With its rich history, cultural heritage and natural diversity, Portugal, that fascinating westernmost edge of Europe, has something to offer for everybody —and every couple. There won’t be any need to argue, and it doesn’t matter if you two are into sports and sun, food and music or architecture and saudade (that Portuguese native brand of romantic melancholy). Or just want to escape the daily grind and feel away —really away— from the rest of the world. Whatever you look for in a romantic getaway, you’ll find it here.
A night stroll through Porto
One of the oldest cities in Portugal offers a perfect weekend getaway experience. Porto is friendly and extremely beautiful, but also contained. It is a pleasure to walk around the winding streets that take you up the hills from the esplanade of Ribeira, Porto’s waterfront on the Douro River, full of restaurants and cafes where you can taste local delicacies like the classic francesinha sausage and meat sandwich. The city boasts a lively nightlife and prime examples of contemporary architecture such as the Casa da Musica by Rem Koolhaas. But if there’s something you will remember, that’s watching the sun set over the south bank of the Douro from the gardens of Passeio das Virtudes or a nightly stroll above the city on the old Don Luis I bridge.
The vineyards of the Douro Valley
Take a train upriver from Porto and you’ll find a land of steep hills full of terraced vineyards, home to ancient quintas where the best port wines are born. It’s an excellent place for wine tasting experiences; not only of fine ports, but also of the new wave of local reds and whites. In Tabuaço you can find the impressive Quinta do Convento, but also Quinta do Seixo, with tailor made visits to better appreciate its production for the classic Sandeman brand. No wonder the Upper Douro Region was declared World Heritage by UNESCO in 2001.
One of many Lisbons
It’s not easy to summarise the many charms of a city full of culture, art, music and history. Lisbon feels like you could spend a lifetime exploring it, and each neighbourhood and area has its own soul. There’s still plenty to discover together during a romantic getaway, beyond the most famous areas, such as Alfama and Bairro Alto. Take Mouraria, for instance. It’s an oasis of local life full of history —it was the Moorish ghetto back in the XII century. Its restaurants and people show all the connections of Lisbon with South America and Africa. It is also reported to be the birthplace of fado, the plaintive and sadly sweet music which is more strongly associated with Portuguese traditional culture. You can find out for yourself by visiting Maria da Mouraria, the restaurant and fado house that now stands where the house of legendary fado singer Maria da Severa (who led a romantic and brief existence in the early XIX century) used to be.
A desert island in Faro
Sunshine floods the Algarve, Portugal’s Southern corner, its high cliffs and beaches of white sand. Landing in Faro you can get a sense of the open nature of the region just by looking at the Ria Formosa lagoon from the plane windows. A protected natural space of marshes, sandbanks and barrier islands at the gates of the city, Ria Formosa gives you the opportunity of visiting a true desert island – a romantic getaway that is truly off the beaten track. The Ilha Deserta or Ilha da Barretta is a space of quiet, connected to the city by ferry only during the summer months.
Faro itself is a charming city of moorish heritage, and the perfect base to explore the region further. Foodies will want to try the local fish and seafood cataplanas (stews). Sea lovers will want to visit lovely beaches such as Três Irmãos or the hidden cove of Algar de Benagil near Portimao, as well as the unspoilt coastline surrounding Sagres and Cape St. Vincent. And surf lovers will want to try the swells and breaks of beaches like Praia de Amoreira and Praia da Cordoama, exposed to the Atlantic waves in isolated natural environments.
Wild hot springs in Sao Miguel
The name of Azores conjures up images of stormy gales, volcanoes and whales. And, sure enough, the seven islands of this tiny archipelago offer some of the most striking (and extreme) landscapes and sensations you can enjoy in Portugal —a country they’ve been a part of since the first settlers arrived in the XV century. But the Azores are also just a short flight away from the mainland and very well connected via Lisbon or Porto to the UK, with regular flights landing in Ponta Delgada, the beautiful capital city of São Miguel and largest city in the archipelago.
The volcanic origins of São Miguel show in the variety of hot springs that can be found around the island. You can easily visit the popular spot in Caldeira Velha, or drive west to the amazing Ponta da Ferraria: a beach cove where hydrothermal vents warm the seawater. On the other side of the spectrum —and the island—, the Terra Nostra Park gardens and spa in Furnas offer you a less rugged option. Just dive in the old pool surrounded by huge redwood trees, in the middle of their beautiful XIX century gardens, and later enjoy the elegant hotel and restaurant for an unforgettable evening.
Are you ready to start planning your couples’ holiday to Portugal?