We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Where to go? Just starting to research Portugal

Illinois
Level Contributor
253 posts
22 reviews
Where to go? Just starting to research Portugal

My husband suggested a trip to Portugal, possibly late July or early August. I know next to nothing about this country. Where do people go? We are 56 and 49, with two daughters, 19 and 21. I like beautiful scenery, quaint towns, fine dining and "wining," some shopping and sightseeing. I'm not huge into museums or intense activities. Does Portugal fit us? As a somewhat frame of reference, I loved Taormina, Bellagio, and the Amalfi Coast, when we visited Italy. Thank you :)

Lisbon, Portugal
Destination Expert
for Azores, Lisbon
Level Contributor
25,226 posts
57 reviews
1. Re: Where to go? Just starting to research Portugal

Here are itineraries that show you a bit of the country https:/…Itineraries.html

End of July- early August is peak season by the sea, both portuguese and a few millions of tourist will be by the beach, the South (Algarve) will be packed and expensive.

Dunstable...
Level Contributor
2,394 posts
158 reviews
2. Re: Where to go? Just starting to research Portugal

How long are you planning? Are you planning to use only public transportation or are you open to a rental car? I think that this important to giving you workable suggestions. We usually use a combination of having a rental car and spending time in the cities using only public transportations. Then again, it is possible to visit Lisbon (great day trips) and Porto (three hour train ride each way) without a rental car.

As before mention, you will be travelling at the peak tourist time but don't let that scare you off. There is so much to do in Portugal to suit all tastes. English is widely spoken, driving is fairly easy and public transportation is very good.

While Hubby has taught all over Europe, we keep coming back to Portugal. I am plotting our sixth trip to Portugal and we have only scratched the surface of the great things to do in Portugal. Yes, we have been to Italy a couple of times including the Amalfi (I was the driver) and I can say without a doubt that I prefer driving in Portugal! Just let us know more.

Illinois
Level Contributor
253 posts
22 reviews
3. Re: Where to go? Just starting to research Portugal

Thank you. We would be open to renting a car. My husband has driven in Europe before, so he has a little bit of familiarity. I would guess we're looking at about a 10- or 11-day trip, door to door. I know that we will definitely want to spend some amount of time on the coast.

Dunstable...
Level Contributor
2,394 posts
158 reviews
4. Re: Where to go? Just starting to research Portugal

Ten to eleven days is a good time frame to get a taste of Portugal. You have two coasts in Portugal being either the Atlantic or the Mediterranean. The south (Algarve) will be packed with tourists and three to four hour drive from Lisbon. We went to the Algarve once and it just wasn't what we wanted to do again. Everyone is different.

Lisbon is a river city and has many charms. Via public transportation, you can easily visit Cascais for example which is a lovely upscale town on the Atlantic. We went there in a July numerous years ago and enjoyed our two day stay after spending four days in Lisbon. We have also greatly enjoyed Sesimbra which is about 45 minutes south of Lisbon which we did via rental car. Gorgeous beach, good hotels and very good restaurants but we were there off season not when all the Lisbonites travel there for their relaxation.

I am sure other people on TA will give you suggestions for a beach location not that far from Lisbon.

Quaint towns are mostly found inland or so has been my experience. Yes, you have the city of Porto which is three hour train ride (each way) from Lisbon that is another option. We did this via rental car in a July since I had some stops I wanted to do along the way. I am a history nut so I wanted to stop in Tomar and visited the Convento de Cristo which is one of the fabulous UNESCO historical sites of Portugal. Loved the town of Tomar which was a great stop over on our way to Porto.

Since then, we have enjoyed visiting Evora and deeper into the Alentejo that has options for some of the famous hill towns of the area. Yes, it can be hot in the summer in this region. SO many options in this region.

Then again, I haven't even mentioned the great area around Porto which we enjoyed. I am sure others will mention this area and have great suggestions.

You will love Portugal and want to return as we have.

Illinois
Level Contributor
253 posts
22 reviews
5. Re: Where to go? Just starting to research Portugal

Thank you so much, Claudia. As I think more about the trip and the time alotted, I think I would like to split our stay between two locations. Is that a good idea? I don't think I want to relocate more than once. What would be your suggestions then? At least part of the trip must include beach/seaside.

I'm overwhelmed with all the choices. We like leisurely sightseeing, fine dining, quaint locales, some shopping, and hotels kind of on the luxury side, I guess. I like beautiful scenery. In the past we have really enjoyed Taormina, Bellagio, Stresa, and Siena in Italy. I also love the country towns in England, like Arundel and Bath, the beaches in Maui, and the medieval towns of Eze and St. Paul de Vence in France. Venice and Paris completely charmed me as well. We don't like a lot of museums and galleries.

