A City for Lovers: Romantic Things to Do in Lisbon


Lisbon gets hearts a-flutter with its fairy tale castle and palaces, regal monuments, historic cafes, and restaurants. In fact, exploring Portugal’s capital is to discover one of Europe’s most romantic cities. Head for the to the top of Elevador de Santa Justa for an ideal introduction to the Portuguese capital. 

As dusk falls and the city lights up, Lisbon’s castle provides a suitably dreamy backdrop for a photograph from this historic landmark. Take a selfie with your other half. Relaxing and unwinding together is what Lisbon is all about so why not visit a spa for some down time together. At Elohim Spa you can indulge in a “his and hers” massage in peaceful and intimate surroundings. Even in winter the romantic appeal of Guincho is tangible. Escape the city and indulge in a long walk over the beautiful Guincho-Cresima dune field. A romantic tea for two can be taken in charming surroundings at the Salão de Chá in the Palacete Chafariz D’El Rei. They also do a superb brunch. 

Call it a desire if you want, but Tram 28 allows you both to indulge in Lisbon from a vintage streetcar that trundles its way through some of the capital’s narrowest lanes and picturesque quarters. It’s a lovely way to explore. For coffee and cake 1920’s style, head for Café-Pasterlaria Versailles. Here it’s all about savoring the bygone ambiance of yesteryear Lisbon. 

Who can resist fado? Senhor Vinho is one of the best restaurants in the city, where a romantic candlelit dinner is served to the haunting strains of this unique singing style. Also exemplifying Lisbon’s cultural clout is the Palácio Nacional de Queluz and the Palácio da Pena, in Sintra. Both are outstanding architecturally and feature landscaped gardens and expansive grounds that provide ideal hand-in-hand walking moments. And if you fancy rounding off a day in town in style, order cocktails for two at chic stylish Cinco Lounge. 



Bairro Alto/Principe Real

There are cocktail bars and there is Cinco Lounge. This is Lisbon's premier cocktail venue, a real after-dark treat for aficionados of the mixed drink. Its intimate, semi-lit ambiance also makes it a wonderfully romantic place to enjoy a drink with a loved one. You can perch on one of the counter stools and chat with the bartender as he prepares your choice - and the menu lists a bewildering number of cocktails - or find a corner and sink into any one of the plush, marshmallow-soft couches hugging the walls. Even when it's full the bar oozes cozy charm. The soundtrack is smooth chill out but the music never overloads the ear or gatecrashes the conversation.

Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: Over the last few years, cocktail bars have pooped up all over the city. Some have proved themselves admirably. But Cinco Lounge remains the standard-bearer.

Paul's expert tip: if you like a little umph! with your drink, order the "Nim Nom Atom Bomb", an explosive combination of gin, cointreau, lillet blanco, Pernod, lemon juice, lime juice, egg white, and a dash of gomme syrup.

Read more about Cinco Lounge →

Outside the City

Portugal's very own Disneyland palace crowns the highest peak of the Serra de Sintra mountain range and is one of the most distinguished landmarks in the region. The 19th-century wonder conjures up an image of a child's Lego-brick toy with its turrets and domes and colourful pastel facades. Indeed, it's a hotchpotch of different architectural styles. Commissioned by Queen Maria II for her husband Ferdinand Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, the multi-roomed palace is crammed full of rare and priceless antiques and curios collected from all over the world. Opulent furnishings are found throughout the salons, and the décor is especially lavish in the Ballroom. The Arab Room is another contender for the richest and most extravagant home decoration award. Enchanting and romantic in equal measure, this is a place to let the imagination run wild and live like royalty for a couple of hours.

Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: Keep an eye on the weather. The mild micro-climate means that sometimes the palace is hidden by mist or low cloud.

Paul's expert tip: Photograph all you like outside but it's forbidden inside, even using smartphones.

Read more about Palácio da Pena →

Don't be put off by the rather incongruous location for despite being situated in the northern suburbs and approached by concrete housing blocks, this utterly romantic 18th-century royal palace stands alone as one of the grandest and most sumptuous in the land. Actually, it's one of the finest examples of Rococo architecture in Portugal and the interior hides a treasure trove of exquisite furniture and period décor. A highlight is the opulent Sala dos Embaixadores, built by Robillion and which featuring a stunning trompe l'oeil ceiling. The palace gardens, embellished with trickling fountains and trim topiary, are laid out in formal symmetry and provide a relaxing and highly enjoyable extension to the tour.

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What better way to spend a romantic evening with someone you love than enjoying a candlelit dinner while listening to the haunting strains of fado. This is one of the most respected venues in the city, a fado house tucked away in the residential Lapa district known for its roll call of illustrious singers and guitarists. Expect first-class a la carte service - the restaurant upholds Portugal's rich, culinary traditions with a delicious choice of traditional dishes, and a list of carefully selected wines. The singing takes place between servings under dimmed light, the hushed audience serenaded with voice and guitar over the course of the evening.

Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: Of all Lisbon's fado houses, Senhor Vinho is probably the most exclusive. It's, therefore, the choice of many locals seeking an authentic fado experience.

Paul's expert tip: Book a table in advance and check whether any tour groups are scheduled to visit. The atmosphere is far more intimate without the coach parties.

