GUIMARÃES never misses an opportunity to remind you of its place in Portuguese history. Indeed, it was here that the country’s first monarch, Dom Afonso Henriques, was born in 1110, and the city became the first capital and court of the fledgling kingdom of “Portucale”. Although Guimarães subsequently lost its pre-eminent status to Coimbra (elevated to Portuguese capital in 1143), it has never relinquished its sense of self-importance, something that’s evident from the omnipresent reminder that Portugal nasceu aqui (Portugal was born here), the town’s motto. With a carefully preserved kernel of medieval monuments, cobbled streets, delightful squares and honey-coloured houses, the old centre retains both a grandeur and a tangible sense of history that’s helped earn it UNESCO World Heritage status. But it’s far from a museum piece – its contemporary attractions were showcased during its stint as 2012 European Capital of Culture, while the local university lends it a youthful exuberance and lively nightlife, at its best during the end of May student-week festivities.
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