Private Tour of Portugal
Portugal : The Wonders of Portugal
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Located in northern Portugal along the Douro River estuary, the old sailing port of Porto is a World Heritage Site and the second largest city in Portugal. While retaining the timeless charm of a small town, Porto also has many of the modern advantages of a big city. Browse the expansive art collection at the Soares dos Reis National Museum, view the ornate interior of the Church of Sao Francisco and explore the medieval maze of stairways and terraces in the old quarter of Ribeira. Don’t miss the chance to visit the Vila Nova de Gaia area to sample some of Porto’s famous Port wine. Other popular attractions include the 12th-century Porto Cathedral, Clerigos Tower and the Harry-Potteresque Livraria Lello bookshop, showcasing some magnificent neo-gothic architecture.
Located in northern Portugal’s Braga district, the city of Guimaraes was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001 due to its profusion of exceptional medieval architecture and monuments. It was Portugal’s first capital, the birthplace of the nation’s first king, and is referred to as the 'birthplace of the Portuguese nationality' or 'the cradle city'. Take a wander through the ancient streets and be transported back through the ages - the city centre’s Gothic buildings are superbly preserved, while the imposing 11th-century Guimaraes Castle once defended the area from attacks by Norman and Moorish invaders. Don’t miss a trip up the Punha Mountain by cable car to enjoy some incredible views of the city. Guimaraes is also famous for its youthful atmosphere: half of its inhabitants are under the age of 30.
Set northeast of Porto in Portugal’s far north, the city of Braga is famous for its rich heritage, exquisite churches, festivals, and unique wine. With a history spanning more than two thousand years, and having played an important role in the Christianization of the Iberian Peninsula in the 5th and 6th centuries AD, the city still has ties to its past in the form of its phenomenal and prolific old buildings. Architectural highlights include the Cathedral of Braga, with its eclectic mix of styles; and the Bom Jesus do Monte pilgrimage site, featuring astounding city views from its pinnacle; among others. Travellers visiting in June can join the revelry of the Festa de Sao Joao, with its spectacular parades, enthralling music and delicious traditional food. Make sure to try the town’s famously light, crisp and young Vinho Verde wine varietal.
Set roughly halfway between Lisbon and Porto, Coimbra is a vibrant historical university town that flanks both sides of the Mondego River, with the old quarter on one side and the modern district on the other. A meander down the ancient town’s main street will take you past shops and cafes, culminating in an atmospheric plaza. The square is crowned by the 12th-century Santa Cruz Monastery, a majestic building of ivory-coloured stone with an elaborate arched entrance and exquisitely detailed interior decorated with blue tiles. The University of Coimbra, dating to 1537, is Europe’s oldest university and the town’s main architectural attraction, while the Quinta das Lagrimas estate, with its forests, bamboo groves, poppy fields and manicured gardens, is a tranquil oasis just outside the city.
Once a small farming village, Fatima was forever changed in 1917 when, according to witnesses, the Virgin Mary appeared several times to three shepherd children. A marble pillar with a statue of Our Lady marks the exact location of her visit and four million-pilgrims make the journey to see it each year. Fatima is now a bustling complex with a vast esplanade book-ended by two large churches. It is, however, a welcoming place no matter your religious inclination. Visitors can enjoy tours of the town's Wax Museum, the Museum of Sacred Art and the Casa-Museu de Aljustrel, along with the splendid surrounding countryside and the multitude of souvenir shops selling everything from rosary beads to glow-in-the-dark statues of the Virgin Mary!
Located in Portugal's Oeste Subregion, Obidos is a 12th-century city enclosed by walls that once protected it from medieval marauders. The town’s piece de resistance is its imposing stone castle that dominates the skyline with its crenellated walls and towers and now functions as a high-end hotel. Another highlight is the view from the town’s ancient walls: it is possible to walk around the entire fort in about one hour, taking in superb 360-degree vistas of the city and its surrounds. After navigating the whole perimeter, there’s no better way to relax than by popping into one of the local cafes for a shot of Ginja de Obidos, a strong, sweet cherry liqueur traditionally served in chocolate cups. Art lovers will delight in the exhibits of 16th-, 17th- and 18th-century Portuguese works at the Municipal Museum.
