From the rugged Atlantic coast of Portugal to the shores of Spain’s Bay of Biscay, embark on a journey across the western and northern part of the Iberian Peninsula.
Discover the proud traditions of Lisbon, whose churches and museums display the opulence of an empire which once stretched from Brazil to Macau. Take a sip of Porto, Portugal’s most important regional city and the origin of its most famous export – port wine. Join the faithful who tread the Camino de Santiago to the twelve hundred-year-old pilgrimage site of Santiago de Compostela. Explore Bilbao, heart of the Basque Country, whose distinctive culture adds another glittering tile to the mosaic that is Iberia.
This tour is part of the World Art Tours program organised by the Art Gallery Society of NSW in partnership with Renaissance Tours.
Depart Australia or New Zealand on suggested Qantas/Emirates flights to Lisbon. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your travel arrangements.
On arrival in Lisbon, make your way to the hotel and check in.
Dating back to its period as a Phoenician trading post around 1,200 BC, Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world. The city is most famous for its maritime successes, particularly from the 15th to the 18th centuries, when Lisbon stood at the heart of a vast empire. A devastating earthquake struck Lisbon in 1755, and the ruined city was rebuilt according to a new grid-based street plan centred on the Baixa district.
During the early 19th century, Portugal lost its overseas empire and declined as a European power. While industrialisation brought new wealth to the country in the second half of the 19th century, political unrest, the deposition of the monarchy in 1910, and the lengthy dictatorship of Antonio Salazar from 1926 to 1968, saw stagnation and cultural isolation envelope Portugal. Since the end of the dictatorship, Lisbon has enjoyed renewed economic growth, freedom and prosperity and Portugal entered the European Union in 1986.
In the evening, join Brian and fellow travellers for a welcome briefing and dinner.
After a morning talk, begin your exploration of Lisbon with a walking tour of the Alfama neighbourhood. The oldest district of Lisbon, Alfama extends down the slope from the Castle of St George to the Tagus River and has always been associated with fado, the unique Portuguese genre of acoustic songs about loss, hardship and the ineluctability of fate. Enjoy a spectacular panorama from the lookout of Graça, past the Monastery of São Vicente and the National Pantheon, and visit the Sé (Lisbon Cathedral).
Following lunch, continue with an orientation tour of the Baixa precinct, stretching from the harbour at the Praça do Comércio to your hotel. On the way, pass the elegant central squares of Rossio and Praça da Figueira. Totally rebuilt after the earthquake of 1755, the Baixa was one of Europe’s first examples of town planning.
After breakfast, visit the picturesque working class area of Bairro Alto, which dates from the 16th century and has traditionally been the city’s bohemian haunt of artists and writers. Here you will visit the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, the Portuguese national art collections housed in a 17th century palace.
Travel to the nearby town of Sintra, the favourite summer retreat of the Kings of Portugal. Visit the 14th century royal palace, the Palácio Nacional de Sintra, in the heart of the old town, followed by a visit to the gardens of the Quinta da Regaleira. In the late afternoon, return to Lisbon.
Travel to Belém, on the mouth of the Tagus River, six kilometres west of Lisbon’s city centre. Belém is famous for its concentration of national monuments and public spaces, including a mixture of historical buildings and modern symbols of Portuguese culture.
Begin with a visit to the Torre de Belém, built between 1515 and 1521. It was from this ornately decorated fortress on the Tagus River that many of the great Portuguese explorers embarked on their voyages of discovery. Continue to the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, a great monastery and monument to the wealth of ‘The Age of Discovery’ in the 15th to 18th centuries, and a fine example of the Portuguese Manueline architecture of this period.
After lunch visit the nearby Berardo Museum with a tour of the museum’s outstanding modern art collection, including works by Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Michel Duchamp, René Magritte, Joan Miró, Francis Bacon, Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock and Jeff Koons, among many others representing dozens of modern movements.
Visit the celebrated Museu Calouste Gulbenkian to view its diverse and impressive collections, spanning Egyptian and Classical Greek and Roman antiquities, Old Masters and modernists, as well as Oriental and Islamic treasures. Enjoy lunch at the museum.
The afternoon and evening are at leisure.
