If you'd like to step into the Middle Ages for an hour or two, stroll down Rua de Santa Maria. It has remained essentially unchanged for centuries, except that nowadays you're likely to hear blaring music -- in English, no less. Proud town houses, once the residences of the nobility, stand beside humble dwellings. The hand-carved balconies, aged by the years, are most often garnished with iron lanterns (not to mention laundry).

At the end, you'll come upon a charming square in the heart of the old town, Largo da Oliveira (Olive Tree Square). Seek out the odd chapelette in front of a church. Composed of four ogival arches, it's said to mark the spot where, in the 6th century, Wamba was asked to give up working his fields to become the king of the Goths. Thrusting his olive stick into the tilled soil, he declared that he would accept only if his stick sprouted leaves. So it did, and so he did -- or so goes the tale.

The best excursion in the environs is to Penha, 5.5km (3 1/2 miles) southeast of the center of town. At 620m (2,034 ft.), this is the loftiest point in the Serra de Santa Catarina. Penha can be reached from the end of Rua de Dr. José Sampaio by cable car for 2€ round-trip. The car runs from April to September Monday to Friday 10:30am to 7pm (Sat-Sun until 8pm). In the off-season, it is open Friday to Sunday and holidays from 10:30am to 6:30pm. Call the Turinpenha at Estação Inferior do Teleférico -- Campo das Hortas 4800-026 Guimarães (tel. 25/351-50-85).

Dominating the skyline of Guimarães itself is the 10th-century Castle of Guimarães, Rua Dona Teresa de Noronha, where Afonso Henríques, Portugal's first king, was born. High-pitched crenels top the strategically placed square towers and the looming keep. The view is panoramic. For more information, contact the staff at the Paço dos Duques (tel. 25/341-22-73 or 25/351-72-01). Almost in the shadow of the castle is the squat, rectangular 12th-century Romanesque Igreja de São Miguel de Castelo, where Afonso Henríques was baptized. Nearby is a heroic statue of the mustachioed, armor-clad Afonso, helmeted with sword and shield in hand. The church keeps irregular hours. The castle (no phone) is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:30am to 12:30pm and 2 to 5:30pm (Aug until 7pm). Admission is free unless you visit the panoramic tower, Torre Demanage, which costs 1.50€.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.