Freedom and flexibility are travel’s new bywords. Most travelers these days want to see the major sites and cross them off their list. But they also want the ability to explore on their own, pursue their own passions, and make sure every experience is personally rewarding. That’s why Globus, the world leader in touring vacations, has created Choice Touring by Globus, a series of vacations in Europe and North America designed to fit a variety of traveler styles. In addition to guided visits to all the must-see sights, each tour includes YourChoice Excursions, a selection of exciting experiences that let guests tailor their own tour — at no additional cost. Art aficionado or nature lover? Bike ride or wine tasting? Choice Touring lets you design your own discovery and make memories the way you want.
To show you how Choice Touring by Globus works, we took a look at three iconic itineraries in Europe — in Portugal, Italy, and Ireland — and broke down the various options each includes. We also added recommendations from ShermansTravel experts on the ground to help you take advantage of the ample free time each tour offers. Below, we explore “Art & Soul: Portugal By Design,” an 8-day, 7-night journey from Lisbon to Porto that moves you with stunning scenery and centuries-old history, allowing you to experience fairytale palaces, enjoy artful cuisine, delicious wines, remarkable architecture — the choice is up to you!
Day 1: Arrive in Lisbon
Once you get checked into your hotel, head out to explore Lisbon’s charming streets and remarkable cuisine. The best place to sample the latter is Time Out Market Lisbon, whose stalls are operated by Portugal’s best restaurants and purveyors. Order a plate of charcuterie from 100-year-old Manteigaria Silva or some grilled prawns and freshly shucked oysters from Marisqueira Azul. Just don’t fill up: Tonight’s welcome dinner at a local restaurant will be delicious.
Day 2: Lisbon
Your morning sightseeing tour focuses on Belem, the riverfront district where 16th-century seafarers launched their voyages of discovery. The ornate Monument to the Discoveries was built in their honor; you’ll also explore the fortified Belem Tower and the magnificent Mosteiro dos Jeronimos. Sample one of the legendary custard tarts at Pastéis de Belém, a historic bakery around the corner from the monastery.
Later, you can select one of two YourChoice Excursions. With TRAM-endous Lisbon!, you’ll hop aboard one of Lisbon’s iconic yellow trams and explore the maze-like streets and tile-faced buildings of Alfama, one of the city’s oldest districts. Or opt for Gardens & Glittering Palaces, an excursion to nearby Sintra, a former royal retreat; the Palácio Nacional de Sintra is a fairytale fantasy of moats, arches, colorful tiles, and elaborate coffered ceilings.
You’re on your own for dinner tonight. To sample the best ingredients Portugal has to offer, book a table at Prado in Alfama, which serves creative, seasonal dishes in an arresting, greenhouse-like setting.
Day 3: Tomar
Today you’ll depart for the medieval city of Tomar, which served as a headquarters for the Knights Templar (that secretive sect you may remember from "The Da Vinci Code") back in the 12th century. Visit the impressive Convent of Christ and Tomar Castle as well as the Aqueduct of Pegões, an impressive structure dating from the 16th century.
Central Portuguese fare is hearty and delicious. At A Bela Vista, you can try such traditional dishes as cabrito assado (roasted goat) or arroz de polvo (rice with octopus), accompanied by delightful views of the river. And don’t leave town without sampling beija-me depressa, a confection that literally translates to “kiss me quickly” at the venerable bakery Estrelas de Tomar.
Day 4: Tomar - Dornes - Coimbra
Dornes is an adorable village built on a peninsula jutting out into the Zêzere River, just half an hour north of Tomar. You’ll wander its pretty streets and visit the unique pentagram-shaped Dornes Tower, built by the Knights Templar, and the 13th-century Church of Nossa Senhora do Pranto.
Then it’s on to Coimbra, a charming university town that dates to Roman times. Rising on a hill above the Mondego River, it’s a jumble of colorful old buildings, winding streets, and tiny shops and cafés. Stop for lunch at O Trovador, which serves authentic specialties like codfish confit and açorda, a Portuguese bread soup with shrimp, just across from the 12th-century Sé Velha (Old Cathedral).
This afternoon you’ll tour the historic university, where black-caped students dart between centuries-old buildings (including the beautiful Biblioteca Joanina, which houses more than 70,000 books, as well as a colony of bats that protect them from insects), before dining with the group at a local restaurant.
Day 5: Coimbra
Today’s agenda is up to you: Fancy Some Fado? explores two paragons of Portuguese culture: confections and fado. You’ll taste the signature sweets created centuries ago in the city’s convents and monasteries, such as cruzios, little egg-cream cakes topped with toasted almonds, and pastéis de Santa Clara, thin puffs with a creamy almond filling. Later, you’ll visit a local home to hear a moving performance of fado, the traditional Portuguese folk music.
Oenophiles might choose Bubbly Below Bairrada, which explores the nearby coastal wine region of Bairrada and its sparkling wines. You’ll visit the cellars of two local producers whose vintages have achieved widespread acclaim — and have a taste for yourself.
For dinner tonight, treat yourself to an elegant meal at Arcadas, where the contemporary cuisine — rooted in local and regional traditions — has earned a Michelin star. Ask for a table by the window overlooking the gardens.
Day 6: Coimbra
Coimbra remains our base to explore more of Central Portugal’s many wonders — following your own interests. Those craving outdoor exercise will enjoy Rolling by the River, which explores the beautiful countryside, including the Antuã River and the Salreu Estuary, by bike. Gourmands may opt for The Sweet Side of Portugal and visit the village of Tentúgal, where Carmelite nuns have been baking irresistibly flaky pastéis de Tentúgal since the 16th century (legend has it the dough must be stretched thin enough to read the Bible through it). The final YourChoice option is Art Nouveau in Aveiro, which takes in the city known as the Portuguese Venice. You’ll float along its waterways and admire its distinctive buildings in the Art Deco and Art Nouveau styles.
For dinner tonight, why not combine Portuguese cuisine with another aspect of the country’s culture: pottery. Refreito da Baixa is a charming restaurant located in a working ceramics factory in Coimbra. Dig into specialties like steak tartare and duck breast in a Madeira wine reduction, served on dishes made on the premises.
Day 7: Coimbra - Porto
On to your final stop of the trip: Porto, a city of stately bridges and colorful buildings. You’ll enjoy a tour that takes in the city’s graceful plazas and Baroque monuments and samples its most famous export, port wine. Grab lunch at Terreiro, a friendly local restaurant near the riverfront that does wonderful things with prawns, cod, sardines, and other fresh seafood. Later this evening, you’ll take a relaxing cruise along the Douro River — watching as the setting sun illuminates the picturesque wine warehouses and merchant’s houses along its banks — followed by a farewell dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 8: Porto
The itinerary ends today, but if you get up early you can join the Porto locals sipping coffee and nibbling on regueifas (sweet pastries) at Confeitaria do Bolhão, a 100-plus-year-old bakery that opens at 6 a.m. most days.