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February trip to Portugal

At the beginning stages of planning a 17 day trip (for 2) to Portugal over the last two weeks of February and into early March, flying home before Easter on March 5, 2015. Must fly Delta and am planning on renting a car.
However, I am an artist who has never seen the Prado, although I have been in Spain twice. Therefore, I am considering flying into Madrid, so I can spend one day at the Prado before driving south and then into Portugal. We would then tour Portugal driving from the south, north. We would fly out of Vigo. My thinking on flying out of Vigo is because I think that the car drop off will be easier and our last area of Portugal will probably be Porto. The choice then becomes either Lisbon or Vigo for the open jaw ticket because Delta does not fly from Porto.
My question is a comparison of the pros and cons of these three airports. I would be interested in any other tips, too.

Posted by
13972 posts

If you decide to go to Madrid, you may want to spend more than one day. There are at least two other good art museums, the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen-Bornamizsa. The Prado is seriously huge. You may even want more than one day there alone. If not, be sure to decide in advance what you want to see and which rooms to visit.

What about flying from Madrid to Portugal, then renting a car to tour and flying home from Lisbon?

Posted by
16771 posts

If you have rented a car in Spain, then it's cheaper to drop it in any Spanish city (e.g., Vigo) than in Portugal. But I agree with the suggestion to fly between Madrid and Portugal, then use the car only within that country. For flights within Europe, try a search at www.skyscanner.com. There is also an overnight train from Madrid to Lisbon, but no day train.

Posted by
3 posts

Chani and Laura, thanks so much for your replies. I agree that more than one day is needed to see the art riches of Madrid, but a day and a half is probably all that I can budget; the trip is really supposed to focus on Portugal. We wouldn't pick up a car until we
are ready to leave Madrid, so a night train out of Madrid might just be the thing. I will, however, consider a flight. I wrote because I am in that pre-trip planning stage where I keep thinking that I can shove just one more area into the trip, for example, my boyfriend keeps saying "can't we just take a quick look at Gibraltar, it seems so close".

Posted by
13972 posts

Susan, I so well know the feeling. Do what you can, the rest will be waiting for your next visit!

Try seat61.com to get more information on the night train. Also consider the cheap airlines, Vueling, Ryan Air, Easy Jet.

Posted by
12 posts

I think you should definitely see the Prado, especially if you have an interest in Spanish art (as opposed to just art in general). It's fantastic. Even if you're just in Madrid for a day, try to make it a Monday or Wednesday, because the Reina Sofia is free in the evening, and you can stop by and see Guernica! Across from Guernica, there are photographs showing Picasso's work in progress at varying stages--should be fascinating for an artist! Especially if you think you may not make it back to Madrid since you've already "done" Spain.

Keep in mind that there are huge fees for renting a car in one country and dropping it off in another. We rented a car in Seville (took the train from Madrid) and planned to drop it off in Portugal, but the fees were cost-prohibitive. So just keep that in mind. Also, if you can drive a stick-shift, you can save hundreds.

Will you stop in the Algarve, the southern coast of Portugal? I just got back from there and it was AMAZING. By far the best part of my trip--we flew into Madrid, took train to Granada, took train to Seville, rented car and drove to Algarve. The Algarve was hands-down the favorite. It's so beautiful down there even in the "off" season. I'd consider it before heading to nothern Portugal! Also it's quite tourist-centric (but there are still authentic experiences to be had) so it's a nice transition into Portugal, because everyone speaks English. I plan to go back someday and do Lisbon and other areas in the middle/north of Portugal, but the Algarve was amazing. We also ended up driving back from the Algarve to Seville (to avoid the rental car drop-off fee) and then taking the train back up and flying out of Madrid (we, too, flew Delta but standby, and there are no standby flights out of Lisbon so we had to fly out of Madrid anyway).

This is probably not that helpful in your case but just wanted to share my experiences!

Also, you're wise to avoid over-planning. We had to pack and unpack our suitcases way too many times! Looking back, I would have cut out Granada. Interestingly, we were originally planning to include northern Spain and the south of France, too! I, like your husband, kept saying "But it's all so close!" You're smart to stay focused. You will enjoy these beautiful countries more if you're not always rushing to the next stop.

Good luck!

My husband and I are doing much the same trip in early March. We are flying into Madrid, on Delta, using miles, and it was half as much as flying into Lisbon. We are flying Iberia for only 75.00 per person, round trip, to Lisbon after a few days in Madrid, for a 3 day stay in the city. We left 3 days open to see if we wanted to rent a car and drive south to the Algarve, then will drop it off back at the airport to fly back to Madrid. I think having a rental car in Lisbon is going to be a pain, so we are not renting one until we plan to leave the city. I think parking is a huge problem. But not so in the countryside. The inter-country airline was cheaper than even the train, and takes only 1 hour, so it was definitely my way to go. Have fun!

Posted by
3 posts

Thanks everyone for the conversations on Spain and Portugal. As to be expected, our plans have changed considerably, as in,
become more focused. Although, I do have a Delta AMEx card with considerable points on it, there still were not enough points
to make a difference in flying to Europe, ($75, wow) so we (my boyfriend and I) opted for American, flying in and out of Madrid. Our tickets came to $865 a piece from Ohio. So, I will spend two days seeing the Prado and the Sofia! Then, like Scarlett, we are traveling by train to Seville. There, we will rent a car. The target areas in Spain are Seville, White towns, Gibraltar (him). I am thinking like 5 days. Then off to southern Portugal. Scarlett, thanks so much about your enthusiasm in regard to the Algarve! From reading, it is where I was tentatively, thinking about focusing, but wasn't sure. (I missed your November posting until now.) Lisbon will be last, then
a drive back to Madrid.
We are flying to Madrid on February 25th and returning March 14th, but I am still shaky on all of the other timing and dates. Here are
some questions I am now struggling with: Should we pick up the car when we leave Seville or when we get there?, Should
we spend an overnight in Gibraltar or is there location in the middle of the white village area where we can do day trips out of?
in Lisbon, does anyone know of a great place to stay, just outside of the city, near public transportation, where we can have low cost or free parking?