First Timers...Portugal In January

Old Nov 6th, 2023, 06:23 PM
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First Timers...Portugal In January

I am sorry for the mundane question but I a flumoxoned as to where/location to stay in Lisbon as a first timer.

My 22 year old daughter and I will be arriving in Lisbon in early January for her early graduation trip. I would assume that location might be seasonal dependent?
We love to be someplace that we can walk out the door and feel a part of the neighborhood and the charm. We love to walk, eat good food/wine (not fancy) and are both fit so not too scared of the hills. Any suggestion on the best area for us?

We have a total of 10 days in Portugal and keeping a flexible schedule because we want to explore but need some blue sky! (Escaping the Michigan winter clouds). Had planned on staying at two, max three different areas and do some day trips and hikes, but if there is rain forecasted longer than a day or two we will plan on moving to the nicer weather!
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Old Nov 6th, 2023, 11:22 PM
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Curious as to why you picked Portugal? Weather wise you might want to consider the Algarve.
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Old Nov 7th, 2023, 02:08 AM
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Another vote for the Algarve, Faro has an old centre not completely destroyed by tourism and other towns have strong examples of the Roman inhabitation. Easy train access to Lisbon
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Old Nov 7th, 2023, 03:56 AM
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Originally Posted by bilboburgler
Another vote for the Algarve, Faro has an old centre not completely destroyed by tourism and other towns have strong examples of the Roman inhabitation. Easy train access to Lisbon
Originally Posted by mjs
Curious as to why you picked Portugal? Weather wise you might want to consider the Algarve.
Thank you for your replies. Yes, Algarve is one of the (2-3) places we would like to stay, including Lisbon. I will take a closer look at Faro. Thanks!
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Old Nov 7th, 2023, 08:21 AM
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to be fair Climate Change also makes looking at historic weather patterns not that useful when looking forward.
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Old Nov 7th, 2023, 09:17 AM
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Although it was in June when I visited Portugal, I can recommend the behotel Lisboa. It is a boutique hotel located on the walking street between Rossio Square and the Praca, Easy access to several fine restaurants. We did a day trip with a tour guide that went to Sintra, Cascais and the most westernmost point of continental Europe which has a lighthouse and a marker. My cousins went during February break earlier this year and spent 6 nights - 2 in Lisbon, 2 in Sintra and 2 in Cascais. They said the weather was ideal for being out and walking around.

if you decide to head to Evora, which was one of my favorite spots in all of Portugal, I can recommend the lovely Albergaria do Calvario, a lovely inn with gracious hosts. Lovely to see the historic sights there and also a foodie kind of place.
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Old Nov 7th, 2023, 09:24 AM
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If I were 22 (and I wish I was), Porto would be my choice. It might not have enough blue sky for you in January, but it became one of the favorite cities I've visited in Europe. Fantastic vibe, great food and some wonderful sights. Coimbra wouldn't be a bad choice either. University town, and the tour of the university was exceptional. Another town with a really cool vibe.

There are many great trip reports on Fodors about Portugal from last year. Below is link to mine, with plenty of photos. We stayed in Lisbon, Sintra, Tomar, Coimbra, Douro Valley and Porto. Have a great time. Absolutely loved Portugal.

https://travelswithmaitaitom.com/portugal-2022/

Photo of Porto we took from Dom Luís I Bridge





Last edited by maitaitom; Nov 7th, 2023 at 09:30 AM.
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Old Nov 7th, 2023, 09:52 AM
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Originally Posted by bilboburgler
to be fair Climate Change also makes looking at historic weather patterns not that useful when looking forward.
so true!
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Old Nov 7th, 2023, 09:54 AM
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Originally Posted by maitaitom
If I were 22 (and I wish I was), Porto would be my choice. It might not have enough blue sky for you in January, but it became one of the favorite cities I've visited in Europe. Fantastic vibe, great food and some wonderful sights. Coimbra wouldn't be a bad choice either. University town, and the tour of the university was exceptional. Another town with a really cool vibe.

There are many great trip reports on Fodors about Portugal from last year. Below is link to mine, with plenty of photos. We stayed in Lisbon, Sintra, Tomar, Coimbra, Douro Valley and Porto. Have a great time. Absolutely loved Portugal.

https://travelswithmaitaitom.com/portugal-2022/

Photo of Porto we took from Dom Luís I Bridge


thank you for the link! what a beuatiful picture!

Last edited by macswim; Nov 7th, 2023 at 10:02 AM.
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Old Nov 7th, 2023, 12:04 PM
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Great suggestions from all the contributors, and it makes for a real challenge, while at the same time being a super opportunity! I'll just respond with my personal experience, which isn't the rightest or the wrongest, because what everyone experiences, or appreciates, or finds fulfilling, is different, and you can't go wrong with any of the suggestions above.

I've been to Algarve a dozen times or more, and to Porto once. Lisbon maybe a handful of times, but never Sintra. My visits to the Algarve have been in March, and it is when things are in bloom, and the days are typically sunny and around 60 degrees, maybe up to 70, and it is fabulous. But all our acquaintances say that in January it is more grim, with restaurants and bars largely shut down, often grey skies, and a fair amount of chill. That said I have a 3 night stay in Loule' coming up the first week of February and am SUPER looking forward to it, but that's because I know all the towns so well and can have a great time just reliving.

