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Recommendations? Barcelona - San Sebastien - Lisbon-Coimbra-Porto-Barcelona

6 of us will be using Barcelona as our point of entry/exit. The plan is to arrive mid march and stay 15 days. We want to go to San Sebastian and spend about 3 days in that region, then head to Portugal (Lisbon, Porto, Coimbra) for the next 12 days or so and maybe add the Azores. Does this sound like a good plan? We LOVED Spain - so much to do w/out even needing to walk into a museum, my only worry is that Portugal may have less to see. We are open to other itineraries, or flying home from the Azores via London back to San Francisco if that is a better route. I also need advice on the best way to get from city to city? Is driving a good option because there are 6 of us, or are the distances too long and the parking and traffic too difficult? Thanks all!

Posted by
4741 posts

Why have you picked these places? You don’t mention spending any time in Barcelona. You would be better flying open jaw to avoid back tracking or flying into Lisbon and sticking to Portugal.

Barcelona to San Sebastián is 8+ hours door to door by public transport. San Sebastián to Porto - a drive of 8 hours and no direct public transport options.

Generally, Spain and Portugal are not well linked by public transport. Six people will mean hiring 2 cars and a car is hassle in Porto and Lisbon. Consider flying from Bilbao to Lisbon.

You don’t have time for the Azores IMO.

You need to look at and plot your itinerary.

Posted by
2125 posts

6 of us will be using Barcelona as our point of entry/exit.

Why Barcelona? Thats doesn't seem to make any sense at all.

Posted by
4961 posts

In October 2013, we had 3 days in San Sebastián (“Donostia” to residents), as part of a trip that also included Bilbao, Barcelona, and Madrid. The underground parking garage was €20 a day (back then), although farther from the center, there were less costly lots, but those involved much more walking. Maybe splitting the cost among 6 people, €20 is a bargain. Would a minivan hold all of you, plus luggage? One very rainy day, we spent a good part of it in the San Sebastián Aquarium - very nice.

Eleven years earlier, we flew to Lisbon from Spain (Vueling Air), and after we were ready to depart Lisbon, rented a car (3 of us), and headed west to Sintra, then north as far as Obidos, then over to Evora, in the heart of cork tree country. We didn’t make it up to Porto, and only had about a week in Portugal, but Rick Steves’ guidebook (even the 2002 version) had lots to keep visitors busy. Evora was a surprise delight, and should be part of a Portugal itinerary.

Posted by
15 posts

There's a very good sale on airfare into Barcelona and that seems to be the hub. We vacationed there last year (Barcelona-Valencia-Granada-Seville-Madrid) and didn't have time to visit San Sebastian and wanted to see Portugal as well.

Posted by
2125 posts

There's a very good sale on airfare into Barcelona

OK- well great but do consider the additional costs of time and money and hassle getting to/from Barcelona/San Sebastian/Portugal destinations

IOW- just because there is a good price flying me to Munich doesn't mean I'm taking that flight to then find my own way to let's say London (just an example- and that would probably be a bit easier than what you are proposing)

play around with

Maybe you can fly into Barcelona- drive or whatever to San Sebastian- then back to Barcelona to catch a flight to Porto or Lisbon.
Then you'll still have to get back to Barcelona for your flight home- which is why I said it makes no sense.

Posted by
208 posts

Hi. I agree with other respondents that what you are proposing doesn't really make sense. You are going to subtract two travel days from your time in Europe--1 traveling from the Barcelona/San Sebastian area, and one coming back. Plus the day travelling from Barcelona to San Sebastian.

You would be far wiser, IMHO, to fly into Lisbon--also a cheap airport to fly into from the U.S--and rent transportation there to travel around Portugal in a non-frenetic manner. When we did our Portugal trip, we rented a car at the airport, headed straight up to Coimbra, and started from there. In Coimbra and maybe a couple of the other large cities, we parked the car slightly out of town in an unmetered spot, and then walked into the downtown area, which worked great for us. Then, at the end, when we returned to Lisbon, we dropped the car off on arrival, and spent 4 or 5 days without a car in Lisbon, which was easy to get around.

In terms of transport, if you are a family group then renting a van big enough to carry both everyone and everyone's luggage is the way to go (I have done this for my family in Great Britain--two adults and 4 kids).

If you are two family groups, you could consider getting two cars (makes sense if you think it's likely you might want to split up for a time). I haven't done that, so I can't comment on what the issues might be.

Having done several week driving trip through Portugal, I can tell you that you will find the roads easy to drive (just make sure you stick to the right unless you are actually passing. The Portuguese are pretty scrupulous about reserving the left lanes for passing, which actually makes a lot of sense to me. I wish American drivers followed this custom). I would also strongly recommend getting a GPS system to direct you; otherwise you will have some stressful moments trying to figure out which exit you want to take off the roundabouts.

I really enjoyed our trip to Portugal.

Right now, I am in the early planning stages of a 3-4 week driving trip for just the significant other and I this September that would start in Barcelona, head up to the Dordogne, then back to the French/Spanish Basque area, then stopping in Saragosa (which appears to be an often overlooked city for us tourists) for a few days, before flying back home out of Barcelona.