Culture Trip brings you City Loops, Done Differently – the trending multi-destination routes for 2020 with a twist. Deep-dive into the culture of a destination and discover how to get the most out of your itinerary, from what to see and do to what to tuck into and where to stay.
Time it right to sidestep flocks of tourists (avoiding July and August), and you can get into the groove of the Portuguese happy-go-lucky pace of life in just five days.
Starting out in Portugal’s capital of Lisbon, getting around this Southern European country can be either a train, bus or plane affair. Expect fado music, port wine and pastéis de nata (Portuguese custard tarts) to make frequent appearances on this trip…
A few things spring to mind with Portugal’s capital: classic yellow tram carriages (known as remodelados), Pombaline architecture (distinguished by a mixture of Classicism, late Baroque and Art Nouveau) and the fado music you come across in so many of its pubs, cafés and restaurants.
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A collection of over 10,000 pieces, the works at Calouste Gulbenkian Museum range from European art to Egyptian sculptures, Greco-Roman art to Modernist paintings. Masters such as Rubens, Rembrandt, Monet and Van Dyck are part of this private collection, which is set in the picturesque Gulbenkian Park.
As soon as it hits drinks o’clock, Pink Street draws the crowds. As an alternative to the rowdiness of this watering hole, Park Bar Lisbon in the city’s Bairro Alto area offers a peaceful place to enjoy a pint. Located on the sixth floor, it serves stunning views of the city, too.
Situated in the northern end of Bairro Alto – meaning you can stumble back after drinks at the nearby Park Bar Lisbon – Hub New Lisbon Hostel is a great place to connect with fellow travellers. With a large projector screen to watch movies, a ‘pool’ filled with 70,000 plastic balls, and an artisanal cocktail bar, it’s all about socialising.
Sintra’s star attraction, Pena Palace (Palácio da Pena) is the stuff of fairytales. The Romanticist castle, built in the 19th century, is unique for its vivid paint job: saturated red and yellow hues dominate its exterior. On a clear day, look out for it from Lisbon.
In keeping with Sintra’s picturesque feel, Lawrence’s Hotel is a charming establishment with old-world decor that lends an ornate feel to its rooms. Within a mile you’ll find Pena Palace, Moors Castle and Sintra National Palace, while walking trails grace the nearby Parque Natural de Sintra-Cascais, which is one of the 13 Natural Parks of Portugal.
Portugal’s second-largest city, the seaside destination of Porto boasts both classic architecture (like the Palácio da Bolsa) and contemporary art (at the Serralves Museum), along with great wine, being a stone’s throw from the Douro Valley.
Known within literary circles as a book lover’s paradise, Porto is home to many a bookstore – among them Livraria Lello & Irmão, which Harry Potter author JK Rowling considers her favourite in the city. Rowling wrote the first few chapters of the book while she lived in Porto, and the Art Nouveau bookstore provided much inspiration to the narrative; its interior is similar to that of ‘Flourish and Blotts’, where Hogwarts students purchase their books.
Porto is synonymous with port; the Douro Valley, just down the road, is recognised as the birthplace of this dessert wine. While in the region, learn all about its production with a half-day tour to multiple wine houses, including cellars from a local guide. Seven wine tastings are on the cards here at the Port Wine Lodges Tour, meaning you’ll be a connoisseur by the end.
Spend your last Portuguese evenings in the comfort of a trendy boutique hotel. In the Ribeira neighbourhood on the Douro River, this eight-room hotel offers river views, creature comforts like Wi-Fi, a bar and bike rentals, with most rooms featuring partly exposed stone walls and Juliet balconies.