Went to Porto for the first time LAST January. Fantastic city. Absolutely loved it. The people are SO KIND, every step you take, every corner you turn, is an eyeful, and the dynamics of each part of town are wholly unique. A remarkable and soul-nourishing place to be - - and it is such a vibrant city that it doesn't hurt at all that it's the middle of winter - - almost a benefit because the tourist hordes are vastly diminished.

Flail at me with hot natas, but I just don't enjoy Lisbon, and never have. Had a couple days there last January and the center is totally touristy, even though the tourists aren't there yet. Restaurant hawkers barking at you, city-like business-ness and hustle, plenty of riff-raff from all over the world in the Metro and most everywhere you go pegging you as a tourist. And to me, it isn't rewarding in any way, as opposed to the exceptional variety and vibrancy of Porto, and the easy charm of the Algarve. But your mileage may differ.
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Old Nov 7th, 2023, 12:21 PM
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We stayed here and liked it. Lovely terrace overlooking water to have drinks.
https://www.memmohotels.com/alfama/

Enjoyed our meals at Cervejaria Ramiro, Taberna Da Rua Das Flores, A Cevicheria and lunch at the public market. Ended taking an Uber to Sintra for the day and enjoyed wandering the castle and the grounds. Enjoy. Love the architecture and amazing tile work.
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Old Nov 8th, 2023, 05:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Madam397
Although it was in June when I visited Portugal, I can recommend the behotel Lisboa. It is a boutique hotel located on the walking street between Rossio Square and the Praca, Easy access to several fine restaurants. We did a day trip with a tour guide that went to Sintra, Cascais and the most westernmost point of continental Europe which has a lighthouse and a marker. My cousins went during February break earlier this year and spent 6 nights - 2 in Lisbon, 2 in Sintra and 2 in Cascais. They said the weather was ideal for being out and walking around.

if you decide to head to Evora, which was one of my favorite spots in all of Portugal, I can recommend the lovely Albergaria do Calvario, a lovely inn with gracious hosts. Lovely to see the historic sights there and also a foodie kind of place.
Thank you for the recommendations! Is it the location of the Behotel why you enjoyed it? I hadn't thought a out going to Evora, but I will read more about it.did you drive there or take a train?
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Old Nov 8th, 2023, 01:05 PM
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The location of the BeHotel Lisbon was outstanding, the service was good and they were helpful with recommending restaurants in walking distance as well as putting us in touch with the tour operator for our day trip to Sintra, Cascais and we met the tour guide in Rossio Square around 8:30 AM, so that worked well. They did offer pastries every afternoon as well as a selection of daily newspapers in English. We didn't have any meals there although many people did have their breakfast which wasn't included and so we mostly ate breakfast in cafes in/around Rossio Square.

We drove to Evora as that was our destination upon our arrival in the airport in Lisbon. We did a big circle and ended our trip in Lisbon after dropping our car back at the airport and heading into Lisbon for 3 nights, I believe. Evora wasn't an especially long drive from Lisbon Airport and although this was part of a larger trip, having a car there would allow for day trips from Evora itself. There is however train service from Lisbon to Evora.
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Old Nov 8th, 2023, 02:31 PM
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All of my friends who have been to Portugal seem to love Porto! I hadn't really considered going there because I was hoping for sunnier skies, but you certainly make it sound like a hard to miss place.
Funny, last time I was in Rome (pre-pandemic) I was disillusioned with how touristy things had become and how aggressive the "hawkers"were. I get that I AM a tourist, but I am more interested in an authentic experience. I will take your info about Lisbon into consideration!
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Old Nov 8th, 2023, 02:32 PM
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Originally Posted by dfourh
Great suggestions from all the contributors, and it makes for a real challenge, while at the same time being a super opportunity! I'll just respond with my personal experience, which isn't the rightest or the wrongest, because what everyone experiences, or appreciates, or finds fulfilling, is different, and you can't go wrong with any of the suggestions above.

I've been to Algarve a dozen times or more, and to Porto once. Lisbon maybe a handful of times, but never Sintra. My visits to the Algarve have been in March, and it is when things are in bloom, and the days are typically sunny and around 60 degrees, maybe up to 70, and it is fabulous. But all our acquaintances say that in January it is more grim, with restaurants and bars largely shut down, often grey skies, and a fair amount of chill. That said I have a 3 night stay in Loule' coming up the first week of February and am SUPER looking forward to it, but that's because I know all the towns so well and can have a great time just reliving.

Went to Porto for the first time LAST January. Fantastic city. Absolutely loved it. The people are SO KIND, every step you take, every corner you turn, is an eyeful, and the dynamics of each part of town are wholly unique. A remarkable and soul-nourishing place to be - - and it is such a vibrant city that it doesn't hurt at all that it's the middle of winter - - almost a benefit because the tourist hordes are vastly diminished.

