Not much Uber drivers out of the big city like Lisbon and Porto! The bus finally arrived and it dropped us off at a different street than when we boarded which was fine since it is closer to the train station anyways. I loaded the map and started to power walk hoping to make it for the next train that is departing in 15 minutes! We beat the map’s estimated walking time phew!!! I walked up to the counter, I have no clue how much it cost to get back to Porto, so I told the staff that to Porto Sao Bento and he said €1.65 which he loaded into our cards. We made it to the 5:34 pm train back to Porto at 6:45 pm which I have made a reservation with Tapabento again at 7 pm just in time!
After an exhausting day of catching bus and trains, we had to treat ourselves a feast! We ordered the Fish Soup, omg it was so good that I want another bowl of it (I never like fish soup so that tells you how good it is)!
We also ordered Wild Shrimps from Mozambique in Garlic, it has a basil leaves herb smell to it, very Thai style! The shrimps tasted in heavy shrimp flavored just like other big prawns so not really different, don’t get me wrong, that dish was great!
Mussels in a Thai Way, the sauce tasted similar to the shrimp one which I said very Thai style!
Once again, the Razor Clams that we had last night which we totally missed (this time wasn’t cooked as perfect as yesterday but still good)!
For main, we ordered the shrimps and prawns risotto, very shrimp flavored yummy!
When we were placing the orders, the waiter said we ordered too much dishes for two of us, we assured him that don’t you worry haha! Surely enough, we finished those dishes, they were delicious. Tapabento is our favorite restaurant in Porto!!! Oh yea, another seafood feast cost €79.10 totally worth every penny of it!
After the filling dinner, we walked back to the hotel and just in time for the lovely sunset, view from our balcony!
Our Portugal trip has come to an end…..Lisbon, Sintra, Porto, with numerous day trips….Portugal was great, cheap, fresh, and delicious seafood, unbelievable fairy-tale like palaces and castles, affordable accommodations, admissions, train travels……I think my only negative comment is the transportation. Perhaps, it’s not yet a popular tourist country so its transportation system is not really geared to fit tourist schedule so many trains and buses time are usually not aligned, infrequent trains and buses which took a lot more time to get from one place to another. Maybe when it gets more tourists and more funds….but then it’ll be crowded like the rest of Western Europe…hum…I guess can’t have both ways!