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Recommendations for Portugal

My husband and I are planning on 10-12 days  in Portugal in September then a few days across Northern Spain (Bilbao) then possibly into France up to Biarritz. We plan one driving throughout the trip. Any recommendations in terms of "must sees" along the way? Thanks!!

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  • Marc Charles Thornburgh

    top answer by

    Not sure that you can rent a car in Portugal and drop off in Spain or France, however when are we leaving???

    All suggestions below are great, but time will be a problem. For my 60th birthday, my wife and I flew into Madrid for a couple of days and met up with our two sons and wives, then off to Bilbao, San Sebastian (the best food and great Basque wines!), and País Vasco (stay in the paradors..they are state owned and run and are generally inexpensive old castles), to Biarritz (old casino beach town, probably not worth taking time away from all else) back to Spain for dinner at ElBulli then flew to Morocco from Barcelona for three weeks. From Marrakech we flew to Porto (2 nights necessary), rented a car and spent three nights visiting the Douro Valley (whatever else you do, do this...the most spectacular wine country we've every visited) then down through the mountains (Obidos is great) to Lisbon for a week or so and visited all the towns listed below.

    Realistically, your best bet is to do a loop out of Lisbon up to Oporto across to Basque country (if you have the time), or just stay in Portugal. We did not go south of Lisbon because that is where most beach tourists go, and I wouldn't waste any time in central Portugal, with the exception of Obidos and the shiest villages in the mountains. The dollar goes a long way, the food was mostly unexciting and the wine cheap and really good! Desfrute!

    Forgot to mention the eclectic articles that can be found on Roads and Kingdoms http://roadsandkingdoms.com/2012/broken-songs-of-lisbon/


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    • Aloringny ..

      Aloringny ..

      Did you rent a car by any chance when in Portugal? any advice? · (1 likelikes)

    • Marc T.

      Marc T.

      Aloringny: sorry about the answer delay but we have been traveling from SF to our hotel in Vail (AustriaHausHotel.com). It's snowing! I don't remember who we rented from in Oporto, and you are probably familiar with getting the best price in general (more on that below), but number one recommendation is that you get a small car for exploring, especially if you plan on driving in the mountains...very narrow. I prefer a compact over economy category since it is always sportier and more fun to drive, but I also think there is a mini category available in some of Europe, which is the most fun. We have owned a travel agency for 30 years and can sometimes get a better rate through our agency, but mostly to get the best price we check and re-check prices (because they fluctuate a lot) on Orbitz or similar. Orbitz (and others) make that easy because they have a one click stored searches option. If, for example, Eurocar has the best rate in the category we are interested in (rarely with them), I will first look for any coupons they might have on the internet and book direct on their site. Even if they don't have any coupons, I always join whatever they are offering as a club or frequent user (sic) because there is usually a cost or service benefit for being a member. Don't ever buy prepay for the small discount since there will probably be a better price closer to pick-up from some other company. Finally, its worth trying the opaques like Priceline, but base your offer on a discount to the best price you have found rather than the best price offered by Hertz. It rarely works, but it does sometimes. · (0 likelikes)

    Mentioned in this answer:

    1. Portugal (country)
    2. Spain (country)
    3. France (country)
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  • Marie-France Roy

    answered by

    I agree with the other posters regarding Porto, the Douro river, Lisbon, Belém and Sintra.

    I would also add Coimbra, a mid-size university town known for its fado music, as well as Obidos if you like small quaint pedestrian towns. The latter specializes in cherry liquor drunk out of chocolate cups. Yum!ObidosPicture of Obidos

    General Trippy Media

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  • Taylor Geiger

    answered first by

    Lucky you! That sounds like a lovely itinerary.

    While in Portugal, do not miss Porto! The port wine is enough of a reason to go, but you will also discover a city filled with beautiful old buildings and views of the water along with lots of art and culture. Here's a picture of a beautiful stairway leading down towards the river.

    PortoThere are enough cellar tours to fill up an entire weekend, but two of my personal favorites included Caves Sandeman & C. and Ramos PintoYou can try all of their different types of port wine and learn about how they make it. Here's a picture of port tasting at Ramos Pinto!

    Ramos PintoIf I ever get the opportunity to return to Portugal I would love to take a trip to the Douro River valley after seeing some of the beautiful photos of the vineyards there at my visit to the cellars. Perhaps you could make a stop there while driving?

    It's also important to note that you can take a cable car over the river to the port cellars & you should definitely do this for beautiful views over the city like this one!

    Ramos PintoAnother not to miss place for beauty in Portugal is Sintra, outside of Lisbon. You could day trip or spend a weekend - there are many old castles and mansions to discover in this area as well as excellent food and small cozy restaurants.

    I wrote several blog posts about my time in Portugal at http://thesportysightseer.com/category/portugal/ you can check them out for a first hand account & more details!

    I hope you have a fantastic time in one of my favorite countries!

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  • Brew Johnson

    answered by

    Portugal is fantastic. Lisbon is one of the most underrated capitals in Europe and a great place to walk and tour. Outside of Lisbon, Cascais is a great option to stay, as it has great public tranportation into Lisbon (if you don't want to drive) and is a spectacular place in and of itself, with a charming marina, beaches, cobblestone streets with great restaurants, etc.

    If you are in the area, I think Sintra is a must visit. A Unesco world heritage site and a really beautiful place to explore with many castles. If you are going to pick one castle, I'd do the Pena National Palace.


