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12 Nights in Portugal for first timers

I've read so much great advice from all you experienced travellers and have done a lot of research already and have a few questions...
1. We hope for warmer weather, will it make a difference between 1st of April or 1st of May?
2. We are looking at spending time in Lisbon and Porto, does it make a difference if we fly into Porto and out of Lisbon or vise versa, or a round trip flight in and out of Lisbon?

I know R.S says to start with the quieter location first and move toward the busier one next.

3. For locations of where to stay, we prefer to be off the beaten path, but walking distance to good restaurants and cafe's. For example in Italy last year we went to the Amalfi Coast for 5 nights and stayed in Praiano instead of Positano and were so grateful for the local vibe instead of the tourist towns and souviner shops.
I've read that Campo de Ourique is more laid back, less touristy. Also, Principe Real.
4. Hotel or apartment recommendations would be helpful.
Thank you all,

Posted by
4749 posts

May is on average warmer and drier than April plus early April means school holidays for most of Europe, so places will be busier.

You will waste half a day travelling back to Lisbon for a round trip, but cost maybe a factor.

Posted by
5297 posts

For us it is just cheaper and as easy to do round trip to Lisbon. We will spend the first night in Lisbon to recover from the flight, then spend just over a week traveling around, several nights in Porto, train to Lisbon, a few nights, then fly home.

One factor for us is that the Lisbon flight is direct to/from the US, from Porto required a stop in Europe. So arriving early the first day and being able to leave late the last day, more than makes up any "lost time" (several hours) getting back to Lisbon. Figured that flying out of Porto would still require a flight and a transfer in Europe...roughly the same as a train to Lisbon.

Posted by
2131 posts

You don't mention where in US you are flying from- United has direct flights from Newark- EWR to /from Lisbon and Porto. We are flying in to Lisbon then going right to Sintra. Lisbon next then after 2 weeks touring with a car and will end up in Porto- where we will fly home from- direct.
We got a pretty good deal on flights- 600 RT each.

Posted by
36 posts

I forgot to mention we are flying in from Toronto Canada. There are no direct flights in/our of Porto and it's about $230 more to openjaw.

Posted by
2131 posts

Well- in that case you might consider going to Sintra on arrival- if a visit there is in your plans? Easy to get to from airport- spend 2 nights seeing the sights, getting over jet lag then head to Porto and work your way back to Lisbon.
Hard to say anymore without knowing where besides Lisbon and Porto you want to visit.

Posted by
36 posts

Thanks Christine,
What's the easiest way to get from Lisbon airport to Sintra? Uber, taxi, train? We weren't planning on renting a car, it sounds fairly easy to get around. You ask about where else we wanted to go. I really wanted to go to the Algarve, but the advice from reading other posts would be to stick with Lisbon and Porto with only 12 nights. I do love the water and read some about the small towns along the water on the way up to Porto. Any suggestions on a possible itinerary to include some of those local vibe seaside spots? We don't like to go go go on vacay, prefer to stay for at least 4 nights minimum per place.
Thanks again

Posted by
2131 posts

No first hand experience yet but others here can help with that. (We will be there May 2020)
We will do either taxi, uber or a car service- from my research all are about same price 30-35 euros. Train means a transfer in Lisbon then a hike or cab to your lodgings in Sintra.

As for the Algarve or a "water" place- I hear you! I thought we would do both some of Spain and Portugal until I started researching Portugal. There is so much there we are spending the entire 24 nights and saving Spain for another trip!

Algarve- we debated this for weeks- and even still considered it again just this am- but in the end decided against - just seems like a long drive for nothing more than a touristy resort town with lovely scenery. So we will skip.
We are staying in Sao Martinho do Porto from where we can day trip to Obidos, Alcobabca, Caldas da Rainha, Nazare etc. (We will have a car)
Nazare is included in RS itineraries but doesn't get very high marks from anyone here so we opted to NOT stay there and just visit for a few hours.
I believe there is bus service to both Nazare and S Marthinho- no train.

Another option is Aveiro. We are including this town on our itinerary- not sure if we will stay 1 night or 2- it is easy to get to from Porto, Coimbra and even Lisbon- all direct trains.

