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3 weeks 3 cities solo in Portugal

I had planned to go to Portugal for 2 weeks in July, timed to meet with friends. Instead, I went by myself for 3 weeks in October and loved everything about Portugal in the fall!

My Trip Dates: Oct 1 - 20, 2022

I like spending time getting to know a place. And as Diane Warren says in her song lyrics, made famous by Aerosmith, "I don't wanna miss a thing."

So while 20 days for 3 cities may seem like very slow travel to some, I enjoyed every minute of:

8N Lisbon
4N Coimbra
6N Porto

I kept "busy" by strolling through RS walks for each city, seeing the blockbuster sights and lesser visited places, some of which are among my best memories.

"Busy" generally meant one planned activity (a museum or castle or an RS walk) with LOTS of time for diversions into little side lanes, meandering around corners, wandering across bridges and especially taking time to leisurely enjoy the views from the many miradouros. Oh, and I made LOTS of stops in small cafes to try another Portuguese snack or pastry while lingering over an espresso and soaking in the atmosphere.

I'm sure I could have done all my "sightseeing" in far fewer days, without all that lingering and wandering and meandering. But then, I'm pretty sure I would have missed a lot of the experiences that I will best remember!

A lot of those "experiences" happened when I struck up a conversation with someone, as you'll read in my report.

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Solo Travel is Easy in Portugal

I loved my 2 Rick Steves tours in Turkey this spring, and I'm signed up for Best of Bulgaria in the spring. My time in Portugal reminded me how much I also enjoy solo travel.

I had picked up my Best of Portugal guidebook in the $5 sale in 2020, with no specific plan to go. I put that casual purchase to very good use! I did as much Rick Steves guided DIY travel for this trip as I could, opting for tours only for Sintra and where tours were required for entry. Trains and the Lisbon metro and buses made getting around on my own easy.

October was great timing - my trip was timed perfectly to miss the rain at the end of the month. Except for one day in Porto, the weather for my trip was warm and sunny. Lisbon was still bustling, especially the weekend of the Lisbon Marathon. But I'm sure it was nothing compared to the summer.

As a solo female traveler, I felt completely safe in all 3 cities, even after sunset. With the usual caution for pickpockets in crowds and at stations. I don't know if I was accidentally bumped or it was a pickpocket attempt coming out of a Porto metro station, but I had nothing within reach.

If you're considering a solo trip, Portugal is an easy place to go and October was a pleasant time of year!

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WHAT I DID: 8N Lisbon

I mapped out several of my days to follow RS Walks and visit the museums and attractions along the way, meandering to add color. I ended most days riverside at Praca do Comercio, people watching, enjoying that evening's street performer and watching the sunset.

Day Trips and Extras
1 day - Sintra and Cascais with Lisbon Riders
1 day - Belem - Jeronimos Monastery and riverside monuments

Lisbon Botanic Gardens - small (1 hr) but a cool and pleasant diversion from city sidewalks

Saturday morning at the Feira da Ladra flea market

1 day - north end Lisbon
Fronteira Palace - this was delightfully uncrowded and has a lovely garden with tiled scenes, sculptures and a pond with black swans.

Gulbenkian Museum - I loved this museum so much that I went around twice. Having just been to Turkey in the spring, I especially loved the room full of Turkish tiles.

Getting there: I took the metro to these 2 sights, but both involved some walking from their respective stations. The weather was so nice, I didn't mind!

1 day - east end Lisbon, riverside

National Tile Museum - I love tiles and ceramics in general, so it was easy to enjoy this museum, for over 2 hours! The museum exhibits explaining the different colorization processes are really well curated. There is an app that gives better descriptions of each exhibit.

The 2-wall tile panorama depicting pre-earthquake (1755) Lisbon is the artistic pièce de résistance.

Getting there: The 759 bus from Restauradores Square drops you off immediately across the street from the museum and will bring you back again. I took the same bus back towards the cathedral.

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WHAT I DID: 4N Coimbra

I spent a lot of time wandering the botanic gardens, sitting in cafes while listening to street music and strolling the park along the river, chatting with locals and tourists I met along the way. Oh, and I saw some sights, too.

Coimbra University Ticket Day 1: Palace, Chapel, Chemical Lab
Coimbra University Ticket Day 2: timed entry to Baroque (Joanina) Library

(Free) University of Coimbra Botanic Garden on the way back to my hotel

• The gardens are a lush and peaceful place with lovely fountains and statues, multi-level wandering paths bordered by an aqueduct from 1570 called "Arches of the Garden." I visited 3 times.

