Silver Coast & Golden River: Art, Architecture & Culture of Portugal 2023

Status: open

1 Sep – 19 Sep 2023


Silver Coast & Golden River: Art, Architecture & Culture of Portugal 2023
Tour Highlights

With Dr Maria de Lourdes Riobom, explore the distinctive history of fascinating Portugal, adjacent to but so different from Spain. Maria will be assisted by ASA tour manager, Inge Pullar.

  • Trace the diverse influences of medieval Iberian Islam and Portugal’s South American and Far Eastern empires on Portuguese visual culture.
  • Enjoy the sophistication of modern Lisbon, with its marvellous art museums, including the magnificent Calouste Gulbenkian collection.
  • Encounter the intricate Portuguese Flamboyant Gothic style in such masterpieces as royal tombs and rich tracery at Alcobaça and Batalha Monasteries.
  • Wonder at the sumptuousness of royal palaces like Renaissance Sintra and Baroque Queluz, and their magnificent gardens.
  • Visit powerful medieval castles that lined the frontiers between Christian Portugal and Muslim territory.
  • Trace the development of Portugal’s extraordinary, idiosyncratic Manueline style, a rich Renaissance idiom encrusted with ropes, coral, anchors and other signifiers of the country’s imperial maritime past.
  • Tour the historic University of Coimbra, including the glorious high Baroque Library (Library visit subject to confirmation closer to the date).
  • Wander through untouched medieval frontier towns, fortified to resist the encroaching Spaniards.
  • Stay in beautiful and fascinating heritage accommodation, like the medieval Convento de São Paulo and two pousadas, hotels occupying converted medieval monuments.
  • Enjoy a performance of traditional Fado music and savour delicious local dishes in distinctive restaurants.
  • Feast your eyes on walls of rich blue and white tiles, Portugal’s counter to imports of Chinese porcelain.

Overnight  Lisbon (6 nights) • Redondo (2 nights) • Marvão (1 night) • Tomar (2 nights) • Coimbra (2 nights) • Guimarães (2 nights) • Porto (3 nights)


Explore Portugal’s eventful history, encompassing struggles against its powerful neighbour Spain, conquests by North African Muslims and Christian reconquest, and learn how this tiny nation carved out a global empire. We wander through beautiful villages and fortress towns, explore grand palaces and gardens and visit fine churches and monasteries decorated in the unique ‘Manueline’ style; its encrustations of ropes, coral, anchors and seashells signify the country’s imperial maritime past. We also encounter the intricate Portuguese Flamboyant Gothic in such masterpieces as royal tombs at Alcobaça and view walls of rich blue and white tiles, Portugal’s counter to imports of Chinese porcelain. We journey through picturesque landscapes to explore Portugal’s ancient monuments, an Iron Age hill-fort at Citania de Briteiros, and gauge the impact of the Roman Empire at Évora and the abandoned city of Conimbriga and at the imposing remains of Mérida, now across the frontier in Spain but formerly capital of Roman Portugal. The 12th-century cradle of the Portuguese kingdom is Guimarães, with pretty medieval houses and a fine castle. Captured from the Arabs by Christian crusaders in 1147, Lisbon has long been the nation’s capital. This charming city, built on seven hills along the river Tajo, has two outstanding museums: the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. Throughout our journey we visit romantic castles and ornate palaces: Marvão, Tomar, Queluz, Sintra and the Templar castle of Almourol. Highlights include the historic University of Coimbra and the Cistercian Abbey of Alcobaça, the country’s greatest medieval architectural complex. Solar de Mateus is Portugal’s best-known 18th-century manor house – it appears on the rosé wine label! We end in Porto, with its UNESCO World Heritage quayside on the river Douro, from which it exported its famous fortified wine. We sample Portugal’s fine cuisine, enjoy traditional Fado music and stay in charming heritage hotels, including the Convento de São Paulo – a converted 10th-century monastery decorated with azulejos (glazed tiles) – and the Pousadas of Marvão and Guimarães; combined with 4/5-star hotels in Tomar, Coimbra, Lisbon and Porto.

The Pousada de Marvão, Portugal.


A highly appealing tour, with informative lecturers and outstanding visits, in congenial company. It was a great delight to visit many historic sites, architectural masterpieces and spectacular art collections and museums. The cities and towns were of exceptional interest. The whole tour can be most enthusiastically commended. John, VIC.



The following itinerary lists a range of museums, and other site visits which we plan to visit. Many are accessible to the public, but some require special permission which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure. The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours, flight schedules and confirmation of private visits. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents. The tour includes breakfast daily, lunches and dinners featuring the best of Portugal’s cuisine, indicated in the itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=dinner.

Lisbon - 6 nights

Day 1: Friday 1 September, Arrive Lisbon
  • Tour commences at 5.00pm in the foyer of the Heritage Lisboa Plaza Hotel
  • Welcome Meeting
  • Orientation Walk

Meeting Point: The tour commences at 5.00pm in the foyer of the Heritage Lisboa Plaza Hotel. Following a brief welcome meeting there will be a short orientation walk in the area of the hotel. The evening will be at leisure.

