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.





Popular Portugal – Why ?!

Top Reasons Why Everyone is Visiting Portugal.

The country has gleefully reported the tourism numbers are steadily increasing every year. An uptick of 13% in 2017 for the first seven months of the year. Named recently by Travel & Leisure as Europe’s best destination. U.S. travel has increased by 22% in the last 12 months.

Lisbon, the capital and largest city is located on the coast overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, near the beautiful Tagus River. Often referred to as the city of seven hills and according to legend, it was founded by Ulysses on his journey back from the Trojan War. Picturesque views from the harbor and a maze of cobblestone streets accented by pastel colored buildings. Ride the century old wooden trams and iron funiculars to traverse the neighborhoods. Baixa district hosts tailors, haberdashers and ancient herbal salons in the baroque city center. Regal kings and queens, empires of the Moors and Christians all have left behind a colorful rich history with palaces, monuments and cathedrals to explore. 

Wine Tasting, of course! The national drink porto is abundant across the country, and to enjoy that tasting to the ultimate, why not stay at the luxurious Six Senses Spa property in the Duoro Valley? Hotel and spa is set high in the hills overlooking the rolling vineyards of Portugal’s northern region. A genteel 19th Century manor with river view rooms and acres of forested grounds. Fancy aerial yoga amid the trees? Dining at the Chef table, learn to paint tiles from a local expert and indulge yourself at the award-winning spa after a day of wine tasting.

Six Senses Douro Valley, Portugal

Porto, a dazzling second city, is halved by the Douro River. The seaside has blossomed over the last few years and hosts charming restaurants, cafes and a few noted Michelin Star restaurant’s. Mosey through the old downtown and discover magnificent gilded churches. And of course, stop by a charming cafe for an afternoon in the sun sipping the national tipple, Port!

From the Foodie Column. The pork is almost as good as the famed Jamon Iberico from Spain.  The local semi-wild black piggies nosh on acorns from the Cork Oak Trees and produce juicy slabs of tasty ham. Presunto (cured ham) rivals the best from Spain.

Olive oil and goat cheese are also highly rated – notably, try the hard, pungent cow’s-milk cheeses made on the precipitous mid-Atlantic slopes of Sao Jorge island or the creamy Serra da Estrela from the milk of ewes raised in Portugal’s loftiest mountain range. Fancy a stronger dry cheese: try the peppery Terrincho produced in remote Tras-os-Montes. Award winning olive oil based on the world wide ranking finds four firms producing Olive Oil in the top twenty in the world, including the producer: Oliveira da Serra – Lagar do Marmelo.

Activity besides these mentioned, we can organize bike rides through the culinary and cultural heartland, bike through small villages in the middle of farmlands, olive groves and oak tree forests, vineyards and indigo lakes. Six day trips or custom day rides can be organized.

Harry Potter Connection: Did you know JK Rowling taught English in Porto in the 1990’s and was a frequent visitor to Livraria Lello Bookstore, which is one of the most famous shops in the city. Apparently, its decorative bookcases, carved wooden ceilings and lavish staircases inspired the Hogwarts Library in her Harry Potter books.

Weather – Portugal has a moderate year-round temperature.  Lisbon is the continents sunniest city, with close to 3000 hours of sunshine a year.

Exquisite beaches, the swell of the Atlantic Ocean makes Portugal one of the best surfing destinations, the beaches are incomparable. The Azores and Madera are only a few hours away as well.

Charming cities, not far from the capital, dotted with Palace hotels, fine dining, quaint streets and luxury hotels. Sintra is one such city, known for its dominating lush hills, a Moorish Castle and proximity to the Atlantic coast. The entire city is dedicated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A Portuguese Gem!

And did I mention Western European luxury hotels at less expensive rates? The currency is the Euro, but the room rates at luxury properties are significantly less. Portugal has been noted as the second-best value destination in Europe. Portugal is also very safe.

Até mais tarde!