REVIEWS PLAY PORTUGAL: FURTHER AFIELD LISBON FOR LOVERS
LISBON FOR LOVERS

Lisbon for lovers

The Portuguese capital is a perfect destination for a romantic break. Paul Rouse gets all misty-eyed.

Paris, Venice and Rome might have become a little clichéd as far as romantic locations go, but why not surprise the love of your life by whisking her - or him - off to one of the most beautiful cities in Europe?

Lisbon is a place to fall in love with, as well as one in which to fall in love, and is quite unique in combining a delightful and slightly old-fashioned charm with its new standing as a hip city-break destination. With a fabulous selection of romantic restaurants, luxurious hotels, bijoux shops and panoramic views, it provides the ideal backdrop for bringing out the great romantic in us all. Here are some personal recommendations for an affair to remember:

ROMANTIC HOTEL

With its stunning hilltop location, built into the walls of the Castelo Sao Jorge, the Palacio Belmonte - a Lisbon icon since the fifteenth century - is now one of the city’s premier boutique hotels. Choose from one of the eleven exclusive and very individual suites, and enjoy the experience of staying in what feels like your own private palace. Prices on application. Tel: + 351 218 816 600; www.palaciobelmonte.com

SENSUOUS SPA

The Spirito Spa at the über-chic Sheraton Lisboa has eight treatment rooms, heated outdoor swimming pool, Jacuzzi, sauna, hammam, relaxation areas, juice bar and fitness facility. The menu of exotic therapies includes deep tissue massages, skin-softening facials, exfoliating scrubs and moisturising wraps infused with natural herbs and oils, with signature treatments such as the Marrakech Mint Sensations and the d’Orange treatment designed to detox and revitalise the body and relax and refresh the mind.

Individual treatment prices start from €45, and a number of spa packages, including overnight stays, are also available.

Tel: +351 21 312 0000; www.starwoodhotels.com

CANDLELIT DINNER

Head just beyond Cascais, Lisbon’s smart seaside suburb, and enjoy superb food and wonderful views at the Fortaleza do Guincho, a converted 17th century fortress perched high on the rocks above the sea. An atmospheric Relais & Chateau hotel with a Michelin-starred restaurant, you’ll be suitably wowed by both the menu and the wine list, which reflect the richness and tradition of French cuisine combined with a modern Portuguese twist. Your compliments to the chef will be directed to Vincent Farges, who leads a talented young team, faithful to the creative genius of their mentor, world-famous chef Antoine Westermann.

Tel: + 351 21 487 0491; www.guinchotel.pt

PERFECT NIGHTCAP

A by-word for designer-cool in the city, the Bairro Alto Hotel is housed in a lovingly-restored 18th century building in the heart of the district of the same name. Its rooms, restaurant and street-level bar have become justifiably popular with Lisbon’s bright young things, but its crowning glory is the sixth-floor Terrace Bar. Sink into a cushioned seat, order cocktails for two, and gaze out over the twinkling lights of the city towards the River Tagus and the majestic 25 de Abril bridge.

Tel: + 351 21 340 8288; www.bairroaltohotel.com

DREAMY VIEW

Built on seven hills, Lisbon has more glorious vistas than almost any city you can think of. For sheer, unadulterated romance, go for a hand-in-hand stroll through the backstreets of Alfama, the city’s medieval quarter, and climb up towards Largo das Portas do Sol. Sit at one of the café tables and look out over the red-tiled rooftops and church spires of Alfama towards the river. Then wander around the corner for another amazing view, from the Miradoura (“golden view”) de Santa Luzia, over the cupola of the soaring Santa Engracia church and the white towers of Sao Miguel. 

PHOTO OPPORTUNITY

Lisbon has a myriad of sights, scenes and unique attractions – enough for you to fill several photo albums as a souvenir of your stay. And every district has something different to offer. There’s the cathedral and the castle in Alfama, the elevator and the botanical gardens in Baixa, historic bars and restaurants such as Brasileira, Trinidade and Tavares in Bairro Alto and Chiado, the monastery and the tower in Belem, and the Oceanarium and cable car in Parque das Nacoes. Ride the bus, tram, train or ferry and snap the city - and your loved one - from every angle.

SWEET TOOTH

There’s no shortage of great confectionery shops in Lisbon, and a visit to the Antiga Confeitaria de Belem to taste their legendary pasteis de nata custard tarts is a must. But for sheer indulgence - and a slightly belated St Valentine’s Day celebration if you’re planning a Spring break - head an hour north of Lisbon to the chocolate-box pretty medieval town of Obidos, which hosts its annual Chocolate Festival in March. The ten-day chocoholic’s dream features chocolate tastings, cookery master classes and the International Chocolatier of the Year awards.

Visit the tourist board website at www.cm-obidos.pt for more details.

DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER

Joalharia do Carmo in the Chiado district is one of the best jeweller’s in Lisbon: a family-owned and -run business where you are assured a warm welcome and attentive service. They have something to suit every wallet, including modern silver and gold pieces and a great selection of antique jewellery. Go on. Spoil her.

87b Rua da Carmo, 1200-093 Lisbon

Tel: + 351 21 342 3050

SAY IT WITH FLOWERS

The Portuguese love flowers, and there are almost as many florists in Lisbon as there are pastelarias – which is saying something. Two of the best are

Atmosphere/Christophe Giudici (Rua Trindade, 28; Tel: + 351 21 321 4766), a supremely talented florist with the most beautiful selection, and Flor (Largo Vitorino Damasio 3c-Pav.3; Tel: + 351 21 397 3050), run by the Piano brothers, who will always come up with something extra for those really special occasions.

POPPING THE QUESTION

If you’re going to propose on this trip, do it in style with your head in the clouds – literally. Love is in the air courtesy of Air Nimbus, who offer spectacular panoramic private flights over Cascais Bay and the rugged coastline of Cabo da Roca, the most westerly point of mainland Europe. Champagne is served on board, and apart from the pilot, there will only be the two of you. But you’ll need to be quick – the aerial tour lasts just 20 minutes. Prices from €180 per couple.

Tel: + 351 21 444 6117; www.airnimbus.pt

MORE ROMANTIC GESTURES

  • Splash out by booking the Presidential Suite at the Sheraton Lisboa: the bathroom features a Jacuzzi-made-for-two and a picture window looking out over the city.
  • Put your partner on a pedestal: take the ferry across the Tagus to Cristo Rei, the giant statue of Christ modelled on its famous counterpart in Rio de Janeiro, and climb to the top (269ft) for an alternative vantage point.
  • Where better to read a love poem than in the magnificent baroque library at the Palacio de Mafra just north of Lisbon?
  • Visit the fairy-tale town of Sintra, beloved of European royalty, a confection of palaces, castles, turrets, museums and mansions perched on a steep hillside overlooking the Lisbon Coast.