Coimbra Cathedral - after visiting, I lingered over Sangria at a nearby bar while watching the workers repave the cobblestone road near the cathedral, one cobble at a time. You just don't see that at home!

Cross bridge, walk to Monastery - a bit of a bust, I could see the outside, but I couldn't go inside because of the restoration works.

Machada De Castro Museum - loved wandering the ancient underground Roman city, which I had practically to myself! I sat in a room, again by myself, and admired the incredible Treasurer's Chapel. Seriously, I was the only person there!

Later I wandered around the old center and found a European electrical adaptor for €3, now I have two!

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WHAT I DID: 6N Porto

I had allocated time for 2 day trips in Porto, but I only took one. If I were to return, I would make time to visit the other towns.

Central Porto
RS Porto Walk and Santa Catarina District walk
Bolsa Palace with required guided tour
Miradouro da Vitória - great views not far from my hotel
Free noon organ concert at Clerigos Church
Porto Cathedral - the cloister and its chapels are beautiful and worth paying the €3 admission.

Day trip through Douro River Valley to Pinhão (see separate entry, below)

Port Tasting in Vila Nova de Gaia (across the river from Central Porto, with lovely views looking back at it)
Port Tasting at Cockburn's - they have a wonderful tour (book ahead for English) through their facility, including the interesting coopery, where a very few remaining skilled workers maintain the thousands of oak barrels. I really appreciate the forum recommendations to visit Cockburn's!

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DAY TRIP: Porto - Regional Train Ride into the Douro Valley

My destination was Pinhão, but the journey was the goal and the river valley was the absolute highlight.

This wasn't one of my intended day trips from Porto. But I had read about the train ride into the Douro Valley and was drawn to the idea. I followed Rick's tips to sit on the right side of the train outbound and left side return. The train ride from about Mosteiró station to Pinhão is breathtaking. And the tile artwork at the Pinhão station shows delightful scenes of life in the Douro Valley.

Pinhão itself was largely shuttered on a Monday in October. After some searching, I found a little café where I bought a wonderful ham n cheese pastry and a coke for €3.

Quinta do Bonfim - a short walk from the Pinhão train station, they have a terrace with a million dollar river view. I imagine that terrace might be packed in high season and weekends.

I got a front row table where I absorbed those views while enjoying a glass of port and sharing a cheese plate with a young French traveler. She was interviewing for her dream job in Paris working for a wine and spirits company. We exchanged numbers and I learned the next day that she got the job!

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ENTERTAINMENT: Fado and other Music

For as little advanced planning as I did, I feel very lucky for all the musical performances I got to enjoy. Not the least of which were Fado street performers, often by black cape-clad university students.

Fellow travelers to Sintra had told me about their Fado experience: 5 hours "trapped" in a crowded club. I found a delightful unstructured experience in the Alfama that was just right for my solo, DIY trip!

Lisbon - free Fado with outdoor dining in the large terrace at the Alfama Grill; the singers performed both indoors and outside, and I could hear both. No drink or dinner minimums. No cover charge. I sat down intending just to have a sangria and dessert, then stayed for dinner. (Yes, I had dessert first!) I couldn’t have loved this lucky find more!

Coimbra - Fado A Capella, in a small chapel, dinner was optional and there were only 3 choices, but my salmon was surprisingly well prepared.

Porto - I attended the (free) daily noon organ concert at Igreja Clerigos, preceded (outside) by the church bells. Plenty of seats in October, come and go as you please.

Porto - I got lucky on my last night and learned of a free organ concert at the cathedral, wonderful! They played pieces for 4 hands and 4 feet: the performers played the 2 waltzes entirely with their 4 feet!

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Restaurants of Note

I love outdoor dining and Portugal has lots of it! Restaurants with outdoor spaces, cafes with outdoor tables, even small restaurants often had a few tables just outside their doors.

Lisbon - Alfama Grill, casual free Fado with outdoor seating, free wifi, no food or drink minimums

Lisbon - Sabor do Bairro
The best (of 3) Bacalhau com Natas dishes that I tried in Portugal, enjoyed while chatting with a young Irish lad who had just completed the Lisbon Marathon.

Cascais - my lunch at the House of Wonders was the most pleasant vegetarian meal I've ever had. Their colorful garden setting is a little oasis. And their description of "a voyage throughout our House of tantalizing tastes and sights" is on the money.

Coimbra - Petisqueira Portuguesa, beautifully presented dishes and free live Fado on their outdoor patio, around the corner from my hotel.

