Portugal First Timers, 3 Q's

Old Jul 12th, 2016, 06:15 PM
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Portugal First Timers, 3 Q's

Hi all,

We're going to travel to Portugal for our first time, this September for 10 or 11 days including travel. We're coming from Philadelphia, PA, U.S. We're a couple in our mid fifties, love interesting architecture, good food and wine, music, places with natural beauty. Some museums but not tons, we tend more to love wandering streets and seeing what we come upon.

Initially I'd thought with that amount of time we could do Lisbon (with day trips), Porto (with day trips) and still get in a taste of the Algarve, but with more reading am leaning toward just Lisbon and Porto.

My questions are:
1) Do you agree with that? We enjoy beaches and certainly having some real relaxing time is often very welcome, but it just seems like it's probably too much. We're pretty slow travelers.
On the other hand, if there's just a town or two in the Algarve that are very unique and not to be missed, then we'd consider putting it back in, just knowing we'd limit it to that and not try to see a whole lot of the rest of the area. (usually I'd have figured this out from more reading by now, but we only decided very recently to do this and there's been limited time!)

2) While we've loved large European cities such as Rome, Paris, Barcelona, London (tho' the latter dh was ill most of the time so memories not as fond, will have to go back!), we also love smaller towns, For instance as much as we loved all the sights in Barcelona proper, one of our highlights of that trip was the day we took the train out to an area on the outskirts and saw the castellers (which we only knew about from a Fodorite). Is there a smaller city or town you'd recommend we spend some time in, rather than only Lisbon and Porto? Enough to be worth more than a day trip, and switching lodging on this trip more than once?

3) If we DO decide to just keep it simple and stay in Lisbon and Porto, would you recommend dividing it half and half, or more in one versus the other? I'm going to look into how much more an open jaw flight would be, so we wouldn't have to circle back, but we can't do that if it's a lot more.

TIA!! I look forward to your replies, hoping to book our flights very soon.
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Old Jul 12th, 2016, 07:11 PM
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We drove around northern Portugal. You might want to take a look at my trip report; click on my name to find it.
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Old Jul 12th, 2016, 08:17 PM
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I have been to Portugal several times, but not being a beach person I still haven't made it to the Algarve. I don't feel that I have missed much. Plus going there will complicate your trip as it is south of Lisbon while Porto is north.

Ten days is barely enough time for both Lisbon and Porto, although if you really want to add a third place, you could stop off in Coimbra on the way.
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Old Jul 14th, 2016, 06:43 PM
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Michael, that was a fantastic trip report, thanks for letting me know about it. Is there any way to see the pictures still?

Thursdaysd, we've decided against the Algarve. The more I read (just on Fodors so far) the more I realize how short our 10 days will probably seem.

Can either of you say how far we need to go out of Porto to get to the areas I see pics of the beautiful vineyards?

So far I'm just reading from trip reports online, tomorrow eve will finally be able to pick up a couple books as well, which is what usually helps me put it all together as to what's where.
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Old Jul 14th, 2016, 07:10 PM
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Hi Laura - we are also a couple in our fifties from Philadelphia! We went to Portugal two years ago, also for ten days. We enjoyed Lisbon a lot, but did not like Porto. We spent 2 nights in Evora, one in Bussaco (fantastic) and three in Obidos. Obidos is inbetween Porto and Lisbon so if you do decide to do both it's a fantastic middle stop. Close to seaside villages, several of the major unesco sites, and easy distance to Tomar which was one of our favorite stops. We also really enjoyed Evora which is only two hours or so from Lisbon. And I am not much of a highway driver, but found driving in Portugal very easy (nothing like East Coast highways, more like Lancaster county smaller roads). It's a beautiful country and our favorite part was the small towns. If you do take a boat trip from Porto be forewarned they don't take credit cards which created a bit of a crisis for us. My trip reports are in there back about two years - I did one for each part of the trip. enjoy.
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Old Jul 14th, 2016, 08:34 PM
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Here they are: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca...7623555520457/
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Old Jul 14th, 2016, 11:37 PM
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Hi
We just did pretty much the same as Laura m.
2 days in Lisbon, one in Sintra (from Lisbon) then Obidos (didn't sleep there though, mistake). One in Figuera Da Foz (great beach and we wanted to do one beach at least).
Visited Coimbra and Bussaco too + some others. Just open a guide on Portugal, there are tons of monasteries and churches.
We didn't like Porto either but took a trip to go along the valley del Douro, fantastic and visited the Mateus castle (the family with the wine).
We stayed the last night in Cascais, great beach resort.
I put two feet in the water and it was enough (was in june). We stayed mostly in apartments as we were a family, in Lisbon dead in center - called 'hello Lisbon'.
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Old Jul 15th, 2016, 01:24 AM
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The two cities will do you fine, though Evora might be a train ride away I think it works out a long day.

