Culture

Springtime in Lisbon (and Sintra)

15 to 22 March 2018
Portugal

A seven-night holiday based at city centre hotel in the Portuguese capital city of Lisbon. This is a wonderful opportunity to experience Portugal’s capital city and its historic trams and palaces, as well as having the chance to explore the central part of the country and travel by train to see three towns which hold important positions in Portugal’s history: Tomar with its UNESCO listed 12th century convent, the Royal Town of Sintra with its famous tram and palaces and the Roman city of Évora, crossing the iconic 25th April Bridge (a massive suspension road bridge that was subsequently fitted with a lower rail deck) by train. We also include visits to the hill-top Moorish Castle and Pena Palace, and the National Railway Museum in Entroncamento. There really is something for everyone on this trip.

Your Tour Manager for this trip is David, who lives in Lisbon. Should you have any queries about the itinerary or if you wish to have a chat with him about the trip, please feel free to e-mail him on david@ptg.co.uk.

Itinerary

Thursday 15th March Several flight options from the UK with direct flights from Heathrow, Gatwick, Edinburgh and Manchester.

Friday 16th March (B,D) This morning we shall explore Lisbon’s historic tram system using one of the tourist tram routes now in operation, covering the line to Principe Real (which has no regular public service) as well as much of the famous route 28. After our tram tour, we shall join our river cruiser to first cross the River Tagus to Cacilhas where we can have lunch in one of the traditional restaurants near the pier. Later we continue our cruise down to Belém and see the city from the river. Belem is one of the most important areas of the city, with the Discoveries Monument, Belem Tower and the UNESCO listed Jerónimos Monastery. Here amongst many interesting areas we can see the Tomb of Vasco da Gama, the Cloisters and the tiled Refectory. You also have time to relax in the nearby Botanical Gardens. These were laid out on two levels in 1768 and include a 400-year-old dragon tree and geometrical box hedged gardens. Alternatively, for the tram fans, explore the modern tram system south of the river, which starts in Cacilhas.

Saturday 17th March (B) We will spend today in the Roman town of Évora, in Portugal’s Alentejo region. Sights include the Roman Temple of Diana built in the 2nd Century AD, the convent, the cathedral, the chapel of bones and the aqueduct. On arrival at Évora we walk from the station into the walled part of the city to Geraldo Square. From here the narrow streets radiate out in all directions and using the square as a reference, you can easily find the monument or museum or other point of interest that you want to see. Make sure you sample the rich Alentejo style food at lunch time.

Évora is one of Portugal’s more important cities and in 2011 the railway line was upgraded and electrified to allow 200 Km/h running. We cross the River Tagus on the famous 25th April Bridge, giving yet another view of the city.

Sunday 18th March (B) A choice of activities today. This morning we all join our morning Regional train heading north out of Lisbon to Tomar. Tomar is one of Portugal’s historical jewels and more significantly was the last Templar town to be commissioned for construction. Tomar was especially important in the 15th century when it was a centre of Portuguese overseas expansion under Henry the Navigator, the Grand Master of the Order of Christ, successor organisation to the Templars in Portugal. In 2013, the Guardian elected the UNESCO listed Convento de Cristo in Tomar as the most spectacular place to visit in Portugal.” Founded by the Knights Templar, it’s a beautiful, mysterious and magical place, wonderful to discover and enjoy.” We will have ample time to explore this town, including a visit to the Convent. For rail fans, you may wish to alight from the train in Entroncamento to visit the much expanded and improved rail museum. Join the main group in Tomar after your visit.

Monday 19th March (B) Sintra is awash with beautiful and historic palaces and castles. Using the regular service bus, we will visit two of the most interesting, Pena Palace and Park and the Moorish Castle. Located in the Sintra hills, Pena Park and Palace are the fruit of King Ferdinand II’s creative genius and the greatest expression of 19th-century romanticism in Portugal, denoting clear influences from the Manueline and Moorish styles of architecture. The palace was built in such a way as to be visible from any point in the park, which consists of a forest and luxuriant gardens with over five hundred different species of trees originating from the four corners of the earth. From the Moorish Castle, you can admire a unique landscape that stretches to the Atlantic Ocean. Overlooking the Serra de Sintra, it consists of a fortification built around the 10th century after the Muslim conquest of the Iberian Peninsula.