Cascais is another option close to Lisbon and Sintra- easy day trip
There is a poster here that lives in Cascais now- hopefully she will pop in and give you more informed advice :)

With 12 nights, RT Lisbon and a desire to spend time on the water you might consider something like this, although could be more moving than you like:
Sintra 2
Porto 4
Aveiro 2
Lisbon 4

Posted by
288 posts

You could consider not doing Porto on this trip. Instead you could see Lisbon, Sintra, Cascais, and the go up to the Alentejo and see Evora and some of the other little towns there such as Vila Vicosa. Some people stay in Cascais ( by the beach) and train in to Lisbon. That might be a quieter option for you, and you would get to be by the sea.

We stayed for 2 nights in Sintra and were glad we did, but it is not quiet during the day. The advantage I think of Sintra is the number of sites, but they are also very busy, particularly the Pena palace. However staying there gave us the advantage of walking the area more, and seeing it once daytrippers left. We ate both nights in the next town Sao Pedro, which we could walk to.
The Alentejo has not been hit by as many tourists yet. It also has wineries if you are interested, but is not as well known as the Douro. Evora has the most sites, but the other towns near by are worth driving too and walking around. We picked up a car in Sintra, then stayed at Obidos for our last night ( again very crowded in the day) and dropped our car at the airport.

Posted by
14326 posts

Easter is April 12, so going at the beginning of April will put you there for Holy Week - which may be interesting and/or may be packed with tourists. If cost is a factor, check the difference in rates between late April and early May. In some places (maybe not Portugal), rates go up on May 1. One of our forum regulars, Kathryn, lives in Cascais and will probably come along soon enough with practical information on crowds and weather . . . and other valuable insights.

It's easy to do a loop from Lisbon. In that case, I'd recommend going to Sintra or Cascais for your first 2 nights, then plan a route north to Porto and back to Lisbon for your last nights there.

Taxis aren't expensive in Portugal. Uber is easy to use too and less money. Taking either from the airport to Sintra or Cascais is well worth the price, though it could be more expensive if you hit rush hour traffic. You will need to know the pick-up area at the airport for Uber.

Posted by
1010 posts

I would go for May over April. As someone stated, Easter is very busy with lots of other Europeans - mostly Spaniards - visiting on the school Easter break. And, it’s warmer and somewhat sunnier - theoretically.
Campo do Ourique is much calmer than other areas in Lisbon. I stayed there a month when I first moved and it was great for me. Not a tourist quiosque in sight, a family feel, but lots of restaurants and a decent size grocery store - if you stay in an apartment. It’s at the end of the 28 tram but no metro stop other than Rato, which is at the edge of the area. There are buses but I didn’t use them when I was there. I can’t speak to Príncipe Real other than during the day. It may be closer to some of the action.

On my scouting trip here, I flew into Porto and out of Lisbon and was glad I did. That said, there is now an express bus from Cascais and Sintra to Porto - making it quite easy to travel north from these two towns. And, the train is very easy and inexpensive. It just takes a good portion of one day to make the trip, no matter how you travel.

There are many apartment rentals in both Porto and Lisbon. I much prefer apartments to hotels if I’m spending more than a night or two. If you find some you like in Lisbon (and, to a lesser extent in Porto), I’m happy to give an opinion on locations.

Posted by
36 posts

Thanks for the heads up about Easter Kathryn, May sounds best. We could fly into Porto and out of Lisbon for $230 instead of RT to Lisbon. Do you think that would be worth it for saving time getting back down to Lisbon?
Where would you suggest we make our bases? Maybe 4 nights in each? We prefer to stay a bit longer in one spot then move around for 2 nights here and there. We love the seaside villages. We have points to use for hotels/apartments through Expedia for our trip, could recommend any areas as well?

Posted by
47 posts

Also making a first trip to Portugal, May, 2020.

I arrive to Lisbon on a Tuesday, then on to Porto the following Sunday via train. Porto to AMS the following Friday and overnight (an AMS hotel) with return home Saturday. So, four full days in Lisbon (Tuesday being 'recovery' day), and 4.5 days in Porto.

Day trips to Evora (includes megaliths), and Coimbra with guided walking tour; other day trips in the planning stage.

As an aside, my return flights 'rationale' being to avoid a 5:00 AM flight to AMS and then on to home the same day, and was quite willing to spend the additional airfare; however, the one night's lodging at Schiphol ends up costing roughly double the normal rate... due in part to the bloody Eurovision in Rotterdam?

