This trip explores the Jewish heritage of Portugal, starting with a visit to the medieval town of Óbidos and a tour of the city of Porto. You'll discover unknown Jewish history in the Templar City of Tomar, examining the historic synagogue and heritage museum. You'll end in Lisbon, where visits to synagogues, memorials, and old Jewish quarters in the city expose the turbulent and unique history of the capital.

Highlights

  • Stroll the historic center of Porto and discover its architectural heritage
  • Ride the famous yellow trams through Lisbon's historic neighborhoods
  • Discover the Jewish heritage of the Templar City of Tomar
  • Meander the medieval streets and walls of Óbidos
  • Enjoy a tour of Lisbon, exploring its synagogue and Jewish Quarter

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive at Lisbon Airport - Transfer to Porto via Óbidos Porto
Day 2 Explore Porto with a private walking tour Porto
Day 3 Transfer to Lisbon - Discover Jewish history in Tomar Lisbon
Day 4 Discover Lisbon with a Jewish Heritage walking tour Lisbon
Day 5 Depart Portugal  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive at Lisbon Airport - Transfer to Porto via Óbidos

Colorful Medieval Streets of Óbidos
Colorful Medieval Streets of Óbidos

Welcome to Portugal!

Upon arriving at Lisbon Airport, you'll start your journey north to the city of Porto. Along the way—just about one hour into the drive—you'll stop in the small town of Óbidos, known for its white houses adorned with bougainvilleas and honeysuckle. Óbidos is one of the most picturesque and well-preserved villages in Portugal. Its medieval streets are tucked inside historic walls, winding along Manueline porticoes, colorful window boxes, and small squares. You can't miss the blue-tiled walls inside the Porta da Vila chapel, or the stone gate Porta do Vale ou Senhora da Graça, which leads up to the walls offering wonderful views.

Continue your journey north, arriving in Porto about three hours later. After settling into your accommodation, stave off any jet lag with a little exploration of the city. Tomorrow you'll enjoy a walking tour through Porto, so for now, take a look at some of the city's main sites. 

Day 2: Explore Porto with a private walking tour

The Riverfront of Porto, Portugal
The Riverfront of Porto, Portugal

Enjoy breakfast at your hotel before embarking on a guided tour of Porto. Start at the São Bento Station, well-known throughout the world for its atrium lined with about 20,000 blue tiles. Nearby is the Romanesque Porto Cathedral and the Clérigos Tower, a baroque bell tower worth the climb for its expansive views of Porto.

You can't miss Livraria Lello, a 19th-century bookstore that inspired parts of Harry Potter. Then pop into Café Majestic for a little rest and a cup of coffee while admiring its ornate interior. Continue to the neighborhood of Ribeira, navigating the steep steps and medieval streets through café terraces and picturesque corners. You'll have free time to browse the shops or simply relax at one of the main squares.

After lunch, enjoy a walk along the banks of the Douro River. Here you'll find many places to taste Portugal's famous wine, or you can take a short river cruise in one of the traditional Rabelo boats. Grab dinner at one of the restaurants lining the river while you watch the sunset behind the city.

Day 3: Transfer to Lisbon - Discover Jewish history in Tomar

Tomar, Portugal
Tomar, Portugal

In the morning, you'll bid farewell to Porto and start your journey back to Lisbon. Along the way, you'll stop to explore Tomar, known as the Templar City. Start at Templar Castle and discover the architecture of the Convent of Christ. Here you'll learn about the fascinating history behind how the Order of the Knights Templar became the Order of Christ, upholding their power, knowledge, and wealth in Portugal.

Next, you'll dive a bit deeper into the Jewish heritage of Portugal with a visit to Tomar Synagogue. Despite its discreet façade, the Synagogue's interior is full of symbolism. Its four columns—each with capitals decorated with vegetal motifs—represents the Matriarchs of Israel: Sarah, Rachel, Rebekah, and Leah. The columns are linked to twelve arches, symbolizing the twelve tribes of Israel.

The Synagogue was used for various purposes over the centuries. Samuel Schwarz, a Portuguese Jew of Polish origin, discovered it and it soon became a national monument. After acquiring the building a few years late, Schwarz created a museum with his collection of tombstones and Hebrew inscriptions. He named it the Abraão Zacuto Luso-Hebraic Museum, which your guide will help you explore.

Excavation work in the museum has uncovered several interesting relics, including coins from the reign of King Afonso V in the 15th century, confirming the probable date of the Synagogue's construction. You'll also view other remains, including domestic ceramics and the water-hearing system for the Mikvah, the ritual purification bath.

In the afternoon, you'll complete your drive back to Lisbon. After settling into your accommodation, stroll the side streets of the Baixa neighborhood for a quiet meal at one of its restaurants. Or if you prefer a bit more energy, settle into a bistro around Rossio Square.

Day 4: Discover Lisbon with a Jewish Heritage walking tour

The Red Rooftops of Alfama, Lisbon
The Red Rooftops of Alfama, Lisbon

After breakfast, you'll join your guide for a walking tour through Lisbon, focusing on the city's Jewish heritage. You'll start at the Shaare Tikvah Synagogue, a truly hidden treasure. Inaugurated in 1904, it was the first synagogue built in Portugal for nearly 500 years, due to the expulsion ordered by King D. Manuel I in 1496. When it was built, the law prevented any temple that was not Christian to have a facade facing the street. So despite its central location, you won't find its entrance on the main street.

The architect of the synagogue, Ventura Terra, was one of the most renowned architects of the time. It's a humble building with two gender-specific floors facing toward Jerusalem. It created an important community for the Jewish families in Lisbon, as well as Sephardi families from North Africa and Gibraltar who, after the extinction of the Inquisition in 1821, started returning to Portugal.

Your next stop is the 1506 Jewish Massacre Memorial, a tribute to the victims of intolerance and religious fanaticism. The memorial is in the location where the massacre started, in the square opposite the St. Dominic Church.

In the afternoon, you'll explore the neighborhood of Alfama, the oldest quarter of Lisbon where you’ll find St. George’s Castle perched atop one of the city's hills. Nearby, you'll also visit the Judiaria (Jewish Quarter) of Lisbon, filled with narrow streets and small houses where the Jewish population once lived.

Next, head to the downtown area of Baixa, completely rebuilt after the devastating earthquake of 1755. Stroll in Chiado, a bohemian area, where 19th-century writers and thinkers gathered to discuss intellectual matters in the cafes. You'll find plenty of restaurants for lunch in either neighborhood.

Later, head to Belém, the quarter of Lisbon most associated with the time of the Portuguese Discoveries. There you’ll find monuments such as the Jerónimos Monastery, the Monument to the Discoveries, and the Belém Tower, a great place to watch the sunset.

At the end of the tour, you’ll return to your hotel for a little rest. Now that you know the city's layout, explore the neighborhoods in the evening, grabbing dinner at a buzzy cafe or sipping wine in a bistro.

Day 5: Depart Portugal

Unforgettable views of Lisbon
Unforgettable views of Lisbon

It's time to say goodbye to beautiful Portugal. In the morning, your driver will transfer you to the airport in time to catch your flight home, or onto your next destination.