The Palace of the Dukes of Braganza (in Portuguese, Paço dos Duques de Bragança) is a ducal palace situated in the historic center of Guimarães, a few meters from another iconic monument of this city: Guimarães Castle. Mainly inhabited in the 15th century, this manor house is considered a unique architectural example in the Iberian Peninsula!
The Palace of the Dukes of Braganza was commissioned by Dom Afonso, around 1420 – the year of his second marriage to Constança de Noronha. Dom Afonso was the illegitimate son of King João I and accumulated the titles of 8th Count of Barcelos, 2nd Count of Neiva, and 1st Duke of Braganza!
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- Brief History of the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza
- How to Get to the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza
- What to See at the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza
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Brief History of the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza
Despite having served as the residence of the Dukes of Braganza from its construction, at the beginning of the 15th century, until the end of that same century, the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza was gradually abandoned. As a consequence, the manor house lay in ruins for centuries to come.
With the French Invasions (1807-1811), the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza was converted into a military barracks. In the 20th century, the monument was rebuilt and opened to the public in 1959 – the same year it became the Official Residence of the President of the Republic in the North of the Country!
Did you know that Guimarães Castle (and the Historic Center of Guimarães) was part of Portugal’s eighth set of inscriptions on the UNESCO World Heritage List? This 25th session of the World Heritage Committee took place in Helsinki (Finland), between December 11th and 16th, 2001.
Only one other Portuguese site was announced in the session: the Alto Douro Wine Region.
Nowadays, Portugal is the ninth country in Europe and the eighteenth country in the world with the most UNESCO sites, tied with Poland. It has seventeen heritage assets (both cultural and natural) inscribed on the world list of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.
In the meantime, I’ve already had the opportunity to visit fourteen of them:
- Alto Douro Wine Region (2001)
- Convent of Christ in Tomar (1983)
- Cultural Landscape of Sintra (1995) – Chalet of the Countess of Edla, Convent of the Capuchos, Moorish Castle, National Palace of Pena, National Palace of Sintra, Palace of Monserrate, Quinta da Regaleira, Villa Sassetti
- Garrison Border Town of Elvas and its Fortifications (2012)
- Historic Center of Évora (1986)
- Historic Center of Guimarães (2001)
- Historic Center of Porto, Luiz I Bridge, and Monastery of Serra do Pilar (1996)
- Monastery of Alcobaça (1989)
- Monastery of Batalha (1983)
- Monastery of the Hieronymites and Tower of Belém in Lisbon (1983)
- Prehistoric Rock Art Sites in the Côa Valley (1998, 2010)
- Royal Building of Mafra – Palace, Basilica, Convent, Cerco Garden, and Hunting Park (Tapada) (2019)
- Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte in Braga (2019)
- University of Coimbra – Alta and Sofia (2012)
How to Get to the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza
Let’s suppose you want to visit the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza on a day trip from Porto or on a road trip through the Braga district. In this case, you can take the opportunity to discover not only the city of Guimarães, but also other destinations in the surroundings: Vizela (13 km), Fafe (14 km), Póvoa de Lanhoso (20 km), Braga (26 km), Vila Nova de Famalicão (32 km), Vieira do Minho (34 km), and Celorico de Basto (37 km).
In my opinion, the fastest and most practical way to get to the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza is by car. Nonetheless, if you don’t have that possibility, you can travel by train on the Guimarães Line. And for that, you only need to take the suburban train at the Porto-São Bento or Porto-Campanhã stations and get off at Guimarães (1.5 km on foot).
TIP: This trip has a minimum cost of €3.25, but check all prices, timetables, lines, and services on the official website of CP – Comboios de Portugal.
Opening Hours & Ticket Prices
The Palace of the Dukes of Braganza is open every day, from 10 am to 6 pm, with the closing of the ticket office and the last entry taking place at 5:30 pm. The only days of the year when the monument is closed are the holidays of January 1st, Easter Sunday, May 1st, and December 25th.
Tickets cost 5€ (adults) or 2.5€ (holders of the Youth Card or Student Card, and seniors over 65 years old), and children up to 12 years old don’t pay admission. There are also combined tickets for €6 (Guimarães Castle + Palace of the Dukes of Braganza) or €8 (Guimarães Castle + Palace of the Dukes of Braganza + Alberto Sampaio Museum).
