Essential Portugal – October 2023
- Admire the remarkable monuments and immerse in a fado experience in Lisbon
- Savor Sintra and surroundings, returning to Lisbon by water
- Visit regal Coimbra with its ancient university
- Taste wine or chat with fellow travelers by the vineyards of the Douro Valley
- Drink in the breathtaking views of Porto from its highest hilltop
- Settle into a genuine quinta and boutique 4 and 5-star hotels
- Know that ALL of our suppliers have the Clean&Safe seal from the Portuguese government
DAY 1: WELCOME TO LISBON
Lisbon, recently named one of the world’s 10 friendliest cities by Conde Nast Traveler, sprawls along the banks of the Tagus River estuary. Its name comes from the Phoenician meaning “enchanting port.” From the city’s hills, you can look toward the Atlantic where the Portuguese inaugurated the Age of Discovery. The low-lying areas of the city were rebuilt after the destructive Great Earthquake of 1755 but in recent times, Lisbon has come to life with a newfound energy. Travel writers are running out of superlatives to describe this once sleepy capital on the Atlantic coast, where history and tradition coalesce with contemporary chic and style.
You’ll enjoy an early evening privately-led walk late this afternoon. Despite its easygoing lifestyle, Lisbon is full of character and contrasts. We invite you to visit the city’s best viewpoints and the most interesting spots that each quarter has to offer. During this walk you will experience the city’s dynamic neighborhoods. You might climb up to Graça’s hilltop viewpoint through the narrow streets of the village-like quarter of Alfama and again down by the Moorish quarter (Mouraria), into the colorful and multiethnic Martim Moniz.
Visit the city’s fashionable uptown to have a taste of the bohemian and artistic atmosphere of Chiado and Bairro Alto. Here you can find rather original street musicians, art studios, high fashion stores and dozens of sunny cafes. We’ll end the evening with drinks and a well-earned welcome dinner.
Lodging for the next 3 nights: Cozy rooms at the Palacio Ludovice (or similar) a 5-star boutique hotel in the heart of historic Lisbon. A privileged location with sumptuous accommodation, an iconic gastronomic experience at Federico restaurant, curated wine tastings at the Porto Wine Institute and the luxurious grapevine wellness treatments at CAUDALIE come together to allow guests to discover Lisbon through the lens of a fine wine connoisseur. Drinks and dinner
DAY 2: GUIDED GALAVANT THROUGH TOWN; GENUINE FADO DINNER
Today, meet your private guide and driver at your hotel for a deeper exploration of Lisbon. First, the Baixa district. Rebuilt after the 1755 earthquake, Baixa enchants with its beautiful cobbled streets named after the artisans who traded in the area. You can’t miss the famous Elevator de Santa Justa, a remarkable structure built in the late 19th century and designed by a student of Gustave Eiffel of Parisian fame. Then you’ll visit the Alfama district, the unmistakable soul of the capital city. Alfama is adorned with steep winding alleys, hidden landmark churches, echoes of tunes of fado music and stunning views of the Tagus River. It’s the Moors who shaped this district, although the earthquake brought down many of its classy Moorish mansions. Now Alfama has reverted to a working-class, “fisherfolk” quarter.
Continue to the Castle of St. Jorge, formerly a Moorish citadel. Here you can see Lisbon sprawling along the river banks. Lunch on your own and free time.
This evening, meet your local guide for an authentic Fado night out. In the “fado house”, you can welcome the musicians right into your group to show you the huge variety of fado styles that make up this folk song tradition. Songs weave together with traditional dinner courses in Lisbon’s version of a folksy supper club. Don’t forget: “Silêncio! Que se vai cantar o fado!” (“Silence! Fado will be sung now!”)
For an authentic fado evening as the local Lisboetas do it… Consider staying until midnight (at least). Breakfast, Fado dinner.
DAY 3: LISBON SEASIDE EXPERIENCE; SINTRA; SAILING BACK TO TOWN
This morning after breakfast, your expert host and driver will pick you up at your hotel for a fabulous day visiting Lisbon’s surroundings. Depending on timing, you’ll get to see Belém, the coast of Estoril, the charming village of Cascais, the beach of Guincho, stunning Cabo da Roca and possibly the Convent of Capuchos.
