Portugal is a breathtakingly beautiful country and never has there been a better time to consider this a the location for your elopement. With the new coronavirus sweeping the planet and causing global fear and confusion, (not to mention economic recession) planning a big wedding just doesn’t seem like the best idea anymore.
I have received several emails from couples who have, in the last minute and because of the Covid 19 outbreak, decided to scrap the idea of a traditional wedding and are instead planning their elopements in Portugal as an alternative. And so to make life easier for those of you considering this route, I have put together a bit of a guide to getting it all done.
First of all, you’re going to need to decide where you want to elope, or more specifically, what kind of look or location you’re aiming for. Portugal is a small but incredibly diverse country and there are many gorgeous options. The weather is generally quite predictable and the summer season is from June until September, with spring in April and May and the autumn in October – November. Summers are hot and in July and August its best to avoid the interior of the country.
Elopements in Portugal – Sintra
Sintra is a magical little town at the foot of the Sintra Mountains and about half an hour out of Lisbon, Portugals capital city. Up until a few years ago, Sintra was still relatively undiscovered but these days it has become quite a tourist destination, which makes it a bit challenging as a location for an intimate vow exchange, but there are options and the unparalleled beauty and quaintness makes it worth the crowds. The Monseratte Palace is one of Sintras many palaces and their extensive gardens make for a great location. There are costs involved but the flip side of this is that it means less random people in the background, making for a more private ceremony.
Where to Stay in Sintra
Casa Miradouro is central without being right in the middle of the craziness, had amazing views towards the sea and is beautiful, light and bright. If you’re looking to splurge and go all out on the feeling-like-royalty wedding vibes, then nothing beats the Palacio de Seteais. Its not cheap but you’re only doing this once, right?
Elopements in Portugal – Lisbon
Lisbon is the capital city so from a purely practical point of view, its the easiest place to get to and requires the least amount of logistics to organise your elopement. But over and above the practicalities, Lisbon is gorgeous, a truly stunning and ancient city spread over several hills and overlooking an expansive and picturesque river. In terms of a picturesque backdrop for your special day… if you like old architecture, narrow cobblestone streets and the hustle and bustle of a busy city, it doesn’t get better than this.
Where to stay in Lisbon
There is no lack of options when choosing a place to stay in the city but keep in mind that since you are getting ready for a wedding you will need a spacious room and lots of window light, for your photographer as well as for your hair and makeup team. The Chafariz del Rei is always a favourite and the Palacio Belmonte is hard to beat in terms of location and views… perched up high in Lisbon’s oldest neighbourhood and minutes away from the Castelo district, the hotel looks over the city towards the river with amazing views in every direction.
Elopements in Portugal – Alentejo
The Alentejo is a truly unique and beautiful place. Truth be told, its my favourite part of the country… the open spaces, rolling hills, quaint whitewashed towns and the light, the light here is really very special. This region has been compared to Tuscany, to the south of France but in all honesty it has nothing to do with those places because it’s better. And less crowded… also a plus point. Located between Lisbon and the Algarve coast in the south, its an enormous expanse of countryside and depending where you’re going, takes a hour or more of driving to get there. But its totally worth it and don’t let the little bit of extra travel put you off.
Summers are super hot down here, so if you have the Alentejo region in mind then try to avoid July and August. Spring and autumn are definitely the best times to visit, with the added benefit of being out of the tourist season so less crowds to deal with.
Where to stay in the Alentejo
São Lourenço do Barrocal is hands down my favourite place for elopements in Portugal right now. Situated just outside of the medieval walled town of Monsaraz, this fully converted 200 year old estate has been lovingly restored and is a stunning place to host an intimate wedding or elopement.
But the Alentejo is full of gorgeous boutique hotels, there are literally too many to choose from so here are some of my favourites: Sublime Comporta – a luxury eco-resort on the coast. Imani Country House is close to the city of Evora. Casas Caiadas is a tiny boutique home in the most beautiful wild setting, also close to Evora. The Land Vineyards makes for a stunning “base camp” for an elopement at Montemor o Novo castle (see below)
Elopements in Portugal – Algarve
The Algarve is undoubtably the most famous part of Portugal and a heavily marketed tourist destination. This is a double-edged sword, as on the one hand, there are so many beautiful hotels and accommodation options to choose from, but on the other, there are also loads of people. Everywhere. To be perfectly honest, the best bit of the Algarve are on the edges. All the way to the west, you have wild landscapes, tall dramatic cliffs and coastlines, waves for daaays (surfers paradise) and moutherwaterly delicious seafood on every corner.
And then to the east, close to the Spanish border, the sea temperature rises dramatically, the beaches are kilometres of unblemished white sand, the landscape is charmingly rural and the vibe is laid back, stylish, bohemian. The middle bit of the Algarve (anything between Faro and Portimão) is, quite frankly, to be avoided… unless you like fighting the crowds for a spot on the sand and enjoy being surrounded by bachelor parties at every restaurant you visit. You have been warned.
Where to stay in the Algarve
Close to the wild cliffs and windswept west coast, Casa Mãe is a beautiful and sun soaked base from which to explore some of Portugals most beautiful and dramatic coastlines. To the east, Casa Mama Mia in Moncarapacho is a laid-back BnB with a family home feel. For utter luxury with Turkish bath vibes and blissful spa treatments, its got to be Companhia das Culturas in Castro Marim. Conversas de Alpendre is a family affair close to the beach in Cacela Velha and for a larger party or family holiday/ mini wedding adventure Casa Fuzetta in Olhão is a gorgeously restored 16th century mansion available to rent as a self catering house.
Elopements in Portugal – The Douro
The Douro is famous for wine, of course, but also for its unique landscape, unlike any other in the world. The river runs from the Spanish border to the sea at the city of Porto, which is a destination in itself and deserves a few days to wander her streets and explore. The Douro valley is long and the roads are narrow and winding so allow yourselves plenty of time to explore this breathtaking corner of the world.
Where to stay in The Douro
Casa do Rio is a boutique hotel on the Quinta do Vallado wine estate and their six exclusive suites are nestled between the vines and overlook the river. Alternatively, the Douro Six Senses is the ultimate in luxury and 5 star treatment if you’re looking to splash out.
There are so many beautiful places to stay and things to see that when it comes to planning elopements in Portugal, the limit is quite literally your imagination. Have a look at Taste of Portugal for more ideas and inspiration, they are constantly adding to their list of amazing hotels so keep checking back.
Of course there is more to organising an elopement than simply choosing the location, but for the sake of keeping things brief, I have decided to split all the information into 2 blog posts. Next week we’ll get into the logistics and legalities of getting married in Portugal as well as discuss other service providers that you might need. I hope that I have inspired you to consider Portugal for your elopement adventure and if you have any questions don’t be shy to ask!