Lisbon owes its historical prominence to its magnificent natural harbour. The city lies on the north bank of the Tagus River (Rio Tejo), approximately thirteen kilometres from its mouth. At this point the river is almost two miles wide. It is spanned, on the west side of the city, by the long Twenty-fifth of April Bridge. Just east of the bridge, the Tagus suddenly broadens into a bay seven miles wide called the Sea of Straw (Mar de Palha), which lies on a strategic sea route and serves as a busy port, handling much of Portugal’s and Spain’s exports and imports. (Overnight Lisbon, Hotel Lisboa Plaza)

Day 2: Saturday 2 September, Lisbon
  • Castelo de São Jorge (Castle of St. George)
  • Sé Catedral de Lisboa (Church of Santa Maria Maior)
  • Calouste Gulbenkian Collection
  • Welcome Dinner

This morning we visit the Castle of St. George and then the Lisbon Cathedral. The castle is intimately linked to Lisbon’s history, as it is here that the Phoenicians are purported to have founded the first settlement. On this salient position, successive citadels became Roman, Islamic and Christian centres of power. King Afonso Henriques captured the castle in 1147. It was rebuilt by King John I in the 14th century and has recently undergone considerable restoration. The Castle, which overlooks Lisbon on all sides, is surrounded by a wild garden from which there are views over the city’s roofs and bell towers. Lisbon’s cathedral, the Church of Santa Maria Maior, is one of the major examples of Romanesque-Gothic architecture in the city. Although it was originally built in the 12th century, there were later additions from the 13th and 14th centuries (cloister, chancel, Chapel of Bartolomeu Joanes) and some less significant work in the following centuries. It has undergone several restorations since the 1755 earthquake.

After lunchtime we visit one of Europe’s finest private art collections. Calouste Gulbenkian was a Turkish Armenian who derived his great wealth from the five percent commissions he took for selling Iraqi oil. He lived much of his life in Lisbon and donated most of his fortune and his collection to create a museum and foundation. The collection’s high quality reflects a faultless eye, with masterpieces of European painting, Islamic and Asian art, and a large corpus of the work of the jeweller René Lalique. Among the European works are paintings by Dirk Bouts, Carpaccio, Van der Weyden, Rembrandt, Frans Hals, Sir Anthony Van Dyck, Gainsborough, Turner, Manet, Degas and Monet.

This evening we enjoy a Welcome Dinner at one of Lisbon’s fine local restaurants. (Overnight Lisbon, Hotel Lisboa Plaza) BD

Day 3: Sunday 3 September, Lisbon
  • Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga
  • Mosteiro dos Jerónimos
  • Torre de Belém (exterior)

This morning we visit the Museu Nacional de Arte Antigua, which is housed in the 17th-century Palace of the Counts of Alvor. It has an important collection of Portuguese works from the 15th and 16th centuries and Flemish and German paintings (Cranach, Memling, Hieronymus Bosch, Mabuse, Holbein, etc.). There is also a fascinating group of 16th-century Japanese screens depicting the activities of the Portuguese in Japanese waters, and a small but excellent collection of Spanish paintings of the Golden Age, including Velázquez and Zurbarán.

This afternoon,  we tour the district of Belém by coach, visiting the Jerónimos Monastery, a masterpiece of Manueline architecture, and the Torre de Belém (‘Tower of Bethlehem’), the robust fortress built to protect the mouth of the Tagus. Belém derives its name from the great church and monastery of the Hieronymite friars (Mosteiro dos Jerónimos), dedicated to St. Mary of Bethlehem. It is a fine example of Manueline architecture, a blend of late Gothic and Renaissance elements that was very popular in Portugal in the 16th century. The church attached to the monastery is unique in the boldness of its vaulted roof, which is supported by decorated columns that fan out as they meet it. It is richly ornamented with the navigation symbols that characterise the Manueline style. The tombs of Vasco da Gama and Camões, Portugal’s great national poet, are in the church. The monastery was begun in 1502 by Boytac (Boitaca), an architect of French origin, and was not finished until the end of the century. Four other architects worked on the project, their styles passing from the Gothic through the Renaissance to the Baroque.

The five-storey Torre de Belém was originally located at the centre of the Tagus. It now forms a type of small architectural peninsula jutting into the river (which has changed course). Built in 1515 to guard the entrance to Lisbon, it was erected in the Manueline style by Francisco de Arruda. Girt by a cable carved in stone, it has a stern Gothic interior but exhibits North African touches on its turrets and crenelations. Renaissance arches form its windows. (Overnight Lisbon, Hotel Lisboa Plaza) BL

Day 4: Monday 4 September, Lisbon – Sintra – Lisbon
  • Palácio de Pena, Sintra
  • Palácio Nacional, Sintra
  • Dinner and Fado performance

Today we drive to Sintra to visit the Royal palace complex. The Palácio Nacional, nestled in the verdant Serra de Sintra, was the summer retreat of the Portuguese Royal family. Founded sometime before 1415, it was largely constructed in the 15th and 16th centuries. Its external profile is dominated by the two extraordinary conical chimneys of its distinctive kitchens. Within, you will visit these kitchens, as well as royal apartments separated by small courtyards with pretty fountains and decorated with very beautiful azulejos, artesonado (Islamic wooden panelling),polychrome ceilings and wood panel inlays. We shall also visit the Palácio de Pena, a palace constructed on the site of an Hieronymite monastery founded by Manuel I in 1509. To this was added an extraordinary ‘Gothick-Baronial’ fantasy palace in the 19th century. You will see parts of the old monastery, the palace that took its place, and the 19th-century additions to it.

In the evening we will experience Portugal’s haunting traditional Fado music, considered the country’s musical treasure and involving a singer accompanied by two guitarists. The songs are usually soulful and sad, about love and loss or things that were never accomplished. (Overnight Lisbon, Hotel Lisboa Plaza) BD

Day 5: Tuesday 5 September, Lisbon – Queluz – Lisbon
  • Portuguese Equestrian Art at the Henrique Calado Riding Ring
  • Palácio Nacional de Queluz and Garden

This morning we attend a training session of the Portuguese School of Equestrian Art (EPAE) at the Henrique Calado Riding Ring in Lisbon’s Belém district. Here we will witness riders, dressed in period costume, undertaking exercises and choreographies accompanied by music that recreates the charm and refinery of the 18th century court. It was during the 18th century that the remarkable Portuguese traditional method of riding using very short stirrups, developed by the Iberian cavalry over a thousand years for greater mobility and efficiency during combat, experienced a great boost. The horse that enabled this method to be developed was the Lusitano, an equine breed from the south of the Iberian Peninsula and whose origins date back to prehistory. After nearly dying out, the Alter Real Stud Farm, established in 1748, was revitalised in 1942. Today the Lusitano is a popular mount for sports and leisure due to its natural aptitude for show jumping and dressage, for example, as well as its versatility, rare character traits and genetic antiquity.

