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Guimarães, Portugal

If you’re looking for a spring destination, how about visiting the picturesque, northern Portuguese city of Guimarães? Along with Maribor in Slovenia, it was recently chosen as one of the 2012 European Capitals of Culture and its medieval historic centre, a Unesco World Heritage Site, has been smartened up.

Considered the birthplace of Portugal, Guimarães offers a number of historic sites for visitors. At the heart of the city lies the 10th century Guimarães Castle, built to defend the city from the Arabs, and the 15th century Palace of the Dukes of Braganza is also a must. Take the cable car to the top of Penha Mountain and enjoy spectacular views of the town.

But there’s more to Guimarães than days gone by. With half its inhabitants under 30, it’s one of the youngest cities in Europe, and one of the Iberian peninsula’s emerging cultural hot spots, reports the New York Times. The Centro Cultural Vila Flor, a contemporary-minded cultural centre that opened in 2005 in a converted 18th-century palace includes amphitheaters, an exhibition villa, artists’ studios and a modern Portuguese restaurant. This March, the centre is set to host the first International Festival of Contemporary Dance, with dance companies from throughout the world.

Both Easy Jet and Ryanair fly to Oporto (Porto) and Guimarães is around an hour’s drive from there. Don’t forget to have a glass of the famous wine, Vinho Verde when you arrive.

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