North Portugal and Galicia tips?
I am planning to include the Douro Valley and Porto and Santiago de Compostela in the next edition of my Spain and Portugal guidebooks. Are these the highlights of the northwest corner of Iberia? Do you have any favorites in this region which others may enjoy that I can check out on my upcoming research trip? Thanks for any help — Rick
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Places to stay in Northern Portugal
In October, we spent 10 days in northern Portugal. Two places to stay that I would recommend highly are the Guest House Douro on the quay in Porto (the nicest innkeepers in the world,) and the Casa do Visconde de Chanceleiros high above the Douro Valley, just 4.8 winding and scary kilometres from Pinhao.
Pittsburgh, PA USA 01/13/2013
Fragata Fernando e Gloria
In Lisbon, we took the commuter ferry across to Cacilhas (as per Rick). We saw masts of a sailing ship beyond the rail station and were excited to find a ca.1830 frigate (think USS Constitution). Little signage, but we boarded via the gangway and found a ticket office on deck (turn left). Very reasonable prices (3 euros for adults, 1.50 for kids), since it was raised, refurbished and operated by the Portuguese navy. Everything has been restored to better than new condition, and you can walk at will through 4 decks and peek into nooks and crannies. We were the only ones there. It helps you appreciate that Portuguese seafaring did not end with caravels and the Age of Discovery!
Bowling Green, OH USA 10/05/2012
in Portugal all guides and guides drivers have an official badge. contact only official offers but there are many unofficial.
Lisbon, Lisboa Portugal 09/29/2012
I just returned from staying with friends who are living in Monte Estoril. We did a road trip north and spent a night at the Posada de Santa Marinha in Guimaraes. The town is the 2012 European Capital of Culture and seemed to have a lot going on, at least for this year. It was worth a stop.
Old Bridge, NJ USA 03/26/2012
Electronic tolls in Portugal
Driving in Portugal last week, we found that there is a new network of toll roads that require pre-payment electronically. A challenge for the unsuspecting tourist! We found later that we should have stopped at the first exit over the border and rented a device that would subtract a prepaid amount as we traveled these roads. Oops, missed that. There is also a specific service station shortly after that where you can pre-pay all your tolls at once directly to a cashier. We paid our tolls to and from the Algarve, not knowing there were other similar roads up north. Later we found ourselves on more of these roads between Nazare and the Spanish border. We couldn't prepay (only available at borders) and we couldn't post-pay as we left the country because it takes up to five days for the tolls to enter the system. We still owe Portugal some money (which we will apparently be charged for by mail with a hefty processing fee). Crazy! There actually is a brochure with information showing where the payment stations and (most of) the toll roads are, but we didn't discover one of those till the day we left. So, be sure to stop and ask at the first exit over the border as you arrive in Portugal and save yourselves from our mistakes. Portugal was fabulous, by the way. Can't wait to go back!
Michael and Leslie Guelker-Cone
Bellingham, WA USA 03/25/2012
Driving in Algarve/Portugal
Just returned from the Algarve & want to make you aware that the A22 is now a toll road - Amid much controversy, toll was imposed on Dec. 8th. Traffic on the N125 is heavier than ever!!!!
Baton Rouge, LA USA 01/06/2012
Hotel in Douro
Hotel recommendation Hotel Folgosa in Folgosa. Just on the other side of the river from Regua. Very reasonable new hotel with in house restaurant and additional restaurant just across the street. Nice river views from many rooms.
Pittsburg, CA USA 07/15/2011
Porto Cable Car
We really enjoyed the cable car in Villa Nova da Gaia in Porto that takes you from where you come over the top level of the bridge down to the river level. Great views. Fare is 5 euro or RT 8 euro.
Pittsburg, CA USA 07/15/2011
Central Portugal Travels Portugal has been on our travel list for many years and we finally spent two lovely weeks driving around central Portugal in May 2011. Don't wait as long as we did to see it - it's spectacular, the people are very kind, the food and wine are fabulous, the roads are great, the medieval villages and walled towns are numerous and very well kept, the rolling landscape is lush and diverse and it's not over run with tourists!!!