We then drive out to visit Queluz, a town and palace complex situated just out of Lisbon. During the 17th century the district of Queluz was occupied by estates owned by Lisbon’s nobility. In the early 18th century it was the idyllic country setting of the royal family’s estate and hunting lodge, which the Infante Dom Pedro (later Dom Pedro III), son of King Dom João V, ordered to be converted into a Summer Palace (1747-1794). This Rococo conversion was supervised by the architects Mateus Vicente de Oliveira and the Frenchman Robillion, who added a new west wing to the initial plan, known as the Robillion Pavilion, and worked on the decoration of the finest interior spaces such as the Throne Room, the Music Room and the Ambassadors’ Room. Restored after partial destruction by fire in 1934, the palace is still used for official receptions. Queluz palace contains an important art collection, including Portuguese furniture, painting, carpets, porcelain and tiles. Its formal gardens are very beautiful, with sculptures and ornamental lakes, and a tiled canal along which the royal family would take boat trips. (Overnight Lisbon, Hotel Lisboa Plaza) BL

Day 6: Wednesday 6 September, Lisbon
  • Lisbon Maritime Museum
  • Afternoon at leisure

The ‘Age of Discovery’, during which the explorers of Europe sailed around Africa to Asia and across the Atlantic to the Americas, was led by the Portuguese. Superior navigation techniques and ship-building skills allowed Portugal to monopolise the newly discovered trade routes, bringing the country tremendous wealth and power. This morning we will visit the Maritime Museum in Lisbon, one of the most important museums of its kind. Here we will discover some of the models, maps, globes and artefacts that illustrate the glories of Portugal’s maritime history.

The afternoon is at leisure for you to further explore Lisbon. You may choose to take a taxi to visit the Museu Nacional do Azulejo (Tile Museum), or perhaps the Museu-Escola de Artes Decorativas (Museum of Decorative Arts) with its interesting display of furniture and tapestries from the 16th to 19th centuries. (Overnight Lisbon, Hotel Lisboa Plaza) B

Redondo - 2 nights

Day 7: Thursday 7 September, Lisbon – Évora – Arraiolos – Redondo
  • Roman Temple of Diana, Évora
  • Cathedral, Évora
  • Casas Pintadas, Évora
  • Convent of the Loíos’ Friars (Pousada dos Loíos), Évora
  • Arraiolos & Castle

In the 15th century Évora had a population of 25,000 souls. Its present citizenry numbers only about 34,000, reflecting the fact that it is one of the least ‘developed’, and therefore most pristine, of Portugal’s historic cities. Favoured by the Romans, it became a Muslim city from 715 AD until captured by a Christian knight, Geraldo sem-Pavor (Gerald the Fearless), in 1166. It was an isolated Christian bastion until 1211 when it again fell to the Muslims. It was recaptured by Joâo I in 1382 and thenceforth became a royal residence. We shall visit the Roman Temple of Diana and a number of other monuments, including the Cathedral (begun 1186, possibly on the site of a mosque), the Roman aqueduct and the 16th-century Casas dos Pintadas decorated with unusual wall paintings of exotic animals.  We also visit the Pousada do Loíos, formerly the convent of the Loíos’ friars, which contains several Gothic-Manueline and Renaissance elements, and one of the most perfect Portuguese Mudéjar (Islamic) portals of the 16th century.

We next drive from Évora to Arraiolos, where we shall walk through the old town and see the castle. The castle stands atop a cone-shaped hill. Its plan is rectangular, with corner towers and a keep. Arraiolos’ clock tower is Manueline.

We stay two nights in the Convento de São Paulo. This former monastery dating back to 1182 feels more like a grand private home than a hotel. Backed by a heavily wooded hill, it faces an idyllic view of gently rolling hills covered with groves of lemon, olive, and cork trees. The convento is decorated with 50,000 azulejos, the largest private collection in Europe. Guestrooms are built into the monks’ cells. Each room is attractively decorated with antiques. The restaurant serves only produce and meat fresh from the hotel’s own farm. (Overnight Redondo, Hotel Convento de São Paulo) BD

Day 8: Friday 8 September, Redondo – Mérida – Elvas – Redondo
  • Mérida: Roman Theatre, Amphitheatre, Bridge and Aqueduct
  • Museum of Roman Art, Mérida
  • Aqueduct of Elvas

Over the next few days we explore Portugal’s frontier with Spain, visiting grand Roman ruins and a number of small towns dominated by castles that were frontier posts guarding against Hispanic incursion. Our purpose is to gain an understanding of the general development of this area.

This morning we cross the border into Spain to visit Mérida, the capital of Roman Portugal when it went by the name Emerita Augusta. Here we will see very well-preserved ruins from this age – a theatre with an elaborate scaenae frons (stage building) dating to 16BC, the amphitheatre dating to 8BC, the Roman bridge over the Guadiana River, its 60 spans forming the longest surviving bridge from ancient times, and the important aqueduct that supplied this growing city.

Whilst in Mérida we also visit the Museum of Roman Art. Began in 1979, the museum’s architecture deliberately echoes the sturdy brick construction of the Romans with arcades of semi-circular arches. It houses the artefacts found over the centuries of excavation in and around the town.

