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Portugal, Spain, France, Bilbao, Biarritz

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!!

13 Answers

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 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Portugal (attraction)
  2. Spain (country)
  3. France (attraction)
  4. Madrid (city)
  5. Bilbao (city)
  6. San Sebastian (city)
  7. País Vasco (attraction)
  8. Biarritz (city)
  9. ElBulli (attraction)
  10. Morocco (attraction)
  11. Barcelona (city)
  12. Marrakech (city)
  13. Porto (city)
  14. Douro Valley (restaurant)
  15. Obidos (city)
  16. Lisbon (city)
5 thankscomments (2)

answered by
Marie-France from Toronto

I agree with the other posters regarding Porto, the Douro river, LisbonBelém 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!Picture of Obidos

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Porto (city)
  2. Lisbon (city)
  3. Belém (attraction)
  4. Sintra (attraction)
  5. Coimbra (city)
  6. Obidos (city)
5 thanks

answered first by
Taylor from New Orleans

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. 

There 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!

If 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!

Another 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 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!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Porto (city)
  2. Caves Sandeman & C. (attraction)
  3. Ramos Pinto (restaurant)
  4. Sintra (attraction)
5 thanks

answered by
Maria from Dublin

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.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Lisbon (city)
  2. Sintra (attraction)
  3. Alfama (attraction)
  4. Belém (attraction)
3 thanks

answered by
Brew from Manhattan Beach

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.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Lisbon (city)
  2. Cascais (city)
  3. Sintra (attraction)
  4. Pena National Palace (attraction)
3 thanks

answered by

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.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Casa Do Visconde De Chanceleiros (hotel)
  2. Pinhao (city)
  3. Douro (attraction)
  4. Minho Jantes (attraction)
  5. Peneda-Gerês National Park (attraction)
  6. Sra. da Peneda (attraction)
  7. Porto (city)
2 thanks

answered by
Amanda from Canmore


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!


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Algarve (attraction)
  2. Lagos (attraction)
  3. Lisbon (city)
1 thanks

answered by
Tiffany from Corvallis

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 Port Lodge 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.

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. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Porto (city)
  2. Taylor (attraction)
  3. GRAHAM'S Port Lodge (restaurant)
  4. Vila Nova de Gaia (city)
  5. Restaurante Chez Lapin (restaurant)
  6. Quinta do Tedo (restaurant)
  7. Guimaraes (attraction)
  8. Bom Jesus (attraction)
  9. Braga (city)
  10. Barcelos (city)
  11. Esposende (city)
  12. Santiago de Compostela (city)
  13. Burgos (attraction)
  14. San Sebastian (city)
1 thanks

answered by
Filipa from Portugal

In Bilbao, Museo Guggenheim Bilbao and the beach in Mundaka

In Lisbon, Mude

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Museo Guggenheim Bilbao (attraction)
  2. Mundaka (attraction)
  3. Mude (attraction)
1 thanks

answered by
Filippo from Italy

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

answered by
Diana from Lisbon

Hello, I recommend the trip along the Douro until 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! :)

answered by
Alice from Leeds

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

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Biarritz (city)
  2. País Vasco (attraction)
  3. Biarritz Lighthouse (attraction)

answered by
Maria João

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 ;-)

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Porto (city)
  2. Coimbra (city)
  3. Lisbon (city)
  4. Cascais (city)
  5. Sintra (attraction)
  6. Monsaraz (city)
  7. Algarve (attraction)

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