On imagination of the perfect couple’s hideaway the sights of boutique dwellings catered to every desire, deserted beaches destined for frolicking and the privacy of your own love spring to the mind of many. In the Centro region of Portugal, some 50km north of Lisbon, these visions become one seemingly everlasting reality.
The region, best served by car, is home to four rustic and timeless old towns that unlock the true heart and soul of rural Portugal, bringing a thirst for connection to life.
Óbidos, Nazaré, Peniche and Caldas da Rainha will spark the flames of a love that will last forever.
Welcome to the Centro region in Portugal:
This market fishing town, in the north of the region, plays homage to the true beginnings of the area. Fish-sellers, scattered amongst the cobbled maze of streets and terracotta roofing, lay out the carapaus (horse mackerel) to dry as done by their ancestors and attract custom with the sweet smell and colourful array of fresh fruits and vegetables nurtured in the local area.
During the summer months the area awakens with the spirit of returning Portuguese holidaymakers, travelling in from Lisbon and Porto, who bring a tide of international followers to Nazaré’s vast expanse of beaches promised with ambient basking in the Portugal sun.
Ascending to the clifftop, on the Nazaré funicular railway which links the town to the cliffside neighbourhood of Sítio, one of its original settlements, brings panoramic views of the transverse map of streets and sandy coastline into full stunning view.
Surprisingly, the area does have a small gay scene with a couple of quaint and welcoming bars giving an interesting taste of what life must be like as a gay man living in a rural community such as Nazaré – Who doesn’t like a beer with the locals?
This place is perfect for a lazy Sunday on the beach sipping traditional sugar-cane based Aguardente and reading a classic novel while breathing in the breezy sea air.
- Where to stay:
The architecture concept resort of Bom Sucesso, nestled in the hillside overlooking Óbidos lagoon, sits south of Nazaré and is a prime example of Portugal’s growing high-class resort industry.
As a Project of National Interest, twenty three masters of contemporary architecture from around the world joined forces to create, on its completion, the 601 house strong – including villas and townhouses – community that thrives as a five-star front-runner of modern design, advanced villa interior features and leisure facilities including private beach and 18-hole Championship Golf course.
Watch our video tour of the villas here:
- In the area:
From the activity center at Bom Sucesso, cycle tour guides take explorers the short distance down to the banks of Óbidos lagoon, a large sea inlet, abundant with nature beauty and wild animals. From here a scenic, gentle ride around the lagoon takes visitors to the edge of the Atlantic coast and back inland for a relaxed picnic (given the right tour provider) by the shore.
Built almost 900 years ago, the Alcobaca Monastery is the perfect example of medieval and gothic architecture in Portugal in the Middle ages. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site the monastery and its surrounding village paint the most pleasant picture as a background to a beautiful summer evening’s stroll.
Peniche is one of the most iconic towns in the region and Portugal, in terms of history and culture, and pioneers the centuries-old art of bobbin lace whose origins are lost in time.
Situated atop a jagged headland, the Fort of Peniche, a 17th century military base turned 20th century political prison, dominates the small town landscape which has some of the most beautiful views of the silver coast.
- Where to stay:
Like Peniche, the Rio do Prado retreat takes simplicity to a whole new level of relaxation in Portugal.
Taking us back to basics, the organic farm and all-suite lodgings, imagine a way of life that questions our unbalanced and dysfunctional times and our real needs.
Join fellow community members around the fire and gaze at the stars or retreat to the woods with your loved one in hand for an early morning walk before breakfast – it’s all here at ‘River Meadow’.
To find out more about this unique concept village, click here.
- In the area:
The boutique stylings at Hotel Areias do Seixo encourage guests to become one with nature and immerse themselves in spirituality during their visit. Whether staying in one of its only seven individually designed and themed rooms, featuring raised baths, simplistic decor and an interjection of modern amenities, or indulging in its bespoke spa and restaurant offer an experience seldom offered anywhere else on the continent.
If privacy is key, or you’re looking to spend a honeymoon away from the world, then here is the place for you.
Caldas da Rainha
With a very notable history, namely as a refuge from the persecution of the Nazis by foreigners and the chosen place of rest by Portugal’s aristocracy in the 15th Century, the town of Caldas da Raina or ‘The Queen’s Hot Springs’ – was built around a thermal hospital commissioned by Queen Dona Leonor to use the area’s ancient natural hot springs as therapy for patients and custom alike.
Today, the sulphurous smell of the springs still wafts from the 500-year-old hospital building, which is one of the oldest institutions of its kind in the world, over the now pleasantly bright market town now known for its strong arts tradition, ceramic factories and museums.
Click here to download a city guide app.
- Where to stay:
Rolling hills and idyllic countryside herald the entrance to the Centro region. Tucked away in its wooded valleys, The Dolce Campo Real Lisboa hotel plays landmark to the plentiful sophistication that awaits just north of Lisbon.
The hotel and adjoining spa are a great rest post for some relaxation and a round of Golf on the challenging 18-hole course designed by well-known architect Donald Steel.
This is a place where majesty meets serenity.
- In the area:
One of the most distinctive wineries, in terms of its advanced technology and modern exterior, the Adagamae winery is a prime example of the understated, yet highly acclaimed, Portuguese fine wine culture – wonder at the beautiful acres of ripening produce and indulge in wines that will leave any palette spoiled.
To find out more about this revolutionary winery, click here.
The essence of Portugal comes to life as we travel into the heart of the stone walled town of Óbidos, nestled under the wing of the town’s ancient castle, where cobbled streets, low wooden doorways and traditional rituals characterise a timeless way of living that has been marked here for centuries.
Every year in July the town transforms into a colourful revival of medieval Europe. Townspeople come together to recreate the spirit of its beginnings with medieval markets, traditional handcrafts, jousting knight displays and heraldic flags hanging from rusting steel balconies all taking visitors on a journey back through time.
The town is currently undergoing an unique rebirthing into a literary town with the opening of independent bookstores and creative writing fairs. With this, the theme is bleeding into every faction of the town’s culture including at The Literary Man, a concept boutique hotel and restaurant, which has brought literary tales to life with its library themed decor complete with specialist international Gin Bar and roaring fireplace to set the mood.
- Where to stay:
The Evolutee Hotel, part of the Royal Óbidos Spa & Golf resort complex, is another stunning example of modernity living in harmony with undisturbed natural beauty.
Overlooking the resort golf course, named the 2016 European Golf Resort of the Year, and out onto the vast Atlantic coastline of sandy beaches the Evolutee offers guests a beautiful gold-plated retreat at the heart of the region, dedicated spa offering a wide range of treatments and outdoor terrace and swimming pool to spend long days lapping up the rays.
Crashing waves sweep over the shoreline of this popular surf and golf retreat year-round, but warm spring and glistening summer climates paired with a relaxed culture, high-class originality, abundant natural beauty and minimal bustle, with only 82 inhabitants per square kilometre, make it the perfect hideaway for any couple, honeymoon or not.
Remember, the region is small and everything is in close proximity, making it easy to mix-and-match your tastes and preferences.
TAP Portugal flies from London Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester to Lisbon up to 9 times a day, prices start at £124 return including all taxes and surcharges. For further information, visit www.flytap.com or call on 0345 601 0932.