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Portugal or Germany in May

Hello all you wonderful travel advisors! We are looking at a 3-4 week holiday in May and can’t decide between Portugal or Germany. We were in Lisbon last March for eight days, travelling to Tomar, Obidos, Sintra and little stops along the way as well as exploring enough of Lisbon. We would fly into Lisbon again, but only spend a night or two then travel north through Coimbra eventually ending up in Porto and the Douro Valley for the biggest chunk of time. On the return to Lisbon, head inland to the national park, Evora and anywhere else that is recommended. Not sure if we would bother with the Algarve, we have mixed reports from friends who have spent time there.
Alternatively, we have always wanted to visit Germany. Looking at Bavaria, the Rhine region, Hamburg (because our exchange student we had three years ago is from Hamburg), the Romantic Road region - haven’t come up with a solid itinerary except looked at maps from tour operators’ sights. We would train or rent a car. My husband has driven everywhere we have travelled, Portugal, all over the UK, Australia, Spain, so is comfortable doing so. We both love natural scenery, historic sights and beautiful architecture, pretty villages and towns. We love to walk and explore anywhere we end up on foot and have been known to get lost in towns! This is the most fun we have ever had.

Thanks in advance for your advice.

Posted by
2613 posts

This is like choosing either vanilla or chocolate ice cream, both are great.

I lived in Augsburg, Germany for four years, working for the US Army and have traveled extensively in Europe, including Portugal and Germany. The weather is nice in both places in May, but obviously warmer in Portugal.

You have been to Portugal and this time want to visit Porto.
We did a Douro River cruise for a week in 2016 that was wonderful. Also, we spend extra nights in Porto. The best B&B ever, In Patio Guesthouse is there and I highly, highly recommend it. It is not expensive, in a great location with wonderful breakfasts and owners. It only has five rooms so book early. We also did a day trip to Santiago de Compostela, that was great. The Algarve is for beach goers and you can find better beaches in Florida or the Caribbean. Evora is worth a day trip.

If you decided to go to Germany, definitely do the Romantic Road, it starts in Wurzburg, runs through don't miss, Rothenburg on the Tauber and other quaint medieval cities, virtually undamaged during WWII, down to Augsburg, Oberamergau and Garmisch. There are tours available, but you could rent a car and do it easily, since much of the road is not close to congested large cities. Also, spend some days in Munich (day trip to Berchtesgaden and Salzburg, Austria).

I know you want to go to Hamburg, which has stuff to see. We have been there as well, but it pales compared to the Rhineland and Bavaria. Places to see in the Rhineland of interest would be Heidelberg, the wine area were you take a short river tour past the Lorelei. Mainz and Trier (near Luxembourg), also visit Viaden, Lux.
Cologne is great for a day to see the cathedral.

Posted by
7217 posts

Rather than the over-touristed and over-hyped Romantic Road, try the Half-Timbered route that goes all through Germany.

There are dozens of other routes to choose from too, the Castle Road, the Wine Road, the Fairy Tale Road, etc.

Why not ask your exchange student for some ideas for Hamburg and surrounding areas? They probably have some great ideas of places to see up north. Perhaps towns like Lübeck or Quedlinberg and of course Berlin and Potsdam as well as Hamburg. Heading south a bit, you could visit Dresden or Leipzig.

Posted by
2613 posts

Geeze, the Romantic Road has a lot of tourists because it is awesome. You won't find anything in Northern Germany that compares to entire walled medieval towns. One city is built in a meteor crater with the walls on the edge of the crater.

Posted by
3962 posts

I've been to Germany several times and much prefer the middle Rhine region over Bavaria. But there's plenty to see and do wherever you go.

Posted by
83 posts

Thanks everyone for the advice. Our exchange student was the first person who spoke of The Romantic Road - said how beautiful it is, the history, etc. She downplayed Bavaria, well really because she is from the North! She readily admitted that! Her favourite city in Germany is Berlin. Lubeck has been on our radar since 2012 when we took a Baltic cruise and spent the day in Rostock and Warnemunde. I had looked at the time constraints taking a train to Lubeck and there just wasn’t the time to give it justice given the short time in port. I have also seen photos and read about the half timbered buildings. We travelled for a month through the UK so are lovers of the half timbered buildings. We have seen all the Germany RS programs, the Upper Middle Rhine has always drawn us.

We only have four weeks max, so really it boils down to is that enough time to give Germany enough time? Or would it be more sensible knocking off the other areas of Portugal we want to see? Hubby retires in two years and we could give Germany more exploration time if you posters feel four weeks would just be grazing the surface.

Posted by
11348 posts


If you spend all four weeks in North Germany, that is a sufficient overview. I agree with the exchange student in "downplaying Bavaria."

Focus on going to Hamburg (maybe the first post-retirement trip?), Berlin, Lübeck, Lüneburg, Kiel and its immediate area, Cuxhaven,

Stralsund, Eutin/Holstein, Schleswig, Ludwigslust, Schwerin...just some of the towns/cities to choose from in the North and north east.

Posted by
83 posts

Thanks for all your replies. We have decided to devote our 24 days to exploring what we haven’t already seen in Portugal and leave Germany for a more extended holiday when hubby retires. Happy travels!