If you’ve never considered Portugal a stop on your travel bucket list, read on. From delicious foods to historic buildings, the country offers everything you could want in an overseas excursion – and more.
A group of nine women – a trio of sisters along with their close-knit group of friends – set out on a thrilling journey through the Iberian Peninsula’s gem, Portugal. Their seven-day adventure, seamlessly orchestrated by Costsaver Tours Canada, navigated them through the captivating cities of Lisbon, Coimbra, and Porto. The journey unravelled the enchanting allure of Portugal’s diverse landscapes, its rich tapestry of history, and the unique charm of each city. It was more than a voyage across a country. It served as an opportunity for travelers to delve deeper into their friendships, forging bonds strengthened by shared experiences and joyous discoveries.
Unveiling the Charm of Lisbon
Upon landing in Portugal’s vibrant capital, Lisbon, the group was immediately captivated by the city’s warm hues and charismatic energy. The exploration began with a casual wander through the city’s quaint, cobbled streets, lined with pastel-coloured buildings that shimmered in the Mediterranean sun. These structures were adorned with traditional Azulejo tiles, their intricate designs telling tales of Portugal’s storied past.
The sight of the iconic 25 de Abril (25th of April) Bridge stretching across the Tagus River and the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, a monument that celebrates Portugal’s Age of Discoveries, left them in awe. Their culinary introduction to Portugal was just as magnificent, with local delights like the rich and comforting caldo verde soup and bacalhau à brás, a hearty dish made from shredded cod, potatoes and eggs.
Architectural Marvels of Lisbon
Lisbon offered more than just its initial charm, revealing an array of architectural marvels to the group. The Jerónimos Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, stood as a testament to the city’s rich history and Portugal’s unique Manueline architecture, named after King Manuel I who commissioned the structure. The historic Belém Tower, a fortified tower that once served as a gateway to Lisbon’s harbour, spoke of the city’s strategic maritime past. A visit to the Alfama district, the city’s oldest neighbourhood, was akin to stepping back in time, with labyrinthine alleys resonating with soulful Fado music, Portugal’s melancholic but beautiful folk music.
Lisbon’s cultural hub, the trendy LxFactory, offered a modern contrast to the traditional Alfama district. A transformed industrial complex, it now houses a dynamic array of art studios, unique boutiques and hip eateries. Here, the group savoured the popular pastéis de nata, a delectable Portuguese egg custard tart that perfectly encapsulates the country’s sweet tooth.
Enchanting Sintra: A Fairy-Tale Town
As their journey extended beyond Lisbon’s cityscape, the group was taken to the romantic town of Sintra. Nestled within the verdant Sintra Mountains, this fairy-tale town unveiled majestic palaces and lavish estates, each enveloped in lush, mystical gardens. The colourful Pena Palace stood in stark contrast to the sky, its bright red and yellow walls gleaming. The Moorish Castle’s ancient stone ramparts offered panoramic views over the forest to the Atlantic Ocean, while the Quinta da Regaleira estate, with its enigmatic grottoes and initiation wells, lent an air of intrigue.
Coastal Delights in Cascais
A detour to Cascais, a coastal town favoured by Portuguese nobility for its idyllic setting, offered the group a chance to experience Portugal’s Riviera. They strolled along the sun-kissed beaches, wandering through the town’s historic center, and relishing fresh seafood at a local eatery. The group enjoyed a taste of the relaxed Portuguese seaside lifestyle.
Coimbra: A Medieval Town of Knowledge
Their journey then turned towards the city of students, Coimbra. Home to the University of Coimbra, one of Europe’s oldest universities. This medieval town served as a reminder of the country’s commitment to knowledge and learning. The group found themselves marvelling at the university’s grand buildings, particularly the Joanina Library. A Baroque masterpiece that shelters over 200,000 ancient volumes. The spirit of Coimbra, fueled by the youthful energy of students spilling into the streets, cafés, and plazas, left a lasting impression on the group. Their exploration concluded with a visit to the Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Nova. A 17th-century convent offering panoramic views of the Mondego River.
Portos’ Architecture, Culture
The final stop of their Portuguese adventure was Porto, the country’s second-largest city. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is famous for its stunning architecture, vibrant culture, and, of course, its world-renowned Port wine. On their first day, the group roamed through the city’s winding streets, visiting iconic landmarks like the opulent Livraria Lello.
It’s known as one of the world’s most beautiful bookstores and is rumoured to have inspired J.K Rowling’s vision of Hogwarts. They also admired the São Bento Railway Station. Its walls are adorned with blue and white Azulejo tiles depicting important scenes from Portugal’s history. Another highlight was the visit to Clérigos Church, a stunning Baroque structure with a 76-metre-high tower offering panoramic city views.
The final stop of their Portuguese adventure was Porto, the country’s second-largest city. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is famous for its stunning architecture, vibrant culture, and, of course, its world-renowned Port wine. On their first day, the group roamed through the city’s winding streets.
They visited iconic landmarks like the opulent Livraria Lello. Which is known as one of the world’s most beautiful bookstores and is rumoured to have inspired J.K. Rowling’s vision of Hogwarts. They also admired the São Bento Railway Station. Its walls are adorned with blue and white Azulejo tiles depicting important scenes from Portugal’s history. Another highlight was the visit to Clérigos Church, a stunning Baroque structure with a 76-metre-high tower offering panoramic city views.
Porto’s Iconic Landmarks
As the group delved deeper into Porto’s rich history, they discovered the imposing Cathedral of Porto, a masterpiece of Romanesque and Gothic architecture. The Church of São Francisco, renowned for its ornate, gilded woodwork, was another architectural marvel on their list. A wander through the vibrant Ribeira district, with its narrow streets and colourful houses lining the Douro River, offered them a glimpse into the everyday life of Porto’s inhabitants.
Porto Wine Tasting in Vila Nova de Gaia
No trip to Porto would be complete without a Port wine tasting, and the group found themselves crossing the iconic double-deck iron Dom Luís I Bridge to Vila Nova de Gaia. It’s home to the city’s famous wine cellars. They embarked on a guided tour of a historic Port wine cellar. Here they delved into the production process and history of this fortified wine that has become synonymous with the city’s name. The tour culminated with a tasting session. Each sip of the rich, velvety wine serves as a testament to Porto’s rich viticulture.
Shopping at Bolhão Market and Farewell Lunch
As their journey neared its end, the group spent a leisurely morning shopping for souvenirs at the bustling Bolhão Market. A hub of local vendors selling fresh produce, handicrafts, and traditional Portuguese delicacies. They shared a farewell lunch at a quaint riverside café, reminiscing about their unforgettable journey through Portugal’s charming cities.
As the trip drew to a close, the group realized that their adventure had not only allowed them to discover the beauty and history of Portugal but had also provided them with the opportunity to forge an even stronger bond. The memories created during their first trip together will undoubtedly be cherished for a lifetime. All of them returned home with hearts filled with love, laughter, and a newfound appreciation for Portugal’s enchanting allure.
Their seven-day Costsaver bus tour provided the perfect opportunity for them to explore and discover Portugal’s enchanting and beautiful cities at a comfortable pace. It also offers ample time for personal discovery and bonding. With its picturesque landscapes, fascinating history, and warm, hospitable people, Portugal proved to be the ideal destination for this group of intrepid travelers seeking a memorable adventure together.
Photos by Gwen Linton