In the fall of 2018, we ventured to Portugal. Several people had asked us: “Why Portugal?” Others had shared their own experiences in Portugal from several years ago (including Melissa’s own first impression from 20 years ago) which served as initial deterrents, but as we researched places to go, checked out Airbnb options and hotels we got all the more excited to check it out.
We started out in Lisbon. We stayed in Alfama, one of the original neighborhoods in one of the best AirBnBs we’ve found. It had a wonderful balcony overlooking the neighborhood and we would listen to the Fado music spilling up and out of Alfama every night after returning home. Check out our posts on Lisbon and top 10 Lisbon for some ideas for what to do.
We then headed north to Porto with a side-stop to Coimbra, one of the oldest college towns in Portugal and the world. It is a small town, by comparison, but we loved it. Wandering around the college and the botanical gardens were highlights. Check out our Coimbra post here.
We stayed several days in Porto. We were right on the Rua das Flores which was in a word, loud. There were positives and negatives to the noise. During the days and evenings we would listen to the music drifting up to our apartment (the positives) and at night we were awakened frequently by late night walks home and garbage service (which worked like clockwork at 2:30 AM). On the whole, however, we loved Porto as well and sitting in cafes or restaurants down by the river and the dinners we had (mostly near our apartment) were highlights. Porto provided some of the best meals we had while in Portugal.
We also did a day trip to the Douro Valley for wine tasting with Jorge Barefoot Matias about whom we cannot say enough good things. Read our posts on Porto and Douro Valley by following the previous links.
The trains were on strike the day we were supposed to go to Evora, so we rented a car and drove. This allowed for a side trip to Tomar, once a seat of the Knights Templar, and gave us a chance to see more of the countryside. The roads in Portugal are well maintained and the drivers are courteous and not overly aggressive. Bring your spare change for tolls. Some were electronic tolls, others required toll tickets and others were just change toll booths, so be ready to fork over some Euro on the road.
We loved Evora. It is also one of the oldest college towns in Portugal (there’s a bit of a rivalry with Coimbra for the title). Its an old walled Roman city which became Moorish and then a royal home when the Moors were pushed out. Read our post on Evora for more on what we did and what to do there.
We ended with a couple of too short days in Cascais. Its a beach town with fantastic seaside trails and promenades with close proximity to Lisbon and to Sintra, which we visited on our way. We left Cascais (and Portugal as a whole, for that matter) wanting more.