2019/12/09

My Google Map of how to travel in style between Porto & Lisbon in 7 days

Location

What to do and where to stay & dine in Portugal’s core as demanding traveler

After having been to Portugal’s capital Lisbon three times (see my post) and having done a round trip in the country’s south quite a few years ago, my husband and I thought it was high time to go to the area between Porto and Lisbon as well. Above all, we were keen on visiting Portugal’s second largest city of Porto and the adjoining Douro Valley yet wanted to check out the area north of Lisbon just as the coastal town of Cascais or Sintra’s famed historic monuments.

Before going into this area’s attractions, a few words to our way of traveling and how this might be of interest for you in case you have a similar travel style (keyword: my Google Map).

About our way to travel

Generally when traveling, we place great value on not only seeing the big sights – whenever possible involving some walking – but also staying at higher end accommodations and exploring the best what the local food scene has to offer. Having said this, it is still our aim to take in only places that are worth the money spent on them. As to hotels, we are more into newer, modern hotels (picture: Villa Laura Estoril),
but we also like traditional hotels if they keep up with the times. In terms of restaurants, we prefer contemporary cuisine over hearty fare and we favor younger chef with innovative ideas.

When it comes to the area between Porto and Lisbon, the result of countless hours of planning the journey and documenting it thoroughly can be seen in my own Google Map that I created for the purpose of advising interested people with a similar way to travel how to get the most out of this trip. It contains all the hotels, restaurants and cafés/bars we went to as well as the activities we did, complete with my comments and pictures my husband and I took of them. In best case, you might be able to copy the travel itinerary one to one and safe yourself the trouble of planning your own journey!

After pointing out the top things to do and see in Portugal’s core, I will introduce my Google Map of the area, along with some short remarks on the respective places (picture: Coimbra).

About Portugal’s core

While the start destinations of our trip, Porto and the Douro Valley, belong to Northern Portugal, Cascais/Estoril and Sintra, our last stops, are part of the Greater Lisbon area. In between is the actual Portugal’s core, the Centro.

There is much to do and see in Central Portugal, among others there are following places worthwhile visiting, Aveiro, the “Portuguese Venice”, the university town of Coimbra, the nature park of Serra da Estrela, the 12 historic villages of Portugal, Tomar with its Convent of Christ, the Batalha Monastery and the fortified village of Óbidos.

Itinerary between Porto & Lisbon

Unfortunately, we had only one week to spend in Portugal’s core and as the starting and end points already were determined (Porto/Douro valley, picture Six Senses Douro Valley,
resp. Sintra/Cascais), we had not as much time as we would have wished to explore the actual Centro area.

We allocated two nights each to Porto, Douro Valley and to Cascais, so there was only one night left in the Centro region. After researching on suitable places to stay for one night (closeness to major sights and accommodations to stay in style), we settled on Fátima because of its central location and a hotel meeting our requirements.

From place to place (my Google Map)

You find all the details of my Portugal journey between Porto and Lisbon in my Google Map, i.e. hotels, restaurants, cafés/bars and activities:


In the following, there are some explanations to the individual places, to the hotel/restaurants we went and the things we did. For more information, have a look at the mentioned Google Map.

1. Porto (2 nights at Exmo Hotel)

At first, we had quite a hard time to find an accommodation that appealed to us in the capital of the north, Porto. At the beginning, we were unsure whether we should reside in the city’s center, around Praça da Liberdade, or in Ribeira, its riverside quarter
and one of the oldest one in town. Then – luckily – I came across a brand new hotel, Exmo Hotel,
a few steps from the Douro river, and immediately fell in love with its Penthouse River View Room with unparalleled panoramas of the river, the bridge and the city’s south bank.
The hotel’s few reviews at TripAdvisor and its appearance looked fine, so we did not hesitate and booked us into the mentioned room. And it was a great choice! Much time was spent on the splendid terrace and also the rest of the place knew to persuade.

Out of the two Michelin starred restaurants near Porto’s city center (The Yeatman and Antiqvvm, the other ones are further away from where we stayed) we opted for the latter
and liked what we got here – traditional yet innovative Portuguese cuisine.
In addition, we dined at the Michelin listed Restaurant Elemento
where Portuguese food with a twist is cooked exclusively with wood on the grill and in the oven, a feast for the eyes and the stomach (go for a counter seat).
In terms of activities, please take note of my two-day itinerary to walk and explore Porto’s sights, which we actually did in one and a half day, but my husband and I are usually not the type to dwell too long at one spot! If you like Port wine, do not skip the tour at Taylor’s,
it is a great way to learn more about this fortified wine.


