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Fall in Love All Over Again in Portugal’s Most Romantic Towns

Looking for an escape for you and your main squeeze? These towns in Portugal are the perfect backdrop for a new page in your love story.



>>Quick jump to a town:




Óbidos

Ask your partner to list the top romantic things they want to experience in this lifetime. We guarantee that staying the night in a real life castle is on the list. That’s just one reason that the medieval town of Óbidos is a must-see romantic destination for couples visiting Portugal.


Not only can you stay in the castle, but Óbidos is one of the most well-preserved castle towns in the entire country. Meaning that inside of the castle walls (and just beyond), there are residents going about their daily lives.


After a late morning with breakfast in bed, you can saunter down to the town’s cobblestone streets to explore its quaint shops of artisanal goods including locally made ginja (a sweet, but tart cherry liqueur), delicate cork jewelry, exquisite handmade ceramics, and more.


If you’re literary lovers, be sure to check out the bookstore located in a converted church. Or if you prefer bathing in the fresh air, take a stroll along the top of the castle’s wall or explore one of the nature trails just outside the walls. 


Romantic Experiences in Óbidos:




Arcos de Valdevez

There’s something about stepping into Arcos de Valdevez that feels like you’ve gone back in time just a bit. Nestled along the banks of the Vez River in the Alto Minho region of Portugal (located in the northwest), Arcos de Valdevez delivers this promise: it will charm your pants off.


Its cobblestone roads, traditional architecture, and picturesque views are beautifully maintained and yet, it’s anything but sterile. Traditions have a rich presence in the town, and we found it to be especially lively in the summer. We happened across a group of accordionists playing traditional folk songs and even got pulled into joining one of the group dances!


And, if you’re looking for unique experiences, we’ve got two. First, stop by the Doçaria Central, a gastronomic legend in confection founded in 1830. Try one of their many famous local sweets including pão-de-ló (sponge cake), charutos de arcos (Arcos cigars), rebuçados de Arcos (Arcos candies), and more.


If you’re a couple that feels especially connected to animals, namely horses, you’ll become enamored with Arcos de Valdevez when you explore the area and the nearby national park (Parque Nacional da Peneda-Geres) by horseback! Quinta do Fijó offers incredible 3 and 6-day horseback riding treks, including accommodations and traditional Portuguese meals. Did we mention you may even come across wild horses on the way?!


Romantic Experiences in Arcos de Valdevez:



Sintra

If you were to combine the fairytale fantasies of Walt Disney with both the playful architectural genius of Antoni Gaudí and the eclectic grandiosity of William Randolph Hearst (Not sure who Hearst is? Google California’s Hearst Castle and look into the art housed there), you’d get the whimsical grandeur of Sintra’s palaces. What’s fascinating is that each of Sintra’s unique monuments were constructed in different eras (different centuries even!) by different people and yet all of them evoke a certain playful whimsy not seen anywhere else in Portugal.


Perhaps such inspiration floats in the sky — Sintra has its own microclimate that traps fog year-round in its lush forest terrain. And it’s this backdrop of castles and dense air and fantasy that makes Sintra one of the most romantic destinations in the country.


It’s a place where you can take your lover’s hand and spend the morning exploring the eccentric Palacio de Pena or escaping into the Alice in Wonderland-like gardens of Quinta da Regaleira. Then take an intimate lunch break on the main street of town, followed by a stop at a cafe to taste the famous local pastry, Queijadas de Sintra.


Before the day’s end, you can relax alongside one another as you embark on a local tram, taking you on a 45-minute ride from Sintra’s dense forest landscape to the brisk air and unbridled coastline of the Atlantic Ocean.


Romantic Experiences in Sintra:


Photos: liveLUSO


Alcobaça

Before Shakespeare immortalized Romeo and Juliet, there was Portugal’s Inês de Castro and Dom Pedro I. The two were star crossed lovers whose fate laid them to rest side by side in Alcobaça’s monastery (Mosteiro de Alcobaça).


When they first met, Dom Pedro was heir to the Portuguese throne and Inês had been brought on to serve as a handmaiden for his wife. Yes, his wife! Naturally, they fell in love almost immediately which led to Inês being expelled from the court. Dom Pedro’s wife died a short time after (in childbirth no less), so he rekindled his romance with Inês and they went on to have four children.


But the king had an enduring worry of the political implications of their relationship (in part because Inês was Spanish). So he ordered Inês to be killed.


In 1357, Dom Pedro I officially took the throne and in a vindictive display of love, he executed her murderers himself. Five years later, he had her body exhumed and transported to the Mosteiro de Alcobaça where she was posthumously crowned queen. Her body was reburied in an elaborately carved tomb in the monastery, next to which Dom Pedro was buried after he died.


Today, their story is remembered as a tale of undying devotion. If grand gestures are your love language, Alcobaça (particularly the Mosteiro de Alcobaça) is a must-see destination for a romantic escape. Truly, the monastery itself is exquisite and you can even view the tombs of Inês and Dom Pedro.


In front of the monastery lies a grand, tree-lined promenade along which you’ll find one of the most renowned pastry shops in the entire country, Pastelaria Alcôa. After visiting the monastery, treat yourselves to a decadent delight! Our recommendation? Try one of the conventual sweets (Portuguese pastries that originated in convents and strongly feature egg yolk as an ingredient). It’s their specialty and they serve up many varieties not found in your average Portuguese bakery or pastry shop.


Romantic Experiences in Alcobaça:




Sete Cidades

The parish of Sete Cidades on the Azorean island of São Miguel is home to a tale reminiscent of the Greek Narcissus, an incredibly handsome man who fell in love with his own reflection in a pond, so much so that he fell into the pond and drowned. And from the spot where he died, sprouted the beautiful narcissus flower (also known as the daffodil).


The Portuguese version is a little less…narcissistic (sorry, we couldn’t think of another word there). The Portuguese legend tells the story of a noble princess with blue eyes (that detail is very important) who fell in love with a local shepherd with green eyes (also a very important detail).


By some accounts, the shepherd gathered the courage to ask the king for his daughter’s hand in marriage. In others, the king found out about their secret affair. Either way, he forbade their romance. And the princess obeyed, but she met with the shepherd one last time to bid him farewell.


They embraced and they cried, and cried, and cried. The tale has it that their goodbye was so languished, so heartbreaking that each cried a literal lake of tears, known today as the Lagoa das Sete Cidades. One pond emerged a deep blue and the other, an emerald green, just like the color of their eyes.


If that isn’t a romantic enough reason to visit Sete Cidades, then may we suggest you take your lover on a serene experience? If water is your element, rent a standup paddle board and glide across the town’s majestic twin lakes. If you’re a more grounded couple, rent a bike instead and explore the peaceful nature trails that encircle the lakes. 


Romantic Experiences in Sete Cidades:


 


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