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Barcelona and Lisbon for older travelers

My partner and I are reaching the point due to age and infirmity that we aren't going to be able to do much more traveling, so we're going to Europe one last time to Lisbon which I've always wanted to visit and Barcelona which he has always wanted to visit. We hope to fly open jaw. Does it matter which city we go to first? We plan on finding a single hotel in each city. We won't be trying to do more than a couple of things in a day leaving time for rest and people watching in parks, cafes, and so forth. We won't be able to do much lengthy or strenuous walking so we'll be willing to use taxis, public transportation, or guides with their own wheels. Is it reasonable for us to attempt to at least hit the high points in these two cities with a flight between them in ten days or should we shoot for two weeks? Suggestions for what to see and do will be welcome, but I have Rick's books on the two countries on order and will study them as well as other resources.

Posted by
1178 posts

I suggest two weeks. This will allow for travel time and the airport ins and outs as well. In Barcelona the first priority is the Sagrada Familia. Purchase tickets on line from the Sagrada Familia's web site. Become a member on that site and get added advantages for little cost. There are several parks in the city which will fit your bill. A great restaurant is Restaurante El Raco De Villa...check out its website. Not on the normal tourist map, easily accessible by taxi. I am near your age and was there in September. It is a very walkable city for the main part, but your idea of taxi service and guides will be well appreciated.

Posted by
3680 posts

If you have done much reading on Lisbon, you already know that it is very hilly. How hilly is it? It is so hilly that they have elevators to get you up the hills. We stayed there for a week in June 2011. We did not take any tours, but we did run into someone at the tourist office who went on several bus tours around the city. Of course, some areas are pedestrian only, so you can't get everywhere by tourist bus.

We took public transportation (bus, train, metro) everywhere and also did a couple of taxi rides. Highlights of our trip were (in no particular order) the #28 trolley ride, a side trip out to Belem which took most of a day, the tile museum ( and getting on the metro and staying on to go through almost every station just to see the tile work in each one. We also enjoyed just looking down at the tile we were walking on or at the tile that covered many buildings. I'm a tile freak, I admit it.

We don't do a lot each day when we travel either, but we did go to two Fado performances. One was at the somewhat fancy Sr. Vinho. We didn't like it as much as the one at Sr. Fado (!__ingles). The latter was smaller, more intimate and just about a block away from where we stayed in the Alfama area.

Be sure to do a Google images search to see what the city looks like. It is beautiful.

Posted by
103 posts

Thanks, Lo, for the many Lisbon suggestions. I'll file them away for future reference.

To HJ and others: After reading many of the message strings here, I checked out the web site for Restaurante El Raco De Villa last night and discovered that it closed in October. From the rave reviews by so many, we'll miss having the opportunity to eat there.

To everyone: I've seen many references like HJ's to becoming a member of the Sagrada Familia, so I checked out their English language web site last night. I found no reference to becoming a member, but I did see that I can become a "friend" with an email address for inquiries about that. Is this what everyone has been referring to? The single person membership price is a bit daunting, but the family membership looks like a good deal for the 2 of us. Or am I missing something by not being able to read the Spanish or Catalan language versions of the web site?

Finally, while this is not going to be a cheap trip for us, we'll need to economize where we can. Does anyone have any recommendations for inexpensive hotels, hostels, or B&Bs with ensuite bathrooms that are pretty close to the kinds of places that we'll be going as elderly tourists?

Posted by
1178 posts

Trip Advisor has a review for El Raco de la Villa dated December 6, 2013, so it must still be open. Check it out on the Trip Advisor site.

Sagrada Familia...You should have an "English" option at the top of the website...."Friends" is what you are looking for.

Posted by
103 posts

I just checked the Sagrada Familia web site again, and the Friends family membership (38 Euros per year) is available only to residents. However, since my partner and I are both retired we should qualify for individual memberships at the reduced rate which is 20 Euros per person per year, so it's still better than paying 2 admission fees. I wonder what kind of documentation (if any) will be required for the reduced rate. I've sent an email message to inquire. We should both probably be sure to take our Medicare cards with us.

Posted by
1999 posts

Please buy insurance. Traditional Medicare will not pay ANYTHING outside the US. If you have a managed care plan or supplement check with them

My senior citizen mother and I did the Hotel Atlantis which was a good deal and well located in Barcelona

Posted by
5617 posts

Both Barcelona and Lisboa are enjoyable-I'm sure you'll have a great trip. We were in Barcelona just last month for only a couple of days. We enjoyed Sagrada Familia and visited there longer than we expected. The Picasso Museum was a highlight, but there aren't many places to sit and rest for a moment before moving on to the next room. If you check with the staff, they will take you up or down an elevator (we discovered this after doing lots of stairs to get to the start of the collection, and the staff were very helpful in letting us know they would get us a ride down when we were done, just ask an attendant. We stayed at Rick's recommended Hotel Denit, which we were surprised to find was on a very narrow, pedestrian-only street (unless your taxi has a code to lower the posts that block the road from regular traffic), but was very comfortable, had a great breakfast, and had helpful staff at the 24-hour front desk.

Lisboa, as noted earlier, is hilly. There are lots of cobbles, including on the attractive but sometimes rough black and white "sidewalks." We stayed at one of Rick's recommended hotels in 2002 that was cheap, but we got what we paid for. Eight floors of stairs, bubbly rubber floors, sketchy neighboorhood with questionable people around. For Lisboa lodging, it could be worth paying a little more for safety and mobility convenience, with an elevator and a person at the front desk who could call you a cab. Eating in Portugal -- have bacalao 40 different ways!

Posted by
3304 posts

The mention of an elevator, by Cyn, reminded me that Casa Mila (a must-see in Barcelona) also has one. When we visited with a mobility-impaired friend, a staff member summoned it for the ascent and the descent. All you have to do is ask. Barcelona has 2 or 3 HOHO bus tours, which I thought were a great way to get an overview of the city.

Posted by
380 posts

Hi, Kaplanma

I would suggest a tour of Palua de Musica Catalan. Besides La Sagrada, this was my next favorite building. The tour is one hour long. The tour is not strenuous at all. Tell the staff in advance that you need handicap access. You can buy tickets on-line for the English tour.

You get to sit a lot. First, in the new concert hall for an introductory video. While the rest of the group walks to the concert hall, another guide will take you by elevator. You get to sit again in the main concert hall while the guide speaks. You also get to hear a little bit of the organ. Next, you'll take the elevator up to the balcony level, where you get to sit again.

If you still have some energy, you could stroll about in the nearby Gotic area. Walk down Las Ramblas to the waterfront and chill out.

Or it's a short walk to Hotel Espana for lunch in a beautiful dining room designed by the same architect.

I second the idea for you to take the Hop On Hop Off bus.

Posted by
3681 posts

While it is possible to travel by train between Lisbon and Barcelona, it is a very long ride, probably overnight through Madrid. Budget airlines will fly you in an hour and for under $100 if purchased far enough in advance. See and to compare fares.
There is plenty to see, especially at a leisurely pace, in both cities. I suspect you don't want to be on your feet in long lines for museums or other attractions, so buying tickets via the Internet in advance would seem wise. Small-group tours are also more flexible in adapting to customer needs. Seniors have to face the fact that thieves etc. may see them as easy pickings. Again, advance planning can help with security concerns.