Overview - Portugal – Family, Culture, Wine & Cooking

A week of true cultural immersion & local traditions with the wonderful people of Portugal. Discover Port wines in Porto, explore the Douro Valley UNESCO World Heritage Site, breathtaking towns, & cook local dishes.

Meet the proud people of Northern Portugal and share with them, their daily lives, culture and traditions.


Your 8-Day, 7-Night All Inclusive* Vacation will consist of a small group of about 16 or fewer guests, all staying in private accommodations at a Luxury Hotel on the river-front in the beautiful city of Porto! This will be our home-base for a week full of local immersion into a culture that has roots as far back as any in Europe. Once, one of the richest and most powerful countries in the world, the Portuguese people carry on their proud heritage and welcoming hospitality with a passion and sincerity that is as genuine as it is true.

You will be part of a unique vacation experience where you will make memories with new friends that will last a lifetime. You will live like a local, meeting the people that preserve the traditions and culture of this historic area. You will have delicious meals at your cooking classes and at local establishments, as well as in private homes.

Our excursions to wineries will be with small-production, local wine-makers that will share their passion and knowledge about their fantastic, regional wines, including Douro Reds and Port wines. Your cooking classes are with local families that carry on the traditions of their parents and grandparents.

The Location

Set on the banks of the Douro River in Porto, we found the perfect backdrop and accommodations from which to base our vacation week. At the Hotel Porta Nobre. This newly restored property was once the family home of nobles from the area. The hotel amenities include a roof-top swimming pool and cabana. The restaurant features wonderful local cuisine in their dining area that faces the river, with indoor or terrace seating. This small, boutique, family-run hotel is perfect for our guests and very convenient for walking into the heart of Porto for shopping or meandering through the town during some free time, or if you arrive a day or two early and opt to stay at the Hotel Porta Nobre and see more of Porto.

While it would be amazing to spend the week entirely at the hotel, we still want to explore the area, experience the local customs, cultures, traditions, food and wine…So we must head out on some fabulous excursions and make some delicious meals at our cooking classes.

About Our Portuguese Cooking Classes

We will be cooking with locals – just as the locals do it. All our cooking classes are all hands-on, made-from-scratch affairs where you participate as much as you want. With our local chef and good friends, Marta and Ricardo, our first class lesson will be a full-course meal of local-regional fare, taught at their private residence, only a short drive up the coast. We’ll be making dishes such as, Bifanas, Massada de Piexe, Pataniscas,Pasteis de Nata and Vinho Verde Rabanadas, just to name a few…

Another lesson will be a specialty bread-making class at our friend's private estate that we'll be enjoying spending time at this week.

We’ll also be making a traditional Portuguese dessert, Aletria, at one of our hosted dinners high up in the hills outside of Porto at a private estate.

Our last cooking experience will also be at the private home of, Marta and Ricardo. Ricardo will have us all helping to make a local favorite in Porto, Francesinha. It’s an amazing array of meats and cheese with toasted bread, baked in a wood-burning oven until it’s oooey-gooey deliciousness is piping hot and smothered in the home-made-from-scratch, family recipe sauce.

Wining and Dining

Our cooking classes and the delicious meals we’ll be making and enjoying together are the foundations from which our vacation weeks evolve. That being said, another very important aspect of our vacations is when and where we can enjoy a fabulous meal or aperitivi together while we are out and about. We go to those special, locals-only places where we can relax, talk about the day we’re having, or just had, form bonds that last a lifetime, share photos of family, friends, pets and our hometowns.

For us, finding the right hosts, locations, and settings are just as important as what we’re having while we are there. We don’t just grab a quick bite and we’re off to the next great excursion. We prefer to take time to soak it all in. Here in the north of Portugal, we have been blessed with a combination of all of the above…See below!

Just like most cultures, the Portuguese love their local dishes and traditional foods. While they may not be as well-known as some other countries, they are nonetheless every bit as passionate about the sourcing of ingredients, preparation and detail to serving as they are about being with family and friends to share the experience with.

Some of our meals out will be at wineries where we will be the exclusive guests of the wine-makers. We will eat with locals in nearly every instance, whether at their private homes, or in the restaurants where we are friends of the owners, each meal brings its own unique and memorable experience. You will be amazed during our four-wheel drive excursion at what our drivers will prepare for us, in the middle of nowhere and from the back of their off-road vehicles!

