Lisbon, Lyon, Madrid or Nice?
August 3, 2013 2:58 AM   Subscribe

Which of these cities should I visit for 3 nights in October?

I want to go away somewhere for 4 days in October and I can get reasonably priced flights to Lisbon, Lyon, Madrid or Nice - which should I choose?

I'd like to see the sights, soak up the local atmosphere, eat the local food and explore the city. I get museum/art gallery-ed out pretty easily but would go to any particularly fantastic examples. No real interest in night-life. I'm on a modest budget so bonus points for places with lots of free/cheap things to do and reasonably priced accommodation.
posted by neilb449 to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Saying you're on a budget makes me say "Lyon", although I've never been to Lisbon or Madrid (I'm sure other MeFites have, great question). I live in Nice, and while October is a lower season, you do need a bit of a budget for food here, and a willingness to hop around on public transportation to see the good stuff. Lyon has better food and it's easier to get around! It has fantastic museums of all sorts as well, and is cheaper than Nice in general. Plus you simply can't beat Lyon for its bookstores and cinemas. (Nice only just recently got one central cinema - one - that occasionally shows subs as opposed to dubs for foreign films. There's another, smaller one, the Rialto, near the Negresco, that shows subs regularly, but it's pretty much in the middle of nowhere as far as restaurants and other nightlife are concerned.)

The one thing is... while Lyon is a bit less expensive, the airport is kind of out there; it takes about an hour to get to the actual city by public transportation. Whereas the Nice airport is IN the city. You can hop on a city bus and be in the city center in 20-30 minutes, riding along the gorgeous Promenade des Anglais as opposed to not much interesting from Satolas (the Lyon airport) to Lyon, and our city buses only cost one euro per trip if you buy a 10-trip ticket (otherwise it's 1.50). And if you do enjoy getting around on your own power, Nice has some wonderful walks into the hills, the Alps are, like, right there (Lyon is in the Rhone valley; the Alps are a 2-hour drive/train ride away), and you could also visit Antibes, Monaco, or even Ventimiglia in Italy with a 40-minute train ride. In Lyon, you'll "only" be seeing Lyon. But, with just 3 days, that could also be a great experience!
posted by fraula at 3:10 AM on August 3, 2013

Oh and the Mediterranean is still warm enough to swim in October.
posted by fraula at 3:13 AM on August 3, 2013

Best answer: I've spent time in three of the four and I'd recommend either Lisbon or Madrid for a four day city visit. Lyon and Nice are very nice, but I didn't enjoy walking around them as much as I did Lisbon. My recollection of Lisbon is that it was relatively affordable, the food excellent and the architecture and scenery always interesting. I haven't made it to Madrid yet, but it's on my hit list for a week's visit.
posted by michswiss at 3:55 AM on August 3, 2013

Having recently been to Lisbon and found it inexpensive, fascinating, attractive in a run-down-yet-dignified way and filled with friendly people and interesting places to eat and drink, I'm going to recommend that option. I hope you like hills, though!
posted by Decani at 4:02 AM on August 3, 2013

Best answer: For a 4 day trip, I'd say Madrid. It's probably going to be a little more expensive than Lisbon but it satisfies your requirements, especially the food one way better with all those oh so yummy tapas options. It does have a vibrant night life (which I wasn't too keen on either) but it was fun hanging out at some of the bars with people I met at the hostel.

Plenty of free walking tours in the city. I enjoyed the free walking tours by Sandeman's in lots of other cities but ended up going on another walking tour in Madrid.

Toledo is a good idea for a day trip on one of your days there if you do decide on Madrid.
posted by tillwehavefaces at 5:16 AM on August 3, 2013

Best answer: If you don't want to spend time in the Prado or experience the late night Spanish scene, that downplays Madrid a bit. Nice is very much tied into that smart south of France thing; a little international if you want local colour, maybe, and not inexpensive if you want to take full advantage of its attractions. Lisbon is the least developed of Western European capitals (if I remember rightly they don't even have streetlights in some areas; but it has its charm with old trams and funiculars rattling through steep streets; and it would be cheap.
posted by Segundus at 5:48 AM on August 3, 2013

I lived in Lyon for a year 20 years ago and have spent some time with work in both Madrid and Lisbon and of those I would chose Lisbon for further exploring. It had a great atmosphere with old buildings, beautiful tiling and the trams. The food is lovely and cheap and you could probably take a day trip out to the coast to break things up a little.
posted by jontyjago at 6:24 AM on August 3, 2013

Best answer: I also lived in Lyon. Great food. Not really enough fireworks for a 3 day tourist visit unless you're really into food and wine above all else. It's not a city that gives up its secrets easily. Lisbon is hilly but it's a great 3 day visit in terms of cost, weather, sightseeing and food.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:39 AM on August 3, 2013

Best answer: Lyon is considered the gastronomical capital of France. Seeing that France is considered one of leading gastronomical countries in the world you could say that Lyon is the world capital of food.

Nice is indeed nice with its proximity to the sea but compared to other cities on your list does have a rather staid vibe to it. The demographic for Nice, compared to other cities in France is skewed towards older and more wealthy people.

Madrid has a nice vibe to it and it does have the world-class Prado museum.

Lisbon also has a nice vibe and will be definitely be the cheapest city by a long shot. The food is excellent and although a bit run-down in places overall there is a very classy feel to the city.
posted by jacobean at 7:30 AM on August 3, 2013

Best answer: Having been to all of those cities except Nice, I heartily nth Lisbon! I loved this city, and from your description we would travelin similar styles. It is easy to get around, the neighborhoods are colorful, the people are supreeemely nice (and many of them speak great English) and are very welcoming to tourists. Lots of wandering to do, very easy place to relax, and easy day trips to Belem (original custard cakes, the pastel de nata), Coimbra... In Lisbon I was traveling alone and went to a fado restaurant, and they would have turned me away because I had no reservation then changed their mind, seeing I was only one, and made me a spot at the front table with the regulars and the singers. An older couple at the table offered to drive me back to my hotel after. I had many experiences like that and over only three days, so I met many people and learned a lot, without even trying.

Lyon is good and walkable, very French, and atmospheric. Someone mentioned above its reputation in gastronomy, and it is true. Lyon would be my second recommendation.

Madrid in my experience needed more money and an interest in museums. Everything seemed so far apart, and the Plaza del Sol everyone talks about visiting was a real let-down. It is a great base for day-trips to fantastic places but I didn't want to spend much time in the city.
posted by whatzit at 8:10 AM on August 3, 2013

Best answer: I've been to all four of those cities and I'd say Lisbon hands-down. Lyon requires a bigger budget to enjoy. Nice struck me as a bit boring. Second place would be Madrid. But Madrid requires a lot more time and effort to crack open.

Lisbon is a city just perfect for walking and exploring. It is so charming. I love that the sidewalks are cobblestones. I love the aging beautiful buildings - though some of them need rescue. I love the elegant restaurants side by side with people hanging their laundry out the window. The city feels alive.

And it is cheap. Let's see...when I was there last month I had my lunches at a small place near the river with a table out on the street watching people go by. Lunch was bread, olives, the main course (grilled pork or roast chicken), rice, fries, a glass of wine and then dessert (a flan for example) and finally coffee. I was full and the food was delicious.....8 euros flat.
posted by vacapinta at 10:09 AM on August 3, 2013

Best answer: And as if by magic, 2 articles on Lisbon and the surrounding area appear in the Guardian Travel section.

Taste of Lisbon & Simply Sintra.
posted by jontyjago at 4:41 PM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Looks like Lisbon it is then. Muito obrigado!
posted by neilb449 at 12:26 AM on August 4, 2013

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