Windsor
Level Contributor
7 posts
59 reviews
6. Re: Where to go? Just starting to research Portugal

We are also in the planning stages to visit Portugal in late March. Flying into Porto spending 3 nights, then train to Lisbon and spend 3 nights. From there would like to visit Evora before heading to the Algrave to meet friends vacationing. You mention driving, been to Italy twice and used the trains. Leary of driving as English spoken only, is the train service plentiful or would your reccommend renting a vehicle? Thanks for the post on the Unesco site, again can you train or bus it from Porto?

Dunstable...
Level Contributor
2,394 posts
158 reviews
7. Re: Where to go? Just starting to research Portugal

As far as beautiful scenery, you will get it in Portugal either on the coast or inland. As has been before mentioned, you will be travelling at peak tourist time. Other than one trip in July, we have been to Portugal mostly in off peak times. Some of the places we have loved in the Alentejo (one of our favorite places to visit), might be rather hot in your time frame.

Lisbon has become our favorite capital city in Europe and we have visited many or most. While it is a big city, it has a small city attitude with great public transportation. It is also a city with different areas that can be enjoyed for their uniqueness. It is also a city where you can do the evening walk with a multigenerational groups of Lisbonites that are out enjoying their great city. Love this.

Lisbon is a great place to use as a hub for your travels. There is so much that you can do as day trips from Lisbon or you can pick another place or two to spend a night or two. For example on one trip in July, we loved the two nights that we spent in Cascais (easy public transportation to) that is upscale seaside location that included a free concert series while we were there. On another trip (in November), we decided to spend three nights in Sintra (also easy public transportation to) and so loved the palace we stayed in and the ability to visit the great historical sites or just walk about including not taking the bus but hiking about. Miles of trails to walk and explore with some of the finest vistas in Portugal.

Yes, you have other options close to Lisbon. For example, we spent a couple of nights in Sesimbra (in an October) with a rental car that was a 45 minute drive from the airport. Beautiful beach and we loved opening the sliders and hearing the ocean waves. Loved the food. You can watch the fishing boats coming in knowing that your dinner is most likely on it. Definitely some of the best simply grilled swordfish I have eaten in my life. Neat little town with so many options to visit other places in the area.

IF is was me after enjoying so many other places in Portugal, I think I might concentrate on the Lisbon area with your limited time. Talk to your children and find out what they want to do. I am a "bad" mother when I travel with my daughter to Europe and tell her WHERE we are going...

Lisbon, Portugal
Destination Expert
for Azores, Lisbon
Level Contributor
25,226 posts
57 reviews
8. Re: Where to go? Just starting to research Portugal

The train is the best option coming from Porto to Lisbon and even to go to the Algarve. There are around 18 trains per day from Porto to Lisbon and 5 per day from Lisbon to the Algarve. ave a look at www.cp.pt buy the tickets weel in advance and get discounts up to 60%.

New York City, New...
Level Contributor
7,987 posts
526 reviews
9. Re: Where to go? Just starting to research Portugal

Portugal is so great and so relatively unknown to American tourists. I've travelled dozens of times all over Europe (and have homes in Athens and south of France) and Portugal became one of my favorites.

It will fit what you like. Very generally, the southern coast is a bit more resorty (golf courses, high end beach hotels). I like Central and northern better.

I suggest you focus on two areas: Lisbon and its coast; and then Porto and the inland Douro wine region.

I'll share our itinerary because we are similar in age and interests.

We flew in and out of Lisbon. But If you can I suggest you fly in to Lisbon and out of Porto, or vice versa.

First half of trip. Lisbon a couple of nights, nearby *Cascais seaside town a couple of nights (or stay in one and visit the other). Day trip to Sintra. Medieval hill town with castle and Forrest.

Second half. Drove to Porto. Stayed two nights. Then drove to ******Douro Valley (love). Stopped in beautiful river town of Amarante! So little known and so gorgeous.

Then got to Pinhao in Douro valley. Hilly wine region countryside. WOW. Literally within an hour we asked our hotel to extend our stay from two nights to four. Look at images of these areas.

Portugal hotels and restaurants are also about 2/3 the price of places like France. Great food and great people.

Illinois
Level Contributor
253 posts
22 reviews
10. Re: Where to go? Just starting to research Portugal

Thank you, Claudia and Doby, for such comprehensive replies. I will look into the areas mentioned, and most likely be back with more questions!