Budapest, the capital of Hungry is often called Princess of the Danube. Most visitors fall in love at first sight. It is the city of interesting sights, hundreds of thermal spas, bridges, and wonderful vistas from virtually everywhere in the vicinity of the River Danube.
The Christmas markets in Budapest have got a uniquely Hungarian flavour, and it’s not just the goulash! The main Budapest market is held in Vorosmarty Square, one of the city’s most beautiful, quite close to the Gerbeaud Confectionary company building which is transformed into a giant advent calendar - a window a day opened at 5pm each day until Christmas.
The market features artists and wood craftsmen at its over 100 stalls. The smells of chestnuts and mulled wine penetrate the air as the square is stuffed with food stalls. There's plenty of fun for grown-ups as a number of folk bands and dance groups perform throughout the market. This christmas market is continually ranked as one of the best in Europe.
We take our scheduled flight from London Gatwick to Porto where we are met by our professional guide who will accompany us on all transfers and day trips. Transfer in our executive coach to the 4* Hotel Ofir at the resort of Esposende on the Atlantic coast for a seven night stay on a half-board basis.
Our guided tour of Porto, Portugal's second largest town and one of the most ancient in Europe, takes in the Sao Fransisco Church, Bolsa Palace and the Stock Exchange and also a tasting at Villa Nova de gaia, one of the greatest port cellars. In the afternoon we enjoy a cruise on the River Douro where we see porto from a different perspective.
This morning we explore the sanctuary of Fátima, a pilgrim destination on par with Santiago de Compostela in Spain or Lourdes in France. After lunch we continue to the UNESCO listed Domincan Abbey of Santa Maria of Vitória at Batalha. Dating back to 1388, the monastery celebrates the victory at Aljubarrota in 1385 and took almost two centuries to complete. We finish the day at the UNESCO listed Mosteiro de Santa Maria de Alcobaça, Portugal’s largest church, which was founded in 1153.
A day at leisure to take a stroll along the beach and enjoy the leisure facilities which the hotel has to offer.
Today we visit Braga, the country’s religious capital during the 12th century. We visit Bom Jesus do Monte, Portugal’s most spectacular religious sanctuary and famous for its giant Baroque Escadaria stairway dating from 1722. We continue to Guimarães, celebrated as the birthplace of the nation after King Afonso Henriques chose the city as his capital in 1139. Our guided tour takes in the narrow streets of the medieval quarter, the cobbled Rua de Santa Maria and the Castelo de São Miguel.
The pretty riverside town of Amarante is one of northern Portugal’s hidden gems. Rows of 17th century mansions with brightly painted wooden balconies line Amarante’s narrow streets and the spectacular São Gonçalo Bridge dates back to the 13th century. We then enjoy a scenic train journey from Amarante to Arco de Baulhe.
The pleasant riverside town of Barcelos is our destination this morning, home to the country’s leading ceramics and crafts market and the source of the legendary cock that has become Portugal’s national symbol. We visit the Feira de Barcelos weekly market where you have the opportunity to purchase last minute souvenirs. The afternoon is then at leisure at our hotel.
We transfer by coach to Porto airport for our scheduled TAP flight back home.