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2 week Portugal trip report

Hi all- just back from great but soggy 2 week POrt. trip (bring good rainjacket and waterproof, grippy shoes, we had 2 weeks of rain and saw multiple falls on the slick sidewalks)- I will mostly list hotel and restaurant recs here-we did most but not all RS recs for attractions in each place listed and agree with his star system for them so I wont say much about things to do. We did immensely enjoy the Decorative Arts museum in Lisbon.

Lisbon- Casa Balthazar (4 nights)-great! big room, great breakfast, very helpful staff
restaurants all near that hotel (in guidebook) in Chiado/Alto: Carmo-great meal; Pateo-excellent, amazing service-went back to the pizzeria there another night; cervejaria da trinidade-was ok; doesnt get going till later. Pinochio good seafood;very busy.

Evora- MAr Hotel;(2 nights) -big room;quiet;free underground parking;good breakfast; had a geat meal at the Pousada; amazing lunch at Tasquina de Oliviera (only 5 tables so book ahead).

Tomar- Hotel templarios-our least favorite hotel-no major issues but nothing special either; good dinner at Bela Vista

Coimbra- Hotel Sapientia (NOT in RS book) amazing hotel; great room and staff; decor is Joanna Gaines meets POrtugal; we ate dinner there both nights and it was great. Lunch at Castro Mus. had nice view but standard cafe menu

Douro- 1 night (should have done 2 as it was so realxing) at Quinta da Corte-dining on site;excellent food; port/wine tour included; lodging very comfortable and quiet; is high above river and driveway is not for faint of heart, esp. if you are driving a stickshift.

Porto- Inpatio Guesthouse-tied for 1st place with Sapientia for our favorite hotel-Olga and Fernando were so personable which made all the difference. Dinner at Cantinho Avillez was ok but we liked his Lisbon places better; A Grade had the best seafood we had on the trip-octopus and sole; 3rd night dinner was at Vinum was very good-don't try to walk there! take taxi, the streets are all being torn up and very steep climb with no sidewalk; also amazing service and great views of Porto.

Overall a great trip, with a few bits of advice: Porto is doing their Big Dig, streets torn up everywhere so plan for traffic etc. if trying to get somewhere, only working trolley line is #1, the other 2 are interrupted by constxn; lots of tourists everywhere even late Oct. so book ahead (we booked pretty much every dinner a few weeks ahead). Lisbon airport utter chaos esp. for departures, poor signage; you can do VAT after security and is very quick; VAT line pre-security was huge. Checkin for US airlines is on level 4. Dont worry too much about the language, pretty much everybody speaks English and were all so helpful.

Hope some of this helps! The forum helped us plan a great trip and we found the RS book spot on for recommendations.

Posted by
4853 posts

Great report, Andrew, thanks! I also loved the Decorative Arts Museum in Lisbon. I just returned from Portugal 10 days ago, and must have left as those 2 weeks of rain were beginning. I was very glad to have my raincoat when it poured for a bit during my last full day. It sounds like you had some great meals!

Posted by
6363 posts

Thank you! Definitely bookmarking. We're doing the RS Portugal tour next year, but will add on time before and after.

Do you have grippy shoe recommendations? I need to check out that category here on the Forum. This year in Matera and Alberobello we had a lot of trouble with slick walkways.

We'll check out that Lisbon hotel; thanks for the recommendations!

Posted by
728 posts

Thank you for your report. The information about accommodations is especially helpful!

Posted by
2774 posts

Thanks for the report. I’m looking at Portugal for a future trip and your info. is very helpful. Sorry about all the rain. I was thinking about an Oct. trip, but between the Lisbon marathon at the beginning of the month, and the weather at the end of the month, I’m starting to think spring might be a better option for me—trying to avoid crowds and hot weather.

Posted by
12 posts

Whoa! So many responses! RE: shoes: I have a pair of laceup Rockports that are waterproof and have a vibram sole that I have used for years for Europe travel; very comfortable all day on the cobbles. Not the most attractive things but they do the job. I would think they make a women's equivalent. We did drive everywhere except took the train back to Lisbon from Porto. Dropped the car on the way in from Douro at Porto airport, easy taxi ride into town. Did Avis for rental, picked up at Lisbon airport. We got the Via Verde option for the tolls as we took highways rather than secondary non-toll roads. Very easy driving apart from getting out of Lisbon, very few cars on the highways. Plenty of service stations with minimarts on the highways. We thought weather at that time would be cool but pretty hot most of the trip, up into the 80's in Lisbon. Very humid in Porto. Hopefully won't be like that for the marathoners.

