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Madrid, Porto, Lisbon - will we fall in love?

Madrid, Porto, Lisbon - will we fall in love?

Jan 15th, 2019, 10:10 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 127
Madrid, Porto, Lisbon in May - your thoughts & ideas welcomed

We are early 60s, outdoorsy, love art, food, wine, history, small b&b's, guided walks. We have been to Barcelona recently but never to Madrid or anywhere in Portugal. We won 2 tickets to Europe! Hurray!! Not business class but no looking of gift horses in the mouth and we are very pleased to be going.

I have done lots of reading of trip reports on this forum and some research with Lonely Planet, Fodors and Eyewitness guide books and maps.

Arrival is May 11 in Madrid where we have booked an apartment for 5 nights in the Letras district. We hope to enjoy museums, gardens and just hanging about eating and drinking and people watching. It's the festival of St. Isidro while we are there, and we're not too sure what to expect with that. Hopefully great fun.

Questions: Day trip to Toledo at some point? or somewhere else? Any wonderful lunch restaurant suggestions? Will try to enjoy dining out late one night but may stick to lunch/ siesta / tapas.
Where to shop for the perfect leather bag?
What were some of the highlights of Madrid for you?

May 16 flight booked Madrid to Porto, booked 3 nights at InPatio Guest House.
Questions: Is a car a help or a hindrance? We could drive further afield for countryside ramble but where? Wine region tour with Bago D'Uva, suggested on this site, sounds like an excellent way to spend a day. Or should we reduce our stay in Porto by a night and spend a night somewhere in the Douro wine region?

May 19, picking up a car, not booked yet, but have used AutoEurope in the past - will have to re-read the business about toll roads and ensure we know what we're doing with that.

Big question is where to stay between Porto and Cascais? We like the idea of a pousada, but where? There must be some really interesting and special places to stay either on the coast or in the countryside, but I haven't hit on anything besides possibly Coimbra.

May 21, Pergola House in Cascais for 2 nights. Golf is on the agenda for my husband. Will throw him a trip-planning bone and let him figure that out, ha! I will go to Mercado which is on a Wednesday.

Sintra? Visited by the thousands according to the guide books, but we could go there late afternoon from Cascais and enjoy the evening, have a meal perhaps.

May 23 - 38th Wedding Aniversary!
Lisbon for 3 nights, staying at Fenix Hotel on recommendation from a friend. They said good things about eating here: Cantino Do Avillez.
Anyone have a guided walking tour recommendation. Context maybe?

Please do throw some ideas my way if you care to; it would be most appreciated. I've learned so much from this community, and always try to do a trip report in a timely manner

Last edited by francebound; Jan 15th, 2019 at 11:01 PM.
francebound is offline  
Jan 15th, 2019, 11:11 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Oh, yeah!

Your itinerary sounds delightful to me.
Years ago stayed in Letras on my first of several Madrid visits and enjoyed just bumbling about the area and found it easy to get around. Not sure it has changed much since.

Porto: Would not worry about a car in Porto, there's enough available via public transport or uber to keep you busy for a couple days. Consider riding Tram 1 all the way to the Passeio Alegre terminus - very nice seafront stroll and several small hole in the wall type places to grab a bite before heading back into Porto proper. The Porto Walkers free (tipping pretty much expected and well earned) walking tour is excellent, and the afternoon port wine tasting tour (well worth the cost) is great fun. The Serralves museum is well worth a visit, for the architecture as well as the collections. The Bago D'Uva tour into the Douro Valley we did was memorably wonderful, and we are not usually tour types. Can't help with drive Porto to Cascais as we trained it from Porto to Lisbon and on to Cascais and Sintra. In Lisbon did not do any organized walking tours rather bounced around on our own. Sounds lame but is delightful - the Tile Museum (National Museum of Azulejos) is easily reached with uber. BTW, prepare for estimable hill climbing, and be sure you have the uber app on your phone.

On a previous solo visit to Lisbon I used the services of Maureen Ferguson at Grape Olive Pig and did a half day market shopping and lunch preparation at her Lisbon apartment. The next day she picked me up early and we drove out to visit Alentejo wineries, including a spectacular lunch at one winery.. Both were wonderful, wonderful and highly recommended - either be a nice way to mark your anniversary.
Seamus is offline  
Jan 15th, 2019, 11:20 PM
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Congratulations on winning your free trip and on your anniversary!

I thought Toledo easily worth 2 full days. Many people visit it as a day trip, but it has much more to offer than can be visited in that time, and it is, IMO, much more evocative after daytrippers leave. You have numerous day-trip options from Madrid, and if you enjoy museums, you could easily spend 4 or more days just in the city of Madrid itself.