Flail at me with hot natas, but I just don't enjoy Lisbon, and never have. Had a couple days there last January and the center is totally touristy, even though the tourists aren't there yet. Restaurant hawkers barking at you, city-like business-ness and hustle, plenty of riff-raff from all over the world in the Metro and most everywhere you go pegging you as a tourist. And to me, it isn't rewarding in any way, as opposed to the exceptional variety and vibrancy of Porto, and the easy charm of the Algarve. But your mileage may differ.
All of my friends who have been to Portugal seem to love Porto! I hadn't really considered going there because I was hoping for sunnier skies, but you certainly make it sound like a hard to miss place.
Funny, last time I was in Rome (pre-pandemic) I was disillusioned with how touristy things had become and how aggressive the "hawkers"were. I get that I AM a tourist, but I am more interested in an authentic experience. I will take your info about Lisbon into consideration!
​​​​​​​
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Old Nov 8th, 2023, 03:05 PM
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Originally Posted by macswim
Funny, last time I was in Rome (pre-pandemic) I was disillusioned with how touristy things had become and how aggressive the "hawkers"were. I get that I AM a tourist, but I am more interested in an authentic experience.
A few 'trends' are: 1) that everyone wants to experience the 'iconic' places in their lives they've seen in movies and heard friends rave about, and the imperative to go to famous places builds upon itself as a world-wide phenomenon; 2) the world is ever more populated and travel hungry, and despite the fact that jet fuel emissions cause climate change, every young person would prefer that every other source of CO2 emissions should be cut back EXCEPT jet travel, as it is by FAR from the worst culprit, and world travel is a major source of joy and meaning to everyone who even considers it; 3) smaller cities (e.g. Ghent vs. Brussels; Utrecht vs. Amsterdam; Bologna vs. Rome; Dijon vs. Paris; Leeds vs. London; Porto vs. Lisbon) have everything anybody ever wanted in their larger 'famous' brethren, but the locals are less jaded and the delights are more genuine - - the 'traditional' centers you see in all the movies are overrun with visitors that destroy the human culture at the center of cities - - anyone working in shops and restaurants there (not to mention all the riff-raff that prey upon it) is going through the motion of serving a predictable string of tourists that are all the same. To find places where the people are real, the food is real, and the experiences are real, you need to seek out places that have not been mowed under by mass tourism.
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Old Nov 8th, 2023, 03:26 PM
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"but I am more interested in an authentic experience. I will take your info about Lisbon into consideration!"

Well, I will have to disagree about Lisbon. It is definitely authentic. Gritty in some parts (yes, it's a real city), and, of course, there were lots of tourists, however I never felt Lisbon was "overrun with visitors that destroy the human culture." We had exceptional meals in Lisbon and don't remember anybody outside a restaurant "barking at me," (maybe i had too many
Ginjinhas to notice), although we did run into a few barking dogs on our walks. It took the others a bit longer than me to warm up to the city, but there is a hell of a lot to see there. At the end, we all enjoyed our six nights in Lisbon. I love cities, big and small, and am quite happy we were able to explore Lisbon. I can see why some people might not like it, but I am not one of them.

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Old Nov 10th, 2023, 08:08 AM
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Originally Posted by macdogmom
We stayed here and liked it. Lovely terrace overlooking water to have drinks.
https://www.memmohotels.com/alfama/

Enjoyed our meals at Cervejaria Ramiro, Taberna Da Rua Das Flores, A Cevicheria and lunch at the public market. Ended taking an Uber to Sintra for the day and enjoyed wandering the castle and the grounds. Enjoy. Love the architecture and amazing tile work.
Thank you for the recommendations! Was it the location of the hotel that you liked?
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Old Nov 10th, 2023, 08:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Madam397
The location of the BeHotel Lisbon was outstanding, the service was good and they were helpful with recommending restaurants in walking distance as well as putting us in touch with the tour operator for our day trip to Sintra, Cascais and we met the tour guide in Rossio Square around 8:30 AM, so that worked well. They did offer pastries every afternoon as well as a selection of daily newspapers in English. We didn't have any meals there although many people did have their breakfast which wasn't included and so we mostly ate breakfast in cafes in/around Rossio Square.

We drove to Evora as that was our destination upon our arrival in the airport in Lisbon. We did a big circle and ended our trip in Lisbon after dropping our car back at the airport and heading into Lisbon for 3 nights, I believe. Evora wasn't an especially long drive from Lisbon Airport and although this was part of a larger trip, having a car there would allow for day trips from Evora itself. There is however train service from Lisbon to Evora.
Thanks for the tips! I booked our flight into Lisbon to arrive late morning so we wouldn't have to deal hauling our luggage around until check in. I think we will rent a car eventually, but do not plan to use one in the city. (I did get my International Drivers License before going to Japan in August never used it!).
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Old Nov 10th, 2023, 08:24 AM
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Originally Posted by mjs
Curious as to why you picked Portugal? Weather wise you might want to consider the Algarve.
We haven't been to Europe post pandemic. I read that Portugal had sunshine, great food and wine, and lovely people. After the winter last year here, we vowed to escape for a bit this year.
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