Anyone been to Portugal?

If you've been to Portugal, what did you enjoy seeing/doing? What was your favorite food. What time of year did you go? Good weather. I don't like it hotabove 75 degrees F. Don't worry about my interests, just tell me what you liked. I'll take it from there.

Posted by Anne
Easthampton, MA, USA
21 posts

I went to Lisbon in late December (Christmas). I loved hearing live fado music in a small restaurant in Alfama, the decent weather which allowed me to explore without freezing to death, the museums with exhibits on the Portuguese in Asia, the kind people, the cod croquettes, staying in a flat in Alfama with a stray cat outside my door who loved people, the reasonable cost, the public transportation, Amalia Rodrigues' house, the local cheeses served as starters at restaurants...pretty much everything!

Posted by Anita
Philadelphia, PA, USA
331 posts

Well, here goes: We went in the Fall so it wasn't so hot. Favorite food: the various fish and seafood dishes. Favorite places: Besides the usual tourist stops in Lisbon, Obidos, Sintra, Evora, Coimbra, we also enjoyed the little mountain-top fortress town of Marvao. Favorite place to stay was the Casa de Sezim near Guimaraes.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
2375 posts

I visited in November so the weather ranged from pleasantly cool days to windy rainy cold days. There is much to do and see in Lisbon and the suburb of Belem. I loved seeing the church, watch tower and monument to the explorers in Belem. The castle and ruined church in Lisbon were my highlights. Porto was interesting though very run down. But I loved trying various port wines. The pastries in Belem were my food highlights. I also loved the simple roast chicken with piri-piri sauce and fries. Best I've ever had. You can also get lots of seafood dishes including the Portugeuse version of paella. All very good.

Posted by Kia
Toronto, ON, Canada
112 posts

I loved Portugal! My favourite European country (of the one's I've visited). Even though I hadn't expected to like Lisbon, it was great and I'm looking forward to going back this year. I also enjoyed visiting Porto, Obidos, Coimbra and the Minho area in the north (when I was there I rented a cottage in the Minho area, and it was beautiful and friendly). If you're going to Porto, I highly recommend the Pesta Porto hotel (it's worth paying a little extra for a river-view room). Once I went, I realized why so many people return every year to Portugal; it was wonderful. It's often overlooked for some reason - maybe it doesn't have the big-name sites of other countries. I was there in October, and it was unseasonably warm that year. The north was cooler and wet, but very green and beautiful.

Posted by bronwen
maplewood, new jersey, usa
750 posts

Went in April for Easter. Loved the port and cheese. Had some great meals. Visited Cascais, Evora, and Lisbon.

Posted by Martine
Ottawa, Canada
565 posts

Went to Portugal last summer, end of July to August 8th. Really liked it, and hope to go back soon. Stayed in Porto, Salir do Porto, Lisbon and Lagos. The weather was perfect, the only place is was hot and humid was in Lagos. Really liked the big cities espacially Porto but if we go back we would base ourselves on the Silver coast, (Salir do porto, nazaré etc.) eveything is close by. What we like the most in Portugal was probably the people.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2821 posts

I was there in September 2002. It rained for at least part of EVERY day, and two days were "real soakers." I still enjoyed it. I read in a local English paper that September was going to be much wetter than usual that year, and October would be much warmer and dryer (just my luck to come at the wrong month). I don't remember temperature, but it certainly wasn't overly hot. As for food, what was most memorable were the quantities. Many dishes come as full or half portion ( meia dose). One guidebook said that a "full dose" feeds two. They were wrong - it feeds three, so as a single traveler, even the half dose was a LOT. And, it's standard to have both potatoes and rice with every dish. I did like the food (I don't like food in Spain, but had no problems in Portugal). I liked Lisbon, Sintra, Santarem, and Tomar. Coimbra was nice enough (only stayed 1 night). I didn't care for Porto at all, except for a special exhibit at the Museo Serralves. And while everyone (including Rick Steves) touts the Alfama district of Lisbon as "atmospheric," to me it felt a bit like slum tourism - seeing the "quaint natives" in their poverty. I left that neighborhood quickly, and spent more time in the Bairro Alto and Baixa, which I enjoyed much more. And while I wasn't as bowled over in Belem as some, I got a chill at the Monument To The Discoveries. Realizing that world history was changed from the spot I was standing on was quite special. Portugal is the one place where I've used a "third language" extensively (i.e., neither English nor the local language). There's more English in Portugal than in Spain (much more, as I find VERY little English in Spain). But a significant number of people didn't speak English, but did speak French. Since my French is better than my Portuguese, it got used.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2821 posts

Re-reading my post, I see I compare Portugal with Spain several times. It's inevitable - we tend to think of them as one country. But they really are different, and when actually in Portugal, I didn't think of Spain at all. Furthermore, transit links between them are poor, so they are much harder to combine in one trip than people think. Furthermore, on the language issue, while English and French are spoken in Portugal, Spanish mostly is not. When I saw Spaniards (and I saw very few; most of the tourists were French and Germans), they would speak Spanish to the locals, who spoke Portuguese back. Reviewing my notes from the time, I see that Lisbon was VERY hilly, and I felt it would be miserable for anyone with mobility impairment. I also felt that it was a lot like New Orleans, in that it had a dilapidated grandeur that made it atmospheric, but that someone who liked more polished places would be unhappy (remember this was from 2002, so who knows what I'd think now).

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
2375 posts

The delapidation hasn't changed much and is based on very antiquated property laws and rent controls. There have been efforts to change it, but it is not easy and is a slow process. I'd imagine that the financial crisis and recessions will make it even harder to revitalize the city centers.

