I'm sorry to be adding my few cents worth of information so late, but I sometimes don't get to my e-mail for several days. I having been visiting Portugal for many years, both visiting friends and researching for a book and articles. In spite of that I am amazed at how much new information I receive from my Zine friends. After reading their opinions, I think I clearly have missed a great deal. However, here are a couple of things I would like to add:
I agree with Ric that 5 nights in Ponte de Lima is a bit much. The one city, not too far distant, that I would not miss is Guimarães. First of all, it is called the birthplace of Portugal, as it is here where it's first King was born.
Secondly, It figures importantly in the Visigothic history of Portugal. Thirdly it is a very attractive city with beautiful medieval old town center. The castle of the first king , Afonso Henriques, is very interesting. It has two beautiful pousadas, which are, as you may already know, state owned hotels, usually in historic buildings. One of them, up on a high hill, is in a very famous ancient monastery with a history that goes back to Roman or Visigothic times. It is however, somewhat away from the center of the city and so I would probably recommend the other one, which is called Pousada da Nossa Senhora de Oliveira. It is a charming old villa right in the medieval heart of the city and has one of the finest restaurants in Northern Portugal.
>From Guimarães you are fairly close to some of the other areas that have been mentioned. If you go to Viana do Castelo, one of my favorite towns in the North, you may want to check out the Hotel Luso which is located on a high hill with a view of the entire city, the river Lima and the surrounding countryside. The hotel is next to a famous church which has been a center of pilgrimage for centuries.
I highly recommend the Hotel Palacio do Bussaco. I consider it one of the most beautiful places in Portugal.
The hotel has a great history as it was built as a palace by the last king of Portugal, Manuel X, as a trysting place for his Frence mistress, the exotic Gaby de Lisle, but it is built on the site of a !X century monastery, which also served as the headquarters for the Duke of Wellington when a crucial battle was fought right there between the English with their Portuguese allies, against the Napoleonic French invaders.
The restaurant is excellent. Have them show you the wine celler, under the palace, which is kept locked, and opened only on request. It is so large that, in the early days, a horse and wagon was used to bring in the wine. It has a couple of hundred thousand bottles of rare wines I believe.
For Lisbon I only want to add my favorite museum in Lisbon, the Gulbenkian, which is housed in the former palace of the Dukes of Loulé, I believe. It has marvelous collections of oriental carpets, early coins, paintings etc. and, last, but not least, a really fine collection of Lalique glass. There is also the Historical Art Museum, known locally as the Janelas Verdes (Green Windows) and a small, but fine Folk Art Museum in the Alfama.
Last of all, and this is of prime importance to me, don't forget to go hear some Portuguese fado. A couple of the fine clubs are Senhor Vinho, Parrarinha da Alfama, these two are excellent, with good food. Another fine one is João da Praça.
Another two, more local, but still recommended to me, although I haven't visited them for a long time, are Embucado and Meio Tostão. If you have little time, the first two are the best. Do go late, i.e. after nine or ten p.m. This topic is important to me as my new book about fado is currently being released entitled FADO: Songs From the Soul of Portugal with some history of fado, music and lyrics with translations, many photos of old Lisbon and containing a CD by of all the songs by the original singers.
I'm sorry for being so verbose, but you have to bear some responsibility for getting me started on one of my favorite topics. I hope this information is of some value.
Boa Sorte (Good luck), Don Cohen in Los Angeles