Tuesday 20th March (B) Today is a free day in Lisbon. Armed with our transport ticket covering the metro, buses, trams and funiculars, we will have the whole day to explore this fascinating city. To begin, we suggest you catch the route 15 tram (normally operated by modern low-floor trams) for a journey along the waterfront to the area of Belém, whose Tower (Torre de Belém) was built between 1515 and 1521. After time for lunch in one of the local restaurants, you can take another vintage tramcar to the area of Ajuda. Here you find the Neo-Classical 19th-century National Palace of Ajuda. No expense was spared on this former royal residence, including the extraordinary Saxe Room in which every piece of furniture is decorated with Meissen porcelain.

Alternatively, from Praça da Figueira catch a vintage tram on route 12 to the Moorish Castelo de São Jorge. This castle, which dominates the city skyline, offers the best views of the city. There are also pleasant gardens within the walls and a 12th-century church. Then explore the historic Alfama area of the old city.

For transport enthusiasts consider visiting the CARRIS Tram museum at the tram depot in St Amaro (on route 15) where you will have the chance to ride on a tram dating from 1901. Don’t forget the 3 funiculars in Lisbon, all dating from more than 100 years ago, and the iconic Santa Justa Lift.

Another option is to travel on routes 25 or 28 to Estrela, with the 18th century Basilica da Estrela which can be seen from all over Lisbon. Across the road is Estrela Park, where you can mix with local families out for a stroll, and enjoy an oasis of peace and quiet in the middle of this bustling city.

Or take a train from Cais Sodré along the Estoril coast to the swanky seaside resort of Cascais. This is a very scenic line, running within sight of the sea much of the way. Indeed, the Estoril line was the first in Portugal to be electrified and for many years was operated as an independent railway.

Your tour manager will be able to advise you on these and the many other things to see and do.

Wednesday 21st March (B,D) Today we once again travel by train to visit the stunning Serra setting of Sintra. This National Park and World Heritage Site is an area of wooded ravines, fresh water springs and was a favourite summer retreat for the former kings of Portugal.

We start our day by taking a suburban train from the ornate, mock Manueline, Rossio station the full length of the line to Sintra. A short walk takes us to the terminus of the Sintra tramway where our private hire tram will be waiting to take us down through the pine trees of this high class residential area to the beach and back. This tramway was opened in 1904 and originally ran the 16 km from Sintra down to the coastal resort of Praia das Maçãs (Apple Beach).  In recent years, the tramway has been restored and the original tramcars once again operate over virtually the whole of the original route.

After a break for lunch, we will visit Sintra National Palace. Of all the palaces built by the Portuguese monarchs throughout the Middle Ages, only the palace of Sintra has survived to the present day virtually intact, still maintaining the same essential features of its shape and outline since the mid-16th century. The main building campaigns, which took place after the Christian Reconquest in the 12th century, were sponsored by the kings Dinis, João I and Manuel I, between the end of the 13th century and the mid-16th century. These campaigns consisted of adaptations, enlargements and general improvement works that have given the palace its present-day appearance. There is also time to explore the small historic centre. Our Farewell Dinner will be in a traditional Portuguese restaurant in Lisbon.

Thursday 22nd March (B) Late morning we return to Lisbon Airport for our flights home. You may if you wish stay additional days for your own exploration of this area of Portugal.

This tour does have a lot of walking, including hills and steps. Some Portuguese railway stations still have low platforms.

Place(s) available
Holiday prices per person
  • Full 8 day holiday including flight from London: £1,199
  • Full 11 day holiday overland from St Pancras: £1,599
  • Own travel to and from Lisbon: £999

Options

  • Single room Supplement: £320
  • Heathrow flight supplement: TBA

Deposit

  • £100 (balance of deposit due 01/01/2018)
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Highlights
  • No fly option
  • All seven nights in same hotel
  • Palaces of Sintra
  • Walled town of Óbidos
  • Vintage trams
Your holiday price includes
  • All travel and excursions as outlined in the itinerary
  • Good quality en-suite accommodation
  • Meals as shown in the itinerary; B = Breakfast, D = Dinner
  • Services of our tour manager. Holiday is fully escorted from Lisbon
Flights
  • Direct flights with TAP from Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester.
  • Direct British Airways flights from Heathrow.
  • Easyjet flights from Bristol, Edinburgh and Liverpool or Monarch from Birmingham (not daily).