TIP: Like the other monuments and museums managed by the Regional Directorate for Culture of the North, the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza is free on Sundays until 2 pm, for all residents in Portugal!
What to See at the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza
Scipio’s Chamber (in Portuguese, Sala de Cipião) was one of the three interior spaces that constituted the private quarters of Dom Afonso, the 1st Duke of Braganza. The other two were the Antechamber and the Bedchamber. All were located on the second floor of the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza, although three more chambers were on the third floor.
Scipio’s Chamber owes its name to the four tapestries in wool and silk, which depict essential episodes in the life of Scipio – a Roman general, statesman, and politician. Dating back to the second quarter of the 17th century, they were produced in the workshop of Andries van den Dries, a renowned Belgian upholsterer.
As I mentioned earlier, the Bedchamber (in Portuguese, Câmara de Dormir) was part of the private apartments of Dom Afonso, the 1st Duke of Braganza, together with the Antechamber, Scipio’s Chamber, and three other rooms on the upper floor. These last ones were accessed by a staircase next to the entrance door of the bedroom.
Decorated with furniture, ceramics, and textiles from the 17th and 18th centuries, the Bedchamber also had a small attached room, which probably served as a wardrobe. And all this space was heated by the fireplace in the Antechamber, thanks to the small opening in the wall that you see in the photo!
The Great Hall (in Portuguese, Salão Nobre) is one of the most spectacular rooms in the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza, due to the ceiling in the shape of an inverted boat. Designed in chestnut wood in the second quarter of the 20th century, this ceiling is a very faithful reproduction of the original.
As in other palaces, the Great Hall of the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza was the space where the lords of the house (Dom Afonso and his wife, Constança de Noronha) entertained and spent time with their guests.
The Upper Gallery (in Portuguese, Galeria Superior) is, in my opinion, the best place to observe some of the most interesting architectural details of the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza. Among them are the building’s thirty-nine chimneys, the Lower Gallery, and the Courtyard!
Conceived as a circulation space, the Upper Gallery connects a series of halls, rooms, and chambers in the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza. And it’s also here that the entrance to the Chapel is found (in the second photo, in the center).
The Chapel of the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza (in Portuguese, Capela) was completely refurbished by the architect Mário Barbosa Ferreira. From the chairs and benches to the altar table, tribunes, and choir balustrade, all these pieces of furniture were made in chestnut wood, in 1959.
It’s also worth highlighting the stained glass windows painted by António Lino. These represent a series of religious figures (Jesus Christ, Saint Anthony, Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint George, Saint James the Great, and Saint Mary of Guimarães) and historical ones (Dom Afonso and Constança de Noronha, João I and Filipa de Lencastre, Afonso Henriques, and Nuno Álvares Pereira).
Hall of Lost Steps
The Hall of Lost Steps (in Portuguese, Salão dos Passos Perdidos) is an enigmatic room since its function in the 15th century is unknown. In fact, the name “Hall of Lost Steps” was only given to it during the public inauguration of the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza in 1959!
In the photograph, you can see two monumental tapestries: “The Siege of Asilah” (left) and “The Landing at Asilah” (right). Belonging to a series of four, the “Pastrana Tapestries” celebrate episodes of the conquest of Asilah and Tangier in 1471, by the troops of King Afonso V!
The Banqueting Hall (in Portuguese, Salão de Banquetes) was so designated by the commission that furnished and decorated the monument, after the works campaign in the 1930-1950s. There’s no certainty that this room was in fact a banquet hall for the Dukes of Braganza, but the Estado Novo decided to do so.
Three elements are immediately visible in the Banqueting Hall: the ceiling in the shape of an inverted boat (very similar to that of the Great Hall); the long dining table (which is actually made up of several tables); and “The Storming of Asilah” (another of the four “Pastrana Tapestries”)!
Private Dining Chamber
The Private Dining Chamber (in Portuguese, Sala de Comer Íntima) was another space for the meals of the Dukes of Braganza – this time, without the presence of guests. Of course, this intimate dining room is a simple recreation, but it’s still quite faithful.
In addition to the table and four chairs in the center, the Private Dining Chamber is adorned with various paintings related to food and meals. And, to complement the decoration, there are wooden chests and cupboards, as well as ceramics, oriental porcelains, and Portuguese faience.
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