Away from all the tourist paths, today’s encounter will be with quaint coastal villages and beautiful beaches. Our first stop will be the iconic Moorish castle perched above the town of Sintra. If you are feeling sporty, enjoy the scenic and easy hike down from the castle to the town. If time permits, we’ll glimpse the 16th century Convent of the Capuchos.
On our way to lunch, we will drive through the mountain range of Sintra, with its fairy tail atmosphere and splendid views of Pena Palace and the Moorish Castle. Grilled fish and seafood are the name of the game here, so we’ll suggest some great options for an oceanside lunch. Finally, enjoy some free time in the village of Cascais, a charming seaside town that serves as a popular summer retreat for Lisboetas.
The return to Lisbon will be via private sailboat. This captures Lisbon and its coast in its entire splendor, just as great explorers did for centuries. If the wind is up, the sails will soon be unfurled, and refreshments and snacks will be served while you sit back to revel in the setting. Enjoy the sea breeze and the spectacular vistas of Lisbon that are normally reserved only for sailors and merchants. Belém’s harbor with its imposing monuments from the Discoveries Period is on view as you arrive. At journey’s end, return to the hotel with your private driver. Breakfast, drinks and snacks on the sailboat
DAY 4: LISBON TO DOURO – STOP IN MYSTICAL COIMBRA
Check out after breakfast and head north about 2 hours to Coimbra. Long ago, this site was occupied by the Celts. They were followed by the Roman empire, whose presence is still visible in the archaeological remains housed at the Museu Nacional Machado de Castro. The museum is built directly over the forum of the Roman city. Then followed the Visigoths, the Moors and finally in 1064, the Christians led by Fernando I of Castile. Coimbra was the capital of Portugal during the Middle Ages, but it was the Renaissance that transformed the city into a center of learning. The University of Coimbra was founded in 1290 and is one of the oldest in Europe and a UNESCO World heritage site.
Free time for lunch, then continue to Douro (approx. 2 hours & 20 minutes drive). Time to settle in before our tasty dinner in-house tonight, with locally-sourced ingredients.
Lodging for the next 3 nights: Double Rooms at the Quinta de Ventozelo. Imagine a superbly renovated group of small villas on a hill overlooking the vine-covered rolling hills of the Douro Valley and the river below. This will be your “home in the valley”. The original structure of the building is visible in the current configuration of each room. The stone walls and wooden beams are perfectly framed in the lightness of the modern decor. The 19-acre estate includes a restaurant and wine bar that highlight regional produce and a dedicated wine cellar featuring local vintages. Breakfast, dinner
DAY 5: E-BIKING AND RELAX
Welcome to the world-renowned Douro Valley! This is the home of Port, but also an exceptionally beautiful landscape of terraced vineyards, patches of woodland and charming little villages. The Douro Valley is Portugal’s most unique and oldest wine region, with a wine trail dating back to 1756.
Hundreds of years of wine culture and thousands of miles of schist walls built along the slopes of the river have created a landscape of exceptional beauty. The locals remain loyal to their rural origins and traditions, taking pleasure in handicrafts and homemade products. Working the land has allowed for the conservation of many farming communities, where olive groves and almond trees are the stars.
This morning explore the beautiful surroundings of your hotel and the Douro landscape on wheels! Your guide will set off with you on electric bikes through olive trees and vineyards without losing sight of the historical villages across magnificent off-road trails. The excursion will include stops for photo ops and resting. A picnic lunch together will conclude the morning adventure. We have built in some down time this afternoon, after yesterday’s long journey. The afternoon is free, to stroll among the surrounding vineyards, or just sit back, relax and take in the views. There’s always a glass of wine waiting! Breakfast, picnic lunch.
DAY 6: DOURO EXCURSION; WINE!!
Today will be nothing short of magical. Depart after breakfast for today’s first wine estate, enjoying both port and wine tastings. Then a short transfer brings you to the historic, symbolic train station of Pinhão where you can admire the traditional tile work from 1937. A 10-minute train ride brings you to Ferrão, where you’ll be welcomed into one of the most symbolic wine estates in the region for a beautiful lunch experience. It is a place of extreme beauty in the heart of Douro valley, run with a strong family vision and a passionate commitment to viticulture.
