The proud birthplace of Afonso Henriques, the first independent king of Portugal (born here in 1110, he later used the city to launch the main thrust of the Reconquista against the Moors), and, thus, the Portuguese kingdom, Guimarães has beautifully preserved its illustrious past. Its medieval centre is a warren of labyrinthine lanes and picturesque plazas framed by 14th-century edifices, while on an adjacent hill stands a 1000-year-old castle and the massive palace built by the first duke of Bragança in the 15th century. Guimarães’ glory was recognised in 2001, when Unesco declared its old centre a World Heritage Site. In 2012, the city was the European Capital of Culture, which has given it a more creative edge.
On top of the city's historical treasures, museums and cultural institutions, there are cafe-filled plazas, atmospheric guest houses and delightful restaurants. Plus, Guimarães is a university town, its students lending much vitality to the place.