Set on the west coast of Portugal in the foothills of the Sintra Mountains, the town of the same name is a wonderland of historical castles and palaces. These architectural jewels range from the 12th-century Moorish fortress, with its imposing stone walls and the elegant white facade of the medieval Sintra National Palace, to the eerie Gothic extravagance and exquisite gardens of the Quinta Regaleira. The most famous of its ancient citadels is the hilltop Pena Palace, a Romanticist masterpiece with fantastical turrets, domes, vaulted arches and crenellated walls, recently restored to its original purple and ochre colours. Make sure to take a wander through the city’s old quarter, where a network of narrow alleys lead past exclusive boutiques and souvenir shops, cosy taverns and traditional bakeries; or head to Pena Park for a stroll along its beautiful forested trails.
Situated just 30 kilometres west of Lisbon, the coastal fishing town of Cascais, also a cosmopolitan suburb of Lisbon, is known as the region’s most popular holiday destination. Cascais provides the perfect setting for a day trip from Lisbon city. Once a favoured destination for Portugal’s nobility, today the town features impressive 19th-century architecture and traditional Portuguese charm. It has everything from excellent restaurants, a vibrant nightlife and world-class hotels blended with the traditional streets of the historic centre. Visitors can enjoy a wide selection of exciting activities including: surfing at Guincho Beach, soaking up the sun at the beautiful Carcavelos Beach, hiking the hills of the Serra de Sintra National Park and discovering the picturesque town of Sintra. Make sure to try the delicious, fresh seafood specialities: sea bass, calamari, and cod served with olives, bread and Portuguese wine.
The gritty and yet picturesque city of Lisbon lies draped across a string of seven hills on the western Iberian Peninsula and is the westernmost and oldest city in western Europe. Its long and tumultuous history has resulted in an aesthetic characterised by a haphazard combination of old and new; however, the aesthetic chaos of Lisbon only adds to its appeal and its undeniable charm. Bright yellow centenarian trams rattle their way up steep, tree-lined, cobbled streets; ornate ironwork balconies overrun with bougainvillaea sit above elegant outdoor cafes housed in ancient whitewashed, red-roofed stone houses; and a flurry of detailed mosaics decorate the sidewalks. Ancient statues adorn grand squares and hidden gardens. A diverse culinary scene, a plethora of fascinating museums, and numerous castles make it easy to see why Lisbon is one of Europe’s most misunderstood and underrated cities.
Porto district is located in Portugal’s far north, along the Atlantic coast. Its capital is the 2000-year-old city of Porto, set on the banks of the ‘Golden River’. The town features an eclectic mix of architecture from eras past and its entire historical centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A great way to take in the town is with a boat trip on the Porto River, from where there are excellent views of its iconic bridges and colourful buildings clustered along the waterfront. Outside the city you will picturesque beaches, such as Matsinhos and Miramar, while the Foz do Douro has a long promenade with striking views of the Douro River meeting the sea, as well as trendy bars and restaurants. Don’t miss a tasting tour of the region’s cellars - it is famous for its excellent Port wine.
Located in central Portugal, Coimbra is a city and district that is home to the country’s oldest university. The capital’s student population creates a vibrant, modern atmosphere, while its ancient university buildings and churches imbue it a sense of history. Choupal National Forest is located just outside the city centre on the banks of the Mondego River and offers hiking, cycling and horse-riding amidst scenic surrounds. Figueira da Foz is a coastal resort with beautiful beaches and one of the Iberian Peninsula’s largest casinos, while Arganil is known for its tranquil river beaches.
The Costa de Prata is an enchanting strip of Portugal’s west coast, combining spellbinding scenery, idyllic beaches and a wealth of activities with ancient history and rich tradition. Those looking for sea, sun and R&R should head to Nazare, a summer resort town with a wide half moon of softly burnished sand and some of the country’s most formidable surf breaks, or Peniche, a stony peninsula with dramatic ocean views. Immerse yourself in history at the university town of Coimbra, famous for its medieval architecture, or the fortified city Obidos (one of Portugal’s Seven Wonders), enclosed by high ramparts and crowned by an imposing 12th-century stone castle that now functions as a luxurious hotel. The Costa de Prata is also a favourite golfing destination, with a string of world-class courses across the region.
Lisbon district is located in southwestern Portugal and encompasses the country’s trendy capital, as well as beautiful Atlantic beaches. Lisbon City’s culture has distinctly modern elements such as street murals, quirky boutiques, hip cafes, and a thriving live music scene. However it is infused with reminders of ages past in the form of the ancient stone streets and candy-coloured buildings of its old town, as well as its hilltop Moorish castle and 16th-century monastery. Beyond the confines of the city, you can explore fairy-tale castles and manor houses in the forested area of Sintra, or relax on picture-perfect beaches in Cascais or Ericeira.