Flew into Lisbon, rented a car and drove straight to Evora and stayed at the hotel, Albergaria do Calvario which is in the 2011 Rick Steves Portugal book but the description does not do justice to this beautiful boutique hotel! Peter and Nina Brinkman are the owners; they and their English speaking staff were very very helpful on all levels not only about our needs in Evora but giving us insight into the region and advice on the rest of our travels. The hotel is located just inside of the walled city, conveniently located with parking beneath and far enough away from the noise on the streets that make for peaceful nights and quiet mornings. The interior is beautifully decorated with an emphasis on local artists and crafts at the same time very relaxing- a courtyard to park yourself in the sun to read and let the world go by... They also put the same professional effort into providing an outstanding (5*) organic breakfast on two levels; a buffet of fruits, home-baked goods, yogurt, savory dishes, local cheeses, meats, herbs, local dried herbs & salts, fresh squeezed juices, coffee/teas (lattes, espressos to order) then, they offer guests made to order cooked items! All this is included in the price of the room which we found to be very very reasonable given the high quality of their hotel and services (including use of their internet computer in one of their sitting rooms). Our room and bed were very comfortable, simply but elegantly furnished with a lovely bathroom overlooking an exterior street that again, was quiet. Do not miss this gem of a hotel if you visit Evora with its Roman ruins, aqueduct, pleasant town square, University, Moorish influenced architecture and farmer's market. I also highly recommend a charming restaurant; Botequim da Mouraria run by a husband and wife - Florbela and Domingos Canelas. It's a bar which will seat 12-13 people. Domingos is your gracious host while his wife, Florbela cooks in the tiny adjacent kitchen. It's magical and eat whatever is on the menu for the day or whatever Domingos recommends. We discovered it for lunch and went back for dinner! I'm definitely going back to see them both. Lastly, I discovered a small cork shop in the town that had the most stylishly designed dark colored purses and jewelry indigenous to Portugal during my entire trip including looking for more in Lisbon. The brand name is Mont Sobro and I believe the shop has the same name. It may be located on Rua 5 De Outbro or Rua Vasco Da Gama and between other cork souvenir stores however this one has very high quality designed products worth the asking price. My purchased purse looks like leather but just a fraction of the weight of leather...
Drove from Evora to our next night stop in Marvao, a high mountain topped walled village that was a Moorish stronghold until 1166. Between Evora and Marvao we stopped into 2-3 small villages, ruins, and enjoyed a very pleasant drive soaking up the sight of colorful spring flowers, livestock grazing, rocky outcrops, and numerous villages along the way. We stayed in the village pousada (Pousada de Santa Maria) where we also had dinner which paled in comparison to our experience in Evora but the view was spectacular. Breakfast was included but again, no comparison to Albergaria do Calvario's. The castelo is interesting to visit but I didn't walk the walls. We discovered millions of little black bugs covering the upper castelo grounds - not a nuisance however more of a curiosity since not seen below. Very nice ceramics store near the castelo with a nice selection and good prices. The town, its ambiance, beautiful flowers, architecture, layout and high view were the most memorable for us.
On our following day's drive to Tomar, we spent a little time in Castelo De Vide, which looked and felt like a vibrant town that happens to have a 15th c castle. What we liked about the most this town was strolling through the small but very green town park, watching children and locals on the street interacting, the numerous swallows swooping down and building their nests, and in general, seeing locals living their everyday lives.
I'll post this much and return when time permits to cover Tomar, Coimbra, fly fishing near Gois, Nazare, and Lisboa.
Seattle, WA USA 07/01/2011
Quinta de Marroscos - keeper
Just wanted to add another vote for the Quinta de Marrocos. On Rick's advise we arranged to stay there while touring the Duoro by train. Cesare and Elisa were wonderful hosts, great cooks, and generous with their fine ports! Visit them and hike up the farm to sample the fresh oranges between the vines and olive trees. A memorable stay!
