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30 Days: Malaga, Spain to Porto, Portugal - First time

I have read through Forum, and done much research via travel guides and social media. I am ready to start booking flight and hotels, but was hoping I could get first get comments on my final draft.

I am 60, female, and will be traveling solo. I have traveled solo numerous times, mostly in US, but also in Sweden, Italy, and Ireland. I will use public transportation (preferring trains over buses), my own two feet (I can comfortably walk 6+ miles a day), and will hire a private driver or join a small tour if normal transportation means are not efficient. I love art/art museums, churches, architectural sights, historical sights, the sea/ocean/rivers. I am a foodie (particularly with respect to fish, seafood, and fresh vege's), and I have a wine cellar that I like to keep stocked. I would call my budget moderate. I prefer slow travel, using a base for several days, then taking side trips. I plan to do another trip to Spain in 2021 (Madrid, Valencia, Barcelona, Pyrenees, San Sebastian). For this trip, which will start February 10, 2020 (coming in after family event in Caribbean, so no flexibility on date), I am targeting the following cities. Any and all comments are very welcome! Thanks. (p.s. I understand that two destinations are in southern Spain - I just wanted to keep Topic whole.)

  • 5 days: Malaga, Spain: Picasso Museum; other art museums; Flamenco Museum and Show; Old Town; Castle Gilbralfara; Alcazaba Castle; Botanical Gardens

  • 4 days: Seville, Spain: Real Alcazar; Plaza de Espana (tilework); Barrio Santa Cruz; Barrio Triana; Olive Oil tour; Seville Cathedral; Day trip to Cadiz?

  • 4 days: Faro, Portugal: Day trip to Sagres; beaches; Old Town

  • 7 days: Lisbon, Portugal: River Cruise (Rio Tejo); National Azulejo Museum; Principe Real for shopping; Castelo de Sao Jorge; Lisbon Cathedral; City walk to explore Chiado, Baixa and three main squares; Cathedral Se; Time Out Market; Carcavoles Beach; Day trip to Sinta; Day trip to Evora; Statue of Christ; Palacio dos Marqueses de Fronteira; Alfama district; Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, Convento das Trinas; Belem, MAAT

  • 2 days: Coimbra, Portugal: Explore Coimbra; day trip to Tomar or Fatima?

  • 7 days: Porto, Portugal: Stroll Ribiera; Fado Museum; Central Comercial La Vie; Livaria Lello & Irmoa; Gaia - Cantinho das Aromaticas; Port tastings; Day trip to Barcelos for market; Day trip to Duoro Valley - cruise down, boat back; promenade to Matosinhos - Fish Market; Leca swimming/tidal pools (probably closed, but would like to see even if from distance); Soares dos Reis Museum; Shopping on Rua Fabrica (Mercado Na Invicta)

I am so excited! If you think some things are really not all that interesting, or if I missed anything big, please let me know! Thanks, again.

Posted by
3490 posts

Three full days is a decent time to explore Seville. Either Cadiz or Jerez would make a good day trip from Seville.

I wouldn’t opt to stay in Faro. The old town can be seen in a couple of hours and the rest of the city is unremarkable. I would stay in Tavira, which has far more character. Sagres is a long day trip from either place by public transport and is likely to be miserable at that time of year. It’s also unlikely to be beach weather. I have been a few times in late March and only managed a little beach time. It certainly won’t be beachable further north.

Posted by
14879 posts

I think you are significantly shorting Seville on time by comparison to Malaga and Porto. I believe you'll find a great deal more in Seville.

And where is Cordoba? I'd choose it over Cadiz without any hesitancy whatsoever. If you must, you can make Cordoba a day-trip from Seville, but you'll want as many hours as you can manage for that day-trip. The smaller town of Carmona is also nice.

I'd be tempted to shift all the Algarve time to Seville if you can't free up time any other way. For that matter, the Algarve rather than Granada is not the choice I would make.

Posted by
5001 posts

Cordoba is a must see! Easy by train as a day trip or on the way to Madrid or Sevilla. I like Cadiz but Córdoba is much more important to visit.
And in Lisbon you have haven’t planned to spend any time in the Belem district to visit( a must see) the Jeronimos Monastery ( Vancouver da Gama is entombed here) , Belem Tower and the Monument to the Discoveries( remember the explorers you learned about in elementary school? This is where they departed, returned ).
Coimbra- visit the historic university library, book ahead if able.

Posted by
40 posts

Hi, Jennifer. Thanks for your response. Jarez looks interesting. Will look to do more research on that, and Cadiz. Will also do more research on the Algarve. I do want to explore the area, but am not at all interested in resorts, golf courses, etc. I did have Tavira on my radar at one time, but it seemed to be remote, and in the off season even more so? Venture to Sagres might be a time when I hire a private guide. To note: I spent 4 years in Duluth, Minnesota, on Lake Superior. Swam in waters that were 46F/7C. Ditto Cape Cod. OK, swimming was not a regular occurrence, but I do appreciate strolling on beaches with fierce winds blowing. Toughens the soul.

ACRaven, what was I thinking? Yes, Cordova needs to get into the mix. Huge miss on my end - thanks for catching! My sister, too, is chastising me (she is the oldest) for not including Granada. So glad I posted here before finalizing plans! I don't have flexibility on front end, but could possibly add a couple more days.

Suki, thanks for responding. I know this post was super long, but I do have Belem included in Lisbon iten, and I checked and also have Jeronimos Monastery on my spreadsheet, but didn't include in post. Thanks for confirming these are must sees! And thanks for tip on Coimbra University Library. I haven't dug too deeply yet into sights in that town.

Posted by
339 posts

When you say days, do you mean days or nights? For example, are you spending 5 full days in Malaga (you would then need 6 nights) or are you spending 5 nights in Malaga?

