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2023 Creative Spirit 

September 21-30, 2023

A unique 10-day tour where the individual personalities of Lisbon and Porto are revealed through a modern cultural lens, accompanied by an introduction to distinctive regional destinations further afield. 

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From Lisbon to Porto and and extraordinary points in between.

All Culture Viewfinder excursions include exclusive insider-access programs not otherwise open to the public.

  • Behind the scenes museum visits with the curators

  • Meet creators in their studios

  • Architect led tours of private buildings

  • Explore neighbourhoods guided by engaging experts

  • Visit one of Portugal's most remarkable design factories reimagining historic materials and techniques that incorporate both eco and social issues

  • Taste the cuisine of a new generation of creative chefs and exceptional regional winemakers

  • Stay in the comfort of 4/5 star design hotels

  • Share in Culture Viewfinder’s knowledge of amazing local shops, gourmet boutiques, and galleries

Find new sources of inspiration as we explore below the surface in Lisbon and Porto and introduce lesser known points in Portugal's interior. A journey guided by the touchstones of contemporary art, architecture and design from the handmade to the mass produced, inextricably linked to Portugal's history.
CV tours are restricted to small groups and will be personally led by celebrated Canadian curator Esther Shipman who will introduce you to many of the leading creative lights of Portugal.


Discover why Tyler Brulé’s culture forward magazine and organization Monocle chose Lisbon as the location for their first-ever Quality of Life Conference and Bon Appetit published How Portugal Became the Greatest Place to Eat Right Now, in October 2018. Read the full article here


Tour Itinerary 

Fully detailed daily itineraries are available only to registered tour participants

Days 1, 2, 3 based in Lisbon      

The program starts on Thursday, September 21 at the Double Tree by Hilton-Fontana Park. DoubleTree is Hilton’s boutique hotel brand in Europe, featuring bright public spaces and a modern vibe.

NOTE: Registrants have the option to arrive a day early to acclimatize to the time change and/or to visit additional sites in Lisbon on their own. A discounted rate for this additional night is available).


Day 1                                                                                                    LD

The tour kicks off in the early afternoon with a meet and greet at the hotel's Fontana Park Courtyard, followed by a short coach ride to the Rossio district for an Introduction to Lisbon walking tour through the central core of the city to the monumental riverside Praça do Commercio. Explore the shops/cafes and colonades, of this historic square before departing by coach for a private tour of the Museum of Art Architecture + Technology (MAAT) designed by British architect Amanda Levete. Time will be provided after the tour to explore the exterior of the museum and its grounds designed by acclaimed landscape architect Vladimir Djurovic. We cap the day with a Welcome Dinner on the waterfront at Darwin’s Café, at the Champalimaud Foundation Centre for the Unknown designed by Indian architect Charles Correa. Return to the hotel by coach.


Day 2

Breakfast at the hotel                                                                 BL

9:30am Departure by taxi (coaches are not permitted in the historic Alfama district), to a former Palace for a private tour of the unique artisan workshops that specialize in exquisite 16th Century wooden joinery and marquetry, decorative metal, textiles and book binding.

Afterwards take advantage of the wonderful miradouro--scenic photo-op across from the workshops, before we continue by taxi through Alfama to our private lunch at the Taberna Sal Grosso (translated to Course Salt).


Taxi a short distance to a private studio visit of internationally acclaimed glass and furniture designer Emmanuel Babled, where we will meet the designer, view his work and hear about his latest project in Tanzania. Two floors up the designer has personally funded a design incubator for new design businesses utilizing historic Portuguese materials and techniques.

Pit Stop right downstairs at the incredible Gelato Therapy

Free-time afternoon and dinner 

DINNER NOTE: the tour leaders will be at TIME-OUT Mercado Ribeira--the first and best of Lisbon's food halls featuring stalls by many of Lisbon’s finest chefs and unique shops. We will grab a table with shared seating. Tour members are welcome to join us while they peruse the market stall's drinks, snacks or dinner. Alternatively upstairs there is a classic Portuguese restaurant Pap Açorda with table service OR venture by taxi east along the river where there are numerous seafood restaurants. 

The Mercado is steps away from Lisbon's only architectural bookstore, as well as EDP Headquarters (Portugal's Electricity Utility) designed by Aires Mateus Arquitectos and well worth a visit. 


Day 3                                                                                                      BL

Breakfast at the hotel

Depart 9:30 by coach for the iconic Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation Museum and Gardens, two museum buildings--1 housing Gulbenkian's personal collection of historic near and middle eastern textiles, ceramics and furnishings, and temporary exhibitions, the second featuring outstanding contemporary exhibitions (visit approximately 2 hours). 


Then change gears and head  to the hilltop neighbourhood of Principe Real with 45 minutes free time to explore Rua Dom Pedro I--take in the shops or chill in the park with a coffee or a cool drink, before meeting under the giant Juniper Tree in the park to begin our descent by foot through the narrow streets towards the hip districts of Bairro Alto and Chiado. Our lunch destination The Taberna at chef José Avillez’s fantastic Bairrio do Avilliez (part food market, part multi-resto complex) is located along our walking route. 

