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3 Slow Weeks in Portugal

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Hello Fodorites,

I’d like your help with a slow-paced 3-week trip to Portugal in April. Although everyone has their own preferred travel style, we’ve traveled extensively and know what works best for us – we don’t enjoy visiting too many different places; 4 is the absolute maximum number of hotels for us in 3 weeks. Our favorite trips have focused on a single country for 2-3 weeks, generally selecting 3 or 4 home bases that are each a little different – perhaps a capital city, a small town, and then someplace with natural beauty.

A little about us - we don’t like to lock in too many things each day – for example we’d rather plan on just one museum, b/c inevitably we discover some neat shops along the way, spend hours in the museum, have a leisurely lunch, wander some back streets and admire the architecture, stumble on a neat neighborhood or antique shop, find a cute café for coffee, strike up a conversation with a local, etc. We always end up doing lots of things each day, but at our own pace. That said, we want to leave with the sense that we got a feel for the country, culture, and people, and I realize that’s tough to do if we’re only visiting a few places.

Things we enjoy – all sorts of museums, particularly ethnography (me), science/technical (hubby), and quirky museums. We love handmade crafts, art, and antiques and always seek out flea markets, antique stores and small, unique shops and local craftspeople. We really enjoy gardens and botanical gardens, and can easily spend most of a day in one. We also like just wandering tiny picturesque streets and looking at interesting architecture and historic homes. We’re not as interested in the Algarve region and don’t need to spend time on the beach, and we don’t drink alcohol so aren’t interested in wine/port tastings.

If cost and connections work out, we’ll fly into Lisbon and out of Porto, but worst case, we take a train back to Lisbon and fly out of there. Our travel in-country will be via train or bus; we’d prefer not to rent a car. We don’t mind having a few days trips here and there, but we don’t want multiple day trips in a row, and we don’t enjoy packing too much into a day trip.

I’ve reviewed several guidebooks and websites and come up w/ the below itinerary. (The daily activities in each city aren’t carved in stone; I just use them to give myself a rough idea of how many days to spend in each city, and I usually try to leave a free day for places we discover after we arrive). What are your thoughts on the below? I know there are so many interesting places we decided to leave out (Evora, etc.) and I realize that our style of travel isn’t for everyone. But do you think this would give us a nice introduction to Portugal in a relaxed manner? Are we focusing on too many cities vs. small towns? I considered skipping Coimbra in favor of a smaller town with a different feel, but we really want to see Bussaco and that seems the best way to do it. Would you switch some days around, or exchange one location for another? Thanks so much for your feedback!

02 Sat Travel to Lisbon (7 nights)
03 Sun Lisbon - Belem area (and flea market)
04 Mon Lisbon - Alfama and Baixa areas
05 Tue Lisbon - Fiera da Ladra
06 Wed Lisbon - Day trip to Nazare and Obidos
07 Thu Lisbon - Explore shops/nbrhds: Bairro Alto, Chiado, Principe Real
08 Fri Lisbon - More museums

09 Sat Travel to Sintra (45 min by train; 3 nights) – Pena Palace
10 Sun Sintra - Monserrate Park/Palace
11 Mon Sintra - TBD

12 Tue Travel to Coimbra (2 hrs by train; 4 nights)
13 Wed Coimbra - National Museum, etc.
14 Thu Coimbra - Day trip to Bussaco Forest/Palace
15 Fri Coimbra - Botanical Garden, shopping

16 Sat Travel to Porto (1 hr by train; 6 nights)
17 Sun Porto - Photo Museum, etc.
18 Mon Porto - Exploring neighborhoods, shops
19 Tue Porto - More museums
20 Wed Porto - Boat trip
21 Thu Porto - TBD
22 Fri Travel Porto to Lisbon (3 hrs by train; 1 night in Lisbon)
23 Sat Travel home

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