On our drive back to Redondo we shall make a brief stop at Elvas to see the extraordinary Aqueduto da Amoreira, a massive aqueduct supplying much needed water to the town, which was begun in the 15th century. So vast was this construction that it took over 124 years to complete. It is 8 kilometres long and comprises 843 arches up to 30 metres in height. (Overnight Hotel Convento de São Paulo, Redondo) BD

Marvão - 1 night

Day 9: Saturday 9 September, Redondo – Castelo de Vide – Marvão
  • Town and Castle of Castelo de Vide
  • Town and Castle of Marvão

Today, we continue our exploration of the Portuguese frontier. First we drive on to Castelo de Vide, situated on a spur of the Serra de São Mamede. Castelo de Vide is a town of old mansions and has a well-preserved medieval Judiaria (Jewish quarter). It also has a fine castle.

After lunch we continue on to Marvão. Marvão Castle stands over eight hundred metres above sea level on one of the highest points in the Serra de São Mamede. This rugged escarpment forms a natural point of defence, to which access can only be gained from the east, the direction in which the citadel’s dependent village has spread inside defensive walls. From Marvão the Portuguese could watch the nearby frontier and the Spanish town of Valencia de Alcántara, from where invading forces would frequently set out. The castle and its walls are well preserved, with superimposed layers from different periods. For example, several sections of the wall, the Romanesque doorway of the keep (Torre de Menagem), the Gates of Treason (Portas da Traição), and a small cistern, all remain from the 12th century. At this time the region was taken from the Muslims by Don Afonso II. At the end of the 13th century the fortifications were improved and strengthened, seen in the pointed-arch gates and the town wall. In the 15th and 16th centuries the various entrances were reinforced and the keep took on its present structure. A large cistern was also built, a necessity in times of siege. The other fortified gates, the Porta de Rodão, Porta da Vila, Porta do Fortim and Porta da Rua Nova were built later, in the 17th century. These were part of a campaign to reinforce defences during the Wars for the Restoration of Independence fought between Portugal and Spain (1640-68). (Overnight Marvão, Pousada do Marvão) BD

Tomar - 2 nights

Day 10: Sunday 10 September, Marvão – Almourol – Tomar
  • Templar Castle of Almourol (exterior)
  • Convento de Cristo, Tomar

We begin today with viewing of the beautiful Castle of Almourol, situated on an islet in the middle of the river Tagus. One of Portugal’s most attractive castles, Almourol was built by the Knights Templar in 1171. Its romantic setting has given rise to legends of enchanted Moorish women and captured princesses saved by itinerant knights. The castle, which has a tall central keep surrounded by curtain walls and nine towers, can only be reached by boat.

Next, we drive to the vast Templar Convento de Cristo at Tomar. In 1157 Gualdim Pais, Grand Master of the Templars, was awarded the site of Roman Nabantia for his services against the Muslims. He built a fortress and church there but moved to an adjacent hill and here withstood a Muslim attack in 1190. In 1314 the Templars of Portugal were transformed into a new Order, the Order of Christ, thus avoiding the dissolution and persecution suffered by Templars elsewhere in Europe. Tomar became the headquarters of the Order of which Henry the Navigator became Grand Master between 1417 and 1460. In the early 16th century Joâo III transformed the Order into a monastic brotherhood, necessitating further construction. The huge complex today is built around six great cloisters. At its heart is the Charola, the sixteen-sided chapel of the Templars, a typical centrally-planned Templar church which, like its counterparts everywhere, is a free imitation of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The complex has a good collection of Flemish paintings, interesting tombs and fine architectural detailing. Its treasure, however, is its very famous, highly decorated central window.

We stay for the next three nights in Tomar. (Overnight Tomar, Hotel dos Templários) B

Day 11: Monday 11 September, Tomar – Alcobaça – Nazaré – Batalha – Tomar
  • Cistercian Abbey of Alcobaça
  • Maritime Village of Nazaré
  • Dominican Monastery of Batalha

Today we drive west to Alcobaça and Batalha. The Cistercian Abbey of Alcobaça is arguably the greatest medieval architectural complex in Portugal. Its huge central church is typically Cistercian, being modelled upon the motherhouse of Cîteaux (Burgundy). The complex has a number of very fine late medieval royal tombs, a great kitchen with a massive chimney (like those of the Palace of Sintra), a fine refectory and the excellent sculpture collection of the Portuguese royal house. Its Gothic architecture is graced with a number of beautiful Manueline additions.

We then head to the coast to the pretty fishing village of Nazaré. This village is one of the most beautiful of Portugal’s maritime settlements, its fishing boats have eyes painted upon them to ward off the ‘evil eye’, and are hauled up onto the beach, where the sardine catch disgorged from them dries in the sun. We shall spend lunchtime exploring the town.

In the afternoon we visit Batalha, site of a famous Dominican monastery founded and built by King Joâo I to commemorate his victory over the Spanish at Aljubarrota on the 15th of August 1385, which assured his accession to the throne.

