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Porto? Is it worthwhile visiting on our first trip to Portugal?

We are two couples in mid 60"s, like art, food, historic sites, wine, some of us are fit to hike. We currently, plan upon arrival in Lisbon to spend 4 nights in Lisbon, a day trip to Sintra, neighborhoods another day, etc. Rent a car and go south to drive along the Algarve region to Tavira. Is it advisable to drive in one day from Lisbon to Tavira? Spend a night in Tavira, and the next morning to to Seville for two nights, return to Portugal and stay in Evora for two to three nights, on to Coimbra via Nazare. Then the question is to go on to Porto? Or return to Lisbon?

Thanks,
Shari

Posted by
3345 posts

Do you also like Port? Then I would say yes.

You could choose a visit to any of the numerous port houses, just a short walk on the pedestrian bridge, across the river from Porto in Vila Nova de Gaia. Some, such as Cockburn's, have tours, in addition to tastings.

Perhaps you'd also like to take a train or boat into the Douro valley to sample port at one of the many Quintas.

Do you like tile artwork? Then I would say yes.
Such as on the inside and outside of churches, cathedrals and train stations? Sao Bento train station is a magnificent work of tile art. On a smaller scale, so is Pinhão train station, which you can reach via regional train in just over 2 hours, which I did as a day trip. Walking distance from the train station is Quinta do Bomfim; others are reachable via car, taxi, boat or tour.

Assuming your time in Porto would be additional days, beyond those described in your post, then I would say yes, absolutely!

Posted by
2149 posts

Personally, I wouldn’t go to Portugal and skip Porto if you have the time. It’s an awesome city in a lovely setting, great food and wine and a fun overall vibe. I enjoyed Lisbon, Évora and some of the other places you mention but for me, Porto was just a special experience. Have a wonderful trip!

Posted by
5019 posts

Shari,

What time of year is your proposed trip?

Spend a night in Tavira, and the next morning to to Seville for two nights,

This sounds like quite a bit of time you’d spend on the road instead of actually enjoying your destination. Seville is a beautiful city and it deserves more than 2 nights.
Keep in mind that 2 nights means that you’ll only have one full day in Seville.
I’d strongly recommend that you consider saving Seville for another l trip when you can spend more time in beautiful Andalucía and explore other great cities such as Córdoba, Granada, Ronda, etc…

If you skip the Algarve and Sevilla, you could add those days to Portugal, and I’d definitely add Porto to your itinerary.
Depending on your time frame, you could also do some day trips from Porto such as Guimarães, Douro Valley, etc, etc.

If you plan to rent a car consider also going to Tomar on your route to Coimbra.

Wishing you a wonderful trip!

Edited to add…
Instead of taking a day trip to Sintra, consider spending a few nights there in order to have enough time to see all the wonderful sights that can’t be experienced in one day.

Will you be flying round trip to Lisbon? If so then plan your days in Lisbon at the end of your trip, or to avoid backtracking, consider flying home from Porto.

Posted by
6113 posts

It’s perfectly feasible to drive from Lisbon to Tavira using the fast but rather dull toll roads - it will take half a day. The more interesting routes will take all day. You aren’t going to have much time to see much in Tavira if you only have one night there.

Likewise, Tavira to Seville is 2+ hours. There’s easily enough to fill 3 full days in Seville, but you only have one full day before another half day drive back to Evora. This part of your trip sounds more like a box ticking exercise than a pleasant paced trip!

If you have time, Porto is certainly worth a couple of days - personally I would focus on this rather than the dash to Seville that you have planned.

I am not a Nazare fan - there are better resorts IMO. Coimbra is worth a couple of nights.

Posted by
107 posts

I’d not bother with Tavira or Seville as it’s just so much travelling. The Algarve is lovely and great for summer holidays but I wouldn’t head there for the sightseeing. Porto is well worth visiting. The north of Portugal is incredibly friendly and welcoming to visitors and almost everyone speaks good English. There’s so much to see that’s there’s no need to waste so much time driving.

Posted by
8926 posts

Definitely visit Porto! Two nights in Sevilla will be a blur. Save Sevilla for when you have five days for it and include other special towns/ cities in Andalusia, Cordoba and Granada, then.
Porto and the area north and east of it are wonderful to visit.

Posted by
47 posts

We are in same age and have similar interests as you. We just came back from 5 wonderful weeks in Portugal and southern Spain. I would vote for Porto with both hands (and feet if I can).

Posted by
579 posts

Based on your interests, and considering the time it takes to get to the Algarve, which really wouldn’t match your interests, it would be a real shame to visit Portugal and skip Porto. So much so that I would omit the Algarve entirely and leave Spain for another time. Porto is unique and completely different from Lisbon and the rest of Portugal for that matter. Even if you don’t like port, visiting the port houses (at least one) would give you an opportunity to explore a drink and an industry that put Portugal on the map a long time ago. The Bolsa, the Ribeira, beautiful azulejo covered sites like San Bento, unique churches, great food, and just the workaday atmosphere make it worth at least a couple days.

I agree with Helen. You don't want to spend all your time in a car. Honestly, I would skip the Algarve completely and even Seville, and go to Porto instead. Inland, you could go to Evora and Castelo de Vide (much less touristy than nearby Marvao). Seville is lovely, but not nearly as enchanting as Porto.

Posted by
15330 posts

I would skip Sevilla (Spain deserves it's own trip. Instead consider exploring the hill towns in the east and then along the Douro to Porto.

Posted by
14 posts

Porto is a fascinating city, and don't overlook the interesting day trips. Smaller historic towns are easily accessible by local train out of the central train station - a tourist site itself. You can be in Guimaraes or Braga in an hour, walk around, see the sights, eat a great lunch, and be back in Porto for dinner.

Posted by
5 posts

Wow! Thank you everyone for the excellent reply and recommendations. So Porto it is! And I can't wait! We are going in mid May 2023 for two weeks.

Has anyone been to Tomar? Knights of Templar or Schist Villages outside of Coimbra? Hard to tell if they are worth the trip, Rick Steves books doesn't say much.
Thanks again for the suggestions

Shari

Posted by
15330 posts

I stayed in Tomar for 3 nights with a car. I chose it as a good base to see sights within 1.5 hours driving and it was very good for that. I didn't find the town very interesting - no major sights, the historic center is not really charming, the monastery is the least interesting/attractive of the roughly half dozen I visited in Portugal. I did have a very fun and tasty dinner at a medieval restaurant.

Posted by
39 posts

We LOVED Porto! Even with the rain, which was manageable! I would avoid the Livaria Lello "bookstore" - a definite tourist trap. We skipped the port houses and chose to go to an incredible Quinta/family winery in the Douro valley.