Portugal (Updated)

The first time we went to Portugal, we stayed for 3 days and visited Lisbon only, but we liked it so much, we wanted to go back for a longer period. So we planned an 11-day driving itinerary for our second visit, aiming to see as much of the country as possible – including a combination of major cities and small towns/villages, the coastal areas and the countryside. We chose June for this trip, and the weather was gorgeous – sunny and warm.

Want to try an easy and traditional Portuguese snack or have a taste of this beautiful country anytime? Make these easy Codfish Cakes at home!

In this post, I’ll provide the main outline of the trip and some general information, but I’ll also add more detailed posts for specific locations and provide links below. Make sure to subscribe/follow the blog to receive notifications when new posts are published. This map shows the places we visited during our stay, and a list (with links) in the order we visited is below.

We rented a car for the duration of our stay, and that gave us the flexibility to manage our schedule and explore further than if we had relied solely on public transportation. Road conditions are good, and a GPS or cell phone with data worked well to go anywhere we wanted with ease. Many highways have tolls, and it’s worth it to get the ViaVerde transponder from the rental company. We paid a small fee for the use of the transponder and then all the toll charges when returning the car. This way, we didn’t have to worry about having change to pay the tolls at the collection booths nor had to pay the fee charged if we drove through an automated toll reader without the transponder. You can even pay for parking in many lots using the ViaVerde.

Speaking of parking, that can be a challenge in some areas, so while spending time in each location, we usually opted to leave the car in one spot (near/at the hotel/accommodation) and get around for sightseeing using local transit or on foot. This worked out well, as traffic in the larger cities can be heavy and navigating the narrow streets near historic sites can be difficult and confusing.

Larger hotels usually have parking on the premises, and the cost was about 6 Euro per day. Smaller properties and short-term type accommodations (e.g. Airbnb, VRBO, etc.) mostly have no parking. Check out the parking information in the property description on the reservation website, or contact the location directly to confirm details and availability. Public parking and street parking can be found in some areas, and are usually paid from 9am to 6 or 7pm, which means parking overnight is free. The tricky part is that there may be a limit on how many hours you can pay at a time, and you may have to go back to the car to pay for a new period.

Due to check-out/check-in times, it made more sense for us to drive out in the mornings (make stops along the way if/where we wanted to), then arrive at our next accommodation, park the car, check-in, store our luggage, and start exploring that location at leisure. Here’s our itinerary for this trip:

Lisbon (3 nights): We arrived in Lisbon early in the morning, after an overnight flight. We thought we may not be able to sleep much in the flight and the time difference can take a toll, so we planned for a light first day in the city proper. On day 2 we drove to Sintra and then to Cascais, and on day 3 we drove to Sesimbra and Setubal, both days going back to Lisbon for the late afternoon/evenings.

On day 4, we started our way to Coimbra (for 2 nights), stopping in Mafra in the morning and Obidos in the afternoon. We arrived in Coimbra in the evening. Day 5 was spent exploring Coimbra.

On day 6, we drove into Figueira da Foz and then to Aveiro, and made our way to Porto (for 2 nights). The next full day was spent in Porto and Gaia, and it was much too short to enjoy all the area has to offer!

On day 8, we headed into the countryside through the Beira Alta and Beira Baixa regions to reach Viseu (1 night), where we enjoyed a nice walk seeing some of the historic attractions, loved our stay at the beautiful and comfortable Bemyguest Guesthouse, and had a lovely tapas dinner at Dux Palace Viseu. On day 9, we took the winding mountain roads to visit an ancient Schist Village called Talasnal, and then continued the drive to Castelo de Vide (1 night). We were able to visit the historic castle, walk around the main square and find a lovely restaurant nearby for dinner, before heading to our accommodation for the night.

On day 10, we got into the Alentejo region and reached the walled city of Evora (1 night). There’s plenty to see in town, with many historic attractions, as well as regular cultural events, restaurants and good cafés. On day 11, we started to head back to the Lisbon area and stopped for some relaxing time at the beautiful Figueirinha Beach. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner and the last night in Lisbon, and our flight back home left in the morning of day 12.

We only had 12 days for this trip, and the time limitations didn’t allow us to go to the Algarve region, in the South of Portugal.

UPDATE: We went back and spent time in the Algarve! <3 Don’t miss this newest guide and itinerary. 🙂

Note on cell phones: For unlocked devices, pre-paid SIM cards are available from one of the local companies (MEO, Vodafone or NOS) right at the airport kiosks or at any of their retail stores, with a choice of data only packages or data + calls. Cell phone coverage is pretty good, but if using data for navigation, I suggest downloading the Google maps for offline use (before getting there or using Wi-Fi, where available), as areas of spotty coverage are possible in more remote regions.

Note 2: Besides traditional Hotels and Hostels, some great accommodation options can be found on AirBnB, Booking, VRBO, etc.

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