European cities I: Guimaraes

Chosen by the Portugese government as the European capital of culture 2012, named as a UNESCO world heritage site and ranked second as Portugal’s most livable cities in terms of quality of living, Guimaraes is a gem in southern Europe indeed.

Going there from Porto took less than an hour by car. Once there, I found myself surrounded by quaint medieval order: small and elegant shops, cobblestone paths, Christmas/New Year festive lights in the music-resounding plazas that look like snowfall. With a history dating back to the 9th century, as both the birthplace of the king Alfonso of Portugal and the first capital of the country, it has its share of political and social significance. No longer the capital, it retains its timeless elegance.

The old quarter of the city Rua de Santa Maria is still intact with its narrow cobblestone paths, statues and facades. Small shops selling boots and leather goods are found dotted around the place. The pedestrian-friendly town planning makes it possible for people to walk around the town and admire the low rise streetscape with perfect ease.

The castle built in the tenth century where the first king Dom Alfonso Henriques was born is still in its perfect shape, complete with forts and walls. All goes to show how much it is worth te retain the face of history.

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