Portugal Itinerary Advice

Hi all, We'll be off to Portugal the end of May. Here is our current itinerary. What do you think? Lisbon 5 nights Nazare 3 nights Coimbra 1 night
Porto 5 nights What are some places we should not miss in each city? Thank you!!

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2811 posts

I've only been to Portugal once, over 10 years ago, so I was waiting for others to answer. But since no one has, I'll give my $0.02. First, do get Rick Steves Portugal. He covers all of your cities, and his suggested sights will be a good start in each place. For Porto with 5 days, I do hope you are planning trips outside the city. I didn't like Porto, but even if I had, my 3 days there were a long time, particularly since I wasn't interested in port wine. The place I went outside the center and loved was the Museu Serralves (they were having a great special exhibit at the time, but the grounds were also lovely). I also liked the Museu National Soares dos Reis. It has very interesting art, particularly sculpture, by Portuguese artists you probably haven't heard of - or seen in other museums. If you are looking for trips outside Lisbon, two places not covered by Rick that I really liked were Santarem (an hour from Lisbon) and Tomar (two hours from Lisbon, on the same train line as Santarem). I got info on these from Lonely Planet and Rough Guide. I didn't go to Nazare. And one night in Coimbra was what I had, and it worked well (the city is small, and it was pretty easy to see everything I wanted to in one full day). continued..

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2811 posts

I liked Lisbon. I had seen it compared to San Francisco, and the hills are certainly formidable in places. I kept thinking of the old SF joke: "If you get tired of walking around Lisbon, you can always lean against it." But it really reminded me more of New Orleans. It's got a down at the heels, scruffy charm; it's not polished at all, and a lack of money has kept it from being updat-ed, so there's lots of older buildings in various states of repair. I found the Alfama too poor to enjoy; it felt more like slum tourism than "colorful." But the Baixa and particularly the Bairo Alto were very worthwhile. Do be aware that, at least when I was in the country, signage was very poor. More than once, I was right at a place and still couldn't find it, or find the open entrance - very frustrating. For instance, getting off the subway near the aquarium, I wasn't the only one getting lost trying to find the aquarium itself (you'd think it would be hard to hide, but they managed). And I was standing at the glass door of the Museu Soares dos Reis and finding it locked, but within view of the ticket desk. As I was trying the locked door without success, did the ticket seller motion for me to go around to the side door, which was open? Of course not; I almost assumed it hadn't opened yet. Perhaps it was just me, but it's one of my more vivid memories of the country (which I really did enjoy). continued..

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2811 posts

Be aware that food portions are large, and most dishes are served with both potatoes and rice. You will often have the option of a meia dose (half portion). My Let's Go guide had said that a full dose serves two. No - it serves three. And you will often get a tray of appetizers brought to the table. This is called a couvert (pronounced cou-VAIRTCH) and is not free. If you don't want it, say so. Usually, I was not charged if it just pushed it away and didn't touch it, but at least once, I was charged because I didn't specifically ask for it to be removed. Of course, if you want it, that's fine too (sometimes it did have unusual or tasty items, but other times it was more prosaic). I did like the food in Portugal; the above paragraph is not meant as a criticism, but to make you aware of possible pitfalls. continued..

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2811 posts

There's more English in Portugal than in Spain, but the next most common language after Portuguese and English is French. I used a fair amount of French while there; it's the only country where I've used a "third language" (meaning neither my native language nor theirs) extensively. Both Spanish visitors and the Spanish language were conspicuous by their absence. We think of Spain and Portugal as practically one country, but you won't once you've been there. If you do speak Spanish, they will understand you, but will respond in Portuguese. I think that's enough 10.5 year old advice (I was there in September 2002, and it was my second country where I got to use the then-new Euro). Actually, that does remind me of one other thing. When I was there, there was a withdrawal limit at every ATM in the country of €200. According to this thread, it's now €400: http://www.ricksteves.com/graffiti/helpline/index.cfm/rurl/topic/99361/daily-withdrawal-limit.html