The monastery built to celebrate this Portuguese victory is extraordinary. From the 15th century are the church, the founder’s chapel, chapter house, two cloisters, and an octagonal chapel behind the apse. The pantheon of Portuguese kings was completed in the 16th century. Of particular note are the west front, with its innumerable sculptures (‘Christ in Majesty’; statues of the Evangelists, and saints), and fine Flamboyant-Gothic window. The profile of the complex is dramatised by extraordinarily intricate Flamboyant-Gothic entablatures, with a mass of detailed tracery and a vast number of small pinnacles. The interior is high and narrow, like Alcobaça. We shall visit all sections of the complex. (Overnight Tomar, Hotel dos Templários) B

Coimbra - 2 night

Day 12: Tuesday 12 September, Tomar – Coimbra
  • Botanical Garden of the University of Coimbra
  • Museu Nacional de Machado de Castro
  • Old University, Coimbra (University Library subject to confirmation closer to the date)
  • Old Cathedral, Coimbra

Today we drive north to nearby Coimbra which was taken from the Muslims in 872, returned to the Caliphate between 987 and 1064, and became capital of Portugal between 1139 (when Afonso Henriques was crowned) and 1385. It was the seat of Portugal’s only university a number of times between 1308 and 1537, after which it became its permanent home (until the Republic). The city is made up of a lower and upper town. In the upper town, or old city, we visit the Botanical garden as well as the Museu Nacional de Machado de Castro, then sections of the old university, of which the most imposing part is the University Library, a magnificent High Baroque ensemble in the ‘Joâo Quinto’ style (1716-1728) – note: Library visit is subject to confirmation closer to the date. We shall also visit the Romanesque Old Cathedral, one of the finest Romanesque churches in Portugal (founded c.1162), with an elaborate Gothic retable (c.1508) and a cloister (1218) in the Cistercian style. (Overnight Coimbra, Hotel Quinta das Lágrimas) BD

Day 13: Wednesday 13 September, Coimbra – Conimbriga – Coimbra
  • Conimbriga Roman Site
  • Afternoon at leisure

This morning we drive out of Coimbra to the remarkable Roman archaeological site at Conimbriga. Here we shall see some of the most-beautiful mosaic pavements preserved in situ in all of Europe. This site is still being excavated and continues to reveal treasures of ancient Portugal. We walk the Roman streets past houses and public buildings that give an indication of the importance and wealth of this Roman province.

After this visit, we drive back to Coimbra where the afternoon would be at leisure for you to explore the town and enjoy the facilities at your hotel. (Overnight Coimbra, Hotel Quinta das Lágrimas) B

Guimarães - 2 nights

Day 14: Thursday 14 September, Coimbra – Aveiro – Braga – Guimarães
  • Aveiro town
  • Monastery of São Martinho de Tibães, Braga
  • Bom Jesus do Monte, nr. Braga

Today we continue our journey north to the Minho region of Portugal. We first visit the picturesque town of Aveiro where we can stroll the charming little streets of the old town.

We then drive to Braga to visit the nearby Benedictine Monastery of Tibães. Built on the site of a former Roman villa, the Monastery of Tibães later became the mother house of the Order of Saint Benedict for Portugal and the colony of Brazil. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the Monastery was a site of considerable artistic activity and had an enormous influence in the Baroque and Rococo art of Northern Portugal and overseas colonies. We shall enjoy a group lunch at the Hospedaria Convento de Tibaes, located within the monastery grounds.

The extraordinary site of Bom Jesus Sanctuary near Braga was selected by archbishop Martinho da Costa. He built a chapel here in 1494. In 1522, archbishop João da Guarda established a religious order to cultivate the barren landscape around it. In 1722, Rodrigo de Moura Teles decided to create a religious sanctuary here, one of the first in Europe to be properly integrated into the (now lush) surrounding landscape. The church was built later (1784) by Carlos Amarante in an Italian inspired Neo-classical design. This church perches atop a hill framed by large old trees. It is approached by an extraordinary staircase composed of seventeen landings adorned with symbolic fountains, allegorical statues and other Baroque decoration depicting such themes as the Stations of the Cross, the Five Senses, the Virtues, Moses receiving the Commandments and, at the top, the eight biblical figures who contributed to the Condemnation of Jesus. The perspective of this stairway, topped by the church, is unforgettable. The stairs between the landings zig zag up the hill, creating a dramatic image of intricate sculpture and edging against brilliant white walls.

Tonight we stay in the Pousada Mosteiro Guimarães. Set on a hill overlooking the city, the majestic, beautifully restored pousada was originally a 12th-century Augustin convent. It has a park with small gardens, courtyards with granite fountains, cloisters, fine azulejos, balconies and terraces overlooking the city. It boasts fine cuisine which we shall enjoy tonight. (Overnight Guimarães, Pousada Mosteiro Guimarães) BLD

Day 15: Friday 15 September, Guimarães – Citania de Briteiros – Guimarães
  • Citania de Briteiros
  • Guimarães old town and castle (exterior)
  • Museu de Alberto Sampaio

We begin our day with a visit to Citânia de Briteiros, a fascinating archaeological site constituting a partly reconstructed pre-Roman settlement; this was the last stronghold of the Celtibrians against the Roman armies that invaded the Iberian Peninsula. The settlement is made up of the remains of 150 circular stone huts separated by paved causeways. Two of these have been reconstructed, and we shall also see the terraces and remains of the three stone walls which originally surrounded the settlement. A visit to the fascinating museum in the nearby town will provide a perfect introduction to the site.

We return to Guimarães for lunchtime at leisure. Founded in the 4th century, Guimarães became the first capital of Portugal in the 12th century. Its landmarks include a 10th-century castle, where Afonso I was born, a Romanesque church – Nossa Senhora da Oliveira (rebuilt 1387-1400), a 14th-century monastery and church (St. Francis) and a Dominican convent now housing a notable museum of antiquities. Guimarães also boasts a magnificent suburb of 18th-century mansions. We visit the Museu de Alberto Sampaio which houses a beautiful and well-presented collection of art from religious institutions in the area. We end our day with a viewing of the medieval castle of Guimarães. (Overnight Guimarães, Pousada Mosteiro Guimarães) BD

Porto - 3 nights

Day 16: Saturday 16 September, Guimarães  – Amarante – Porto
  • Solar de Mateus, Vila Real
  • Amarante
  • Wine tasting at Quinta da Avelada, Penafiel

Today we drive through the Douro Valley, exploring this famous historical wine-growing region as we travel to Porto. We drive first to Vila Real where we encounter the Solar de Mateus, the most famous 18th-century manor house in Portugal, not least because it appears on the rosé wine label we all know! The palace, with its white walls relieved by an extravagance of stone façade decoration and extraordinary pinnacles, is an excellent example of Portuguese Baroque architecture. It is surrounded by water, gardens, tree-covered walks, a beautiful balustraded stairway, formal box-planted terraces and allegorical statues. Inside are magnificent carved wooded ceilings, precious furnishings and artwork.