Wine flows whenever you want and the meals are a wonderful mix of meat dishes, seafood, cheeses, salamis, and other local dishes like Francesinha, Cachorrinho, and the amazing, Pastel di Nata, pastries.

The backdrops for our most of our meals are just as remarkable as the dishes themselves. We’ll have lunch in the Douro River Valley, with its breathtaking views of vineyards and rolling hills high above the river.

Another setting will be at the private estate of our friends in Baltar. Their property has gorgeous views of the valley and mountains that reach far into neighboring Spain. Even the bustling streets of Porto during our foodie tour will be another memorable experience that you will be talking about for years to come.

When the week is over, you will not want to leave your new Portuguese family without knowing when the next time you will be coming back! You will have made friends and memories that will last a lifetime as you will have spent the entire week living as locals, with locals, and you can’t help but be amazed at the generosity and warmth that makes the Portuguese people so authentic.

The Excursions and Experiences

This vacation is about as authentic and immersive into the local culture as you could have. We are literally off-the-beaten path in many instances, and will be going to places that even many of the locals are unfamiliar with!

When we go to the Douro River Valley, most visitors go to the popular name-brand wineries that are so prevalent there. Instead, we’ll head to a small, family-run producer of some fantastic local red wines. His passion for his craft and artistry of the wine-making process, from the roots to the glass, will give you a new-found appreciation for every drop that goes into a bottle!

When we do our four-wheel drive excursion, it is with local friends that do this all the time with one-another when they want to escape the city. They will take us up hills, over ridges and through the brush to get us to the special places that visitors would rarely ever get to go to. They have a wonderful outing planned for us that includes some fantastic aperitivi and Port-Tonics. Note: This is a true Off-Road experience. There will be times that the road will be bumpy and rough!

When we visit a local artisan in Viana, he will help us make the cabecudos. These are the Paper Mache heads that are used in local fairs and festivals. Antonio has kept this tradition alive at his workshop in town and will share with us his talent and gift for making this wonderful and peculiar headwear.

During our foodie tour of Porto, we’ll stay away from the touristy places and eat where the locals go for quick-bites, shopping, coffees and desserts. Because we will be with locals that have lived in Porto their whole lives!

Before our first cooking class, we'll stop at a local fresh seafood market, mingle with the locals and choose some of our fish that we’ll be needing for our recipes!

A newly added cooking class experience will be in the city of Vila Real. Here we will have a fully, hands-on and hands-in pastry workshop. We'll be taught by Rosa, whose family has been making these local pastries for generations. It started out as a bakery making breads and sweets for the local clergy and has a very storied past. Rosa and her family have kept the tradition going with her bakery and pastry-making skills! You'll love Rosa, who is as sweet as the pastries we'll be making...And eating!

Another newly added experience will be our Filigree workshop. We'll head to the town of Gondomar, that is famous in this area for the specialty filigree jewelry and art that is produced here. We will spend time with a celebrated local artisan named, Arlindo. He will explain all about this traditional art-form, how the gold and silver "threads" are hand-made. He'll then help us make our own and a keepsake for yourself or loved-one to take home!

Another fabulous experience will be with our friends, Albert and his son, Mateu, who will show us how the local, traditional pottery of the Douro Valley is made. The kiln is fueled entirely by wood and turns the pottery black, rather than the typical terracotta that is so popular in other parts of the world. This is a truly unique and traditional method of pottery making that you will be a part of, as well as having a go at the potter's wheel yourself!

It goes on and on like this the entire week. You will have been exposed to a side of Portugal that very few visitors would ever find. And you will have lived it from an insider’s view and will not want to wait to come back.

Cities, Villages and Towns we'll visit

This is a quaint and colorful port city. Once a thriving fishing village, it has since settled into its current incarnation as a family-friendly beachside town. You will have time to meander through the side-street and squares taking in the local flavor enjoying the relaxed environment that offers an open-air street market, as well as numerous shops, cafes, bars and restaurants.

A fantastic city of such diversity. A large university-town and bustling with activity. Beautiful scenery, architecture, history and lively street scene throughout the city that offers amazing photo opportunities at every turn. Head down to the Ribiera alongside the Douro River. Take a walk across the Ponte di Luis for some incredible views of Porto and the Gaia area, where the large Port wine companies house and age their port wine.