Posted by shirley
Toronto, Canada
295 posts

I have only been to Porto and Lisbon. I was there in 2012. Lisbon:
I liked the monasteiro de Jeronimos, the Belem tower, the castello and a day trip to Sintra ( We took the train). The market is also fun -Mercado da Ribeira close to the Cais do Sodre train station. You must also try to find places to listen to fado music at night. In Coimbra, or rather just outside of it, the food specialty is roast baby pig - super crispy skin and a bit of some green sauce - yummy We also saw Obidos for about a half a day. I do like Port so I loved Porto. The view from Porto across the river to the port houses is beautiful. The port houses are wonderful if you like port. Even it you don't, it's worthwhile seeing Grahams or one of the houses where you get a tour as well as a tasting. In Porto, you can also take a river cruise up the Douro river. There are several to choose from including some that are tours with a combination of train and boat to see the Douro valley which is absolutely beautiful or just a river cruise within the urban area. A day trip to the valley and some of the wineries is also a possibility - beautiful scenery. Pretty much everyone in Portugal seems to speak English. The older people (by which I mean people my age - 57) spoke Portuguese and French. The younger people all seem to speak excellent English. People everywhere were exceptionally nice and helpful. The only place where I found no English or French speakers were in a little local fish stand where we bought fresh fish for dinner. Food and wine are plentiful and very reasonably priced. Do not miss the pastries in Portugal. Every place seems to have their own special pastry and they are all delicious.

Posted by Rosalyn
Berkeley
1001 posts

If ancient history interests you, there is a beautiful Roman villa site at Condeixa Nova, which is quite close to Coimbra. Also in that general vicinity is the monastery at Batalha. I'd take one night off either Nazare or Porto and add it to Coimbra in order to be able to visit those places.

Posted by Eileen
New York
26 posts

Thank you, all so much!!! I appreciate the advice and information.

Posted by David
Toledo
53 posts

Eileen You will enjoy Portugal! We were there last spring on a Rick Steve's tour. I am not sure if you are using Nazare as a base to visit other places, but even so I would make one small change to your itinerary. I would reduce Nazare to one or at the most 2 nights and Porto to 3 or 4 nights and take your time to go up into the Duoro valley. There are some fantastic small towns and vineyards up there that are truly phenomenal. We stayed in Pinhao ( http://www.splendia.com/en/hotel/?hotel_id=38829&gclid=CK7E9tanu7YCFZE-Mgod8zMAWA ) but there are many other lovely places. You didn't say if you have a car, but even if not, Pinhao has both river and train connections to Porto.
Boa viagem!

Posted by Eileen
New York
26 posts

Thank you, all for the great advice. We're using Nazare as a base and will explore Obidos and perhaps, Tomar also. While in Porto, we'll take the train or boat up the Douro River for a day trip. This is our first 15-day trip by ourselves, so we're a bit nervous about too many one night stays. We'll be visiting 4 cities plus day trips. Great information and advice. Looking forward to Portugal very much. Eileen

Posted by Susan
Issaquah, WA
23 posts

EileenWe sent you a private message as well but as a general comment there is a lot that you can do with your itinerary. In Lisbon, for example, you will want to visit Sintra, Evora and Cascais and all are easily accessible from Lisbon. From Porto taking the train up the river and a boat back down the river is a great experience, however, there is no substitute for driving because with a car you can visit places that are not accessible by train or boat. You will want to see Guimaraes while in Porto and probably Aveiro. There is so much to see and do in this incredible country. I presume that you are driving? We live in Portugal and can tell you that the motorway system here is first class. Anyway, please contact us directly if you would like specific information. Hopefully you will receive the private message. There isn't room post much on this site.

Posted by Eileen
New York
26 posts

Thank you, everyone for your help. We're off to Portugal in 37 days and cannot wait. With your help, we will have a wonderful trip. Will post a trip report on tripadvisor.com

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2811 posts

Eileen, please post a report here also, under the Trip Reports section of this Helpline. It's a bit annoying because you have to do it in sections because of the 2000 character limit, but you can just keep replying to your first post.

Posted by Eileen
New York
26 posts

I will post a trip report here and perhaps links to some photos. Thanks, all for your wonderful advice!! It's just 34 more days to Lisbon!! :)