Porto - Galerie do Largo, billed as "a journey through Portuguese cuisine" I had an artistic 3 course meal and wine for €48. It's on a small square where street artists regularly perform, so it was a delightful evening of food and (that night) a cheery clarinet player who had everyone tapping their toes and smiling, including me!

Porto - À Bolina Bar, a pleasant little Tapas bar along the river past the bridge, with just a few tables and a small tapas menu; away from the crowds and the chaos, with an unbeatable view!

Yes, I tried the Pastel de Nata - numerous times - and loved them! I also played a game called "pastry of the day." Portugal has lots of great pastries!

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I splurged (for me) and booked centrally located hotels, 2 of which (Coimbra and Porto) were riverside and had river views.

Lisbon - VIP Executive Eden ApartHotel; my studio single had a small kitchenette.

For this first time visitor, the central location in the (relatively flat) Baixa was perfect. Directly on Restauradores Square, the hotel is a public transit dream - steps from the metro station and many bus stops and very easy to get to/from the airport.

The rooftop pool was a great getaway from the city crowds on the day of the Lisbon Marathon! Breakfast is available in the basement or with a view on the rooftop.

Coimbra - Hotel Astoria (a RS recommended "old but faded" hotel)
My lovely "Superior" room with an old-fashioned storage wardrobe had 3 sets of double French doors opening onto a view of the river. It is 90m from the Coimbra-A (city) train station, a flat, easy walk with luggage.
Caution: this hotel is very clear that they have wifi in the public spaces, not in the rooms. They are not kidding - make sure you have a data plan if you stay here.

Porto - FLH Memoria Hotel Porto, Premium Double with a tiny balcony and river view
This boutique hotel is newly opened this year, with high ceilings and dramatic stone walls that preserve the building's history, while the rooms have modern fittings.

The staff are unfailingly polite and helpful. Around the corner from the Bolsa Palace, it is steps from the action of the Ribeira district. This was the best hotel breakfast in terms of selection and the freshest pastries, which I think I heard are house-made!

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THE DETAILS: Booking Sights and Activities

Going in October, instead of July, had a significant impact on my timing to purchase tickets for popular sights in each of the cities.

After the structure of my 2 spring tours, I intentionally kept Portugal very unstructured, booking things only as far in advance as was absolutely necessary. The only sight I booked significantly ahead (3 months) was the Lisbon Riders day trip to Sintra and Cascais.

Many activities I booked the night before:
• Lisbon - Jeronimos Monastery, Saint George's Castle
• Coimbra - University of Coimbra 2 day ticket, with timed entry for the Baroque (Joanina) Library

Some activities I booked the morning of:
• Porto - port tasting at Cockburn's (my hotel called for me)
• Porto - Bolsa Palace (you have to walk over there the day you want to visit; the earlier you go, the more choice you'll have of tour times, which cannot be booked online or in advance.)

Everything else (most museums) I just showed up for.
Disclaimer: do not try this in high season!

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THE DETAILS: Flights and Lisbon Airport Tasks

I flew from Denver into Lisbon and out of Porto, carry-on only outbound (spinner plus clamshell style backpack, which I love!) and checked bag to return.

ETA: weather-wise, it would have been better (in October) to travel North to South, but the flights were far better the other way around.

On arrival at the Lisbon airport I bought my Vodafone Portugal SIM and my Viva Viagem card.

Vodafone Portugal SIM card:
• Arriving on a Sunday (when city locations were closed) I bought the "Vodafone Travellers" SIM for €20 at Lisbon airport with 20GB (I used 2 GB in 3 weeks) plus 500 minutes and 500 texts that I didn't use.
• The line moved quickly and the SIM card was working immediately upon walking out of the shop.

Viva Viagem card - Uber at Lisbon airport was deep into surge pricing, so I called an audible
• bought my Viva Viagem card at the airport and took the metro to Restauradores station, which is 10 steps from my hotel.
• I put €20 on the card and used €15 in 8 days, walking a lot when I could have used transit.

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Oh my, this is ridiculously long! Oh well, it's written now, I'm posting it all! Maybe it will help someone? Gosh, someone should write a guidebook with all of this ......

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THE DETAILS: Trains and Transit

Between and the Rick Steves Portugal guidebook (and some help from the forum when I couldn't figure out the details!) I bought tickets between Lisbon-Coimbra and Coimbra-Porto a few weeks in advance at and showed my tickets in the CP (Comboios de Portugal) app.

• I bought first class seats because they were so cheap and the seats had power.
• My IC and AP trains had plenty of underseat and overhead storage and (on 1 train, but not the other) luggage storage at each end of the carriage.

