Portugal Journey

So, Portugal, last fall, my grand tour landed me in Lisbon, Fatima, Tomar, Sintra, Cascais, the Douro Valley and Porto.

After a 13 day Journey, to understand the importance of each area, the best routing and the VV best hotels…I feel I have a grasp on what locations can be enjoyed as a day trip and areas which necessitate longer visits.

Portugal, Lisbon

An over view, you can read more in-depth posts on city life, must see sites and touring the Douro Valley. I discovered that Lisbon and Porto, although some refer to Porto as the second great city in Portugal, are equally charming. Brimming with history, churches, important museums, and miles of narrow, often hilly cobblestone streets.

A Suggestion Excursion – tailor made to include personal preferences.Lisbon, Sintra, Porto & Douro Valley This exclusive private Portugal Journey features in-depth touring of Portugal’s wonderful art and design from the traditional to the innovative in Lisbon, Sintra and Porto and the Douro Valley. We can include private touring of cultural highlights, significant museums and engrossing architecture reflecting the complex history, as well as select visits to crafts workshops, the beautiful azulejo tile factories and chic boutiques offering the finest work by Portuguese craftspeople. The tour also includes the finest Portuguese food and wine, including private wine tasting in the Douro Valley and suites at exceptional hotels.

Lisbon, Portugal’s vibrant capital on the Tagus River, offers beautiful cityscapes, rich culture, and splendid food and wine. Experience the city as an insider during private touring with an expert local guide. Spend a few days to properly explore the historic Alfama district, the sophisticated Bairro Alto and Lapa districts and the riverside Belem district.

Wander around St. George’s Castle, the famed Mosteiro dos Jeronimos monastery, Belem Tower and other impressive monuments and understand the periods of Manueline and Moorish architecture.  Peruse chic shops offering authentic Portuguese specialties such as azulejo tiles, embroidered linens, fine handmade leather gloves, Indo-Portuguese furniture, and explore the old shops which sell gold and silver jewelry in traditional patterns.

Portuguese Tiles

Nibble local food specialties, including the yummy aspasteis de nata custard tarts, bakeries featuring sweets are on almost every block! Tour all or a select few of the many museums including the National Tile Museum, the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum and the Museum of Folk Art.  You might enjoy interesting contemporary architecture at the Portugal Pavilion and MAAT (Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology). We will definitely include a memorable fado music performance at a local night club.  If you have an interest, we can suggest a visit to the private Ricardo do Spirito Santo Silva Foundation, dedicated to the preservation and reproduction of traditional Portuguese design and decorative art.

Next, transfer to the sunny coast for a leisurely lunch in the picturesque seaside town of Cascais, a cosmopolitan suburb of the Portuguese capital and one of the richest municipalities in Portugal. Cascais is a delightful Portuguese fishing town, which has a charming center and is located close to some of the finest beaches of the Lisbon region. Within Cascais is a range of interesting tourist attractions, including fascinating museums, historic mansions and pretty parks, along with all the facilities expected for a bustling resort town.

Surrounding Cascais is a varied region of lively resort towns and the beautiful natural scenery of the Serra de Sintra, with its numerous hiking routes and outstanding surfing. This area is perfect for golf, hilly bike riding and hiking. I passed through a beautiful forest outside of Lisbon, the Natural Park of Sintra-Cascais, near the unique surroundings of the mystical Serra de Sintra, where the narrow hilly roads were filled with bikers – who eventually disappeared into the forest on scrubby off road steep trails.

The small resort town of Cascais is on the Atlantic coast, where we can also offer a private cooking class with a market tour, learn to prepare traditional Portuguese dishes in a classic home overlooking the ocean. There is a beach hotel near Cascais, a charming Relais & Chateau property, Fortaleza Do Guincho, a seventeenth-century fortress facing the sea. Within the hotel is a one-star Michelin restaurant.