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  • Maria O'Dwyer

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    Make sure you spend some time in Lisbon, Sintra and the Lisbon coast. Lisbon is my third favourite city in Europe (after Bergamo and Seville!) It has a sunny, laid back vibe, beautiful views and the people are friendly and lovely. There is a lot to do, take Tram 28 on your first day to get your bearings. It tends to be very busy at rush hour but, if you start early in the morning, you can see all the Lisbon districts (called Bairros) without climbing the steep hills. Walk around the Alfama district for "old Lisbon" and wonderful views. Take a cable car out to Belém. We rented a cottage in the hills overlooking the city - the most famous Fado singer lived in the cottage next door. After a hard day climbing the hills we sat in the terrace garden, sipping our chilled Dão, watching the lights come on in the city below.

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  • Monika Ligocka

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    I love Portugal! Such a great country to visit! We did it few years back with a rented car and a tent - one of the best trips ever! People are so nice and helpful, porto is deliciouse and the beaches of Faro divine!

    If you would like more on not to miss, please, visit my blog and section about Portugal - there is one thing which blowed our minds - Batalha.

    More here -http://www.wanderingveronique.com/?cat=56

    We are planing the trip to Sapain in October as well - for two weeks, rented car and going from one place to another. I would love to hear about your experiance!

    Have you thought about renting a car in Portugal? It was not bad price wise (some advise if you need one here:http://www.wanderingveronique.com/?cat=131) and it made us very independent too - we visited some remote places, unexpected sites and villages - I belive it is a great way to visit a country if you want to spend there 10 or more days! Have fun!

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  • Justin Hilson

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    If you drive through the Douro River Valley, I highly recommend staying a couple of days at Casa Do Visconde De Chanceleiros just outside of Pinhao. It's my favorite place to stay in the Douro and probably the world: a beautiful villa with spectacular views, an exquisite but laid back atmosphere, and absolutely amazing breakfast and dinners with delicious local wine. It's not exactly "cheap" but it's great value. There are also wonderful less expensive places to stay in the area as well depending on your budget. Pinhao is a great base for exploring the vineyards, small villages, river tours and hiking trails of the Douro.

    As a foil to the Lisbon-centric recommendations already given (all great places to visit though), I love the Minho Jantes region north of the Douro. Beautiful green countryside. Historic small cities (Guimaraes, Amarante), ubiquitous vinho verde and the Peneda-Gerês National Park has some fantastic hiking and fascinating old villages seemingly lost in time (Soajo is a good entry point). If you have time to really go off the beaten track, the small village of Sra. da Peneda is breathtaking with a wonderful convent turned hotel definitely worth a night or two. Watch out for cows in the road while driving.

    Porto is also a must, truly a unique place.

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  • Amanda Kingsmith

    answered by

    Hey!

    If you are going to be in Portugal, I would highly recommend visiting the Algarve, and I really enjoyed Lagos. I also enjoyed Lisbon. There are a ton of great restaurants in Lagos, and the beaches are amazing. As well, there are a lot of cool historical areas to explore in Lisbon, and the culture there is great.

    Happy travels!

    Amanda

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  • Tiffany Weber

    answered by

    Although I don't know southern Portugal, I will definitely repeat that you must see and experience Porto. In 1-2 days you can do quite a bit of port tasting. I'd recommend starting your tasting time in Porto stopping at Taylor and GRAHAM'S were our favorites, but the options are endless. Just start walking through Vila Nova de Gaia, the town just opposite Porto, and you'll find more Port tasting rooms than you have time for, many perched on the hill with beautiful views of Porto across the river. You can walk from this side, across the bridge to Porto itself and enjoy the old town and good food. I like Restaurante Chez Lapin, but the options are endless.

    Take time to go down the Duoro River if you can to stop at a few Quintas where they actually grow and harvest the grapes on steep hills. We particularly like the ports and friendliness of Quinta do Tedo. They also have lodging there now on their little lake, so you can stay a night there. It's beautiful.

    North of Porto, visit Guimaraes, the birthplace of Portugal with an old castle. See the Bom Jesus in Braga and shop for souvenirs and try new foods at the market in Barcelos. The beaches are beautiful. We enjoyed Esposende.

    Bom Jesus

    As you venture north into Spain and if you have time, you are close enough to see the pilgrimage city of Santiago de Compostela on your way to Bilbao.

    Do stop and see the cathedral in Burgos. The old city center is beautiful, so if you have an afternoon to spend, do stop and enjoy this city, the phenomenal cathedral with the star ceiling, and the old streets packed with phenomenal tapas restaurants.


    Also, you're close enough in Bilbao to visit San Sebastian - a beautiful city with delicious tapas and a nice old historic quarter to explore. They have beaches and water and beautiful architecture, but my best memories here are all about the food.

    San Sebastian

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  • Filipa Mendonca

    answered by

    In Bilbao, Museo Guggenheim Bilbao and the beach in Mundaka

    In Lisbon, Mude

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  • Filippo Thehig

    answered by

    ...This is My last video of my travel on the road around Portugal....

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URN2wh08D6s

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  • Diana Coza

    answered by

    Hello, I recommend the trip along the Douro until Oporto:

    http://www.wheretwogoto.com/along-the-douro-to-oporto/

    but for more of what to see in Portugal, feel welcome to visit the blog above and send me any question you may have. Cheers! :)

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  • Alice Sergent

    answered by

    Biarritz and the País Vasco coast is absolutely gorgeous! Go up to the Biarritz Lighthouse at sunset!

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  • Maria João B Demony

    answered by

    If you can, Porto (2 nights), Coimbra (1 night), Lisbon/Cascais/Sintra (5 nights) and Monsaraz (1 night) and to finish a few days on the beach in the Algarve region, with nice and warm beaches!! Is not all the beautiful we have in Portugal, but represents the best of Portugal has to offer to those who visit us!

    And you can also include good food and good wine and you will not be sorry!! Enjoy ;-)

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