Tip for train arrival into Porto: the connection from Porto-Campanha into Porto-Sao Bento is worth taking the regional train, even if Uber seems like it might be quicker. The view (from the left side of train) on arrival into Sao Bento station is a quite dramatic entry into Porto; a sightseeing delight of its own!

Transit Cards - I used the Viva Viagem card in Lisbon, but walked everywhere in Coimbra and Porto, 5.5 - 9.5 miles per day.

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I avoided the unfavorable conversion rates of the widely available Euronet ATMs, as I do everywhere.

Instead, I used the no-fee Multibanco ATMs which were easy to find and attached to most banks. They "offered" overpriced (6-7%) conversion rates which I carefully declined in favor of the near-market rate from Schwab: €100 for $98.19 felt like winning bingo!

I had a teeny tiny glitch when the Multibanco ATM (widely used in Portuguese banks) ate my card. I learned that those ATMs are not bank-owned and the friendly bank employees cannot open them to retrieve your card. I had a backup card and €180 from a prior trip. And happily, Schwab sent a new card that I was in Lisbon long enough to receive. As Cameron Hewitt says in his book: Jams are Fun!

Exchange rate - I loved that everything cost less in dollars than the posted price in Euros. I brought home more euros than usual for my next trip.

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Phew, that's it!

I'll add links gradually to my entries and hope this all might encourage a solo traveler (or anyone else) to give Portugal a try. I'm so glad I bought that Rick Steves Portugal guidebook while I was only dreaming of travel in 2020!

Posted by
3727 posts

What a lovely trip report. I find that the more we travel, the slower we go. And it we miss a sight for whatever reason - construction or not enough time or energy, so be it. Everything else we are seeing is new and exciting. We Definitely avoid 1 or 2 night stays. Going to bookmark this as Portugal is on my list.

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1487 posts

Love this report! In 2019 we were in Lisbon at the time of the marathon. Extra fun! You have made me want to return to Portugal! So glad you loved Portugal!!

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4423 posts

Thanks, Valerie! I took a look at your blog - it sounds like you may still be traveling!

I noted this comment in your blog "I’m always wishing for more space, a chair, a window, a little bit of charm." You may have gone to Portugal earlier this year, but if not or you return solo, you've just described my end-of-the-hall, semi-circular room in Hotel Astoria in Coimbra.

The hotel is shaped like an airplane wing to fit in the angle between the main road and a smaller one. My room was at the tip of the wing, a spacious semi-circle, even with the large, old-timey furniture, and a small desk and chair that I pulled right up to those French doors to have my breakfast, watch the goings-on and drink in that river view. I stood on my semi-circular balcony and imagined myself the princess of your travel wish-list! I might have even waved a couple of times to the folks on the street below, getting on/off their commute buses :-)

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Barbara, I'm finding the same: The more I travel, the slower I go. And I'm wishing, now, to go back to cities that I only spent 4 nights in - which at the time seemed like a luxury!

Carol, you and Tony have been such an inspiration for me to go to Portugal, with your pictures of the food and the places. I'm so grateful for your advice and encouragement to go!

newnona, Portugal was a rose-smelling dream, with so many squares and miradouros and rivers to stroll along!

TexasTravelMom, yes, I think our styles are similar. If we were to be in the same travel destination, we might just linger the day away! Budapest is one of those 4-night stands that I'd love to go back and spend 2 weeks in, as you did!

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10141 posts

Wonderful trip report, thanks for sharing. Portugal is definitely high on my list of places to go.

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1487 posts

Thanks, CWSocial! We're so happy you loved it!!

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619 posts

I've been anxiously awaiting this report, and I loved reading it. I'll have questions when I see you later this month.

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3171 posts

You are traveling my speed as well! I loved your report. I'm thinking of heading to this area next year.

I have a question about your SIM card? When you changed your card, did you have to know all your passwords to get into each app on your phone? Or did it still automatically work...I'm thinking fingerprint when I say this. I just can't decide what system to use to have cell service abroad and the thought to have to have all my passwords with me...well.

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1249 posts

Thank you for a fabulous organized trip report of your time in Portugal. My long term plan back in 2020 was to take a trip to Scotland in 2022 and then a return trip to Portugal in 2023. Your report outlined what I have had in the back of my mind for Portugal and I love that you take it all in slowly and comfortably. As I age, I am doing the same. So, Scotland was wonderful - now planning Portugal and had not decided yet what time of year. Was thinking April-May but now may just try early October. Thanks for all your tips and tricks.

