Top Five Things to See and Do in Portugal

Considered as one of the oldest countries in Europe, prepare for a few surprises and delights as part of the eight-day solo adventure, Picturesque Portugal. Here's a few highlights on the tourist trail to get you started.

Douro River Cruise

You cannot underestimate the benefit of seeing a new destination from a range of perspectives. As well as a walking tour of Porto to admire the impressive churches and architecture dotted across the town, a relaxed scenic cruise along the Douro is the perfect opportunity to admire Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia that rest along the riverbank.The Douro is not just a river either, it is part of a valley sprinkled with terraced vineyards harvesting the finest grapes for the production of the region’s most prized Port wine.

Vila Nova de Gaia is a city and hub for the port wine industry, and since the 17th century, barrels of wine would be transported along the Douro River from the Upper Douro Valley to the city’s port lodges to. After a scenic cruise, it would be remiss not to visit one of the area’s cellars to learn more about the production (and sample some!) of this sweet red wine.

Photo: Douro River Cruise

Mateus Palace

The 18th-century Mateus Palace is a vision to behold and is a fine example of Baroque architecture, a scene made all the more grand with the mirror-like lake and well-manicured gardens. If you think the exterior is impressive, the interior features incredible carved wood ceilings, historical paintings, silverware, and a library with a remarkable edition of the poem, Os Lusíadas – written in the 16th century by Luís de Camões – a Portuguese poet often compared to the literary icon, William Shakespeare.

The work celebrates the discovery of a sea route to India by a Portuguese explorer – not only is this a historical treasure, it’s a fantastic insight into Portugal’s maritime roots. Indeed, the Palace is so much more than just opulent rooms, but is reminiscent of a time machine that documents the last 500 years of the history of Europe, through its collection. 

Photo: Mateus Palace

Pinhão Station

On a Just You tour, we always like to throw in something a little different and off-the-beaten-track and Picturesque Portugal is no different! Now a visit to a railway station without actually boarding a train to head somewhere may seem fairly high up the scale of odd things to do on holiday, but bear with us. Built during the 19th century, the station is renowned as the most beautiful in the whole of Douro, owing to its depiction of the production of Port wine, through the iconic, intricately decorated white and blue tiles. It really is something to marvel to at, and aside from the grandeur of Grand Central Station, there are not many railway stations that compare to this one. 

Designed by the artist, J Oliveira, the 24 panels were manufactured in Aveiro, and they cover most of the walls of the main building. The result is a feast for the eyes, and it’s just like reading a storybook, which takes you from the fruit harvest to the treading of grapes, to its final journey down river on Rabelo boats.

Photo: Pinhão Station


Aveiro, affectionately dubbed the Venice of Portugal, rests along the edge of a lagoon and is home to a small network of canals. Wander along the city’s canal side to admire all the colourful ‘moliceiros’ cruising along the water past the region’s pastel-coloured Art Nouveau houses that will inspire you to stop and stare.

Distinguished as a city-museum of the genre, this open air museum rubs shoulders with the likes of Barcelona and Havana, so you’re in good company if you are a fan of this charming art period.

And with all that exploring you may work up a bit of an appetite. Look out for ovos moles – a sweet that was created by nuns in the city’s ancient convents. With its shell shape dedicated to the city’s connection to the sea, this sweet treat has EU protected status, so it would be remiss  not to sample one during your visit!


With a number of opportunities to get out on the history trail on this tour, there’s the chance to fast forward through time with a visit to Cascais – a cosmopolitan hotspot on the Portuguese Riviera. With fantastic beaches and beautiful flower-lined streets, it’s the perfect spot to slow the pace down before we visit the bustling capital of Lisbon.

It’s the perfect place, if there’s time, to just wander, soak up the atmosphere and lose yourself along the colourful streets packed with unique gift shops, restaurants and more. And if you spot a pastry shop on your travels, pop in to purchase some Areias de Cascais (sand of Cascais), a crumbly shortbread ball based on a recipe that dates back to the 1800s.

If there’s one take away from your discoveries in Portugal, it’s that sense of living history and traditions that have most certainly stood the test of time. Whether it’s learning about Portugal’s maritime links, or admiring one of many tiled creations that have their own story to tell, just like all good storybooks, you’ll want to discover it from cover to cover!

Photo: Cascais

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