In the evening, there is the opportunity to attend a fado performance or a concert, opera or ballet at one of Lisbon’s many theatres (not included in tour price, additional cost applies; performances subject to availability).
Check out from the hotel and depart Lisbon bound for Porto. En route, stop in the city of Coimbra, which served as the capital of Portugal from 1131 to 1255 and has had a huge influence on the development of Portuguese culture. Visit the renowned University of Coimbra, founded in 1290, the oldest academic institution in the Portuguese-speaking world and one of the oldest in Europe. Explore the Biblioteca Joanina, a splendid Baroque library, and the nearby historic chambers at the heart of the university.
Arrive in Porto in the late afternoon. Located on a magnificent site near the mouth of the Douro River, Porto is an ancient port steeped in history and tradition.
After a morning talk, enjoy a full-day walking tour of Porto. Begin in the historic centre, a prominent feature of which is the stunning interior and exterior decoration in azulejos glazed tiles. One of the largest and most exquisite displays covers the Igreja do Carmo (Carmo Church); Silvestre Silvestri’s magnificent 1912 panel illustrates the legend of the founding of the Carmelite Order. At the nearby São Bento Station, most of the atrium is covered with a work of around 20,000 tiles alluding to the history of transport and of Portugal itself.
Continue to the Ribeira district, a UNESCO World Heritage precinct of winding lanes, zig-zagging staircases and tiled churches. Discover Porto’s magnificent monuments, such as Gustave Eiffel’s Dona Maria Bridge, Nicolau Nasoni’s Clerigos Tower and Rem Koolhaas’s Casa da Musica.
Visit a nearby Douro River vineyard to sample the excellent regional wines, port and sherry, followed by an afternoon at leisure.
Enjoy the opportunity to attend a concert at Casa da Musica (not included in tour price, additional cost applies)
Visit the Soares dos Reis Museum, housed in the formidable Palácio das Carrancas. The museum holds significant collections of Portuguese ceramics, paintings and sculptures dating from the 16th to the 19th centuries.
Spend the afternoon at the Serralves Foundation, a major art institution which includes Porto’s Museum of Contemporary Art, housed in a striking minimalist construction of vast, whitewashed spaces bathed in natural light, set within a magnificent park.
After breakfast, check out from the hotel and depart from Porto, travelling north to the border with Spain and heading onwards to the pilgrimage site of Santiago de Compostela. Santiago de Compostela is situated in the region of Galicia, an autonomous community in the far north-western reaches of Spain. Since the 9th century, this location has been one of the most important pilgrimage destinations for Christians and is the culmination of the celebrated pilgrimage route of the Camino de Santiago, the ‘Way of St James’.
In the afternoon, take a walking tour of the historic centre, visiting the Convent of San Martiño Pinario and the Cathedral of Santiago, which towers over the city and has welcomed pilgrims since the 11th century.
Following a morning talk, enjoy a day at leisure to further explore Santiago de Compostela and the magnificent Cathedral on your own.
Paradores of Spain
Paradores (‘stopping places’) are hotels housed in refurbished historic buildings such as castles, palaces, fortresses, convents and monasteries.
A mixture of history, art and tradition, the Parador Santiago de Compostela ‘Hostal dos Reis Católicos’ forms a magnificent corner with the Cathedral of Santiago on the Plaza del Obradoiro.
The Hostal dos Reis Católicos, which was constructed as a Royal Hospital in 1499, gave lodging and shelter to the numerous pilgrims making their way to Santiago, including royal visitors. It continues this age-old practice today and is considered to be the oldest continuously-operating hotel in the world.
Moreover, the Hostal is one of the most significant Renaissance buildings in Spain.
In the morning, bid farewell to Santiago de Compostela and set out for León.
The city of León was the capital of the Mediæval Kingdom of León. It was an important pilgrim stop on the Camino de Santiago and retains significant Romanesque and Gothic monuments. Visit the Romanesque Church of St Isidore, built into the Roman walls which encircle the city, and the Cathedral of León which is an outstanding example of Spanish Gothic architecture, renowned for its magnificent stained glass windows.
After breakfast, check out from the hotel and travel to Bilbao via the Mediaeval city of Burgos.