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4423 posts

Barbara N, I can't wait to chat with you about Portugal. And Carol and Tony will have so much to share as well, since they've been there so many times. It will be a fun conversation!

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4423 posts

Thank you Wray, I'm so glad my report might be helpful to you!

This was the first time that I put the new SIM into my current phone. (Usually I use the local SIM in an older phone.)

I did not have to type in a single password: for my banks; WhatsApp (which still worked with my old phone number's setup and contacts); Facebook and the RS forum. I used each of those without retyping my password. I didn't try my fingerprint access, but I'm certain it would have worked with the Portugal SIM as well.

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Thanks, Andrea, I'm looking forward to hearing about your big adventure!

Linda, I love traveling in October anyway, and it was perfect for Portugal. There was "rain" (0.01") in the forecast throughout most of my stay in Porto, at the end of my trip. But it never amounted to anything except one day when it poured. And that was the day I had confidently left my raincoat back in the room, in favor of a sunhat. Oops!!

A later forum traveler was not so lucky, describing a "soggy 2 week" trip in his report.

October was well worth it for the lesser (but not absent) crowds.

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3961 posts

It’s been 6 years since our Portugal Tour. That said, it seemed like yesterday after reading your wonderful trip report. I felt like I was there again. I was so pleased to read that you took the same Lisbon Riders tour! It was such a great introduction prior to our tour! I had a smile on my face when you mentioned Coimbra. We were there in the month of September and the University Students were out and about proudly wearing their black robes. And Fado! We were privileged to attend in Lisbon & Coimbra. We loved Porto & the Douro Valley! You chose well. I can fully understand spending 3 weeks in this amazing country! Our 2.5 weeks were great, but it was just “a taste of Portugal.” Obrigada!

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2605 posts

Thanks for the detailed report. It’s very helpful as I start to think about Portugal for a future solo trip. But between your and Andrew’s report, I’m thinking Oct. is not the best month for me. I would want to avoid the marathon crowds and the rainy season starting in late Oct. So, Spring might work out better for me.

Gosh, someone should write a guidebook with all of this ......

I often find the trip reports to be more helpful than the guidebooks in some respects. I appreciate the first-hand experience of a recent traveler. I was recently disappointed to learn that in updating the RS books, the writers are running around checking to see if everything is still open. But they are not actually spending the nights in the hotels or eating at all restaurants. (I know it would not be practical to do so.) So, they don’t know if the quality of service has changed over the years. Plus, I imagine Rick and Cameron are getting better service than the average traveler. 😊

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4423 posts

Janis, the Lisbon Riders day tour to Sintra and Cascais was just right for me. And while it was an exception to my solo DIY tour, it was easy to ride along and enjoy the sights. Some of which I could not have made it to on my own - such as the westernmost point of continental Europe.

And that reminds me that our guide recommended a wonderful vegetarian restaurant in Cascais that I went to with 3 tour group members. I've added the "House of Wonders" to my "Restaurants of Note" section, above.

And Janis, I still owe you that trip to Amarante, which is a compelling reason (along with Guimaraes and Barga) to return to Porto! As if I needed a compelling reason to return to Portugal.

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Carrie, I'm happy if my trip report (and Andrew's and others) is helping you with your decision making.

I was also concerned about the weather in October. And it's difficult to know from some past years, such as 2021, which was a drought year - and during which the historical records show there was zero measurable rain in October in Lisbon, Coimbra or Porto. But that can't be counted on.

I will say that my visits to Fronteira Palace and the Gulbenkian were the Friday of the Lisbon Marathon weekend.

I was one of 4 people on the English Fronteira Palace tour and I had the gardens entirely to myself before my 10am tour began. The Gulbenkian had so few people that, when I wanted a photo of something, I could simply wait until there were no other visitors in the room to get an unobstructed view. There was no-one else in the lobby when I bought my ticket and I had the massive Turkish tile exhibit completely to myself for about 20 minutes. Not another soul in sight.

So while I won't try to talk you into any of your decision making, the crowds for the marathon were fairly centralized. Had I gone to Praca do Comercio, where they had the bandstand and big screen TV set up to view the finish, I'm quite sure it would have been boisterous. And they had bands set up to play in Restauradores Square, outside my hotel and part of the marathon course. I missed all of that up in the Chiado on Sunday afternoon, the day of the race, and had a quiet conversation with the Irish marathon runner who was hoping he had beaten his personal best! (I wish I knew if he did.)

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13683 posts

Wow, what a fun time you had!

