I am planning a trip to Portugal (first time) during the summer but still undecided what to do and where to go.... all seems very cool.
One of the plans that came to mind was renting a car and travel from Lisbon to Porto, stopping in all the nice places in between. Have no idea where to stop, stay, eat so your advice would be highly welcomed.
Also open to other suggestions - national parks, castles, mountains etc etc.
Need your advice to plan a great holiday, and promise to return the favor when any member visits Colombia.
Which guide book are you using?
Portugal's only national park is on the northern border with Spain - Parque Nacional Peneda Geres - it's great place for a picnic and it's popular spot with the Portuguese.
And the official website (in portuguese) - Official Website
I would urge you to travel around the north for a few days eating and seeing, because the architecture changes as you go south due to the different cultural influences. (And I'm suggesting it, because I'm a northern girl all the way.)
One thing that abounds in Portugal is castles. We have a whole lot of those. The most important one you should go see is where our first king, Afonso Henriques, was born and ruled Portugal from: Castelo de Guimarães It's a very picturesque little town and the food is always good.
The next most important castle, which is actually a palace, is from a whole other era and it's near Lisbon: Palacio da Pena. A very sad story took place within the palace's walls. It is one of the mot unique palaces in the world, no doubt.
I don't know if you want to suggestions of what to do in Porto and Lisbon, because those are very popular spots and lots has been written about them. I think I'll suggest a couple of things you MUST do in these beautiful cities.
PORTO: Sit at the Cafe Majestic and people watch. It's a still popular cafe from the 20's, a little pricey, but the interior is to die for. Another thing to do is go to the nearby Mercado do Bolhao Not as busy as it once was, but still great snacks and bread to be found, which you buy by the gram. I think it's one of those places you must see.
LISBON: Walk around the Bairro Alto, it's very nice and take the Ascensor da Gloria. Definitely go to a fado bar/restaurant in the Mouraria/Alfama and take in what is now another of Portugal's UNESCO Heritage - fado.
I want to add that food is always great, but I think that now I will get into the habit of photographing restaurant facades and taking their business card, so I can inform people about particular restaurants better A rule of thumb in Portugal is that locals love eating and eating at restaurants, so anywhere that is full of Portuguese is a good bet and always ask for the restaurant's specialty - they always have one thing they are popular for.
On you trip between Porto and Lisbon, there are a few places you must stop at to take in.
Aveiro - Portugal's Venice. The salt producer of the country. The layout of the town with the canal is very beautiful. The town's specialty is ovos moles and trouxas de ovos - egg based sweets and Tripas Aveiro - "tripas" means tripe, by the way.
Beaches are a must and churches, but I must admit those are musts up and down the coast.
Coimbra - Portugal's first and ultimate university town. The main buildings of the university are a must see and, although it's summer, you might be able to catch some fado somewhere in town. Why fado? There are two types of fado: Coimbra and Lisbon. Coimbra style fado is sang by a group and tends to be comedic, while the Lisbon style is one person lamenting. So it'd be great for you to listen to both types. I don't know if you have a child or are bringing one, but the place to take children in Coimbra is Portugal dos Pequenitos - Portugal of the Little Ones - it's as great for children, because they get to play in little houses and great for adults, because it's perfect photo-opportunities with their kids. I went there for my 10th birthday and the pictures are so cute! if I may say so myself
Figueira da Foz - a more touristy place with miles of beaches and beach front cafes/restaurants and a casino. The beachfront promenade is the thing I would love for you to see. The Portuguese developed the art of street mosaic and have a unique style. You'll see evidence of this throughout the country - specially Porto and Lisbon.
Leiria & Fatima - Leiria has a gothic castle and boast a great cafe culture. great place for literature. Nearby Fatima is like the Portuguese Vatican. HUGE.
Santarém - Portugal became a democracy in the 25th April 1974. Until then, we had been ruled by the dictator, Salazar. After his death, the military leaving from the military base in Santarem in tanks heading for Lisbon to claim freedom and establish democracy. The base is still there, but has become somewhat deserted. (There's a really nice restaurant nearby that does the most exquisite lamb). The great thing about this town is that everything is pretty much near each other, just follow the signs that say "Porta do Sol" (Sun's Door) Picturesque for sure
There are plenty more things to see, especially if you head south. But I'd advise trying out the interior - they are not as touristy and the people, although always nice and welcoming, are even more accommodating. Great food!
As for stays, it'd be very difficult for me to advise you, because I've never got to stay anywhere rather than home. Portugal is tiny and the auto-estradas, make it really easy to go from point A to point B in a relatively short amount of time. If you were to take the autoestradas from the northern most coastal point to the southern, it'd take you about 6 to 7 hours. That's how tiny we are
If you need more info, just let me know. Hope this helps!
@ Terry - not using any guide book at the moment. Any recommendations?
@moshimoshineko - Waw! Thanks for all those great tips and taking the time to write them down.
@ Pinkdropx appreciate gesture but have been to Philippines many times.
I’m glad that you choose my country to spend your holidays this summer! I’ sure that you’ll have a great time here.
I don’t know how much time you’ll spend in Portugal but I will suggest some interesting places to visit. If you came from Lisbon to Porto there are lots of spots for visiting between.
After visiting Lisbon (I advise you 2 days for that) you can stop in Óbidos – a little village with a medieval castle, very well conserved. There you have to drink their famous “Ginginha de Óbidos”, which is a very nice traditional liqueur.( http://www.obidos.pt/ )
If you are a religious person, you don´t wanna miss the city of Fátima. You can find all the information here: http://www.santuario-fatima.pt/portal/ If you have time, go also to the small city of Tomar. They also have a castle and a very beautifull convent to visit (Convento de Cristo). The landscape is very nice with a river crossing the city.( http://www.cm-tomar.pt/pt/conteudos/Camara%20Municipal/Servicos%20Municipais/Turismo)
More in the North, you can visit Coimbra where we have one of the oldest universities of Europe and one of the most outstanding libraries. We also call it the City of Students! http://www.turismodecoimbra.pt/ There are some places where you can listening some traditional music that you call it “Fado de Coimbra”.
Aveiro is also a nice city to visit. Some people call it the Portuguese Venice because it has many canals, like in the Italian city. There you have to try the sweet “Ovos moles”!
Porto is a city that has a lots of things to do, with many cultural events and the nightlife is fashionable. I advise you to spent 2 days in Porto. Visit the Oporto Wine Cellars near by the Douro river, the 3rd most beautiful library in the world called “Lelo”, climb the Clérigos Tower to see the views and have a drink in one of the many esplanades that the city has to offer. At night I suggest you to go to the zone of “Galerias” and experience the city’s night life. It’s worth it! You can find all the information here: http://www.portoturismo.pt/Visitar/Paginas/default.aspx and don’t forget to try “Francesinhas” at dinner, with a nice cold beer.
If you still have time, the city of Guimarães is also a nice place to go during this year because is the European Capital of Culture. More info in : http://www.guimaraes2012.pt/
If you need more information like good restaurants to eat and nice hotels to stay, be free to mail me.
Have a great time in Portugal!