After lunch our descent on foot continues with a short tour downhill to the hidden gem of architect Alvaro Siza Vieira’s creative urban redesign (responsible for saving a significant section of Chiado destroyed by fire in the 1980’s), which ends at the landmark Elevador Santa Justa.

The balance of the day and evening are Free-Time.

**Options: follow the Culture Viewfinder guide to Chiado design shops and galleries, or head off on your own.

Perhaps this is a good night take in a FADO performance. CV can book for a group in advance or provide a short list of FADO spots and you can take your chances. (additional cost).

Day 4     Alentejo                                                                           BLD

Early Breakfast at the hotel

Bus departs early (8:15) to Alentejo province, Portugal's 'Breadbasket', abundant with Cork Oak trees, excellent wine and exemplary cultural attractions. Our first destination is an incredible organic and sustainable winery for a tour and tasting, followed by lunch in their beautiful Michelin listed restaurant. Next is a 2-hour stopover exploring the history and cultural destinations of the main town nearby. The tour will officially visit the quaint Decorative Arts Museum (entry fee included), however a free-time option is available to visit an adjacent area which features a small Roman Ruin and several other contemporary museums (entry fees not included). The  Bus will depart at at an appointed time and location to take us to our lovely Pousada hotel on the outskirts of town. Time to relax, swim, walk the grounds. Dinner at 8:00pm in the hotel dining room. 

Day 5 Departure to Serra d-Estrela                                   BLD

Please have all luggage packed and deposited at reception before breakfast.

Bus departs post breakfast at 9:00am, heading north towards our destination in Serra d-Estrela (mountains and national park). 

A casual lunch and washroom stops enroute will punctuate the trip. The quality of Rest Stops vary, however at the very least, all offer hot drinks and fresh squeezed orange juice (not included). Water bottles and fruit will be available on the bus.

Our destination is a picturesque mountain town, home to an innovative design studio, textile factory and two boutique hotels founded by creative entrepreneurs who saved the historic factory from shuttering and rejuvenated the town with a young workforce, increasing the population and saving the primary school and hospital. The Serra da Estrela mountains are the highest elevation in Portugal and include a National Park and unusual rock formations making it a remarkable national landmark.

Our hotel for two nights is a 5* Panoramic Spa Hotel perched several thousand feet above the town. We  settle into our rooms before Tea which is provided in the late afternoon. Relax with a swim in the indoor/outdoor pool + sauna, on the patio, or lounge (included), or book a variety of SPA treatments (additional cost).

8:30 Dinner in the excellent hotel restaurant.

Day 6, Serra da Estrela                                                                BDL

In contrast to the hectic pace in Lisbon we take some time to enjoy the town and the surrounding mountains. 

Breakfast at the hotel

Coach departs at 9:30 as we descend into the town for a tour of the textile factory, followed by a brief visit to the factory shop.

Lunch will be casual (soup, salads, sandwiches) at a well-appointed ski lodge, the second hotel property owned by our creative couple. 

Just outside the ski hotel gates is a fascinating ancient stone house, which we will briefly visit prior to lunch.

Post-Lunch Options: 

Participate in a 1.5-2 hour medium-level hike exploring the national park and mountain with one of the ski-hotel staff, OR Return to the hotel for an afternoon of R+R (swim/sauna, or pre-book a spa treatment (additional cost). The bus will return to collect hikers at the ski-hotel in time for Tea at the Panoramic Hotel

Afternoon Tea4:30pm: Self serve.

8:00pm Dinner at the hotel restaurant.

Day 7 on to Porto                                                                             BL

Please have all luggage packed and deposited at reception before breakfast.

Depart by coach at 9:00am.

Arrival in Porto for an introductory guided walking tour of the Central Historic District.

Lunch in central Porto TBA.

Continue on to the hotel, check into the Vincci Hotel Porto a lovely, light and modern hotel, in a renovated Fish Plant, with a wonderful rooftop terrace bar, located across the trolley tracks from the Douro River, beside the historic Trolley Museum and below the extensive Crystal Palace Park.

Free-time Dinner. Access to the historic district is a short Trolley Ride away--hold onto your hat. The drivers are determined to get you there in record time!, or via Taxi or Uber.

Day 8 Leça da Palmeira Coast and Matosinhos                BL

Breakfast at the hotel

Depart by coach at 9:15am for the Leça da Palmeira coast.

A day north of Porto, starting with a guided tour of the Boa Nova Casa da Chá (Tea House), an iconic early work by Alvaro Siza Vieria, Portugal’s most renowned architect, then a very brief stop at Siza's Tidal Pools, followed by a visit to the Casa da Arquitectura, the new centre for architecture located in an arts compound within a repurposed winery and its warehouses. After a short introduction to the centre, you can choose to visit the key architecture exhibit on display, or a Porto Design Biennale exhibit within the compound. The centre shop also features, objects, books and prints by architects.


We return to the famous Matosinhos Port for a fresh fish and seafood lunch extraordinaire, before returning to Porto for a Free-time afternoon and dinner. 