I love that you went to the Botanical Garden 3 times, hahaha....that sounds like me. I love to sit on garden benches and either people watch or read. Just a lovely time for me!

Thanks so much for taking the time to write all this up. Now, bookmark it so when you are pining for Portugal you can click on it and enjoy your trip all over again!

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4423 posts

Carrie, thank you for saying "I often find the trip reports to be more helpful than the guidebooks in some respects." I have certainly found that the trip reports can be so helpful in trip planning and choosing between options. The advice I've read and received on the forum have been invaluable to helping me plan my own best trip. I'm glad it will help you with the same, whenever you decide to go!

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3862 posts

LOL, Pam…. How did you know? I actually write mine somewhere else and copy/paste - and then save the forum link there as well. Then I have 2 ways to sit and enjoy my trips all over again.

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4423 posts

"Now, bookmark it so when you are pining for Portugal you can click on it and enjoy your trip all over again!"

Pam, you are so right. After my spring tours in Turkey, I re-read that trip report many times, smiling to myself as I remembered the adventure. I feel quite sure I'll do the same with this trip report to Portugal. Or as someone recently called their trip report, Dear Diary. It does seem they benefit both the readers and the writers, in different ways. And it's an interesting mix to write for both audiences.

TexasTravelMom, me too! I wrote this "offline" and copied it here.

That's unlike my spring Turkey report, which was largely written on bus rides through Turkey, which I didn't have on this trip. Both have been fun to write and, to Pam's point, it's a fun way to relive our trips. So thanks again, all, for sharing the journey!

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93 posts

Well this is such a wonderful report to a country high up on my list of places to go! Your delight in traveling comes through in every sentence. Thanks for treating us all to come along with you.

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4423 posts

Oh Janis, I'm ready to go back to visit Amarante. Thanks for sharing the link. I think I need to plan a trip where I stay in Amarante and make day trips from there. Hah, I'm already researching my next trip!

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4423 posts

Thank you, bugslife, I do love my trips more and more as I get better at planning to suit myself.

And tonight is a very good night for a travel "treat" :-)

Posted by
927 posts

What a fantastic report CWsocial! I love how you organized it; it was very readable. I recently wrote a trip report about a month in Aix-en-Provence but it just got unwieldy trying to capture the essence of doing nothing but everything over four weeks in one spot.

Yes, slow travel is such a luxury! We can't quite take advantage yet so we have discovered working remotely abroad to "live" in a town or city, take day trips and work at night (US time). Your time spent sounds exactly like what we like to do: cafes, chat with the table next to us, wander a museum, shop the local fresh produce market, find a church concert, sit in gardens, walk and walk...

We are highly considering Portugal for September 2023 -- one week with our 20-something-year-old kids, then four more weeks to "live like locals." We are thinking of 9 days in Lisbon with kids (Chiado), then two more weeks in Alfama and two weeks in Giuamares. Your report has been so helpful -- now considering Porto and/or Coimbra instead!

I'd love to hear what you thought of Cascais. Could you have settled in there for a few nights or is it too small?

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4423 posts

Thank you, CaliMom, I agree it's hard to capture the essence of a moment in a place. My, you did that beautifully in your Aix-en-Provence trop report! As you said in it, "There is something about Europe that is rich for the soul."

And there is something about the cafe culture that allows me to go all day, visiting the sights - a double espresso and a Portuguese pastry help with that - and still take the time to enjoy just being in the place.

I'm afraid I did not get to do that in Cascais, as our stopover was only long enough for a relaxing lunch revival within a busy tour agenda. That memorable lunch was at the expense of wandering around Cascais for 90 minutes, so I can't really claim to have seen the town.

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4423 posts

now considering Porto and/or Coimbra instead

If I were looking to spend 2 weeks, I'm drawn to the area around Porto and the Douro Valley. I had looked at Amarante, Braga, Regua and Guimaraes as day trips from Porto. On a return trip, I'll look at spending a few nights, at least, in Amarante.

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927 posts

Just looked up Amarente — looks charming!

I love the great cities of Europe and could go back again and again to London, Paris, Rome and Florence. But spending time in smalller towns and cities like Oxford and Aix have provided more of a lifestyle change for us, at least temporarily. Onto find the next! 😊

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4423 posts

Between the link you sent, CaliMom, and the one Janis sent, Amarante is moving higher and higher up the wish list!

Posted by
3136 posts

Catherine, how did you decide on 3 weeks? I mean I know your retired, so you could have stayed longer? Is three weeks the length of time you like to be gone?