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Campo Grande/Campo Pequeno

Whisk yourself back to the dapper days of the 1920s by stepping inside this veritable gem of a café. This is one of the finest examples of an early 20th-century Lisbon teahouse, and the bygone ambiance is absolutely beguiling. The building stands replete in original décor, all marble walls, decorative stained glass panels and custom-made counters filled with an amazing selection of cakes, sweets and all manner of homemade goodies. Busy waiters in smart waistcoats and bow ties hover around tables in quiet indifference - they've seen it all before, and their manner is sometimes brusque but always efficient. For the first-time visitor, this gleaming reminder of a gentler age is a wonderfully romantic and captivating experience.

Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: Favoured by locals, many of whom dress for the occasion, this is café society at its most elegant.

Paul's expert tip: The specialty here is the hot chocolate, a rich dark concoction coifed with a dollop of whipped cream. Tempting at any time of the day.

Read more about Café–Pastelaria Versailles →

To really experience Lisbon in a novel and romantic fashion, hop on board the number 28 tram. These bright yellow streetcars shake, rattle and roll their way over the city's most picturesque neighbourhoods to follow a meandering track past monuments, museums and miradouros (viewpoints). The tram connects Martim Moniz in the Baixa (downtown) district with Campo Ourique, an area west of the city centre. Along the way, the carriage trundles by under the shadow of landmarks like São Vicente de Fora in Alfama and the Sé (cathedral). Further on it snakes around Praça Luís de Camões in Chiado, one of the capital's prettiest squares, before hissing and creaking towards leafy Estrela, known for its church and landscaped gardens. And the best thing about the journey is that once you've reached the end of the line, you can do the same excursion in reverse.

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Santa Apolonia

The tearoom at the Palacete Chafariz D'El Rei exudes exceptional charm decorated as it is with original period furniture, which is an architectural signature evident throughout the hotel. Non-residents can join guests for Sunday brunch in the salon or at a table in the beautiful art nouveau mirror lounge, noted for its outstanding Venetian mirrors and rare lamplights. Brunch is adapted from the breakfast menu, a healthy, hearty choice of bread, croissant, assorted jams, cheese and cold cuts accompanied by crisp and juicy bacon and light, fluffy scrambled egg. Tea, coffee, hot chocolate and freshly squeezed fruit juice is also served. The menu lists additional delights such as yogurt, fruit salad and pancakes. The setting is certainly romantic and ideal for couples or small, intimate gatherings. On warm sunny days, the verandah is the perfect to place to enjoy a gin and tonic well into the afternoon.

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The unspoiled beauty of the Sintra coast lends itself to some incredible walks, and the trail that arrows its way through the Guincho-Cresima dunes is one of the most rewarding. The dune field lies within a protected reserve and is accessed by following a narrow boardwalk. Some of the dunes have been partially fixed by vegetation but as you near the beach, the sand is free-flowing, endlessly shifted by the strong westerlies Guincho is famous for. Wildlife enthusiasts should consult the information board at the start of the walk for a detailed rundown of the area's flora and fauna. But if you're here to spend some quality time with a loved one, then enjoy a leisurely stroll through one of the region's most beautiful and romantic stretches of coastline.

Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: Guincho is renowned for its watersports options, but the beach and surrounding dunes are also a haven for wildlife.

Paul's expert tip: Regular buses depart Cascais fro Guincho, where you can commence the walk. Be sure to note return times to coincide with train departures back to Lisbon.

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This highly regarded day spa facility is known for its range of special Elohim Rituals where the emphasis is on Oriental-themed treatments. For couples, Elohim has designed appealing him and her options (ideal as a romantic interlude or Valentine's Day celebration). The hot stone massage remains a favourite choice. Centrally located, day spa facility, Elohim is an attractive option for those seeking a feel-good pampering moment, perhaps as a lunchtime treat with friends. The spa's Day Spa Amigas, a package aimed at small group rituals and treatments, is hugely popular.

Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: Its special menu of spa treatments for couples makes Elohim a wonderful excuse to indulge in a little romantic downtime.

Paul's expert tip: Try the combined massage and reflexology treatment followed by a relaxing tea ritual massage.

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As selfie opportunities go, few match the views to be had from the Santa Justa viewpoint, the platform at the top of the Santa Justa elevator, located in Lisbon's Baixa district. Built by architect Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard and inaugurated in 1902, the 32-meter Neo-Gothic lift is one of the city's most iconic structures. Passengers can choose to ride to the top of the tower from Rua do Ouro or climb the spiral staircase accessed from a walkway in Largo do Carmo. Either way, if you're looking for a romantic snapshot with Lisbon unfolding in the background, this is the place to hoist the selfie stick and smile into your smartphone.

Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: For a romantic overview of the whole of downtown Lisbon, including the castle, the top of Elevador de Santa Justa offers the most dramatic perspective.

Paul's expert tip: Dusk is the most evocative time to photograph, when the city below, crowned by the magnificent castle, is bathed in a sparkling wash.

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Meet Paul Bernhardt

Paul Bernhardt cut his teeth as a press photographer in England before leaving the UK to settle in Portugal, where he has lived for over a decade, and where he started to focus on more...  More About Paul