We drive to Amarante, a picturesque small town with its 16th and 17th century houses built in tiers up a hillside overlooking the River Tamega. Here we shall enjoy time at leisure to stroll through the town, home to the Convent of São Gonçalo and one of Portugal’s most perfectly preserved Romanesque bridges. Amarante is also famous for its pastries and green wine!

We then transfer to Quinta de Aveleda in Penafiel. The estate dates back to the 17th century and is surrounded by beautiful botanical gardens. The Guedes family have been producing wine since 1870. Today they are the biggest producer and exporter of vinho verde in Portugal. We will get a tour of the vineyard and the historical gardens before tasting some local wines.

We continue on to Porto where we stay in the Hotel Infante Sagres, a stately establishment built in 1951 and recently refurbished throughout. (Overnight Porto, Hotel Infante Sagres) B

Day 17: Sunday 17 September, Porto
  • Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis
  • Casa do Infante (purported birthplace of Henry the Navigator)
  • Igreja de Sao Francisco
  • Palacio da Bolsa (Stock Exchange Palace)
  • 6-bridges river cruise on the Douro

Porto, also called Oporto, is the capital and port of the Porto district. The city lies 3kms from the Douro’s mouth. Porto is Portugal’s second largest city and is the commercial and industrial centre for the zone north of the Mondego River. The city lies chiefly on the river’s north bank, with the older district on a hill to the east. The red-tiled warehouses of the town of Vila Nova de Gaia, where vast quantities of port wine are blended and stored, dominate the south bank. The Douro River is spanned by the Dom Luís I Bridge, built in 1881-85 by the French engineer Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, with one of the largest arches in Europe; by the Maria Pia Bridge (1876-77), carrying the Lisbon railway line; and by the Arrábida Highway Bridge, which had the world’s longest arch when it was completed in 1962. Porto was the Portus Cale of Roman times when it became a flourishing settlement on the Douro’s south bank. The nomadic Alani tribe later founded the city of Castrum Novum on the north bank. The Visigoths took possession of the site in about 540 AD but yielded in 716 to the Muslims. In 997 the Christians recaptured Porto, which for a time became the capital of the counts of Portucalense during Muslim rule in southern Portugal. The Muslims again held the city briefly, but in 1092 it was brought finally under Christian domination. In the 14th century the city became an important port. Henry the Navigator was born there in 1394.

We begin our exploration of the city with a walk to the Museu Nacional Soares do Reis. This museum houses a fine collection of Portuguese art with a focus on the 19th and 20th centuries. The museum was named after the sculptor Antonio Soares do Reis and a gallery is dedicated to his work.

We then transfer to the Cais de Ribera, the city’s stunning old port district, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Here we visit the Casa do Infante (Prince’s House), also known as the Alfândega Velha (Old Customs House). It was built in the 14th century as a customs house and mint, although its present condition derives mostly from its 17th-century remodelling. The name Casa do Infante comes from a popular belief that Henry the Navigator was born here in 1394. The medieval customs house (1354) was constructed under Alfonso IV who intended, by charging dues on goods carried by ships navigating Duoro, to reduce the income and therefore the power of the Bishop of Oporto. The original complex included a mint, storage house and living quarters for employees. Alterations since the 15th century have greatly altered its original structure, which once consisted of two high towers linked by a courtyard. In 1677, under Pedro II, it was virtually rebuilt. The inner courtyard was retained, but its towers were greatly reduced in height, while its street façade gained two extra storeys, with a large staircase leading to the living quarters on the second floor. The storage houses were also greatly enlarged at this time. The façade gained another storey in the 19th century and now houses a city museum. Archaeologists have not only been able to reconstruct the medieval building but have also found vestiges of a Roman edifice under it. A Roman mosaic floor is now on display.

The nearby Igreja de Sao Francisco (Church of Saint Francis), established by the Franciscan Order around 1244 is the most prominent Gothic monument in Porto, being also noted for its outstanding Baroque inner decoration. A fire, caused by the siege of Porto in 1832, destroyed the old cloisters. In its place was built the Stock Exchange Palace (Palácio da Bolsa), which we visit afterwards. Classified as a National Monument since 1982, it holds the headquarters of the Porto Commercial Association. Its spare Neo-classical façades give no hint of its Arabian Hall within. This vast extraordinary orientalist fantasy of a room designed by Gustavo de Sousa is sheathed in gold patterned and intricate arabesques. The core of this building is said to have been initiated by Afonso IV as the Royal Treasury Office. It was expanded in the 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th centuries when storeys were added and its façades enriched.

We then embark on a cruise on a Rabelo boat, a traditional Portuguese wooden cargo boat that was used for centuries to transport people and goods along the Douro River, and admire Porto from a different perspective. (Overnight Porto, Hotel Infante Sagres) B

Day 18: Monday 18 September, Porto
  • Igreja do Carmo / Igreja das Carmelitas
  • Clerigos Tower & Church
  • São Bento Station – tile panels painted by Jorge Colaço
  • Time at leisure – optional visit to Lello Bookshop
  • Tour of Cockburn’s Port Lodge
  • Farewell Dinner at Vinum Restaurant – Graham’s Port Lodge

This morning we visit two adjacent churches, the Igreja do Carmo and the Igreja das Carmelitas. The latter, to the left, once belonged to a 17th-century Carmelite convent. It has a simple classical façade, a bell tower, and a richly gilded interior. To the right is the 18th-century Carmo Church. It is a magnificent example of late Baroque architecture with a single nave made up of elegant gilt carvings in seven altars by master Francisco Pereira Campanhã. Its extraordinary side wall is completely covered in blue and white tile panels. A house, inhabited until about 20 years ago, separates the two churches. It owed its existence to a law that no two churches could share a wall. The separation of the monks at the Carmo and the Carmelite nuns also guarded each community’s chastity.