Portland, Oregon USA 04/26/2011
Northern Portuguese towns
Valenca is right on the border and has a great little market filled with Spaniards buying Portuguese linens. It is a fantastic spot to buy linens like the Spanish do, but also has shops selling traditional silver jewelry and goods from the region. You can also explore the city walls and walk across a bridge into Spain.
Barcelos is also adorable. It is the source of all those little rooster statuettes found throughout Portugal, and is still a popular spot for pilgrims walking or biking to Santiago. There are roosters everywhere, a shop run by an artisan cooperative, and at least one really amazing bakery right by the public garden.
Viana do Castelo is where the adopted "national dress" is from (it's really just that specific region), and has not only a beautiful old downtown, but the dictatorship-era park and 19th century church of Santa Luzia. These hilltop churches and parks are found throughout the country, having been constructed by the dictatorship as a place for people to spend their free time, but this particular one is stunning, as is the one in Braga, a historically very Catholic town that has a cafe with a plexiglass floor so you can see the roman ruins beneath.
Also, keep an eye out in the north for hot dog vendors. Ask for a a hot dog (cachorro quente) with everything. That will include sliced green olives, shredded carrot, slices of ham, hot sauce, cabbage, and crispy shredded potatoes. These are also found late at night in Ponta Delgada. They are delicious, filling, and cheap, though perhaps not healthful. The locals all line up for them, though.
Don´t forget to go to the city of Guimarães, a World Heritage and the beggining of Portugal
Rio de Janeiro, RJ Brazil 02/27/2011
Porto and S de C
A helpful hint we discovered last summer: the rather ugly new concrete block structure next to the Se do Porto (I think it was built to accommodate an elevator) contains very helpful tourist staff. The folks who were there last June spoke several languages and knew details, like how to get to the bus station for the bus to Santiago de Compostela; as it turns out, that station is located in a completely different part of Porto than the other transportation options. Incidentally, the metro stop for that bus station is Casa da Musica, so as a bonus you get to see Porto's fantastic new concert hall, and you might even hear students sing on the metro, like we did! When we were first planning our trip last spring, there was reasonable train service between Porto and S de C. Fortunately I checked again as our travel dates approached, and found that the schedule had changed - poorly, to where the train trip would take all day. The bus takes about four hours and was convenient, comfortable, and cheap. I don't know if Porto and S de C are the highlights of the northwest corner of Iberia, as we didn't go anywhere else in that area (headed from S de C to Segovia), but we were thrilled with both. Porto's lovely new metro system makes it easy to get around the city, and the Ribeira is no end of old-world charm and delights. S de C similarly (full of old-world charm, that is - no metro). World-class busking at the end of the cathedral,in the arches between the cathedral and the fancy hotel. Another helpful hint: the train station in S de C has no left luggage (unbelievable), but the Hotel San Carlos, just up the street from the station, will store luggage for 5 euros. Also: You cannot enter the cathedral with a backpack or daypack, so avoid disappointment by going bare. Final helpful hint: While we were treated wonderfully everywhere we went, pickpocketing is intense in Portugal and Spain. We found that velcro and zippers are no defense. Important things need to be INSIDE YOUR CLOTHING!
Laramie, WY USA 09/14/2010
If you are going by car, it is worth a stop along the side of the road for a dip in the natural hot springs near Bubaces, Spain. It's open to the public and no is fee charged. There isn't much nearby, but there is a small place with snacks, drinks and a bathroom. It's on the OU-312 between Geres and Fondevila (41º51'45"N, 8º06'26.5"W)
Decorah, IA USA 09/12/2010
Gargantas de Sil
We had a wonderful backdoor experience in the beautiful Gargantas de Sil region. A network of country roads and isolated village takes one far off the tourist path to an area of beautiful canyon views, two monistaries, a castle, vineyards and wineries. Access begins north of Orense off N-120. Follow the OU-0555 toward the St. Estevo monistary. The road will change numbers several times before reaching Castro de Caldelas. The road changes from a forested environment into a grape/agricultural areas as you head eastward. This was a wonderful and relaxing experience in Galicia.
Asheville, NC USA 03/24/2010