From sausages that aren’t sausages; pastries that look as though one bite could pile on the pounds; snack foods galore in cosy cafés and sophisticated fare in stylish restaurants the diversity of places to eat in Guimarães could provoke a taste-bud frenzy.
Most restaurants serve traditional northern Portuguese cuisine which means good hearty dishes including the ever popular, tasty and nutritious caldo verde soup, filling alheira sausages and lots of salt cod for not a lot of dosh – eating out is still excellent value. Lunch options range from cafés and coffee shops selling pastries and sweets that would be perfect for decorating a gingerbread house to savoury pastries like lanches which are slightly sweet breads filled with ham and cheese that can be served hot or cold (I’ve tried both and the jury is still out to which is better).
Restaurants in Guimarães
Because Guimarães has still a bit of a restaurant mind-set that caters more for day-trippers some restaurants don’t remain open after 6pm in winter. The ones we’ve included amongst our recommendations buck that trend. One thing to be aware of when dining out in Guimarães is that most restaurants bring you a ‘couvert‘ (a little tapas like appetiser of pate or olives) to start your meal. This isn’t free, but it doesn’t cost much and does get the juices flowing.
Pimenta Moscada (Largo dos Laranjas)
Our favourite restaurant in Guimarães. Attractive décor, a more imaginative and diverse menu than most places, friendly staff and the food prepared to order. Indian eggs looked as though they were simply fried eggs with onions but turned out to be hiding a spicy secret and the folhados (puff pastry pies) are heaven sent to pastry freaks like me. Portions are big and, at around €10 for a main course, very good value.
Histórico by Papaboa (Rua de Val Donas)
With an eclectically decked out historic courtyard and a fashionably modern interior, Histórico is probably the nicest looking restaurant in Guimarães. The menu features a mix of international and traditional Portuguese dishes but although good, the food isn’t quite as imaginative as the décor. At around €12 for a main course, Histórico is one of the pricier restaurants in town but the staff are very attentive and it has a relaxing ambience which makes it a most enjoyable place to dine.
Santiago Restaurant (Praça de Santiago)
A homely, traditional restaurant with a beamed ceiling and stone walls. The main draw for me was the choice of alheiras (large and crusty Portuguese sausages made with a selection of meats) which included fish and vegetarian versions. Portions are large, prices are low (alheiras are around €7 and come with potatoes, egg, salad and cabbage) and as a bonus they have their own labelled vinho verde to accompany the hearty fare.
Lunch and Snacking in Guimarães
It amazes me that the streets of Guimarães aren’t filled with waddling, football-shaped residents such is the sinful seductiveness of trays of sweets and wedges of cakes in warm, welcoming cafés you could live in. One of the attractions is that Guimarães’ pastry shop/cafés also double as bars. So you can move from coffee and a cake to beer and a burger (or lanche) without shifting venue.
Nova Camir (Largo de Toural)
This is the place in Guimarães to come for your sweet fix. It has a charming Olde Worlde feel (albeit with internet access) and they sell sweet little cakes by the kilo. This is a seriously dangerous place to spend time; doorstep-sized creamy cakes are only €0.80.
Rolhas & Rotulas (Largo de Oliveira)
A smart, modern lunch venue which takes classic traditional ingredients – wine and hanging hams – and displays them in an arty, ultra contemporary way. Chic and quite cheap, lunch combos include soup and a generous crepe for €5, or a meaty burger and a drink for around €4.
Sabores Gelados (Rua do Souto)
A stylishly retro joint (white furnishings including padded walls) that’s popular with the town’s student set. The menu seems quite diverse (crepes, toasties, lanches, ice creams) but it’s probably better to ask what they actually have. It is very friendly with cosy corners from which to watch the Guimarães world go by. Wine measures are generous to the extent that one glass will get you tipsy.
Oscar (Rua José Sampaio)
If you fancy a coffee and a cake whilst browsing the internet or even a book, then Oscar’s fits the bill. It’s a bit of a strange mix of medieval and 1950s décor, bookshop and internet café…but that’s what probably lends the place its charm.
Café Conquistador (Rua Serpa Pinto)
Perfectly located for a sit down and rousing coffee after a tour of the castle and the Palace of the Dukes of Bragança. Two coffees, a bottle of water and a twix set us back €3.50.
Pastelaria Medieval (Largo de Oliveira)
Located on the most picturesque square in Guimarães, Pastelaria Medieval is a good spot for an iced bun, ham and cheese lanche and a beer at €2.40 the lot. There’s a cosy little sitting room area at the back of the café for anyone who wants an intimate snack.
The Millennium Café (Largo de Toural)
There’s nothing particularly outstanding about this workaday café overlooking Toural Square but it is welcoming (they went out of their way to give us directions to the hotel) and dependable; on a miserable wet night when everywhere else was shut it was a welcome sanctuary. Their steak sandwich is pretty decent as well.
The Café with no Name (Largo de Oliveira)
As there’s no name outside of this bustling little café/bar on the corner of Largo de Oliveira I thought it was called Vitória (the only object with a name on it behind the bar) until someone pointed out that was the name of the local football team. Whatever it’s called, it’s in a fab position, serves large wine measures and is a good place to watch the comings and goings of the town’s working population.