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Hottest Travel Destinations of 2012

Courtesy of Historico

Guimarães, Portugal

A burst of cultural creativity and youthful energy is breathing new life into one of Portugal’s oldest cities. Here, how to make the most of your day there.

9 A.M.: Start the morning with breakfast on your private terrace overlooking the city at the hillside Pousada de Santa Marinha (351/253-415-969; doubles from $210), a ninth-century monastery turned hotel.

10 A.M.: Hike the six-mile Citânia de Briteiros, which leads to the dramatic ruins of an Iron Age settlement.

Noon: Don’t miss the small but high-quality selection of local products at Verde Inveja (351/ 253-554-020), including artisanal chocolates, traditional pottery, and soaps by the century-old Antiga Barbearia de Bairro.

1 P.M.: What Guimarães lacks in cutting-edge gastronomy it makes up for in well-executed traditional fare. About 20 minutes from town, the intimate São Gião (351/253-561-853; dinner for two $100) specializes in house-made foie gras; all manner of fish, roast meat, and game; and excellent Portuguese wines.

3 P.M.: For the latest in Portuguese music, theater, film, and art, take your pick between the Vila Flor Cultural Center (351/253-424-700), in an 18th-century palace downtown, and the new Center for Arts & Architecture Affairs, in the formerly industrial district of Rua Padre.

8 P.M.: Whether grilled, fried, or baked with bread crumbs, bacalhau (salt cod) is the dish to order at Histórico (351/915-429-700; dinner for two $65). Not a cod lover? The menu is also strong on other regional classics, such as cheese fondue and grilled octopus.

11 P.M.: Swing by the city’s oldest square, Largo da Oliveira—it’s full of lively cafés where locals gather to drink and people-watch until the wee hours. —Alexandra Marshall

The Breakdown

Who It’s For: Travelers who like their old-world Europe with a contemporary spin.

When to Go: April–Aug.

How to Do It: Guimarães is a four-hour train ride from Lisbon Airport.

Exotic Factor: Foreign

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