Posted by
1010 posts

It’s really your call on the flights. You can definitely make the trip back to Lisbon for significantly less than €200. Round trip on the train was €24 the last time I made a trip to Porto (almost two years ago), if you purchase tickets ahead of time.
Regarding small towns outside the big ones. Outside of Porto is Espinho. It’s maybe 15 minutes by train and has a lovely, very large beach. I haven’t stopped there but have friends who moved there and they love it. If you want to stay closer to Porto, Gaia (the other side of the Douro) would be quieter than Porto itself. And, the views back over to Porto are wonderful.
For towns outside of Lisbon, there are a number on the commuter train line to Cascais that might be nice. Carcavelos has a very large beach and has some cute areas. There is a new university there, so lots of new things going up. Of course, Estoril and Cascais are both much smaller than Lisbon with easy train access to Lisbon. Sorry, but I don’t know what’s available through Expedia but, again, am happy to give you feedback on locations if you find things you like.

Posted by
14 posts


We just came back from Portugal. We flew in and out of Lisbon. First we took Uber to Sintra (Euro 25 from airport) spent 2 nights there. First day was just walking around the old town and getting over the 20+ hour journey from Singapore!

Next morning we took Uber to Pena Palace and our driver proposed a full day sight seeing tour which included Regeleria Palace, Cabo da Roca and Cascais plus recommended a really great restaurant, 3 Gomes for lunch!

From Sintra, we took the new express bus to Porto for 4 nights. Porto is my favourite!

Thereafter we took the AP train (1st class was Euro 75 for 2A & 1C) to Lisbon for 6 nights. Stayed near Marquês de Pombal. We walked to most places and Uber a lot. It was fast, reliable and inexpensive.

Posted by
60 posts

A little late, but you can fly AirTransit direct from Toronto to Porto, no extra. We just returned last week; flew Toronto to Lisbon, return Porto to Toronto, $550 usd when you included a checked bag.

Posted by
56 posts

April is part of the rainy season -" Em Abril aguas mil" - roughly translates to " In April a thousand waters". Of course weather patterns are changing.
The further south you go the warmer the water, unless if you find a shallow water beach.
The entire coast of Portugal is the Atlantic ocean, North of Lisbon the water is cold and the can be very rough (I.E. Nazare has the highest waves in the world).
If traveling by public transport between Lisbon / Porto you can use the bullet train, its called "Alfa Pendular".
It's about 44 euros per person each way
From Lisbon to Sintra if using public transport you have 2 option ( outside of taxis) ;
A - take train from Lisbon at "Rossio" station directly to Sintra
B - take train from Lisbon at " Cais do Sodre" station to Cascais and then take a bus from Scotturb to Sintra
Travel adds to life

Posted by
36 posts

A few more questions about accommodation recommendations please.
Thanks Everyone for your wise advice. We have changed our plans to accommodate some of your suggestions. Our work schedule permits that we need to go the first 2 weeks of April now. So regardless of the "rainy season" Easter, Portugal here we come!
We have 12 nights in Portugal. We are flying RT to Lisbon.
Arrive Lisbon, Uber to Sintra.
3 nights in Sintra to get over jet lag.

3 nights in Lisbon at the end of our trip.
Rent a car to travel along the Silver Coast. We want to be along the water for these 6 nights before heading to Lisbon.
Places of interested are Cacais, Peniche, Sao Martinho do Porto.
Looking for suggestions for apartments or hotels in theses areas.

Posted by
2131 posts

I found (and booked) a very nice apartment in Sao Martinho do Porto on
You could actually base there and easily visit all the Silver coast sights (other than Cascais- see that as you leave Sintra I think or as you return to Lisbon)

Aveiro about 2 hours north, Nazare, Alcobabca, Batalha, Obidos, Caldas da Rainha are all very close to Sao Martinho

Posted by
36 posts

I've narrowed down our itinerary as follows I still need help with a good location and hotel on the Silver Coast. I was looking at Sao do Martinho, but I really don't love gold sand, I know it sounds terrible... Is there another option you could recommend? Peniche, Foz?
Also, looking for hotel in Lisbon. Leaning toward the Chiado area... Lot's of people on this forum like Residencial Florenscente, do you have any others?
Fly into Porto, stay 4 nights at Inpatio Guesthouse
Rent a car and stay somewhere on the Silver coast for 6 nights???
Head to Lisbon for 4 nights.
Keep the suggestions coming, I really appreciate all your input so far.