My husband and I are considering retiring to Portugal for awhile and we're planning another trip this February/March to visit places we're interested in. We're focusing on north of Lisbon to Viana do Castelo.. Does anyone have any input on the following cities/towns? Obidos, Nazare, Caldas da Rainha, Coimbra, Leiria, Braga, Guimaraes, Porto and Viana do Castelo. We want to be close to the coast and have access to amenities. We're also looking at Cascais as a possibility & the Algarve is someplace we're leaning toward but want to look at all of our options. Any input on the cities we're looking at would be appreciated, thank you for your help.
to rpcdcoffin's questions about searching around Portugal: first, I'd recommend a convenient, low cost, clean 'home base' while you look around---look at Amy Kraushaar's LaunchPad apartment in Oeiras ([email protected]). If you want to know about the towns you listed, look them up at Julie Dawn Fox's blog as she has overviews and details on many villages/towns in Portugal. Many of us would never recommend the Algarve; it is tourist-central in summers, filled with drunken British teens; it is heavily overbuilt; winters are dead there. No culture, no public trans, blah.
I agree 100 % with Craignadmicky the Algarve is beautiful but boring in in the winters. A really nice place that is affordable is on the coast going North, Ericeira, Peniche, Foz Do Arelho, these are all small fishing villages that are quiet but close enough to Lisbon if you like a busy and noisy city like Lisbon.
I don't know that I would totally discount the Algarve. We were only there in the summer, so can't speak to how it would be in winter. But we didn't see any of the problematic behavior - i.e. no drunk rowdy teenagers where we were. I thought Tavira was a lovely town, and less touristy than some of the other areas. Even Lagos, while overrun with tourists, has a nice historic center. Silves is another town we really liked, although we didn't spend the night there. All-in-all, I would say Tavira is my favorite town in the Algarve, however, the location is not convenient for exploring the rest of Portugal by car. It is fairly close to the airport in Faro, though, which does give you many options for exploring Europe without the hassle of a big city airport.
Same impression I got about the Algarve. It's like booming summer towns in the south of Brasil like Florianopolis and Bombinhas, lots of fun, plenty of bikinis, beer, great food. In the summer most of the restaurants close down or have weekend hours - they are ghost towns. And YES, these beach towns have ZERO cultural aspects to them. IF you're a drunk teenager who is looking for a summer girlfriend - go for it. Otherwise I'd take somewhere with great museums, beaches, year round restaurants, art and classic buildings. CULTURE.