Cláudia Costa has deep roots in Lisbon. After working in radio and theater, a teacher mentioned that she could put her skills and her knowledge of Portugal to work as a tour guide — and more than 20 years later, she hasn’t looked back. As a local guide and tour guide for Rick Steves' Heart of Portugal tours, she loves to help tour members experience the best of her hometown and country.
Tell us about your background.
My family has a long history in Lisbon: Both of my grandmothers lived in Lisbon's historical neighborhoods; my parents (originally from the north of Portugal) came here to work; and I was born here and have lived here all my life. My father was a postman, so my sister and I helped distribute the mail. Because of that, I know Lisbon like the back of my hand.
You've been a tour guide in Portugal for many years. How did you first start leading tours?
When I had to choose a profession, I was a little bit lost. I was thinking of doing law school or maybe being a teacher until my French teacher told me, "Cláudia, why don’t you study to be a guide?" I didn't know exactly what that was, but as I did theater and radio, I thought that being a guide would be a combination of all that, with the plus of being able to show my beautiful country with all its rich history.
What do you like best about leading Rick Steves tours?
While I guide Rick Steves tours, I enjoy the freedom of choosing the best for our tour members. If there is something I would like to offer or show them because I think it will enrich their experience in Portugal, I’m able to do it. I can be spontaneous, I can be really me!
You're a guide on our Heart of Portugal tour. Do you have a favorite stop?
Obviously, I have to say Lisbon is my best stop on the tour. It is my cradle! The city is cosmopolitan with a great history. I also love the central part of Portugal: Nazaré, with its fresh fish and barnacles; the amazing Batalha Monastery — where the Portuguese defeated the Castilians; and the romantic town of Óbidos, with its whitewashed houses and bougainvilleas.
What have been some of your most rewarding moments as a guide?
Rewarding moments for me are when my tour members tell me, "Your country is amazing! It is safe, it has friendly people and delicious food!" I also love when people who traveled with me contact me saying that they are coming back to Portugal and they would like to be with me again, or when they recommend me to friends!
Portugal is becoming one of the most popular travel destinations. Is there someplace that Americans should visit in Portugal, but might not know about?
I think the Convent of Christ in Tomar is amazing! Especially if you can visit during the pagan/religious Festa dos Tabuleiros, which takes place every four years. I also recommend the São Martinho do Porto beach, which is in the beautiful shape of a shell. But don’t tell anyone, because I love to go there and don’t want crowds!
You were featured in an episode of the Rick Steves' Europe TV show. What was it like being on camera?
I loved the experience of participating in an episode of Rick Steves' Europe! I was nervous (very nervous!) by the fact that I was doing it with someone who is a travel expert. But it was fun! And when I see it (I was so young!), I remember what was behind some scenes and I laugh! And it is rewarding to watch my beautiful city on TV.
I've heard you're a big reader. What do you do when you're not leading tours?
When I’m not leading tours, I stay with my boyfriend and our dog. We don’t have much time together because he is also a guide. I also read; I was raised among books (my mother is a bookbinder) and since I was a little girl, I was told that the books can be our best friends. Reading was my first way of traveling.
Lately, I’ve been walking the different caminos to Santiago de Compostela with my friends. Maybe one day Rick Steves will have some tours focused on "The Ways," and I will be prepared!
Tell us something about yourself that no one would ever guess.
I was a sonâmbula (sleepwalker) when I was little. My parents had to find a different way to lock the door of our house because, in the middle of the night, I would open the door, go downstairs and start walking on the street — still asleep!
Here’s what Claudia won’t tell you…but her tour members will:
"Claudia was always professional and did a marvelous job of keeping us on time without feeling rushed. She has a terrific knowledge of her country and delivered the information laced with delightful personal stories."
― Joan in Tampa, FL