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4423 posts

My parents watch my dog while I travel and I try to stay within 3 - 3.5 weeks as a courtesy to them. I visit them for a week before and after each trip, so I'm away from home for 5 weeks for a 3 week trip.

I sketched a 16-19 day itinerary and the flights I liked best were a 19 day trip. When United cancelled my return, I rebooked for 20 days.

After further researching Amarante, I decided I'd rather stay there a few nights, instead of a day trip. So in hindsight I'd have added 3N in Amarante and time for 2 more day trips from Porto.

Would 25 days have been perfect, or would I just have wished for 28? 😁

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2054 posts

Oh my gosh! Nine miles a day is a lot. We did a bit over six a day and my feet took a beating. We got home 10/3 and my ankles still hurt a little. I loved Portugal and want to go back. Great report.

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4423 posts

Diane, I rarely take tennis shoes on a trip, but I did on this one - and I wore them nearly every day, opting for my Aetrex sandals, which had served me so well in Turkey, just a few times.

I'm so glad you enjoyed Portugal as much as I did! I look forward to hearing more about your trip at our online travel group meeting.

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310 posts

Thank you sooooo much for this wonderful trip report! I have absorbed so much great information from this- thank you for posting this!
I too will be a female solo traveler travelling to Portugal for the first time the first week in October 2023. I’m so glad to hear that you felt safe. I’m not a worry wart and am extra cautious when I am travelling solo but this gave me a big boost of confidence when travelling to an unknown place.
I will be doing my trip to Portugal as an extra bonus after doing RS “Best of Spain” next year. I have the luxury of some extra free time and noticed the layover in Lisbon on my way home flying back to US was perfect for my itinerary. Decided to add 5 days in Portugal instead of just passing through.
I am spending my first 3 nights in Cascais as I love beach towns. I figure this will be nice downtime after my busy Spain tour. Chill and relax.
Then staying 2 nights in Lisbon- would love to spend 3 but can’t. I think at this point I will be back on track to do a lot of sightseeing/touring. Thanks for the great ideas! I think I’ll do one day in Lisbon then to Belem sights the next day.

I love travelling and honestly love seeing everything there is to see! I love your plan of taking it easy, wandering and enjoying the small
Moments that make a big impact!
Thank you, thank you!

Posted by
4423 posts

lisa g, I'm so glad this has given you a boost of solo travel confidence for your extra time in Portugal! I didn't spend much time in Cascais, but I bet it will be a great place to relax after your tour.

Having said that ..... the Lisbon Marathon will be October 8 in 2023. It runs (hah!) from Cascais to Lisbon, so that weekend in both towns may be more crowded.

Will you be in Lisbon/Belem or Cascais then?

In Lisbon, the crowds were near Praca do Comercio (by the river) and to a lesser extent up to Restauradores Square where I could see stands being set up that morning, perhaps for a band, from my hotel window. I didn't experience the crowds while I was wandering around Bairro Alto and the north end of Lisbon that weekend.

You could probably send a message to kathrynj, who lives in Cascais, and ask how her town is impacted that weekend. Judging from the marathon course map, it will also pass through Belem.

For your time in Cascais, even if you're not vegetarian, I highly recommend the House of Wonders for a lovely meal. See notes above.

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4423 posts

THE DETAILS: Tips on Tickets and Lines for Jerónimos Monastery - in October

As my trip approached, there were thousands of daily tickets available for Jerónimos Monastery, so I bought mine the night before my visit. Earlier in the tourist season, and perhaps on weekends and holidays, the tickets were timed; My ticket, mid-week in October, was for a date but not a time.

There are 3 lines to the monastery for ticket holders:
- the cloisters (opens at 930am) has two lines, for groups (who get priority entry) and individuals
- the church (opens at 1030am) with individuals and groups (no priority) in the same line

The Cloisters
I got in the cloisters line at 920am - about 10th in line, after those who didn't have tickets left to buy their **tickets at the far (far) end of the monastery. At 10am, 2 groups (who get precedence over individuals) entered the cloisters. Then the first of the individuals.

The good news: The tour groups congregated within the cloister for info from their guides, while I wandered around (with my RS guidebook) and had the lovely cloister and its then-still-empty and beautifully tiled chapels to myself for 20 minutes. Dozens of photos with no-one in them!

The Church
At 10am, I went back outside to stand, behind one couple, in the church line. At 10:30, entering the church, I got a few peaceful moments (and great photos) while the tour group behind me were clustered at the back of the church.

By 10:15, the line for the monastery was long.
By 10:45, the chuch line extended beyond the end of the church building and out towards the street. A 30+ minute wait and growing.

