Okay if you’re still reading then I guess I’ll go into the vibe, the geography and a venue recommendation for each of the districts outlined in my perfect little map below. Alright? Alright.
Designed by March & Bloom
A Word on The Districts
Important to note before we dive in is that the districts of Portugal don’t look like the map above. This map was actually drawn upon an amalgamation of maps from the late 19th and early 20th century as to how Portuguese districts and regions used to be defined. In the mid 1900s, the regions became much more functional and quite boring. There are now far more individual regions which would’ve made my map a nightmare to design and use. So for our purposes, we are going old school and using the pretty map above (designed by March & Bloom).
Photo by Adelson Cadete
Porto & The Minho
At the very northwest of Portugal you have Porto and The Minho. Porto is the glittering, bourjois city that beats to its own drum. It’s become one of the top places to visit in POrtugal as a city break because of the unique spell it casts on its visitors. I can’t explain it - you just have to go and experience it for yourself.
Eastwards of the city you have the Douro Valley which sprawls across the country, towards Spain, hugging the Douro river as it meanders across. One of the most beautiful train routes in all of Europe and perhaps the world, the Douro Valley is remote but home to some gorgeous quintas nestled in the hills and valleys of lush green vineyards and fields.
Further North from the city of Porto, you have The Minho region which is best known for Braga and Guimarães. The Minho is POSH. Totally for you if you want a glamorous wedding in the remote Portuguese countryside with a air of tradition and sophistication. This is the oldest part of the country, where most of Portugal’s wealth and religion stemmed from for centuries and you can tell by the ancient cathedrals and peaceful surroundings.
Check out my in-depth blog post on Porto & The Minho coming soon (09/01/19)
Photo by Hugo Monteiro
Travelling further eastwards, on the border with Spain, you have Trás-os-montes which means beyond the mountains. It is best known for the National Park of Montesinho and the medieval town of Bragança. This quirky, ancient town is built within castle walls much like Óbidos but without the tourist trade and bustle. It doesn’t get more rural than this in Portugal. It’s quiet, untouched, natural and, most importantly for you, it would be a difficult place to take 100 wedding guests to - particularly if they are travelling from a long way. There are a few quintas and a Pousada but it’s not the most practical place to get married as a destination wedding location. However if you can bear the travelling and want to go off the beaten track - literally - then you may want to consider it.
Photo by Paulo Pereira
Beira Alta & Beira Baixa
Working our way down from the North East, on the border of Spain, we have Beira Alta and Beira Baixa. This region is known for Serra da Estrela (Land of the Star) which is the only place it snows in all of Portugal. You can ski there but it’s not the best skiing in your life I must admit! In this region you can also find Viseu and Guarda which are much like Tras-os-montes, remote and idyllic. An important thing to note is that this is the coldest region in the country, with Guarda being known as the coldest city in the country due to its height above sea level. I wouldn’t recommend this as a destination wedding spot purely because of the travelling involved but if you’re interested in exploring this area, there are some hidden treasures.
Photo by Piteira Photography
Now this is rural I can work with. As we go further south on the eastern border, The Alentejo is the largest region of Portugal which sprawls from the Spanish border, above the Algarve to just south of the Lisbon region. Because of its heat, unique vibe and beautiful towns, it’s a common place for portuguese staycationers to spend their summer holidays, and now it’s become a hotspot for daring destination wedding couples. Évora and Beja are the standouts here with both being quintessential hubs for Alentejo explorers and destination weddings alike. Things to note here is that it is HOT. Extremely hot and dry with very little rainfall, if at all, over the summer months so this is important to note. There is also a little more travelling than if you were to choose the Algarve, Porto or Lisbon which all have international airports (more on this next week!). You would need to get a train from Lisbon to Evora or arrange a coach to shuttle guests there. Most big hotel venues in the Alentejo are able to arrange shuttles to the venue from the train station which makes things much more convenient. Despite a bit of extra travel, I wouldn’t discount The Alentejo at all. Being here is like being transported back to a simpler time but with far more character and personality than the northeastern regions.