I recommend spending 2 nights in Cordoba and 2 nights in Granada. There is more to Cordoba than the amazing Mezquita. And you really do need 2 nights to see the Alhambra properly, with a little bit of time remaining to see other sites in Granada, such as the Cathedral. While we loved Malaga, I don't think you need 5 days there, so you could take a few days from Malaga to spend in Granada, and perhaps take a few days from Lisbon to spend in Cordoba. We had 5 nights in Lisbon, and that included a day trip to Sintra. We did not go to Evora. I would skip Evora in order to spend a few nights in Cordoba and Granada, if necessary. We had 4 nights/3 full days in Seville, which was perfect for us, but that did not include any day trips since we stayed 2 nights in Cordoba.

I have not been to Faro, Coimbra, or Porto, so can't offer help there.

Posted by
3490 posts

Tavira isn’t dead in February as Sagres will be. I wouldn’t head to Sagres in February - I would spend this time in Spain.

Posted by
123 posts

Somehow you are missing Granda and the Alhambra! As well as Córdoba with its amazing Mezquita. You definitely need to see these. Cutting out a bit of time from Malaga and Porto perhaps. Also while in Malaga, try to visit Ronda at least for a day. Happy travels!

Posted by
3346 posts

I would spend more time in Seville than Malaga.

In Porto, I strongly recommend the InPatio Guesthouse. It is the very best B&B ever. Book early, only five rooms.

Posted by
40 posts

Again, thank you all so much for your comments and feedback! I really do appreciate it. I see several of you have encouraged me to skip the Algarve. I should explain that I paint landscapes, mostly water, as a hobby in my golden years. I am much inspired by angry clouds, crashing waves, and driving rain along rocky coastlines. One of my favorite trips was being caught in a Nor'easter on Cape Cod- I got some spectacular photos to paint at a later date. So, yes, I am keeping the Algarve on my itenary, hoping for blustery weather when I go to Ponte de Piedade! :)

Here's what my final draft looks like now:

  • Malaga, Spain: 4 days

  • Granada, Spain: 3 days

  • Seville, Spain: 4 days, with day trip to Cordoba

  • Tavira, Portugal: 3 days, with one day at Ponta da Piedade (will probably hire private driver)

  • Lisbon, Portugal: 7 days, with one day in Sintra, and one day in Evora

  • Coimbra, Portugal: 3 days, with one day in Tomar and Fatima

  • Porto, Portugal: 7 days, with one, maybe two days in the Duoro valley

Any final comments? Thank! -Mary

Posted by
14879 posts

OK, I understand about the Algarve.

But I still think you have (comparatively) too little time in Seville and too much in Porto. Porto is barely more than 1/10 the size of Seville. Four nights somewhere is just 3 full days and a few hours. There's just so much to see in Seville, and the trip to Cordoba will take all day, leaving just two days for Seville. As a matter of fact, Cordoba's actually worth two full days, if not more.

Posted by
40 posts

Pardon, but I forgot to add one question I have. Is the open air market on Thurdays in Barcelos a worthwhile day trip? I adore markets, but not sure if this is going in early March. I see public transportation is scarce - only 1 or two trains a day - so this would probably be an all day journey. Thanks!

Posted by
40 posts

Thanks for your feedback, acraven!

For the Seville leg, I expect to arrive at noon on Tuesday, so will have rest of that day, all day Wednesday, Thursday will be day trip, will have all day Friday, and half day Saturday. Perhaps I'll grab a day from Lisbon.

I'm allowing longer in Porto for two reasons. One, it will be the fifth week of travel (I am spending a week in Jamaica before this for family wedding), and in previous travel experiences I find myself slowing down after a month of travel. Two, I want to take some leisure time to sketch, hopefully in Gaia, the Duoro Valley, and Matosinhos. Really want to do a full week here.

Thanks again!

Posted by
14879 posts

Good point about the late-in-trip position of Porto, and I imagine there are very good landscape-sketching opportunities in that area.

I've been to the Barcelos market twice and thought it was worth the trip, but that was decades ago and probably in June. We have a few people on the forum who either live in Portugal or travel there frequently; I hope one of them can comment on the market during the off-season.

Since you like markets: There's a major flea market in Seville, one of the best such markets I've encountered in a city (as opposed to a hard-to-reach fairground or the like). I think it's on Calle de la Feria on Thursday mornings. Please verify the day and location via the Internet. That street has a produce market at other times. I went to the market in April; I believe it's year-round.

Posted by
40 posts

Once again, thanks acraven! I did some searches, and there is no indication the market on Calle de la Feria stops during the off season. I will definitely swing through there. I have a rather loose collection of antique perfume bottles - perhaps I will find one to add to my collection. oh, and I don't like markets, I LOVE markets. Like the late great Anthony Bourdain, I feel the true character of a place comes out at the markets. -Mary

Posted by
106 posts

I have traveled to all of the places you mention. I suggest that you drop the Algarve (Faro and Sagres), add a day to Seville (including a day trip to Cordoba), and add the other days to Lisbon. I recommend an internet search for museums in the Lisbon area, there are more than 100 listed on the TA site. You have mentioned a few in you first post, but there are many more worth a visit. In my opinion, the average quality of Portuguese museums is exceptionally high.
There are many good beaches in the Lisbon area. You want moody walks on stormy beaches, Guincho (about 6km west of Cascais) will do nicely.

Posted by
20 posts

There is a glass/crystal museum in Malaga....It was wonderful....and unique...and not to be missed...I loved Malaga and the weather was great...
Porto was so worth it...regardless of the weather...great place for a food tour...it was really good...

Posted by
14879 posts

I loved the glass museum in Malaga. Visits are by guided tour only, and I wished for more time. If I had known how rushed I would feel, I'd have planned to go twice.