Increasingly, more newlyweds are hopping across the pond to Portugal, realizing that the super safe coastal country of 10 million in the southeast of Europe is an incredibly attractive proposition whether they’re seeking stunning sand and surf or city life with excellent cuisine. Because of its position on the Atlantic it’s really a year-round destination—the summers are gorgeous, spring and fall are mild and beautiful, and even winter (though it does get a bit rainy at times) can still have its fair share of blue sky days (it’s also when serious surfers want to be there).
From north to south the long, skinny country is easily traversed by car (the roads are fantastic, too). If a fabulous road trip with plenty of scenic stops and glamorous hotels along the way is your idea of fun then you may have found your dream honeymoon. Most international flights land in Lisbon, which is situated in a convenient spot to head north or south. If you have the time it’s worth doing both.
In the north, Porto is the second-largest city in Portugal, also as the name suggests, famous for Port wine. The grapes are grown inland a bit in the beautiful Douro Valley, which the Douro River cuts through (oenophiles may know Ribera del Duero, a Spanish wine-producing area, and it’s actually the same river, changing names to Duero once it crosses into Spain). Both are worth stays. Six Senses Douro Valley (a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Lisbon’s airport) would kick any romantic getaway off on the perfect foot with its stunning, serene rooms and suites (with large tubs), beautiful pool and truly outstanding cuisine. A bit farther afield, almost to the Spanish border, Vidago Palace is a gracious Belle Epoque property with a spa doling out some of the best massages anywhere.
Wine country is idyllic for a few days—the region’s table wines (as in not sweet like Port) are a relatively new development, but there are hundreds to try—but Porto is a charming city worth checking out, too. There you can choose between cool and slightly quirky stays at bed and breakfast–style townhouses like the trendy Rosa Et Al or the super-luxe The Yeatman, with its double Michelin-starred restaurant. Architecture buffs will love wandering around (check out the prettiest McDonalds in the world) or taking a tour on foot or bicycle. There, don’t miss an elegant night out at DOP - Chef Rui Paula (or, while in the Douro, its sister restaurant DOC).
Michelin star-seekers will have plenty to choose from in Portugal. There are actually around two dozen in the country, with several in Lisbon, making it quite the gastronomic mecca. (Fortunately, Portugal also tends to be a bit more affordable than elsewhere in Europe.) But before you drive straight back to Lisbon, take a beat in the beautiful town of Óbidos, considered by many the most beautiful in Portugal, and plan a day in Sintra, where there are castles that bring your childhood fairytale fantasies to life. Surfers can stop in Nazaré, iconic for its up to 100-foot waves, or Ericeira, which is a charming village at the heart of a World Surfing Reserve with beautiful beaches and fantastic breaks (plenty of instructors and surf lessons, too).
In Lisbon, stay at AlmaLusa Baixa/Chiado for a comfy-chic central location or the drool-worthy Lisbon Cheese & Wine Suites, and swing by the Time Out Market for casual eats—you’ll want to go multiple times, there are so many delicious stalls to choose from—before watching the sunset over the river with a glass of wine. Alongside the Michelin-approved fine dining are fun interactive experiences like at Palacio Chiado, a dramatic building where six restaurants are united under one roof (so you can have poke while your partner has steak). It’s a toss-up which is more attractive: Lisbon or Porto. Both have the colorful tile facades and intimate cobblestone streets the country is known for, which are guaranteed to woo. Also make time for visits to Cascais, a cute town where tiny beaches are colorful scenes in the summer, historic Castelo de São Jorge, Pastéis de Belém for truly addictive custard-filled pastries called pastel de nata and, for an idyllic beach day, Comporta, a hip village where the likes of Christian Louboutin and Philippe Starck have homes.
Beach lovers—sunbathers and surfers alike—can’t forget to head south along the coast, which is a region called Alentejo that happens to have the most spectacular ones. A piece of advice: Turn off the main highway whenever you feel like it and there will surely be an adorable town or dramatic yet bucolic beach waiting down some steps. The Algarve, famous for its natural beauty which does include plenty of sand and dramatically hued waves, is a place to spend time meandering and relaxing. Try the Memmo Baleeira Hotel Sagres for a beautiful experience with epic views, or head farther east toward Spain—you can even cross the border—to Faro and Albufeira if you want to be totally swept off your feet by attractions as varied as Roman ruins, farms, and colorful seaside cliffs.