Is Porto a must?

Jan 22nd, 2008, 05:38 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2007
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Is Porto a must?

We are going to Portugal this summer
We stay in Evora, Tomar (visiting central Portugal), and Sintra before leaving (see Lisbon from Sintra)
We plan to be trhee full days (four nights) in the north Portugal-Minho
We plan to see Braga, Guimaraes, National park Geres, Viana do Castelo and smaller towns as Barcelos, Ponte de Lima, Ponte da Barca.
We like nature and little charming towns more than large cities
To explain, we liked Sorrento in Italy much more than Napoli.
But we still cannot decide: should we change this plan and visit Porto on one of these days from our base town in Minho?
I have read so different opinions about Porto.
Additional question: will be Braga a nice place to stay for 4 nights, or Viana do Castelo, Guimaraes or Ponte de Lima will be better to explore surroundings and to relax at evening?
miri is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2008, 06:27 AM
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I think it would be a shame not to visit Porto since you will be in the area (both Braga and Guimaraes are close).
But Porto is not an easy town to discover. Beautiful parts (the Ribeira along the river - World Heritage) and derelict houses within a 200 meter radius. Posh houses on the Ocean front, luxury stores in Rua Santa Catarina and boarded-up shops in the neighboring streets.
Braga and Guimaraes are both very cute (I loved Guimaraes) and on a much smaller scale. I don't think there is much to see in Barcelos except the market on Thursdays (which I missed because the weather was so bad)
Pvoyageuse is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2008, 09:37 AM
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No, not in my opinion.
I like your itinerary. We have done those destinations before and will be going back to Viano do Castelo in May as a diversion from a Spain trip. Try to see the Thursday market in Barcelos--a cultural phenom for me. I would prefer Obidos as your base in centro.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2008, 09:51 AM
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Under no circumstanses short of an earthquake (unlikely) miss Oporto..Obidos is a great central place from which to cruise around not to mention a lovely walled mediv. city. The ousada is outstanding. There a many pensions within the walled city.. Altho you wiull be in the midst of tourist time hit all the spots...Nazare,Mafra, just follow the coast northward.....

Tomar. You will notice the altar in the catheral is on a dias above the floor..apparently the Knights Templar rode their horses in and did not dismount for Coammunion...Seek out places to stay. Pinhao on the Douro has the Victoria House Hotel..but again most places are v.g. Just came back in Nov. and as it was trip #3 WOW...
amer_can is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2008, 10:20 AM
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I like the itinerary you have planned.
And really, you have a full schedule in the days for the cities you want to see.
The impression I have is that unless you can devote enough time to Porto to do it justice, you will not really appreciate it.
Have a wonderful trip.
Sher is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2008, 10:45 AM
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Thank all for your help
Sher, as I understand you think that one day is not enough for Porto? How much time you would spend there?
And what about base town in Minho?
What do you think is the best?
I have to say, that we are looking for budget accomodation, not pousadas or estalagem.
miri is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2008, 11:49 AM
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Byrd is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2008, 12:59 PM
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We only spent one day in Porto and not only wasn't it enough time, but it rained that day. We took the train from Braga.
I have read many reports that people have written and I always had the feeling that we did not spend enough time there to really appreciate it.
We stayed in near Braga in a small hamlet called Frades.
We usually stay in budget accomodations and been very happy with them.
Frades is an ancient hamlet East of Braga and Casa de Requeixo has been in the same family for hundreds of years. But the hamlet is really totally residential.
We had a car and toured many of the places you mention from there.
They have B&B rooms and a couple of small self catering apartments.

I am sorry that we did not visit Viana do Castelo.

There is a wonderful book available on Amazon. It is Drive Portugal. A new edition is coming out in March. We used the 2000 one for our 2005 trip.

If you plan to drive in Portugal, this is a great book with 23 different itineraries for driving tours. You can pick and choose stops on suggested routes.

Sher is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2008, 01:57 PM
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 14,131
Friends who have been to Portugal many times convinced us to go to Porto as we had not planned to include the city. We loved it and are so glad we visited.The setting is pretty and the city has a real nn-touristy feel to it. Again, like in all of Portugal, the local people were very helpful and friendly.We took a day cruise on the Duoro River pst the vineyards and were the only Americans.
HappyTrvlr is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2008, 06:44 PM
Join Date: Apr 2003
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I would echo Sher's opinion that one day is not enough in Porto if you're going to visit. If I understand your choice, it would be using one of your Minho days to drive in and out of Porto. Porto isn't a huge city, and there are centrally located parking garages, but I think you've already eaten up at least 2-3 hours of your day with the round trip drive. And since you're not city lovers anyway, it sounds like it wouldn't be worth it to you. Porto is a city, true it has a lot of small town charm in the central core and across the river with the port lodges, but the logistics of getting in and out and onto the superhighway are those of a city.

I think you already have a full plate with the places you plan to visit in northern Portugal. If your base is halfway between Viana do Castelo and the Peneda Geres park, you will be able to avoid much of the backtracking, but have you considered doing a pack-up-and-go each morning route, so you could then do a big circle and not backtrack at all? I know that's more a question of personal style, but if you travel light (so that there's no huge startup cost every morning when you pack up) it can really make a difference in the amount of driving you have to do.

I agree with those who say Barcelos isn't a huge attraction. I was there on a non-market day and it's pleasant enough but there aren't really many places to see, and you will be visiting other nice small towns (like Guimaraes and Ponte de Lima) with the same scale but much more to visit. I also thought Ponte de Lima was much nicer than Ponte da Barca, but I guess you'd have to drive through one to get to the other.

This sounds like a wonderful trip!
lreynold1 is offline  
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