- Arrival to Lisbon during the morning
- 7 nights in Lisbon — welcome!
Try and choose an early flight to Lisbon. Your room will only be available after 2 PM, but we can ask for early check-in.
After a few minutes to settle in your hotel room, it’s time to stretch your legs and go on a guided walking tour around Lisbon, in which every spot and notorious monument will be pinpointed for you, and every meal will tell a flavorful story.
Lisbon’s history begins in ancient times, and some authors still refer to fabled legends that the city was founded by the mythical hero Odysseus. During the Roman Empire, it was one of the most important trading ports for fish and other products, which were exported to the rest of the empire. Between the 15th and the 17th centuries, it was the main commercial depot of Europe.
All of this and much more makes this city unique, jam-packed with tales and stories to tell for days on end.
Time to unwind and relax.
Accommodation: Hotel Heritage Avenida da Liberdade. A boutique hotel with outstanding location and service.
The first things you have to learn is how we got from this tiny country to the distant Far East and the Americas travelling through unknown and facing terrifying seas. Your morning will be spent at the Belém area, learning about the ships that took these great men far, far away, and the places from where they left.
When the first Portuguese ships would finally reach a port, the first thing they had to do was to be welcomed and accepted by the local rulers. The ships carried several Portuguese products, which ranged between food commodities, jewelry or useful appliances. If they were embraced by the people of said country, they got offered gifts in exchange. That is how the first exotic animals appeared in Europe and the rifle got to Japan, for instance.
The Portuguese’s initial purpose was essentially trade growth and development, which resulted in them bringing silk, spices — crucial to making meat and fish edible, since they were rotten more often than not —, tea, and Chinese porcelain, just to name a few.
Lisbon became the most relevant, prominent trading and meeting ground of all of Europe, and the Portuguese Crown one of the richest, and that is how the magnificent monuments in Belém were erected, such as the Jerónimos Monastery and the Belém Tower, the latter being a meeting point for commodities arriving in Lisbon, making it an iconic building with a remarkable surrounding area and garden — and that is what we will visit, the outside area only.
Before returning to the hotel, we will also visit the National Museum of Ancient Art so we can see a number of ancient objects that were once part of those trading relationships.
This day is dedicated to the most important Portuguese ceramic item: the tile or azulejo.
The azulejo was brought to Portugal by the Moors, which invaded Portugal in 711 BC, and it was used ever since and has been tailored throughout the centuries that followed. We see it everywhere, old, modern, on building’s façades, decorating high walls, on small religious panels, covering a church’s interior, depicting biblical scenes, in palaces, recreating entertaining sights or great battles. It is a Portuguese trademark.
And it is at the National Azulejo Museum, dedicated to the study and conservation of the Portuguese tile, that we’ll see some of the most astonishing examples of this art, like the 75-feet wall representing Lisbon during the Discoveries time, or the Madre de Deus church, the perfect combination of azulejo and talha dourada — gilt wood work —, two of the most emblematic Portuguese decorative elements.
Rest of the day is free.
Throughout the years, Portuguese expansion, in addition to Africa, the Middle East and Asia, spread out to the other side of the Atlantic, what we call Brazil today. All of these new travels and adventures gave rise to the arrival of shipments of gold, spices, treasures and eccentricities of all kinds. These quirks strongly influenced the city and its society, and this is what we will see on this day by visiting the Oriente Foundation and Museum and the capital’s main churches.
Free time to explore Lisbon to your liking. We will assist you in any way you need to best enjoy your time here. At night, we will visit a traditional Fado house and listen to this Portuguese urban popular song that has been added to UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
The origin of Fado is unknown, but there is a thesis that it comes from a mix of African and Arab music. Anyway, it is strongly connected to the Discoveries era and that sort of yearning, homesickness, and melancholy that seamen felt oftentimes during their travels and which they had to leave behind.
Let’s move ahead in time and leave Lisbon for a day tour to the beautiful palaces of Sintra and the gardens of Marquês da Fronteira Palace. This day is devoted to the 18th and 19th centuries, romantic places and gardens.