Porto wine trade; traditionally a very odd industry as the grapes are grown up in the hills but developed and matured in Porto itself, so while looking at incredibly steep hills covered by vines may be interesting all the real stuff is done right in Porto itself and down the river. But... if you do want to go up you can catch a train or a boat (alt as required) and a vinyard will let you taste and eat sausage.

I'd book onto at least one of the Porto Port house trips just for the experience.

Porto to Lisbon is a nice train ride BTW.

The Algarve is a pleasant area but if you want a beach you can walk along the prom from Lisbon till you find your bit of sand, or even catch a tram out of town to a nearby beach. There are a few things to see on the Algarve but low density, I'd stay in your two.
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Old Jul 15th, 2016, 05:53 AM
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Oh well, I loved Porto. I have been a few times and would love to go back. Less interested in Lisbon.

For beautiful vineyards, do drive the Douro Valley. You can also take the train. Starting in Porto, the first part is vinho verde, the second part (from Peso da Régua to Pinhão) are vineyards from the port houses. Very scenic!

Beaches ... Portugal has 832 kms of coastline. No need to drive all the way to the Algarve for a nice beach. Agree that the beaches in the Algarve are the prettiest (and the weather is much warmer than than in the north/centre) but there are very nice beaches near Lisbon, and between Porto and Lisbon. Examples:
-Costa da Caparica, south of Lisbon (Praia do Meco, Sesimbra, etc.)
-Costa de Lisboa, west of Lisbon (Praia do Guincho, Praia da Ribeira da Cascais, etc.)
-Costa de Prata, between Porto and Lisbon (Baleal, Peniche).
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Old Jul 15th, 2016, 07:42 AM
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Don't go to peniche though.
We did and it was a mistake.
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Old Jul 15th, 2016, 12:13 PM
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Peniche is excellent for windsurfers/bodyboarders. Praia do Guincho has far less wind and is better for chilling.
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Old Jul 15th, 2016, 12:20 PM
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Thanks for the responses, everyone. Clearly there are differing opinions about Porto...I'm wondering if those who said they liked it or didn't like it, might be willing to say a little about why.

Also, it turns out we do have just 10 days including travel days, so really only 8 there. Plus no open jaw, so will be leaving from Lisbon. Given that, any advice about how many nights, where?

Also would love to hear if anyone who did a similar trip using only public transport was happy having done so or whether you wished you'd rented a car. MyriamC, did you see the vineyards by train and if so were there good places to get on and off? Tho' Laura, your local references for comparing driving are reassuring and helpful, thank you. Sounds like you and I have some things in common beyond our first names!
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Old Jul 15th, 2016, 12:29 PM
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We spent ten days in Lisbon and then traveled through the country , skipping the Algarve, ending in Porto. We liked Porto a lot, very real, some grit, riverfront setting, historic too, and different from Lisbon.
Day trips from Lisbon: Obidos, Evora
Day trips from Porto: Guimares
The places I recommend as day trips we actually stayed in overnight or longer. Obidos is charming but one of those places that sadly exisits for tourism today.
We stayed in a lot of Pousadas. There is a new one in Porto which I would consider if returning there.we enjoyed our Porto hotel, Infante de Sagres.
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Old Jul 15th, 2016, 12:48 PM
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Additional day trip from Porto: Braga.

Do not miss the port caves south of the river in Porto. My pick is Taylors.
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Old Jul 15th, 2016, 01:14 PM
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yes indeed Laura and I will echo what Thursdaysd said, make sure you do a tour of the port caves in Porto if you are there - that we enjoyed and developed an ongoing port affinity (did a tasting at our hotel which was fun)
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Old Jul 15th, 2016, 01:15 PM
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We always rent a car, so we drove the Douro Valley (and all over Portugal, four years in a row for 3 weeks each).

I like Porto for the same reasons as HappyTrvlr's. A very charming small city.
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Old Jul 16th, 2016, 07:45 AM
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Porto centre is a little dusty, but the main railway station is a mass of blue tiles, the public bus transport system works well and some nice musuems etc. Getting down to the valley bottom is a bit of fun and the wine lodges well worth the visit.

I like it, I dislike the local "white soup" but everything else is fine and the four colours of wine interesting
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Old Jul 16th, 2016, 03:34 PM
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Whathello~when I googled "Lisbon Hello" apartment several options came up. Which one of the many places listed did you stay in and recommend?
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Old Jul 22nd, 2016, 02:54 PM
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Thanks for the additional replies, and sorry for my delayed response...was at a silent meditation retreat this past week with no reading or electronic devices! Am now back at home, have Fodors guide and Rick Steves, and am sure I'll be back with more q's. I appreciate all who took time to reply.
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Old Aug 4th, 2016, 05:29 PM
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Hi everyone,

Am in the thick of planning the details now that our trip is just over a month away. Can anyone tell me if we need to book ahead for a port cave tour in Porto, that many of you recommended we do?

Thanks.
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