I can't say what the afternoon lines were like.

Getting there: with my Viva Viagem card, I took the 15E tram from Praça da Figueira to Belém and back.

Posted by
310 posts

Thank you, CWsocial for your comments!
I will be there Oct 1-5, but this race information is great to know, because I would imagine there will be people arriving early for the race. I will be sure to book any tix on-line well ahead of time, just to not miss out! Thanks again, so so much! I have bookmarked this and will be using your great trip report to plan some of my activities. This is why I love this forum so much! Thanks again for your time and efforts. (Now I’m even MORE excited to travel to Portugal)! Take care,
P.S. kathrynj did respond to a post I created regarding questions about Cascais and she was extremely helpful, too! 😊

Posted by
4423 posts

Lisa, you are so welcome! I agree, the forum is such a great place to pick up tips; I'm glad I can pass a few along, in return.

And just to add to things to think about, October 5th is Republic Day in Portugal. Museums are free for residents. I went to the National Tile Museum and the Cathedral that morning, and the Botanic Gardens in the afternoon, all of which seemed pretty quiet. The weather was lovely; perhaps everyone was at the beach!

Posted by
32283 posts

What a fabulous trip report. And what appears to be a very happy Catherine. Yay!

I've just re-read the whole thing. So well written, so well organised.

I was tickled when I saw how you'd spent time at the National Tile Museum. Must have been paradise. One wonders, oh so gently, how many hundredweight of new Portuguese tiles are winging their way to the East Bay - having seen your tile from Turkey.

It is wonderful when a plan comes together isn't it....

Posted by
4423 posts

Thank you, Nigel! You're very kind, as always. You're so right about the Tile Museum. The attendant wandering the galleries was very helpful in pointing me to the app so that I could read more while I was admiring.

Truly, Portugal is an art walk for a ceramic and tile lover. And in colors of blue and white or blue and yellow, well you know I was in my personal little paradise, with tile displays that would be in museums in most other countries. Little stone benches along the river are decorated with them; the miradouros and metro stations; entire exterior walls of churches, their cloisters and chapels; grand displays at Fronteira Palace and still beautiful ones in little dead end alleyways; even the ladies rooms in small cafes.

All that meandering was really a tile treasure hunt!

ETA: Oh, I might have tucked a couple of small tilework pieces into my bag, one for me and one for Mom.

Posted by
1487 posts

CWsocial - Would 25 days have been perfect, or would I just have wished for 28? You would have wished for 28 days! It's never enough!

Posted by
3797 posts

Great trip report! I enjoyed reading about your time in Portugal. I'm glad you had time to meander 🙂.

Posted by
4423 posts

Carol, you're absolutely right, there's never enough time.

Thank you, Dave! It's an interesting word, meander: from the flow of a stream around curves, a Greek River God, "from Greek maiandros" (Merriam-Webster) and the Menderes River in Turkey, historically known as the Maeander (Britannica.)

I will want even more time to meander in Portugal😀

Posted by
2605 posts

I’m re-reading this because I booked 9 nights in Lisbon for next March. 😊

Thanks again for taking the time to write the report. I especially appreciate the details on solo travel as my trip will also be a solo one. Well, unless my sister decides to come alone. 😊

Posted by
3136 posts

Carrie, you also write great TR’s! I have your Switzerland one bookmarked and sorry, got a few chuckles out of your travel companion woes TR! I hope you give us one for Portugal!

Posted by
4423 posts

Nine nights in Lisbon sounds wonderful, Carrie! There is so much to see and do, there and nearby. And it's such a pleasant place to just, well, wander around and discover.

You've got me thinking abouut when I can go back to Portugal. Until then, I look forward to hearing about your trip!

Posted by
6931 posts

What a wonderful trip report! And so many of your activities are also ones I would enjoy! I’m going to bookmark this one since I haven’t been to Portugal, yet. : ). I appreciate all of the details that you provided.

Bookmarking your trip is fun for you to reread later, and it’s also helpful when someone later on asks a Portugal question on the forum. You can quickly copy/paste the answer to a location, hotel, etc.

Posted by
1359 posts

Enjoyed the report. I am looking at doing part of the Camino de Santiago (my first time) in 2024 with Portugal as my starting point. Flying in and out of there, so I can spend my post walk time between Lisbon and or Porto, figured I can knock out two things at once (The Walk & some of Portugal). 🇵🇹

Posted by
2605 posts

diveloonie and CWsocial, no brothers-in-law allowed on this trip. 😊