Jewish presence in Iberia has existed long before Portugal itself became a country. During your journey, you will discover the great contribution of Portuguese Jews to the arts, philosophy, commerce and sciences, which helped to create the rich cultural heritage of Portugal. This unique tour focuses on places of Jewish interest, as well as the fascinating people who continue to contribute to Portuguese society.
Have an inimitable Jewish experience while staying at charming hotels, tasting a genuine cuisine and enjoying superior sightseeing in private transfers. Visit all the major Jewish heritage places mixed with major sights of Portugal.
All our guides are licensed with in-depth knowledge of Jewish heritage in Portugal.
Lisbon is, without doubt, a charming city, both Atlantic and Mediterranean, illuminated by an extraordinary light. Singular monuments scatter themselves through an urban landscape unlike any other, and beautiful vantage points open up extraordinary views over the river Tagus. Jewish life probably began here not long before the city fell to the Moors in the 8th century. The Alfama quarter, hugging a slope between the river and the castle, is one of the city’s oldest areas, and the birthplace of a large Jewish community who flourished here in the hereabouts of the Rua da Judiaria. As the community grew, and more Jewish refugees came to Lisbon, the new quarters, Judiaria Grande and Judiaria Pequena formed in the 13th century near what is today the central Praça do Comércio. This entire area was totally destroyed by the 1755 earthquake. The nearby Rossio square was the site of the court of the Inquisition.
Our next stop is Lisbon’s main Synagogue, Shaare Tikva, built in the early 20th century as Jews of Portuguese descent returned to Portugal from Gibraltar and North Africa.
After Lisbon, we will visit Sintra, a UNESCO World Heritage site, in search of the village’s Jewish Heritage. Due to its position, beauty, water ravines and fresh water springs, Sintra was used as a retreat by the Romans, the Moors and the Portuguese Kings.
The Jewish quarter where the Jews lived and mixed at the Royal Court is still visible today. We will take the opportunity to visit the singular National Royal Palace before we get back to Lisbon where you will visit the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, and marvel at its breath-taking cloister. Far from the monastery, the Torre de Belém, guarding the mouth of the Tagus River from where the navigators set out on voyages of discovery of the trade routes, is our next stop, before we visit the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, a monument where some New-Christians who contributed with their knowledge towards the Discoveries, are represented.
Your journey continues on to Alentejo, a large territory to the south of Lisbon. Enjoy a unique journey across the most fascinating, well-preserved region of Portugal, with a heritage enriched by a variety of cultures and landscapes blessed by a unique beauty. Évora, an ancient city of narrow streets, unforgettable monuments and white, sun-washed houses is a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1986. This monumental city prospered in the late middle ages. It was here that one of the largest Jewish communities existed up to the 15th century and several houses still bear traces of the old Mezuzot. The Judiaria had two synagogues, a hospital, a Midrash, baths, and lively commerce.
From here we head to Marvão, a geranium-filled, walled village perched on a high rocky peak from where one can almost touch the sky. This impressive fortress town served as an entry point to the thousands of Jews who fled Spain in the 15th and 14th centuries.
Scenic and charming, the town of Castelo de Vide welcomes the visitor with its white houses clinging to a castle on a hill. By the 14th century, a large Jewish community existed here, and fascinating remains document its importance today. The Judiaria ran from the castle gate, down to the village fountain (Fonte da Vila) and on to the Rua Nova. An amazing medieval synagogue stands at the corner of the Rua da Judiaria and Rua da Fonte. Restored to its original appearance, the museum today features the original 14th-century stone ark for the Torah, and the ancient baths. Many nearby houses have markings or Mezuzot slots on the doors as evidence to their former Jewish owners.
The next morning is dedicated to visit Belmonte and your guide will lead you in an interesting walking tour through the village including the Jewish Museum, the Bet Eliahou Synagogue and the Judiaria.
This remote and beautiful village of Portugal is rich in the history and traditions of crypto Jews. In the 1960’s a significant community of cryptic Jews, sometimes called Marranos, emerged. Although they had practiced many of the ritual of Judaism for centuries, they were unaware of their true heritage. Jewish communities around the world came to their aid helping them rediscover their roots, and in 1993 the community welcomed its first rabbi in more than four centuries. Shortly after that, the Temple Bet Eliahou was built. Amazingly, many of the Jewish families still live in the town’s charming Judiaria, called the Bairro de Marrocos.
The tour will continue to the walled town of Trancoso where Jewish merchants first settled in the 12th century. Now, the town of Trancoso is honoring its Jewish heritage with the establishment of the Isaac Cardoso Center for Jewish Interpretation, along with a new synagogue called Beit Mayim Hayim – “the House of Living Waters.” A mezuza was affixed to the entrance of the synagogue – the first mezuza in the village for hundreds of years!
In Porto, a city built in the Middles Ages on the bank of Douro River, the harmony between the architecture and the contours of the landscape creates an urban environment of singular beauty. The old city, or Baixa, was declared a World Heritage site by the UNESCO in 1996. We will start by visiting the Cathedral, dazzling in its mixture of romantic and baroque elements, before descending to the Ribeira area where we find the characteristic quays beautifully restored in their ancient stone.
Porto was well known among the Jewish traders during the Middle Ages and today there are remains of what was once a typical medieval Jewish Quarter: steps, narrow streets and balconied houses, with street names such as “Rua Monte Judeus”, “Escadinhas do Monte dos Judeus”, “Pátio das Escadinhas do Monte dos Judeus” and “Escadas da Esnoga”, which is believed to mean “stairway to the Synagogue”. Later, at the Kadoorie Mekor Haim Synagogue meet with some members of the Porto Jewish Community and learn the story of Captain Barros Basto, who became well known in the Jewish world for trying to rescue the descendants of the Jews who were forced to convert in the 15th century and who continued to practice, in secret, certain precepts of the Jewish religion.
Tomar, one of the oldest and most charming towns in Portugal, was founded by the Order of the Knights Templar. Here you will visit the 15th century Synagogue, now the Abraão Zacuto Museum located on what was once Rua da Judiaria. It is a significant reminder of one of the greatest Sephardic Jewish communities, now classified as a national monument. With Gothic vaults upheld by four central columns, this structure houses Jewish gravestones, the cornerstones of the 13th Century Synagogue of Belmonte and the 14th Century Lisbon Synagogue and other remains of Tomar’s medieval Jewish community.
Afterwards, you’ll visit the Convento de Cristo (Unesco World Heritage Site), which once served as the headquarters of the Order which promoted the Portuguese Age of Discoveries, always assisted by the contribution of Jewish scientists and investors.
This Jewish Heritage tour is one of the many possibilities for Jewish travel in Portugal. We offer customised Jewish interest programmes for individuals and groups all over the country, and will be glad to suggest the best itinerary taking into account your available time, your wishes and special requirements, from luxury tours to arrangements for the budget-minded travellers. Also, we can combine this special interest tours with other programmes, such us our wine tours, art and architecture and/or garden tours. Tours can be organized for a minimum of 2 people, all year around.