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
611 posts

We enjoyed Portugal late fall a few years ago. Cool, cold weather. Lisbon and just Lagos were visited as time was limited. I don't recall blockbuster sights, but had a very enjoyable time including great folks, delicious food and excellent port wine. I experienced some difficulty with the Portuguese language. On the same trip we spent much more time in Spain. Upon reflection, I wished we had reversed the time allotments and savored more of Portugal.

Posted by Lo
Tucson
645 posts

We rented a Lisbon apartment for a week in early June, 2011. We were in the Alfama district, just up the hill from the train station where we did our grocery shopping. We got the metro there as well as the bus. We were also about a block away from Sr. Fado, within easy walking distance of good restaurants and overlooking the river, the cruise ships, and a lot of the city. It was cool enough that we left the windows open most of the time and never turned on the AC. We did the Belem day trip, rode the famous #28 trolley and walked downtown from our apartment. Our favorite things, besides the food and Fado, were the tile patterns in the sidewalks and paved walking areas, the tiled exterior walls of many of the buildings, the tiled metro stations, the tile museum is this a broken record? When we arrived at the tile museum pretty late in the day, we were surprised at how warmly welcomed we were by one of the staff. She invited us to a special event in the chapel just after closing, so we made sure to make our way through the museum in time to get to the chapel. The event was a pageant featuring kids, but especially kids with developmental disabilities. They were dressed up representing many countries of the world (as well as outer space) and were paying homage to King Neptune. Music for the country they represented played as they walked up the aisle from the back of the chapel to the front. I love it when these surprise things happen to us on our trips. As to the food, my favorite was Alentejano coffee cake. Lisbon is known for its coffee and dessert. My husband's favorite was a cabrito (roasted baby goat) dish. Except for the desserts, every meal was gigantic as others have mentioned. Tip: Pasteis de Belem is gigantic, even though it looks tiny from the take out lines and the small rooms up front. We directed many disappointed people seeking tables toward the back where there were plenty.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2821 posts

Lo's post reminds me of something. I also enjoyed the tiles, both the azulejos on walls and the patterns on the streets of Lisbon. But the most amazing of all were the azulejos in the Igreja de Marvila in Santarem; this church was even better than the more celebrated Igreja da Graça in Santarem. Santarem was itself a lovely small town with almost no visitors. Tomar is most famous for being the headquarters of the Knights Templar; I enjoyed seeing the synagogue, and the museum of matchbooks (sounds kooky, but was quite interesting - social history through matchbooks).

Posted by Amy
Landstuhl, Germany
55 posts

We went to Portugal in April, 2010. Spent a few days in Lisbon. I always enjoy hearing local music performed and followed Rick's advice to go to a Fado performance in the Alfama. It was at a small, family-run restaurant so our meal was delicious. And what a treat to hear the different family members sing! We also did a day trips to Sintra and Belem. Both were great. We then rented a car and drove south to Selema where we stayed for a few days. Amazing, fresh fish at all the restaurants. Great beaches, although in April it was too cool for us still to get in the water. Day trips to Sagres and Faro, as well as just driving around enjoying the scenery. Loved Portugal!

Posted by Susan
Issaquah, WA
23 posts

My husband and I moved to Portgual 2 years ago from Seattle, WA and absolutely love the country. It is fabulous. We've been fortunate to have been able to travel to many places in the world and Portugal ranks right up at the top of the list as one of our favorites. It certainly is one of the best countries in all of Europe. It has everything and there is more to do in this small country than one could ever imagine. If you don't like it over 75 then, come in April/May or late September. The weather is perfect then and almost every day will be bright blue cloudless skies. I could go on forever about the country. But, what I'd suggest is that you contact me directly. I don't know when you are coming, but we unfortunately will be moving back to the states the end of October 2013. Send me an email and I'll be glad to help you. We also have a toll free phone number from the states. I will say that you cannot miss the town of Cascais, which is about 30 minutes outside of Lisbon. It is a fishing village that has grown up a little and there is more going on here (where we live also) on a constant basis than any other place I've ever lived and most of it is free. You could easily spend a week in and around just the Lisbon/Sintra/Cascais area. Don't plan on spending time in the Algarve. It is like going to England on steroids except that there is sunshine. You can find just as many beautiful, and far less inhabited, beaches around Lisbon. But please do contact me as I'd be glad to help with anything at all and could give you names of restaurants and places to stay in "real time." Good luck and do come to Portugal, you will never regret it! Susan

Posted by vicky
farmington, ME, USA
43 posts

We went to Portugal for 2 weeks in July, 2010and completely loved it. We stayed in Coimbra for a couple of nightsgreat food, lovely university, very hot. Onto Lisbon, where we rented a fabulous apartment for very little on top of a hill in the Alfama. Had a fantastic view of the Tajo River and the city below, and enjoyed the cool breeze through the windows. The Alfama and the rest of Lisbon were all greatsights, restaurants, weather, aquarium, shopping-loved all of it. Went onto Sintra but found it too touristy, and had remarkably cold weather for that time of year. Lines into the tourist sites were unbearableand not worth the trip. The last few days we spent in Salema in the Algarve, which we found through Rick's book. Rented an amazing house for next to nothing, within a few minutes of the beach, and spent three wonderful days jumping waves, hiking along the cliffs to deserted beaches, and enjoying the ocean views. I would go back in a flash. The weather in July was surprisingly fine, except for Coimbra. Enjoya great country!