Posted by
6363 posts

I'll check out the Rockports; thank you. I usually wear SAS (I have bigger feet than most brands carry,)
and they now have grippy shoes.

And I'm definitely interested in your Lisbon hotel.

Thanks again!

Posted by
93 posts

Andrew, your report was really helpful to read. I don't think RS would disagree that his books are as meant as guides, not as the be all to end all listings of places to visit. So many North Americans, in particular, have "discovered" him in the past 10-15 years. Best to note his suggestions and then go off to make your own discoveries. Sounds like you did just that, and had some of your best experiences because of it--notwithstanding all the rain. Thanks again for posting.

Posted by
961 posts

Andrew, thanks so much! How was taking the train back to Lisbon to catch your flight? I am looking at airlines and it is definitely better priced to go r/t LAX-Lisbon than do into one city and out of another. I assume you spent your last night in Lisbon before you caught your flight?

Posted by
3290 posts

Andrew, what is your assessment of the food in Portugal? CWSocial and another forum poster said it was not very memorable.

Posted by
12 posts

Some followup to queries :

Train from Porto was fine. Left from Campanha to Oriente in Lisbon. Should have stayed onboard and gotten off at Apolonia which is closer to center. Bit of scrum getting on at Porto as seats on AP trains are assigned. Overhead luggage racks easily fit our rollaboards. There was a buffet car as well as lady with the trolley (Yes, Harry Potter fans, that actually does exist!). Compartment was fine, pretty much everybody settled in/plugged in so the trip was quiet for reading etc. I had looked at flying out of Porto but as it would be a different airline the cost was very high. Last night in Lisbon was at Heritage Hotel on Ave LIberdade which was surprisingly quiet. Easy a.m. cab ride to airport.
Someone asked about food. Note I am not a "foodie" and am not an adventurous eater. That been said, like everything in life, it depends. "Mains" will usually be beef, pork or fish/seafood. I do not recall seeing chicken on any menu. We found the food similar to that of Galicia. Again, I think RS's description of the food is accurate. Not to preach to the choir but a lot of enjoyment of a meal is your interaction with the proprietor (Tasquina da Oliviera in Evora) or the setting (the view from Vinum looking towards Porto) or other diners if it is a small restaurant. If you like seafood, this is the place for you. Might be harder if you are vegetarian, especially outside of the cities. I will defer to those of us with more refined palates on this topic. As a side note, for those of you renting apt.'s and doing "self-catering", the food market in Porto is a pilgrimage in and of itself. Lastly, the wine (Oh, the wine!) is amazing. Try different regions and see what you like.

Posted by
128 posts

Just a note about Hotel Sapientia in Coimbra — it is high above the town in the midst of the university buildings. The only restaurant or bar with 20 minutes is in the hotel. Everything else is straight downhill.
Good news is that you can get an Uber or cab if you don’t want to (or can’t) walk.

Let me underscore the need to be ultra careful when walking on wet pavement in Portugal. I slipped in Porto; it’s not fun to navigate a hilly country on a sore leg!

Posted by
169 posts

We’ve been in Portugal since November 25th and I’ll consider ourselves lucky we’ve had fantastic weather since. Only a couple days of morning rain here in Porto and then blue skies In the afternoon

I will agree thay the roads and sidewalks here are crazy and some of the worst I’ve seen in Europe. They are made up heavily of the small stone cubes much like Prague etc. however many are loose or have large gaps and I’ve rolled my ankle a couple times (although I seem prone to doing this at least once or twice a week lol)

In terms of food, imo Portigal may have the best grocery stores of any European country I’ve been to (26 and counting) as they are much closer to traditional North American stores which have -everything- as opposed to places like Italy or France where you have to go to multiple stores to get everything you want.

In terms of dining honestly I feel so spoiled living in Vancouver now that I’ve done Europe so extensively. Places like Portugal and Italy where sea food is so highly rated, a lot of the time I find disgusting imo. A lot of the time it’s a combination of both quality and preparation. I’ve had enough bad sea food dishes even at highly rated, respectable places that I don’t even bother ordering sea food anymore.

Imo the wine is the highlight of Portuguese dining. Such great wine for great prices

Posted by
584 posts

Ohmygosh, just now reading this thread and was amazed that some called Portuguese food “not memorable”. I guess it’s the luck of the draw on which restaurant chosen, of the 8 RS tours we’ve taken, we consider Portugal in the top 2 of fabulous food. I will say I’m an adventurous eater so often choose unique dishes but had 2 separate wonderful goat dishes and found all their main courses to be so flavorful with marinades and spices. And then the pastries! The liqueurs! Bacalau! I’ll stop but really, Portugal has fabulous food.