We are a retired couple planning to travel to Portugal with our two daughters and sons-in-law in July of 2015. We will spend 3/4 days in Lisbon and then on to a cooking school for 5 days. That is located in Cascais and it includes a day trip to Sintra. We would like to add on additional time. Perhaps in Porto or someplace else. Any suggestions for apartments, sights, or restaurants in Lisbon or elsewhere would be welcome. We have successfully used VRBO in the past. Our interests may be somewhat varied as the younger folks may want to hike or swim, whereas we are more drawn to museums. In all cases we do want to enjoy the local color and different culture that is available.
In Lisbon, take the three recommended walks in Rick's guidebook. Also visit the Gulbenkian Museum - small, friendly, interesting and varied collection. Take the tram out to Belem to visit the Monastery of St Jerome, the Belem Tower, Coach Museum and Maritime Museum; pay homage to the statue of Henry the Navigator.
Porto is an interesting city and should appeal to young and old. From here it's easy to drive or take a boat to the Duoro wine area. Plenty to see between Lisbon and Porto - consult Rick's book.
You might want to check Nazare. It's between Lisbon and Porto and on the sea. It is also within driving distance to so many historical sights that you could keep busy for a few days. Among them are Sitio, located just above Nazare; the walled town of Obidos; the monasteries of Alcobaca and Batalha; the Roman ruins of Cunimbriga; the town of Coimbra with one of the oldest universities in Europe; the beautiful town of Tomar with its Convento de Cristo founded by the Knights Templar. In Porto, as was mentioned, you could drive or boat along the Douro. You could also visit the Port wine houses across the river in Vila Nova de Gaia, as well as the historic sights in Porto itself. You didn't say how many days you want to add on but you could spend 3 days in Nazare and 3 days in Porto and experience different areas of Portugal. Whatever you decide you have lots to choose from. Have a great time!
Coimbra and Porto are both delightful. Coimbra Fado is very distinct from Lisbon Fado and worth a visit in its own right.
Evora is a great town with a Roman ruin, great food and hill town charm.
For a great family meal, don't miss the Casa do Alentejo, Rua das Portas de Santo Antão 58 Lisbon.
We spent the first week of June 2011 in Lisbon. Our apartment was in the Alfama, just up the hill from the train station.
Favorites from that visit include Sr. Fado. We liked it better than a fancier place closer to the center of town. Good food and music. They shut the door after dinner and then the music starts. It will only seat about 25 people and they don't play and sing every night, so you will need reservations. I'm sure the whole family will like it.
We enjoyed taking the metro all over town just to see the beautiful tile stations.
I'm a tile nut, so going to the tile museum was a must. Seeing the styles, designs and murals over the ages, as well as the preservation work was fascinating.
When you are in Belem, be sure to go to Pasteis de Belem. Most people look in the doors and think it is small, but it is huge. There are several dining rooms back behind the take out counter. You can even see the pasteis being made.
Fatima is a must for me as many miracles occurred there. I had the chance to go to Lourdes, France as my sister wanted to go and it was one of the highlights of our France trip. So that caught my eye.
Please share the apartment tips and the name of the cooking school. My 2 sisters would love that and I would eat the outcome. The apartment and no car would be my preferred plans as a home base is so perfect. Less is more as you live like a local or try to.
We have not yet settled on any apartments, but have found VRBO to have lots of choices. We do like apartments because they offer more room to spread out, and even though we don't cook a lot on vacation, you can have breakfast there and cook the occasional meal. As for the cooking school, we are looking at The International Kitchen cooking schools. They seem to have places in several countries (two in Portugal).
BTW, Rick Steves always says to travel light. I'd like to refine that and say that weight is not the issue; it's bulk. So my mantra is, "Travel Thin." I always avoid cotton clothing (except socks) and instead use Gore-Tex, nylon, and some of the other synthetics. For example, instead of a sweater I pack a Nike, long sleeve warm-up top. It has a fourth of the volume, all of the fashion, and a good measure of the warmth of a sweater. Choices like this reduce bulk, improve your options for getting your clothes quickly laundered, and reduce weight as well.
We just got back from Lisbon. We basecamped there and then did Sintra and Cascais on day trips. Sintra was amazing and I don't think Rick's description does it justice. I would have loved to have stayed there overnight. We didn't have time to see even close to everything. The forest is beautiful and offers several hiking trails. I had no clue that there were so many hiking trails (with interesting sites along the way) in Sintra. We did take a tuktuk down from the castle. This was a fun experience and the driver was more of a guide vs a taxi cab driver. He took the time to stop at a few viewpoints just to show what is a beautiful area it is. Restaurants were awesome and there was some good shopping as well.