For me, the highlights of Madrid were the Prado, the Thyssen-Bornemisza, the Reina Sofia, the Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales, the Museo Arqueologico Nacional, El Retiro, the Plaza Mayor, the Sabatini Gardens, and the temple of Debod.

I haven’t been to Portugal yet, so can offer no comments.

Will you fall in love? I have no idea. I know that I would never ask that question before a “first date,” nor would I recommend it as a frame for encountering places one has never visited. For me, that’s setting oneself up for disappointment. (Not because these places aren't worthy of your love, but because the question itself heightens sensitivity to flaws. I should add that I loved both Madrid and Toledo!) YMMV.

Last edited by kja; Jan 15th, 2019 at 11:32 PM.
kja is offline  
Jan 16th, 2019, 07:23 AM
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Kja you are absolutely right about setting yourself up for disappointment if you expect to fall in love with a destination. That’s exactly what happened to us when we went to Prague in September. Expecting to love it we were shocked by the crowds and ended up being a little bit disappointed.
I wanted to change the title of my post but an hour later it was too late so I just left it. A good topic for discussion though.
francebound is offline  
Jan 16th, 2019, 07:45 AM
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Seamus- Enjoyed your delightful trip report, and thank you for posting the photos, especially the one of the urinal sign. My husband can relate and it made him smile.
francebound is offline  
Jan 16th, 2019, 08:39 AM
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I haven't been to Porto, but I did fall in love with Madrid and Lisbon. But then again, I am rarely disappointed in places I visit, and I try not to let crowds ruin my trip. Although I must say that while I did love Seville (it's a gorgeous city), I was a little dismayed/shocked by the crowds (at the end of September), which were the worse in all the places we visited in Andalucia. So we didn't immediately fall in love with Seville, but we appreciated it and enjoyed it more and more each day we were there. But it wasn't love at first sight, which might shock some people.

My husband and our 2 friends who were with us on the Spain trip didn't fall in love with Madrid, but I did, and I would love to return but I know my husband won't. Since you enjoy museums and gardens, I am sure you will love the Prado and Reina Sofia museums, and Retiro Park. We didn't have time to see the Thyssen. We also really enjoyed the Royal Palace, San Miguel Market, Temple Debod, and Plaza Mayor. I have read that the Salamanca neighborhood, which we didn't have time to see, is very nice and non-touristy, more upscale with lots of restaurants and shops.

If you can, I recommend at least one night in Toledo, too. Toledo is very crowded during the day with day trippers and tour buses, but it is so much nicer and quieter at night.

Regarding Lisbon, we arrived around mid-day from France, so no jet lag. We walked a lot and had dinner. Our first impression is that it's a pleasant city. But each day we were there, we loved it more, so, yes, we fell in love with Lisbon. I also suggest spending a day, at least, in Sintra, to see some of the palaces. We enjoyed Pena Palace. We were on a group tour for Sintra, which we usually don't do, but this was the end of a 3-week trip, and we were getting tired, so decided to see Sintra the easy way. Our tour bus also took us to Cascais and Estoril, and we liked what little we saw, and we both commented it would be nice to stay there overnight. If you like art museums, don't miss the Gulbankian Museum in Lisbon! One of our favorite sights. There are 2 separate buildings. I am not a fan of modern art, but I really enjoyed their modern art collection.

I hope this helps.
KarenWoo is offline  
Jan 16th, 2019, 08:40 AM
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Also want to add that I posted a trip report on our Spain trip. Madrid and Toledo are at the beginning. And I posted a trip report for our Lisbon trip. You can click on my name to read them if you are interested.
KarenWoo is offline  
Jan 16th, 2019, 12:35 PM
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My comments on Lisbon and Sintra here

Portugal and Northern Spain itinerary: feedback sought
mlgb is offline  
Jan 16th, 2019, 12:52 PM
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For the perfect leather bag in Madrid I would look at Loewe. I love their Flamenco Knot bag. But frankly, if you are looking in that luxury range, and I don't know if you are, you can buy just about any of the famous designer names in Madrid at more or less the same price that they sell for in Italy or France but less than in the US. And you get the big tax refund.

I'm sure there are nice bags at a far lower prices but I don't know where to advise you to look.

Here are my food notes for Lisbon. I would go to Ramiro for certain if you are a seafood lover. I was not crazy about Cantinho do Aviliez. Packed, noisy, nothing special.