Quinta da Regaleira,

Continue the drive to Sintra, a refined town of fairy-tale palaces and elegant gardens amid pine forested hillsides. Enjoy private touring in this UNESCO World Heritage Site, stop and explore the romantic National Palace of Pena, the remarkable National Palace of Sintra and the winding cobblestone streets in the historic area the town, including the former Jewish quarter. Also visit Quinta da Regaleira, an estate classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO within the “Cultural Landscape of Sintra”. The grand house is split over five floors and has an ornate gothic façade, but the real attraction is the enchanting gardens. The gardens of the Quinta da Regaleira were styled to represent ancient secret orders, with hidden tunnels and concealed symbolism.

Charming Cafes, Portugal

In the misty mountains here, you should make a stop for to enjoy lunch at Tivoli Palacio De Setais.  An elegant 18th century neo-classical palace with interiors of frescoed walls, tapestries and antique furniture. Savor an elegant and light interpretation of the Portuguese table. After your glass of spirits, stroll through the manicured gardens, before continuing on your Journey.

Livraria Lello, a historic bookstore

Continue to Porto, the capital of Port wine and a city with a captivating mix of architectural styles, including Baroque and contemporary, Roman and medieval. Stay in a luxurious hotel, the Yeartman, on a hillside overlooking ancient wine cellars and the Douro River. During private touring, explore the historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Highlights may include palaces and gardens, the Palacio da Bolsa (Stock Exchange), the Se do Porto (Porto Cathedral), many of the local buildings are covered with beautiful tiles, and don’t miss the famed Livraria Lello, a historic bookstore with stunning ornate woodwork, also known for its views in Harry Potter. Also view remarkable contemporary architecture such as the Casa da Musica by Rem Koolhaas, the Serralves Museum by Portuguese architect Alvaro Siza. Of course, we will also arrange a private tour and Port tasting at one of the city’s most celebrated cellars.

Portugese Tiles

Add a few days to take a private excursion to the Douro Valley, a beautiful region along the Douro River. Here besides a decadent and luxurious stay at The Six Senses Douro Valley, you may visit the best local wineries, explore romantic ancient towns along the Douro River, take an exclusive private river cruise in a traditional rabelo boat and enjoy spectacular views of the hills covered with terraced vineyards. This is an area where not a trace of the terraced hillsides are wasted as open space, miles and miles of grapevines line the sloping hills. There are marvelous hiking trails to be explored, many connect through small farmlands where you can indulge in local cheese making.

The Douro River from The Six Senses Douro Valley

Upon request, we can also arrange cooking classes, walks through villages, kayaking, mountain biking and other activities in the region. We have stayed at most of the top hotels and can provide additional details for several options in each city.

This Journey can easily be extended to include time at a luxury beach resort in the Algarve or add on San Sebastian in Spain.

Search Portugal on gwenbooks.com for additional posts on all described areas in Portugal.





Local Food Lisbon

Lisbon is famous for its ‘Pasteis de Nata’, or more simply described as a much perfected and sumptuous type of custard tart. An emblematic sweet, these delicious little pastries can be enjoyed on every block and locals stop several times a day to indulge. The hilly cobbled streets work off the calories! The recipe dates back to the 16th Century, when the confections, like many other Portuguese sweets, were made by nuns in convents.

Pasteis de Nata’ Lisbon, Portugal

In 1837 Pasteis de Belem began making the original Pastéis de Belém, following an ancient recipe from the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. That secret recipe is recreated every day in their bakery, by hand, using only traditional methods. The beautiful district of Belem is home to the grand Jeronimo Monastery, renowned for its immaculate gardens and magnificent views across the Tagus River and the famous Pasteis de Belem patisserie. The “pastel de nata” is Lisbon’s best-known cake, best served hot with powdered cinnamon and, preferably, in pairs.

Paper thin layers of buttery crisp pastry are filled with a rich custard of egg and sugar. The pastry surface blisters in high heat, adding a toasty taste of caramel to the savory sweets.

Best savored at the counter with a shot of espresso. There is a sweet shop or two on every block, Lisbon locals love their savories.