Portuguese pousadas


It was so hard to travel in old times! There were no hotels or restaurants. Some towns had modest inns where guests could rest and eat a simple meal. But on many nights, travelers slept under the stars hoping they would find a village in the morning where they could buy some food.

The only way to travel in style was to be a member of the royal family or high nobility. You would then have access to an informal network of palaces, castles, and convents that took great pride in their hospitality. The arrival of an illustrious guest was a cause for celebration. A banquet would be prepared and the best wine brought out of the cold cellars and warmed by the fireplace.

The meals ended with elaborate desserts which William Beckford, a well-traveled English nobleman, described as “an admirable dish of miracles, well seasoned with the devil and prettily garnished with angels and moonbeams.”

This informal network of convents and palaces worked well in Portugal until the 19th century. But after the monastic orders were abolished in 1834, convents felt into disrepair. In 1910, the monarchy was abolished and many noble families could no longer maintain their palaces.

The tradition of hospitality was never lost, because it is an integral part of the Portuguese character. But the beautiful buildings and the recipes perfected for centuries in their kitchens seemed condemned to oblivion.

In the 1940s, the Portuguese government started buying old palaces, castles and monasteries to convert them into historical hotels called pousadas. Vintage furniture was restored. Old recipe books were dusted and their secrets put back into use.

With their fairy-tale locations, these hotels offer unforgettable experiences. You’ll find great food and wine, the best dessert tables in the country, and a staff that treats every guest as an opportunity to celebrate the traditions of Portugal.

Here’s a link to the pousadas’ website. You can find a large collection of photos of the pousadas at www.mariarebelophotography.com.


10 thoughts on “Portuguese pousadas

  1. These Pousadas are all very charming, however the cost of dining in them often outweighs other attractions. Many have no obvious convenient alterntrives in the form of eating out. The Portuguese govt might want to reconsider this exploitive element.

  2. The Pousadas I have stayed in have been extraordinary – beautiful, comfortable, historic – and in the last year or two the dinners have been excellent – breakfasts are always wonderful!

  3. We have only ever stayed in one – in Santa Clara in the Alentejo. It was a treat to ourselves on our wedding anniversary. It was wonderful, although the cycle up to it nearly killed us. We stayed two nights and had dinner each night. The food was fantastic, but there were only two other couples in the whole place. We went back a year or so ago sight-seeing and were sad to see it all closed up. I was told that they were used as perks for Government supporters during the Salazar years. We use them for posh tea and coffee stops on our trips from time to time and are always made very welcome and the stops make for a great experience.

    1. Thank you for sharing the memories of your visit. Unfortunately, some of the smaller pousadas closed. But also new pousadas opened in fantastic locations. It is a privilege to stay at these places.

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