Nearby is the Torre and Igreja dos Clerigos. The tower is an 18th-century Baroque construction by Nicolau Nasoni. From its top there is a magnificent panorama of Porto. The church’s magnificent interior is decorated with Baroque-Rococo gilt carvings and a beautiful polychromatic retable.

We then visit the São Bento Railway Station, which was built in 1900 by architect José Marques da Silva and designed in the French Beaux-Arts architectural style. It is decorated with 20,000 azulejo tin-glazed ceramic tiles depicting Portugal’s royalty, warfare and transportation history along with landscape, ethnographical and allegorical scenes that were painted in blue and white by the artist, Jorge Colaço, over an 11-year period between 1905 and 1916. This year we celebrate the 150th anniversary of this important azulejo painter’s birth. Above the monochromatic tiles are two friezes; one of stylised flowers in blue, gold and white, and the other a polychromatic depiction evoking the history of the road in Portugal. The railway station obtains its name from a Benedictine monastery that once occupied the site back in the 16th century but was destroyed by fire in 1783. It had been rebuilt but then was torn down in the 19th century to make way for the expanding railway system.

There will be time at leisure and you may wish to visit the nearby Livraria Lello & Irmão, a historic bookshop with an interior decorated primarily in the Art Nouveau style with Gothic Revival features. An ornate staircase dominates the ground floor and rises to a second-floor gallery under a splendid stained glass skylight. Wooden bookshelves line the walls and intricately carved ceilings recall a bygone era. Tickets to visit the bookshop can be obtained from a nearby kiosk and the cost refunded on the purchase of a book!

In the late afternoon, we meet up again and cross to Vila Nova Gaia where we shall take a tour of Cockburn’s Port Lodge. Here we shall learn about the port trade, sample a drop of this famous local wine. We transfer to one of the major port lodges of the city, Graham’s English Port Lodge, to dine in the award-winning Vinum Restaurant & Wine Bar, which enjoys spectacular views of the Douro and the city of Porto. (Overnight Porto, Hotel Infante Sagres) BD

Day 19: Tuesday 19 September, Depart Porto
  • At leisure/Check out

Our tour ends in Porto after breakfast. In the morning you will be required to check out of the hotel.  Please contact ASA if you require assistance with a transfer to Porto Airport. B



A special feature of this tour is our stay in several heritage hotels. ASA has selected 3- to 5-star hotels that are themselves historical buildings and/or are located in historical centres. All hotels provide rooms with en suite bathroom. Further information on hotels will be provided in the ‘Tour Hotel List’ given to tour members prior to their departure.

  • Lisbon (6 nights): 4.5-star Heritage Lisboa Plaza Hotel – a boutique hotel located in the historic centre of Lisbon just off the Avenida da Liberdade. www.lisbonplazahotel.com
  • Redondo (2 nights): 4-star Convento de São Paulo – a former monastery founded in 1182, which feels more like a grand private home than a hotel. Set against a heavily-wooded hill, it presents an idyllic view of gently-rolling hills with groves of lemon, olive, and cork trees. The convento has extraordinary decoration consisting of 50,000 azulejos (glazed tiles), the largest private collection in Europe. Guestrooms are the former monks’ cells now attractively decorated with antiques. The restaurant serves only produce and meat fresh from the hotel’s own farm. www.hotelconventospaulo.com
  • Marvão (1 night): Pousada do Marvão – set by the 13th-century walls of an unspoilt medieval hamlet. The pousada is housed in two medieval buildings and enjoys beautiful views across the Alentejo plains towards Spain. www.pousadas.pt
  • Tomar (2 nights): 4-star Hotel dos Templários – a modern and comfortable hotel located a short distance from the historic centre. www.hoteldostemplarios.pt
  • Coimbra (2 nights): 4-star Hotel Quinta das Lágrimas – a historical palace, beautifully renovated and situated within a 12-hectare garden, close to the university town. www.quintadaslagrimas.pt
  • Guimaraes (2 night): 4-star Pousada Mosteiro Guimarães  Set on a hill overlooking the city, the majestic restored pousada was originally a 12th-century Augustin convent. It has a park with small gardens, courtyards with granite fountains, cloisters, fine azulejos, and balconies and terraces overlooking the city. It boasts fine cuisine which we shall enjoy. www.pousadas.pt
  • Porto (3 nights): 5-star Hotel Infante Sagres  a pink Neoclassic palace of the 1950s located one block from Porto’s main thoroughfare and 800m uphill from the river. The hotel’s elaborate common rooms take their historic cues from their 18th-century antiques, exquisite blue Chinese porcelain vases, ornate gilded ceilings, and tiled floors adorned with elaborate Tabriz rugs. Illuminated by Italian stained-glass panels, the lobby staircase winds up to a lounge replete with richly-carved furniture, a sea of sofas, a regal fireplace and an 18th-century Gobelins tapestry. www.hotelinfantesagres.pt

Note: Hotels are subject to change, in which case a hotel of similar standard will be provided.

Single Supplement

Payment of this supplement will ensure accommodation in a single occupancy throughout the tour. In all hotels on this tour, this will be a double/twin room for single occupancy. The number of rooms available for single use is extremely limited. People wishing to take this supplement are therefore advised to book well in advance.