After lunch, you will board a private boat from Ferrão to Pinhão, with magnificent views along the way. Upon arrival, enjoy a final taste of Vintage Port in one of the finest wine estates in the region. The day will end with a trip to the viewpoint rated by BBC UK as one of the most beautiful in the world.
Time to relax before dinner at the hotel this evening. Breakfast, lunch, dinner.
DAY 7: 4×4 DOURO FAREWELL; ON TO PORTO
This morning after check out, go beyond the surface of the Douro Valley and get to know it from the inside out during a scenic 4×4 tour which will take you along the vineyards, through local villages and other hidden gems of the region.
Meet your private driver/guide, then head towards the top of the Valley for what will be just the beginning of a morning filled with breath-taking views. You may start by visiting a small olive-oil mill before heading down through the vineyards. Through our local contacts, you’ll have insider’s access, walking through vineyards where other tourists are not allowed to go. As you make your way down the valley, you’ll learn about what makes this wine region so unique. The morning will end with a picnic lunch.
About 2 relaxing hours later, you’ll arrive in the captivating and vibrant city of Porto — which is undoubtedly becoming one of Europe’s most treasured locations.
Lodging for the next 3 nights: Superior rooms at Pousado do Porto – Rua das Flores. Located in the lively center of the old town on pedestrian “Flower Street”, the hotel retains characteristics of the original 18th century building while boasting modern comforts. As a tribute to the name of this street, details of a variety of flowers form part of the decor. Breakfast, picnic lunch.
DAY 8: PORTO PROMENADE, GUIDED AND NOT
Porto was made for exploring on foot. This morning you’ll do just that, taking in the city’s historic center with its network of alleys, tile-fronted churches, and varied monuments. Porto was designated a World Heritage Site in 1996 and, as UNESCO says, the city offers “an outstanding urban landscape with a 2,000-year history.” It was the Romans who give the city overlooking the Douro River the name Portus, or port, in the 1st century BC.
You’ll start by exploring the city’s old quarter, “a masterpiece of mankind’s creative genius.” With your private guide, you will visit some of the city’s key historic sites including the neighborhood of Praça da Ribeira with winding, cobbled streets; Porto’s main thoroughfare, the architecturally impressive Avenida dos Aliados; the beautiful São Bento railway station, whose walls tell the history of Portugal through more than 20,000 tiles; São Francisco church, a fine example of Baroque ornamentation. The walk will end in early afternoon.
The remainder of the day is left open for you to dig deeper into those aspects of Porto that may have caught your eye this morning…..like the neo-Gothic Lello & Irmao Bookstore. This spectacular 19th-century store features wooden benches with leather upholstery, wooden bookcases and a highly ornamented staircase leading to the upper level. There’s also time for shopping, of course, and we’ll offer guidance. Breakfast
DAY 9: GRAZING LUNCH; PORTO AS YOU LIKE IT
This final day in Portugal, discover a city that revolves around food. The epicenter of the gastronomic culture of the North, Porto is a fusion of ingredients, tastes, and family recipes. Your private guide will show you the beauty of local markets, exotic oriental-inspired specialty grocery stores, and finally, the most wonderful eateries in town. Meet the people behind the counter, and stumble upon delightful cured meats, luscious cheeses, glorious meat-laden sandwiches, hearty stews, delicious pastries, and much more. And when there’s food, there are drinks. Discover the fresh and vibrant vinho verde, the elegance of the Douro wines, the gripping local craft beers, and the stories and flavors behind the world-famous port wine.
We leave you free this final evening. Thinking of a fun last supper at a cool wine bar near the hotel? Got you covered. Or perhaps let one of Porto’s Michelin-starred chefs stun you with the fusion of old and new food traditions. Maybe even consider making your way to the coast to take advantage of the glistening seaside of Porto. Only a 20 minute drive away, Matosinhos is home to many fishermen and the freshest fish dinners in town. Far from fine-dining, this as a local and authentic experience. We can help you choose just the right restaurant for this evening. Breakfast, grazing lunch
DAY 10: TRANSFER TO PORTO AIRPORT
Departure for the Porto airport; where shall we go next? Breakfast
We strongly encourage you to purchase trip insurance, including “Cancel for Any Reason”, which is available through Adagio Travel