Too often, Portugal is brushed aside for its popular Mediterranean neighbours. (We're looking at you Spain.*) What gives? Portugal has a pleasing climate and a coastline peppered with photogenic arches and hidden grottos; it's home to seaside towns heaped with old-world charm, exotic volcanic islands and awe-inspiring castles too. Yes, Italy might have been the birthplace of Casanova, but Portuguese bon vivant and golden Atlantic sunsets make Portugal an extraordinarily romantic place to travel. So with further adieu, here are four swoon-worthy cities that will leave you with eyes only for Portugal.
We'll admit, a major urban centre isn’t typically the first place you might look for romance. Usually romantic getaways conjure visions of silky sand beaches and bucolic countrysides. But Porto isn't your typical city.
Porto's most irresistible feature is its historic centre, which brims with a mix of architectural styles and sits perched on the Douro River. Wander narrow winding streets as you explore baroque churches, bell towers, medieval relics and curious staircases that seem to lead nowhere. Shafts of sunlight illuminate pocketed plazas and modern treasures can be found in stores that have operated for centuries.
Sean Pavone Photo
At sunset, the harbour is unarguably the most romantic spot in the city, especially Cais da Ribeira. Sit, drink in the view, and listen to the water murmur against the pilings. Meander the promenade and take in the music that wafts on the breeze, spilling out from candle-lit bars. Pull up a stool at a petiscos bar and toast to your love amid the blissed-out atmosphere.
Sintra is a mid-size coastal town rife with history, sure to enchant even those who don't consider themselves history buffs.
Sintra served as a retreat for the elite and resultingly, the region is dotted with castles, palaces and glorious estates. How many love stories unfolded on these ornate balconies and in secretive gardens, we wonder?
The Palacio da Pena sits atop Monte da Pena and is a lovely example of Romantic revivalism style. It was built in the 1800s as a summer palace for the royal family and is a result of the imagination of Queen Dona Maria II’s prince consort. It goes without saying, the eclectic palace is a delight to explore.
Nearby, the woodland park filled with exotic trees and fauna; the perfect place for walking hand-in-hand.
End your afternoon on a restaurant terrace that overlooks Serra de Sintra and the coast. Bon appetit!
Flickr/Oliver Clark (CC by 2.0)
The southernmost region of the country has a varied history, making it a delightful destination for exploring old ruins. But if you're asking us, it's far more fun to search out the caves and grottos that dot this pretty coast.
The south-facing shoreline near Lagos is particularly beloved for its picturesque terrain. It's worth noting that some of the more interesting caves are not accessible by land.
By Bruno Carlos (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons
Yes, you could easily spend a day on the beach soaking in the rays, but a more romantic afternoon might consist of renting a small powerboat or kayak to peruse the coast from the water.
Float beneath rocky outcroppings and stumble upon hidden grottos in a world that hasn’t changed a bit in centuries. (We can't think of a better place to steal a kiss.)
After night falls, a moonlit walk on the now-deserted beach is the perfect way to end a perfect day.
Nine volcanic islands make up the Autonomous Region of the Azores, which lies some 1,360 km west of Portugal. If you really want your beau to yourself, a trip to the Azores is a true get-away adventure.
We love the Azores for their idyllic farmlands, picture-perfect fishing villages and a few ranches that haven’t changed much in decades. That said, we promise you'll fall into the laid-back local rhythm in two shakes of a lamb's tail.
The islands have only been inhabited for a few centuries so each is unique, taking its local flavour from the group that originally settled each.
How should you pass the time?
Look to sea: take a whale-watching cruise to admire seaside towns while waiting for the cetaceans to breach. Get high: check out Mount Pico, the highest point in Portugal. Get cozy: soak in the hot springs that are gently warmed by the volcanic activity beneath the islands. Take the road less travelled: spend the day on land cycling through verdant farmland and be sure to sample oranges that were picked just hours earlier. Now how's that for a fresh idea?
*Spain was the #1 ranked tourism-ready economy in Europe via World Economic Forum.
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