2. Douro valley (2 nights at hotel Six Senses Douro Valley in Lamego)

In case you have been to Taylor’s, the famous Port wine producer in Porto, here is the place where the Port wine comes from, the idyllic Douro Valley, where vineyard terraces adorn the beautiful rolling hills that tower over the mighty Douro river. Quite a sight!
The accommodation in Douro valley was set from the beginning. Ever since I had read an article about the fabulous Six Senses Douro Valley, I wanted to stay here. And indeed, it is a true gem, a beautiful 19th century manor set on a hill overlooking the vineyards and the Douro river with impeccable service and every luxury imaginable!
With regard to dining we tried out the Six Senses Restaurant (the Vale de Abraão Restaurant)
on our first evening and found it good although not extraordinary and relatively expensive for what you get compared to other comparable local restaurants, but of course it is a five star hotel … 
The other day, we went to the nearest bigger town, Peso da Régua, where we had dinner at the Michelin listed Castas e Pratos Restaurant
 in an old wooden warehouse that used to be part of the local railway station where we sampled well-made Portuguese dishes with a twist.
As far as attractions are concerned, the range of activities in the nearer surroundings is limited. I liked the things we saw and did (see my Google Map), but in case you stay here (Six Senses Douro Valley) longer than two nights, you have to drive farther or make use of the hotel’s comprehensive activity offer. On our arrival day, we wanted to do the Daily Wine Tasting but unfortunately it was already full, so we settled for a walk through the vast resort’s grounds.

3. Coimbra & Tomar (1 night at Luz Charming Houses in Fátima)

As mentioned before, there is a lot to do between Porto/Douro Valley and Cascais/Sintra, but – much to our regret – we had only one night to spare … We decided to spend the night in Fátima as I had come across an interesting boutique hotel on my research, Luz Charming Houses,and it turned out to be as good as we had hoped! Our Superior Suite was huge and nicely decorated with great attention to detail.
They surprised us with welcome drinks and snacks in the lounge, a freshly baked muffin in the room and other courtesies.
Also the hotel grounds were quite impressive!

We made use of Luz Charming Houses’s offer to serve a light dinner for their hotel guests – there are not really great must-do restaurants in the area – and liked what we got. Although it was simple fare, it was carefully prepared and nicely arranged.
On the way from Douro Valley to Fátima we stopped at Coimbra, the second Portuguese capital (before Lisbon). It is a jewel of a historic town with a university – one of the oldest in the world – at the top of it, which is very worthwhile visiting.
My husband and I also went to Tomar to see The Castle and Convent of Christ, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most beautiful Portuguese monuments, influenced by several architectural styles.
 A trip that I would recommend doing, too. Also Óbidos, a fortified town with a castle and surrounded by white painted houses, is a nice place to go, but do not expect that you will be the only one to do so (there will most certainly be masses of tourists).

4. Sintra & Cascais/Estoril (2 nights at hotel Villa Laura in Estoril

For the last two days of our Portugal journey we wanted to stay by the sea (and close to Lisbon’s airport) and therefore opted for Cascais, a former fishing town, later a summer retreat for royalty and Lisbon’s better society and nowadays a buzzing vacation resort.
As I was not that enthusiastic about Cascais’ choice of hotels, I looked further to its quieter sibling of Estoril and found a gem of a hotel, Villa Laura,
another brand new boutique hotel (remember, we already stayed at a brand new boutique hotel in Porto). And we had a great time here, being pampered by the best hotel staff! The hotel, featuring only seven rooms in a high-quality Nordic inspired décor in a beautifully renovated historic building, has a prime location just by the sea and at the start of the boardwalk to Cascais – which I highly recommend doing.
As to Cascais/Estoril’s food scene, I found it a bit underwhelming and was glad to learn that there is a tiny restaurant with excellent fresh handmade pasta, Restaurant Lamassa,
near our accommodation, where we had an enjoyable dinner.
For our second evening I was lucky enough to come upon a newly opened restaurant, Restaurant Davolta,
in a quiet residential neighborhood in Cascais with an exquisite, innovative cuisine run by a dedicated young couple, a real find!
In terms of activities, there is much to do in this area north of Lisbon. First and foremost, a trip to Sintra, a magical town amidst lushly forested mountains with an abundance of splendid palaces,
a fairy tale castle
and stunning mansions,
is an absolute must. Although there are enough attractions for two days, most visitors spend only one day here as we did. Check out my Google Map for a one-day itinerary and descriptions/pictures of the sights in Sintra and other things to do and see in the area.

My other Google Maps

In case you find my Portugal Google Map useful, here are others I made in the past, some are more detailed, others less so. If you have comments or questions to those, please let me know.

Date of visit: September 2019


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