A beautiful and historical town on the Douro River filled with shops, cafes, and restaurants. Time permitting, we'll be able to stroll the streets before hopping aboard our Douro River Boat!

This is one of the oldest, and traditionally established towns that begin the Douro Valley. There are many shops and cafes in the historical center, where we will be for our pastry and sweets workshop.

We will have a fabulous seafood dinner in this seaside town, just to the north of Porto. This town was once home to all the major producers of canning and conservatives in all of Portugal. Sardines, tuna and other fish were canned here in the many factories that made up the bulk of the town. It is now more residential, with a bustling community, full of wonderful stores, restaurants, cafes and fabulous sand beaches!

Our Cooking Classes

As always, our classes are full, hands-on cooking experiences where you can participate as much as you want with our local chef instructors. We have two, full-course classes at the private home of one of our chef instructors, Ricardo. Along with the help of his family, they bring classic local dishes to life, right before our eyes. But, it’s not only their cooking skills that they bring, their hospitality and welcoming spirit goes far beyond anything you could ever imagine! They know how to do it right, and we’d be surprised if you do not incorporate some of their local customs into your own lives once back home.

Our other cooking experiences will be at different locations throughout the week. These classes will be at informal settings, with family and friends, showing us their traditional methods of cooking their home-town favorites.

At Marta and Ricardo’s home, we will help prepare and make each of our own Francesinha! These are the wonderful sandwich-style dishes that incorporate several cuts of local sausage, sliced beef, ham and cheese all smothered in a home-made sauce and baked in a wood-burning oven. They are simply, delicious!

What we’ll be cooking

Two Full-Course Meals, based on local recipes. Plus, A Specialty Corn-Bread Making Class, Traditional Portuguese Holiday Dessert, Pasteis de Nata, and Francesinha

Grab an apron! It’s time to start cooking... Portuguese-Style!

Everyone gets into the act during our first cooking class. This is where the guests really start to get to know each other, having so much fun, singing, dancing, drinking wine, cooking and enjoying some great food for our lunch!

App Main Course Dessert 1 Dessert 2
Bifanas - Thinly-Sliced Marinated Pork Sandwich Massada - Fish Pasta Torta de Laranja - Orange Roll Cake Leite Crème - Portuguese Crème Brûlé

Today, during our Cooking Experience, we'll participate in a Conventual Sweets Workshop. We'll be making pastries and desserts from traditional recipes that date to the sixteenth century!

Cristas de Galo Covilhetes de Vila Real

On the day we go to the private estate in Baltar, Ricardo's mother will help us make a local flour and cornmeal bread that has been a staple in their family for generations. It is all hands-on,l where we’ll mix the flour, knead the dough, prepare the loaves and put them in the wood-burning oven. The results of which we will all share at a family and friends’ dinner, here in the Baltar estate home. We will also work with the family to prepare our dessert for the night. This sweet cake has a pasta base, but is made with sugar, eggs, milk and cinnamon. Typically, this dessert is prepared during the holiday season, but with special guests coming, it is like a holiday for everyone, any time of year!

Today, we're back at Ricardo and Marta's for more cooking! We'll be making some more wonderful Portuguese dishes, as well as the famed dessert, Pastel di Nata!

App Main Side Dessert
Pataniscas de Bacalhau - Fried Cod Fritters Minho Style Rojõs - Fried Pork Loin Portuguese Rice or Potatoes Pastel di Nata

This will be a wonderful evening with family and friends as we all help Ricardo prepare our ingredients, make the sauce and create our own fantastic, Francesinha sandwiches. These will be one of the most memorable-delectable oooey-gooey meals you could imagine!

Historical Sites, Wineries, Workshops and Artisan Sites We’ll Be Visiting

  • Porto City Center
  • Douro River Valley Wine Region
  • Mafarrico Winery - Douro Valley
  • Santa Lucia Sanctuary in Viana
  • Soenga Artisan Pottery Workshop
  • Cabecudos Papier Mache Artisan Studio
  • Filigree Workshop in Gondomar
  • Conventual Sweets Class in Vila Real
  • BBQ and Private Dinner at a Country Estate and Winery in Guimarães