Last edited by ekscrunchy; Jan 16th, 2019 at 01:00 PM.
ekscrunchy is offline  
Jan 16th, 2019, 02:54 PM
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I fell in love with Madrid and Lisbon, don’t know about you. I haven’t been to Spain or Portugal for ten years but am going back in March and can’t wait.

In Madrid, my favorite thing was going to see flamenco at Casa Patas. Casa Patas home - Casa Patas
The food there was good also, so we had dinner first and then saw the show.

I really liked the Thyssen museum, which has major works by minor artists and minor works by major artists.
Nikki is offline  
Jan 16th, 2019, 03:55 PM
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There is a nice Pousada in Evora which we loved, also one in Obidos but the town didn't do much for us. In Coimbra, we enjoyed staying at La Quinta de las Lagrimas, historic, fun, great dining room. Look up King Pedro and Ines. This is where their liaisons took place and the Quinta uses the story in their decor.. The Pousadas in Portugal seemed to beef a higher level than Spain's Paradors, especially the dining rooms.
Madrid, day trips to Toledo, or Segovia are enjoyable.
HappyTrvlr is offline  
Jan 17th, 2019, 01:49 AM
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Some of the temporary exhibitions in Madrid that will be running in May are:

Giacometti en el Prado

Toulouse-Lautrec and the Spirit of Montmartre


Leonardo da Vinci. The Faces of the Genius

Leonardo da Vinci at the National Library
Biblioteca Nacional de Espa˝a

Nasca. Searching for Traces in the Desert
Revulgo is online now  
Jan 17th, 2019, 09:32 AM
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Posts: 13,380
Falling in love with a city ( or not) depend on many factors: personal taste, weather, hotel,
contacts with locals, neighbourhoods one visits...so on
Often it takes more than a few days to “ discover “ a big city like Madrid...
We love “ our” Madrid and have been returning every year for 10 years...

I spent 4 night in Lisbon, found it very interesting , would return .
Agree with eks regarding bags...you may check Alfonso Rodrigues on Serrano
in Salamanca ...a Spanish designer.
danon is offline  
Jan 17th, 2019, 09:35 AM
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Sorry, Alfonso Dominguez...is the designer ‘s name
danon is offline  
Jan 17th, 2019, 09:08 PM
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I'll add myself to the list of those for whom Lisbon (rather quickly) became an acquired favorite. Was neither esppecially gobsmacked on arrival, nor repulsed. Toodling about did deepen my affection, especially interacting with the welcoming locals. My time with Maureen shopping the market and whipping up lunch at her place probably deepened the feeling.

Porto, on the other hand, was kind of a love at first sight thing. There is just something magical about the place.

Madrid, as I recall, took a bit of acclimating and is not the easiest city to navigate, but quite enjoyable - especially the food and drink!
Seamus is offline  
Jan 18th, 2019, 11:27 AM
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I'm going to Spain for the first time at the end of April so don't have advice, but want to follow this. Thanks.
SusanP is offline  
Jan 18th, 2019, 12:05 PM
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My thoughts are the same as Seamus. Wife and I thought Lisbon was OK. We really enjoyed the Belem area! Added pounds by eating Pateis de Nata far too often. Loved Porto!! (I loved Prague as well! How could you not love Prague?! Spain - I did not go to Madrid. We went to Malaga, Cordoba and Seville. Be aware that in Portuguese restaurants, they have olives, dips, etc. on the table and bring bread to your table when you sit down. If you eat any of it, you get charged for it! Just different than the way we do it in the US. Have a great anniversary!
Masterphil is offline  
Jan 18th, 2019, 01:57 PM
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Indulging in churros and hot chocolate in Madrid, savoring the best pasteis de nata in Portugal, spoiling ourselves with splendid wines and carabineros at Ramiro in Lisbon - oh yes!

A big big THANK YOU to all for sharing your suggestions and experiences of Madrid and Portugal here and in your trip reports.

For our stop between Porto and Lisbon we have booked Quinta Das Rosas, a b&b in Nazare that sounds charming, and
"Within a 50 km radius you'll enjoy historic and charming medieval towns such as Obidos, as well as, the monasteries of Batalha and Alcobaša which are reknowned World Heritage Sites."
And a round of golf for my husband, if he wants it.

The planning spreadsheet is starting to fill up.

Last edited by francebound; Jan 18th, 2019 at 02:09 PM.
francebound is offline  
Jan 18th, 2019, 09:46 PM
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Gee, if this weren't so personal as an anniversary trip I'd be tempted to hide in your luggage!
Seamus is offline  
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