The way noble European families lived was greatly influenced by the trade exchanges that began with the Portuguese expansion. The utilitarian or decorative ceramics that embellish lavish palaces today, the gorgeous pieces of furniture made with stunning wood like brazilwood, the chinoiserie — highly appreciated in the 18th century —, the proliferation of gemstones on jewelry are just a handful of examples of how the large-scale trade ties with the East after the Portuguese expansion began came to change habits and customs in Europe.
Sintra, one of the most romantic villages in Europe, is one of the most wonderful examples of this. Its gardens with trees and plants brought from the five continents, the fairy tale palaces, everything makes us travel back to a time where beauty and harmony were everyone’s main focus.
On this day we will visit two of these palaces and will also enjoy free time to wander around the heart of the village and try its unique delicacies.
It wouldn’t be possible to go on a Decorative Arts journey and not visit the Gulbenkian Museum, the greatest, most renowned private collection in all of Europe and one of the best in the world.
Calouste Gulbenkian, an Armenian-born multimillionaire, chose Lisbon to be his foundation and museum’s headquarters, harboring today its vast private collection that includes significant eastern art pieces, in addition to the most important Lalique pieces, which Gulbenkian would personally pick on the many visits to the artist’s studio.
We will also visit two smaller museums, one of which is private, to see a few truly unique pieces.
Rest of the day off.
On this day, we are heading north towards Porto. After a 3-hour drive, we will stop in Coimbra to visit a number of important landmarks, such as the University and its stunning library.
The University of Coimbra is one of the oldest in Portugal and Europe. Its library, built in the 18th century thanks to the gold and precious woods coming from Brazil, is considered to be one of the most beautiful in the whole world.
Time for a short snack.
After this, we will be continuing driving towards Porto, which is about 1h30 away from Coimbra.
Check-in at the hotel and a short stroll around town.
Accommodation: The House Ribeira Porto Hotel. A lovely boutique hotel close to thttps://www.shotelscollection.com/he Douro river with a laidback style, amazing breakfast, and quiet rooms.
Porto, Portugal’s second city and undeniably one of the most charming and delightful, has it all: stunning contemporary architectural sights, history-filled streets and buildings, with an historical center — or old town — that dates back to the Middle Ages and was classified as World Heritage by UNESCO. From the banks of the Douro river to the Port wineries, passing through all the charismatic yet edgy neighborhoods, art-filled cafes, galleries, and ancient attractions, Porto will definitely leave you speechless.
On this day, we will visit some of the art-filled treasures in Porto, like the impressive Church of São Francisco, which interiors is completely covered with gilt wood work mixed with granite, making it one of the most gorgeous churches in Portugal. Also, the Palácio de Bolsa and its striking Arab Room, an incredible illustration of Arabian luxury, gives us the chance to talk about Porto’s business world. Away from the court, noble families and the wealthy bourgeoisie soon started their business and trade affairs, and this building has been the headquarters for the Associação Comercial do Porto — Porto’s commercial association — since 1850.
Next, we’re strolling around the city, ending our day at one of the famous Port wineries for some wine tasting and cheese — we’ll just cross the river and get to Vila Nova de Gaia, where all the wineries are. Port wine was first exported in the 17th century by English businessmen who were living in Portugal. It is produced on the slopes of the Douro valley, about 50 miles away from Porto. After the grapes are transformed into the precious nectar, it would be carried on the traditional boats — called rabelos — to the main city of Porto, where it was then stored in big, cool warehouses that we are visiting on this day. This is also where boats would sail towards England where the Port wine was well-known, taking its name from the city where it aged.
Some of these wineries have been here for many centuries, and there is definitely a lot more to be told about Port wine and the importance and specificity of Portuguese wines.
We leave wine behind and come back to our journey’s main theme, the trade routes between Portugal and the East.
On this last day in Portugal, we are dedicating the morning to the Soares dos Reis Museum, the most important museum in Porto, to appraise the ceramic, stoneware, and furniture collections, which will establish, once again, how the Portuguese expansion and the trades resulting from it influenced European art.
- Breakfast at your hotel.
- Transfer out.