Day 9 Porto                                                                                      BLD

Coach departs at 9:30 am for the Serralves Museum, considered amongst the top ten contemporary art museums in the world. Brief guided introduction to the history of the museum, the current featured exhibitions and a map of the 10 acre site. 2 hours are allotted to tour the museum, the sculpture gardens, The Pink House,  and the grounds.

Coach departs at 12:15 for lunch at the charming, mostly plant forward  Essência Restaurant.

The coach takes us back toward central Porto to the district of Bolhão where we visit the studio of industrial designer Gabriel Tan.

Then either take a leisurely walk with the tour leaders to the rebuilt historic Bolhau Market and a Pit-Stop at Mantagaria Porto for one of their magical custard tarts and shot of Port (not included), or enjoy a short Free-Time afternoon.

Meet in the hotel lobby at 4:15pm

The bus departs at 4:30 sharp for a tour of Graham’s Lodge followed by a Port Wine Tasting at Graham’s Cellars located across the Douro River in Vila Nova de Gaia the location of all of Porto's famed historic Port purveyors.

The evening is capped with a Farewell Dinner at the acclaimed Vinum Restaurant on site at Graham's Lodge.

Group Pictures

Return to the hotel via uber or taxi.


Day 10                                                                                                       B

Saturday, September 17

Breakfast at the hotel, independent check-out and departure (tour commitment ends).

Those continuing on to the Douro Valley Option will depart by coach after breakfast at 8:30am

see the 2023 Wine Architecture and Gastronomy itinerary.

Booking Closes July 15 '23 10am EST

Tour Includes:


9 nights at 4/5* hotels, standard rooms unless otherwise indicated.

        3 nights Lisbon

        1 night Alentejo

        2 nights Serra d'Estrela

        3 nights Porto

Note: For those who wish to arrive in Lisbon a day early to acclimatize, a small number of hotel rooms have been booked September 20 at a  discounted rate. Please confirm your interest with our Ellison agent.

Breakfast included every day at the hotels


Lunches (8) everyday September 22-29 inclusive, 2-course prix-fixe unless otherwise indicated.



5 dinners, 3 course prix-fixe unless otherwise indicated

            1 Lisbon

            1 Alentejo

            2 Serra da Estrela

            1 Porto


  • Coach + Walking Tour, Lisbon, September 21     

  • Taxis Alfama district, Lisbon   September 22     

  • Coach morning Lisbon September 23, guided walking tour downhill from Principe Real to Chiado, 

  • Coach September 24, depart Lisbon for Alentejo

  • Coach September 25,  Serra da Estrela

  • Coach September 26,  Serra da Estrela

  • Coach September 27,  depart for Porto + walking tour central Porto

  • Coach September 28,  Leça da Palmeira coast

  • Coach September 29 Porto, taxis to dinner


Visits and Admissions

Included--Admission fees and private tours of 4 major museums, + architectural landmarks, the Alfama Artisan Workshops and Alentejo .

Introduction to Lisbon custom walking tour, and Central Porto Walking tour, Whispers Sound System provided for both. Brief Siza urban redesign walking tour Lisbon led by curator Esther Shipman.

PLUS exclusive visits to a significant design factory, 2 private design studios.



September 23: Gelato Therapy 1 scoop gelato in cup or cone (included)

September 23 : optional Mercado Ribeira visit (cocktails, snacks, dinner not included)

September 26: washroom breaks enroute to Serrra da Estrela, coffee/tea (not included), box lunch with water/juice provided for the journey

September 29: optional post studio visit to redesigned  Bolhau Market and to Mantegaria Porto, for exquisite tart + a shot of Port or espresso (not included).

Estimated Tour Cost:


TBA $CAD Double Occupancy

TBA $CAD Single Supplement


Pricing based on a minimum of 12 tour participants and a maximum of 18.

Not Included

  • International airfare

  • Passport photos, government processing fees

  • Luggage handling 

  • Incidentals

  • Additional taxes, fuel surcharges or service charges levied by the governments or our suppliers



  • Manulife Travel Insurance (coverage available for Canadian residents who have a valid provincial health card—includes emergency medical coverall, cancellation and interruption, limited baggage insurance—see policy for terms and conditions. Ask our agents at Ellison Travel & Tours for details.



  • Terms of Payment will be through online portal with use of EFT, Visa or Mastercard.

  • Deposit $700.00 at time of booking

  • Interim payment due May 1, 2023

  • Balance due July 15, 2023


Cancellation Penalties

  • All payments received by Ellison Travel & Tours are 100% non-refundable (speak to our Ellison Agent regarding refunds resulting from Government imposed travel bans or cancellation due to COVID 19)

  • $40.00 service fee for NSF transactions

  • Please note that there are no changes to the itinerary or number of travellers

Booking Closes July 15 2023 10amEST

To book contact Sandie Vanderschot

Ellison Travel + Tours

4-1930 Hyde Park Road,
N6H 5L9 London, ON

800.265.7022 x 236


Direct link:

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