There are several European cities known for their Old-World romance, sprinkled in fairy dust and history. Take a leisurely walk past ancient architecture, beautiful promenades and cozy little cafés humming with live music and you’ll feel transported back in time. And there is no better place to experience this romance than Lisbon!
Lisbon is unique for star-crossed lovers because it’s just a short train-ride away from the stunningly beautiful, hilltop city of Sintra. This UNESCO World Heritage site paints the perfect fairytale romance filled with castles, palaces, decadent manor houses with flowery landscaped gardens, and winding cobblestone streets and alleyways that make this city charming. Both Sintra and Lisbon have their fill of beautiful views, delicious sweets and pretty gardens so either would make for a great romantic day, but the complete Lisbon lover’s package would be Sintra by day and Lisbon by night.
Below is your go-to intimate itinerary for two, with several options to choose from for sightseeing, food and drink. And one’s “getaway” trip cannot be complete without accommodation; hence, I’ve provided a list of my top-rated romance themed hotels/guesthouses/apartments in and around Lisbon.
Enjoy the Romance!
Morning: Take the train early- Buy round trip tickets (ida e volta in Portuguese) from the Rossio train station in downtown Lisbon to the end of the line – Sintra. It’s about a 20-30 minute train ride. When you arrive, head in the direction of where the train was facing which is the historic center of the city. Here, you’ll be able to see the cascading hilltop houses and buildings in the distance as you walk towards the center. Great for photos!
Enjoy a cozy Portuguese café with some of Sintra’s regional pastries – Sintra is known for their queijadas (sweet cheese tarts) and travesseiros (puff pastry “pillows”) with a sweet almond filling. You can find these mouthwatering treasures at many cafés and pastry shops around town but the most celebrated location is Piriquita, or their second shop, Piriquita II. Another sweet vintage café worthy of seeking out is Saudade.
Visit Sintra’s luxurious Monserrate Palace and botanical gardens – Set on a gorgeous estate, Monserrate Palace is one of Portugal’s most exquisite examples of Romantic architecture, surrounded by lush botanical gardens. Together, they create an intimate setting to explore. Located outside the main city, the palace is a bit too far of a walk for most, so hop on the 435 bus and it will drop you at the gate.
Lunch: As there are several tourist traps for dining in the historic center of Sintra, I suggest you head up the hill to Tacho Real. Set within an ancient stone building with beautiful archways adorning the dining room, the setting is delicious. If weather permits, head outside to their terrace where you can experience live music. If you prefer something a little more upscale or modern, go to G-Spot Gastronomia, which is just around the corner from the train station, heading out of town. Small, non-touristy, it offers a gourmet tasting menu and great wines.
Afternoon: Red is the color of love, so enjoy some Port and Ginja- There are plenty of shops and cafés to peruse in Sintra featuring various styles of Port wine by the glass, but the most popular is Ruby, meant to be paired with dark chocolate (while milk chocolate is good with Tawny). You can also find many places to try the Portuguese cherry liquor Ginja, produced in the nearby town of Obidos, which is famously drunk in an edible chocolate cup, que romantico!
Take a horse-drawn carriage ride through Pena Park and see Pena Palace at sunset- The Sintra Park Office provides passeios de charrete (carriage rides) through the enchanting Vales dos Lagos (Valley of the Lakes) and the Chalet of the Countess of Edla, in the green, hilltop forests of Pena Park. It’s a leisurely 20-minute ride pulled by the majestic Ardennais horses that live in the park. Public rides are available Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 10 – 4:30pm but private bookings for any day or hour can be made in advance (see carriage link for details). After your carriage ride, take the 434 bus up to Pena Palace, the colorful Moorish-architecture-meets-Disney fairytale-gone-wild former vacation home of the royals at the top of Serra da Sintra for some breathtaking views of the surrounding area. And don’t miss out on touring the inside of the palace, which is just as decadent and glittering as the outside! If you still have time, tour the Moorish Castle and the Convent of the Capuchos, just a short walk down the hill, and catch the bus back down to the city.
If you’re staying in Sintra- I highly suggest Monserrate Restaurant in the Tivoli Sintra Hotel, or Tivoli’s Palacio dos Seteais Restaurant, both with panoramic views of the mountains and valley. If you don’t mind a 15-minute cab ride, you could have an even cozier dinner at Colares Velho, down the mountain and in the Colares Valley.
Lisbon is stunning at night – All lit up with São Jorge Castle glowing in the center and the Ponte 25 Bridge (Golden Gate Twin) shimmering in the distance, it’s a site to behold. A romantic evening in Lisbon is best spent enjoying freshly grilled fish, fado music and miradouros (panoramic views) all over the city. Here are some of my suggestions for how to make an evening like this romantically memorable.
For a light and casual meal: If you’re craving lighter fare, which includes wine tastings and petiscos (Portuguese tapas) then look no further than one of Lisbon’s many cozy, dimly lit wine bars. There are plenty in ever popular Bairro Alto neighborhood, such as BA Wine Bar, Artis Wine Bar and Garrafeira Alfaia. The Decadente, located inside the Independente Hostel and Suites, just across from the panoramic miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara is ideal for those of you who want something a bit more substantial. For those of you trekking up to São Jorge Castle, visit WineBar do Castelo, located right down the street from the castle in the picturesque Alfama neighborhood, a good starting point if you want to hear some live Fado music afterwards.
For a luxurious fine-dining meal: There are countless restaurants in Lisbon with high-rated gourmet food and wine, but for a romantic dinner, check out these places:
Enjoy Lisbon’s Fado music- Fado is an emotionally moving style of Portuguese music. Created as a reminder of times past, it can either haunt you, or set your heart aflame. Most casas do fado (fado houses/bars) tend to be cozy, dimly lit spaces where singers are accompanied by live guitarists. However, be careful to avoid the tourist trap Fado bars, which are mostly in Bairro Alto and Alfama. They have outrageous cover charges and you definitely don’t want to have dinner there (or any fado bar normally) as the food is usually low quality and overpriced as well. Some of the known Fado houses accepted by locals (and with decent food) are Senhor Vinho in the small neighborhood of Lapa, Senhor Fado in Alfama and Casa da Severa (don’t confuse with A Severa) in Mouraria. Another way to find a good fado that won’t break your bank is to stroll along the tiny alleyways in Alfama. You’ll typically encounter several small cafés and bars that advertise the upcoming Fado group that evening. These are usually worth your time.
Nightcap with a Panoramic view of the city- Before you call it a night, check out one of the beautiful miradouros dotted across the city. You could also check out one of the pretty rooftop bars and terraces on many hotels around the city for more incredible views.
For more delicious ideas, why not take a look at Catavino’s Lisbon Gourmet Guide?
If you want to discover the delights of Portuguese gastronomy in the company of an expert guide, ask for a customized tour or check out our current tours!
If you have any additional suggestions for places to enjoy on a romantic day out, please share! We’d love to hear your thoughts! Otherwise, enjoy!! Remember romance should be a lifelong experience, not just on Valentines Day.
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