How to book

How to Book


Please complete the ASA RESERVATION APPLICATION and send it to Australians Studying Abroad together with your non-refundable deposit of AUD $500.00 per person payable to Australians Studying Abroad.

Covid-19 Vaccination Certificate

Commencing from November 2021 it will be a condition of travel that all group leaders and ASA travellers are fully vaccinated against Covid-19. All participants must send ASA a copy of their vaccination certificate at the time of submitting their Reservation Application Form. For information on how to obtain either a Covid-19 digital certificate or a certificate in PDF format please view the Australian Government Services Australia “What types of proof there are” web page.

Practical Information

Practical Information

The number of flags is a guide to the degree of difficulty of ASA tours relative to each other (not to those of other tour companies). It is neither absolute nor literal. One flag is given to the least taxing tours, seven to the most. Flags are allocated, above all, according to the amount of walking and standing each tour involves. Nevertheless, all ASA tours require that participants have a good degree of fitness enabling 2-3 hours walking or 1-1.5 hours standing still on any given site visit or excursion. Many sites are accessed by climbing slopes or steps and have uneven terrain.

This 19-day Cultural Tour of Portugal involves:

  • Visiting many sites and towns that are built on steep hills and involve uphill walking. In particular, the historic city centres of Lisbon, Castelo de Vide and Marvao have steep, narrow cobblestone streets that can only be accessed by foot. Cobbled streets can be very slippery during rain showers!
  • A moderate amount of walking during site visits and standing.
  • 3 to 5-star hotels with six hotel changes.
  • You must be able to carry your own hand-luggage. Hotel porterage includes 1 piece of luggage per person.

It is important to remember that ASA programs are group tours, and slow walkers affect everyone in the group. As the group must move at the speed of the slowest member, the amount of time spent at a site may be reduced if group members cannot maintain a moderate walking pace. ASA tours should not present any problem for active people who can manage day-to-day walking and stair-climbing. However, if you have any doubts about your ability to manage on a program, please ask your ASA travel consultant whether this is a suitable tour for you.

Please note: it is a condition of travel that all participants agree to accept ASA’s directions in relation to their suitability to participate in activities undertaken on the tour, and that ASA retains the sole discretion to direct a tour participant to refrain from a particular activity on part of the tour. For further information please refer to the ASA Reservation Application Form.

Prior to departure, tour members will receive practical notes which include information on visa requirements, health, photography, weather, clothing and what to pack, custom regulations, bank hours, currency regulations, electrical appliances and food. The Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade website has advice for travellers see: www.smartraveller.gov.au

Tour Price & Inclusions

Tour Price & Inclusions

AUD $10,780.00 Land Content Only – Early-Bird Special: Book before 30 September 2022

AUD $10,980.00 Land Content Only

AUD $2240.00 Single Supplement

Tour Price (Land Content Only) includes:
  • Accommodation in twin-share rooms with private facilities in 3-5-star hotels
  • Buffet Breakfast daily; lunches and dinners as indicated in the itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=dinner
  • Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included
  • Transportation by air-conditioned coach
  • Porterage of one piece of luggage per person at hotels (not at airports)
  • Lecture and site-visit program
  • Tour handbook
  • Entrance fees
  • Use of audio headsets during site visits
  • Tips for the coach driver, local guides and restaurants for included meals
Tour Price (Land Content Only) does not include:
  • Airfare: Australia-Lisbon, Porto-Australia
  • Personal spending money
  • Airport-hotel transfers
  • Luggage in excess of 20kg (44lbs)
  • Travel insurance
Tour Map

Tour Map

Terms & Conditions

A deposit of $500.00 AUD per person is required to reserve a place on an ASA tour.

Cancellation Fees

If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:

  • More than 75 days before departure: $500.00**
  • 75-46 days prior 25% of total amount due
  • 45-31 days prior 50% of total amount due
  • 30-15 days prior 75% of total amount due
  • 14-0 days prior 100% of total amount due

**This amount may be credited to another ASA tour departing within 12 months of the original tour you booked. We regret, in this case early-bird discounts will not apply. We take the day on which you cancel as being that on which we recieve written confirmation of cancellation.

Unused Portions of the Tour

We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.

Will the Tour Price or Itinerary Change?

If the number of participants on a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates ASA reserves the right to amend the advertised price. We shall, however, do all in our power to maintain the published price. If an ASA tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all tour monies paid. Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of ASA make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes in due course.

Travel Insurance

ASA requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. A copy of your travel insurance certificate and the reverse charge emergency contact phone number must be received by ASA no later than 75 days prior to the commencement of the tour.

Final Payment

The balance of the tour price will be due 75 days prior to the tour commencement date.

Limitation of Liability

ASA is not a carrier, event or tourist attraction host, accommodation or dining service provider. All bookings made and tickets or coupons issued by ASA for transport, event, accommodation, dining and the like are issued as an agent for various service providers and are subject to the terms and conditions and limitations of liability imposed by each service provider. ASA is not responsible for their products or services. If a service provider does not deliver the product or service for which you have contracted, your remedy lies with the service provider, not ASA.

ASA will not be liable for any claim (eg. sickness, injury, death, damage or loss) arising from any change, delay, detention, breakdown, cancellation, failure, accident, act, omission or negligence of any such service provider however caused (contingencies). You must take out adequate travel insurance against such contingencies.

ASA’s liability in respect of any tour will be limited to the refund of amounts received from you less all non-refundable costs and charges and the costs of any substituted event or alternate services provided. The terms and conditions of the relevant service provider from time to time comprise the sole agreement between you and that service provider.

ASA reserves the sole discretion to cancel any tour or to modify itineraries in any way it considers appropriate. Tour costs may be revised, subject to unexpected price increases or exchange rate fluctuations.

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