We’ll go more in depth on The Alentejo as a wedding destination very soon (06/02/2019)
Photo by Piteira Photography
The Algarve needs no introduction. It’s the beach paradise and tourist haven that we all know, and maybe love. This is often everyone’s introduction to Portugal, with white sandy beaches and access to the Mediterranean sea which is far more forgiving than the Atlantic sea on the West coastline. Here you’ll be spoilt for choice for wedding locations ranging from all inclusive hotels, to quintas, to castles. There is a bustle of wedding suppliers that speak most languages too because of the touristy nature of the region. In truth I am not the biggest fan of the Algarve because it’s just too touristy for me. There are some spots away from the huge package deal hotels, but as a bit of a travel snob and self professed explorer, I’m not a fan of things being quite so easy. I like a bit of outward travel and hidden gems. However getting married in the Algarve is a great and safe option for beach lovers and activity seekers of you, so definitely check it out if that’s you!
Photo by Piteira Photography
Lisboa, Lisboa! Ooowoah ooowoah!
A bride once described Lisbon as having a “colourful melancholy” about it and that’s exactly the Portuguese spirit to me. Full of colour and life but always with a “saudades” (longing) for something unobtainable. Lisbon is a true capital in that sense, giving you a snapshot of Portugal in one place. It’s a beautifully crumbling city, covered in graffiti, with the charm of a small portuguese village and rhythm of a cosmopolitan centre. It blends old and new, young and old, bohemian and bourjois. I love the narrow streets and cobbled pavements. The choppy beaches and historical sights. Most importantly it is a great place to get married! The capital is not only well connected, nationally and internationally, it’s home to some of the most creative and innovative minds in the Portuguese wedding industry. The venues also range from glamorous hotels to modern quintas to botanical gardens. It’s all here and all for you.
More on weddings in Lisbon coming soon (30/01/2019)
Photo by Piteira Photography
Estremadura & Ribatejo
Okay this will be the most confusing of the regions so hang tight. Ribatejo spawls from slightly south of Lisbon to include Sétubal and eastwards to include Santarém. Estremadura goes northwards from Lisbon including magical Sintra and the silver coastal areas of Leiria, Alcobaça and Óbidos which we mentioned earlier. This is where I spent my teenage years in Portugal and probably the region I know best. Characterised by pocket towns of historic portuguese architecture, vineyards and forests, the treasure trove of wedding venues here are just to die for. In Sétubal you have unique beach locations and really quirky quintas. In Sintra, the spellbinding town which is just a short commute away from Lisbon has some of the most sought after wedding venues because of their castles and palaces available for hire. Further northwards in Estremadura you have well known Quintas like Quinta de Sant’Ana, Quinta do Hespanhol and Quinta da Bichinha just to name a few. There are so many gorgeous places around here that you shouldn’t overlook it for a second.
More on how to create a wedding in Estremadura and Ribatejo coming soon (16/01/2019)
Image by Turismo do Centro Portugal
And finally we finish the clockwise clock with Beira Litoral. Nestled under the Douro region and above Estremadura, Beira Litoral is best known for Aveiro and the university town of Coimbra. Viseu lies between Beira Litoral and Beira Alta/Baixa, slap bang in the middle of the country. Aveiro has tons of character. It’s known as the Venice of Portugal as it is next to the coastal lagoon of Ria and runs on a network of little canals and bridges. Amazing to explore on foot and in the surrounding lush green fields lie some cutting edge, modern wedding venues. Think glass houses in picturesque countryside. Think beachfront venues with infinity pools and high end luxury. Aveiro is a modern buzzy place and the wedding locations in the area totally reflect that. Further south, near Coimbra, you’ll find the more traditional Portuguese quintas amongst the countryside so Beira Litoral is a mixed bag of goodies that is worth exploring. My warning here would be travel. Do take this into consideration if you are looking for a wedding destination.
Next week we’ll talk about travelling to and travelling in Portugal. Yay for train maps!
See you then,