Located on the banks of the Arlanzón River, Burgos was the capital of the Mediæval Kingdom of Castile, and the city still retains many historic buildings associated with the early Castilian monarchs, but its most distinguished landmark is the magnificent cathedral, whose lofty Gothic spires grace the skyline of the city.
Visit the cathedral itself. Founded in 1221, this great Gothic edifice was constructed over three centuries and features the work of many notable European architects and artists. Afterwards, visit the lavishly decorated Abbey of Las Huelgas, founded in 1187 and still home to a community of 36 Cistercian nuns of the Bernardine Congregation.
In the afternoon continue to Bilbao, the capital of the Basque Country which straddles the border between Spain and France, where the Pyrenees Mountains meet the Bay of Biscay. The city of Bilbao was founded in the early 14th century and became a significant commercial centre for the trading of iron ore. Industrialisation in the 19th and 20th centuries brought wealth and prosperity to the city, accompanied by growing demands for autonomy or even independence for the Basque people.
Begin your exploration of Bilbao with an orientation coach tour to the port of Bilbao and a walking tour of the Old Quarter. After checking in to the hotel, enjoy some free time for lunch.
In the afternoon, continue with a short walk to the nearby Museo de Bellas Artes, which houses a fascinating collection of Old Masters, Spanish Impressionists, Modernists, and contemporary art. In the evening, enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
After a morning talk by your tour leader, visit Bilbao’s celebrated Guggenheim Museum, designed by acclaimed architect Frank Gehry. Opened in 1997, the museum rises from the banks of the Nervión River behind stunning sails of titanium that have emphatically put the city on the cultural map of Europe. The museum serves as the European showcase for the modern art collection founded in New York by art patron Solomon R. Guggenheim. It also presents spectacular contemporary art exhibitions.
The afternoon and evening are at leisure to remain in the museum or take a stroll along the river.
Depart for a full-day excursion to San Sebastián, located on the shores of the beautiful, crescent-shaped Bahía de la Concha. Enjoy an orientation coach tour of the city where Neo-Classical buildings stand alongside French-influenced Belle Époque (Golden Age) architecture, as well as modern and avant-garde structures that break with tradition. San Sebastián is also known as a gourmet capital – as you will discover on a walking tour to sample the most delicious tapas in Spain!
While exploring San Sebastián, keep an eye out for some of its iconic sculptures, such as El Peine del Viento (The Wind Comb), by sculptor Eduardo Chillida and architect Luis Peña Ganchegui, Construcción Vacía (Empty Structure) by Jorge Oteiza and Memoria by Aitor Mendizabal, dedicated to all victims of terrorism.
Join Brian and fellow travellers for a special farewell lunch in San Sebastián before returning to Bilbao.
Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast.
For those returning to Australia or New Zealand, suggested morning flights from Bilbao to Madrid or Barcelona on a local airline, to connect with Qantas/Emirates flights to Australia or New Zealand. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your travel arrangements.
*Single travellers may request to share.
Please advise at time of booking.
Final payment due
23 July 2018
Please see booking conditions for fitness level definitions.
Qantas / Emirates
Please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for current airfares and flight reservations.
Australian and New Zealand passport holders do not require visas for Portugal or Spain.
Tour price includes
- Accommodation in centrally located 4 and 5 star hotels with breakfast daily (B)
- Meals as per itinerary (L = Lunch, D = Dinner), including wine with dinners
- Lectures and talks with your tour leader
- Comprehensive sightseeing and visits to galleries, including local guides and entrance fees as per itinerary
- Transportation throughout on comfortable air-conditioned coaches
- Gratuities for local guides and drivers
- Hotel porterage (one piece per person)
Tour price does not include
- International airfares (please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
- Airport/hotel transfers on tour arrival and departure
- Airport porterage
- Items of a personal nature, including telephone, laundry, taxis etc.
- Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
Lisbon – Hotel Altis Avenida *****
Porto – Pestana Vintage Porto ****
Santiago – Parador ‘Hostal dos Reis Católicos’ ****
León – Conde Luna ****
Bilbao – Melia Bilbao *****
NB. Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted