Where should we go in Portugal in July, other than Lisbon?
June 13, 2014 10:01 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to a conference in Lisbon in mid-July, but my partner and I are flying to Portugal 5 days early to check it out. We've never been before, and we'd like to explore somewhere other than Lisbon during that time--2 other towns at most. Which should we choose?

Here are our basic preferences and constraints:

- Neither of us can drive, so easy access by train or reliable bus is a must.
- Since we don't have lots of time, somewhere within 3-4 hours of Lisbon would be preferable. (So probably not the north, right?)
- We'd like to relax, not party with tourists. Dining out, drinking wine, walking around old streets, etc.
- Something coastal would be ideal--somewhere with easy beach access that doesn't feel like Cancun.
- We like greenery more than dry natural scenery.

Thanks for any advice! All we've been told is that Peniche is nice, Sintra is a must-see, and that the Algarve is too touristy to bother with (does that apply to all of it?).
posted by Beardman to Travel & Transportation around Portugal (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Yes absolutely Sintra.
Evora is also lovely and easily accessible by train -- I think a couple hours, can't remember exactly.
posted by phoenix_rising at 10:38 AM on June 13, 2014

It's been a few years since I was in Portugal but the eastern Algarve is a lot less touristy than the western. We were in Tavira, which is pretty quaint and cobble-stoned with cheap oysters fresh from the sea and lovely restaurants along the river.
posted by nikitabot at 11:21 AM on June 13, 2014

pena park in/near Sintra, out of this world

Cascais is nice, and has great beaches too (45min west of Lisbon for a very cheap < 5euro fare)
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:23 AM on June 13, 2014

Seconding Cascais, really gorgeous little town with nice beaches and loads of nice walks.

From memory, Sintra is difficult to get to by public transport, but we never went so that may be exaggerated.
posted by threetwentytwo at 12:04 PM on June 13, 2014

I crashed in Salema (on the Algarve) for several days about 7 years ago. It is a small town which used to be off the beaten path, and I'm sure it has developed since my visit too, but I really enjoyed it. The cliffs and sea are so beautiful. If you are at all the type of person that loves swimming in the ocean, taking luxurious naps, strolling the beach at twilight or light hiking along windswept cliffs, I highly recommend it. There will be tourists (lots of Northern Europeans) but I found that they all crowded up the beach during the day, laying in the sun, but then cleared out as early as 4 o'clock and I had the beach to myself. Same goes for early morning. It was extremely beautiful. Seven years ago you could still rent a room from a random older gentlemen waiting around the bus stop or by asking around town, which used to be the only type of lodging back in the day.
posted by dahliachewswell at 12:28 PM on June 13, 2014

You can get to Sintra from Lisbon easily by train these days.
I didn't go to Cascais but have heard good things about it.
posted by phoenix_rising at 1:15 PM on June 13, 2014

Sintra for sure - easy to get to by train, and once you're there it's a great place to stroll around (except up to the castles - take a shuttle). If you're looking for a less touristy beach option I would suggest Figueira da Foz - accessible by train, great beaches, lively nightlife, casino, and a bull fighting arena if you are into that sort of thing.
posted by amelliferae at 3:18 PM on June 13, 2014

Porto is lovely. Easy access by train from Lisbon. I know - I did it last year. It takes about two and a half hours, IIRC. It has an area of delightful old streets, a fine river, good eating choices (Sit out on one of the river view tables here - a gem)

And obviously, as you mentioned wine, well... you can spend a happy morning or afternoon getting fuzzy-headed wandering around the many Port houses.
posted by Decani at 2:31 AM on June 14, 2014

I went to Lisbon last year and we also went to Cascais and Sintra. You can easily get a train to Cascais from Lisbon and there is a bus service from Cascais to Sintra that runs every half hour. There is a nice boardwalk in Cascais that goes quite a ways towards Lisbon. There is also a free cycle hire scheme but you have to get there early to get one. When in Cascais head to boco do inferno a place where Alister Crowley tried to summon a demon.
posted by koolkat at 2:36 AM on June 14, 2014

By the way, Sintra is indeed well worth a visit but you most decidedly will not be escaping the tourists there. Porto, of course, has tourists, but being a decently-sized city it's possible to get away from them, at least to a degree. Plus, I didn't find it that oppressive when I was there (May). The vibe was pretty laid-back. Also, there are decent beaches within reach by tram (very cute vehicles) and short train ride.
posted by Decani at 2:36 AM on June 14, 2014

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