New York City
Hello! Wife and I are going to Portugal for ~9 days in first week of August. We are staying in Lisbon for half the trip then will drive up to Porto and stay there for the remainder. We're really unsure about how to organize this with regards to beaches, car rental, what to see, where to stay.
1) We're staying in Chiado neighborhood in Lisbon. The apartment has free parking. Should we rent a car the whole time? If we want to drive out of Lisbon to see a castle or winery, I figure it's good to have a car? Or is it easier to just rent a car when needed? Hearing the Portuguese are pretty laid back and the busy season of August, renting a car on-demand might not work so well (I'm guessing after my experience in Greece in August)? We need a car to drive to Porto, so better to secure the car at the beginning of the trip? (p.s. I'm fine driving manual transmission)
2) We love beaches! Is it worth the long drive south of Lisbon to go to the beaches there or should we stick to beaches between Lisbon and Porto? We had the idea of staying over a couple nights near/on a beach during our drive from Lisbon to Porto. Is this doable? Or are the beaches between Lisbon and Porto just beaches that would go for the day but not stay overnight anywhere?
3) Alternatively, should we drive south of Lisbon instead to stay at a beach and then have to drive even longer to get up to Porto? (For example, Lisbon (3 hrs drive) -> Lagos, stay 2 days then (5 hrs drive)-> Porto)
4) People say the beaches are very crowded but how much? We're from New York City and are very used to crowds and crowded beaches.
5) People seem to love mentioning pick pockets in Lisbon. Is this really a thing people need to keep in mind? People mention pick pockets in New York City and we basically laugh it off, I've never heard of anyone pick pocketed.
6) What is a good amount of days in Lisbon vs Porto? Does one have more to see than the other?
1 - I would rent a car for a week. The first two days, in Lisbon, the car is almost useless - there are good public transports in the touristy area of the city, driving in town is tricky, and parking is difficult and expensive.
On your third day, pick the car, and drive along the "Marginal" to Cascais and Sintra, returning to sleep in Lisbon. There are many beaches that you may visit, however, in the west coast, you may expect water about 17 to 20º Celsius from north to south, while in the southern coast you may have 2/3 more degrees (or not).
2 - If temperature and nightlife are important for you, then south is the best area to swim (and you may find some Portuguese amidst the thousands of foreigners). If not, skip it and go up north.
3 - If you need to drive to Porto use that day to see the west coast - there is much to choose:
Mafra is a nice stop, Ericeira a lovely beach. Peniche is a possible stop to eat fish, but shortening time as you must visit Obidos, I suggest that you reserve it to Nazaré, where you absolutely must go - one of the most beautiful beaches that i know.
You may sleep there, but in that week everybody is in the beach, so you risk to face overbooking. No problem, minutes away, more inland, you may fins good hotels in Alcobaca or Batalha, both very interesting to visit (or drive 2 hours to Porto).
4 - Yes, the best beaches are crowded in that week. Following the coast, however, you may explore several wild beaches where only parking in the small and rudimentar areas will be hard.
5 - Don't worry about pickpockets - they exist in Lisbon as everywhere else (I only had bad experiences in Spain and Miami). Take common precautions, specially in the touristy public transports, and enjoy your vacation.
6 - Lisbon and Porto may be seen in two days. Most people do travel around, and that means extras days, depending on how far you will go. In Lisbon you already know the most important, in Porto, travelling around demands a visit to Porto wine region (Peso da Regua to Pinhao) possible by car, train or boat, and, if with time, to Guimaraes.
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its better to rent a car to travel between porto and lisbon and especially if you go to algarve (crappy public transportation) in lisbon you can rent a car but its dificult to get a parking space and in porto you don´t need a car because it has great public transportation and it is a small town Porto
and for beaches you can go for the beaches in alentejo they are less crowded and know by tourists for now