Sintra is a village near Lisbon where Portuguese monarchs used to seek respite from the Summer heat. It is a place like no other, with its lush vegetation and fairy-tale palaces. The National Palace (shown above) is the oldest and most historically significant. It was remodeled so many times that it looks like a visual dictionary of Gothic, Manueline and Moorish styles. The Pena Palace is the newest and most romantic. Built in the 19th century, it sits on top of a hill where, in ancient times, the Romans worshiped the moon.
On the way to Pena you can visit a 9th century Moorish castle with wonderful views to the surrounding region. From here you can get a glimpse of other palaces, Monserrate, Seteais (an 18th century palace converted into a luxury hotel), and Quinta da Regaleira. They are all worth visiting.
Staying in Sintra is a privilege. In the morning, you can see Pena while the fog hides the modern world and brings back the 19th century. And at night, you can walk to Seteais to see the moon paint the hill with silver light, waiting to be worshiped.
You ring the bell as if you were visiting a friend’s house. The large weathered wood door opens to reveal a magical place overlooking the sea. Everything feels right: the driftwood benches, the pebble walls, the bare swimming pool, the wood fire burning outside.
You can walk to the beach through sandy dunes and fragrant pine trees to see blue waves crashing on white sand. Or you can drink a glass of wine while the sun and the moon exchange duties.
The restaurant staff make you feel at home while you choose from a small menu that changes daily. The food is wonderfully simple, prepared with great local ingredients: fresh fish, tender vegetables, succulent meat, briny seafood.
We hear that people in heaven like to return to this world to stay for a few days in this boutique hotel near Praia de Santa Cruz. We have not been able to confirm this rumor. But one thing we know: Areias do Seixo is a little piece of heaven on earth.
Praceta do Atlântico, Póvoa de Penafirme, 2560-046 A-dos-Cunhados, tel. 261 936 340, email firstname.lastname@example.org, click here for website.
It’s a plot worthy of Shakespeare. Pedro, the crown prince, falls madly in love with a noble lady called Inês de Castro. His father, King Afonso IV, opposes this liaison. Pedro ignores the king’s will and has four children with the captivating Inês. In 1355, King Afonso IV orders that Inês be put to death.
According to legend, a fountain sprang from the last tears that Inês shed in Quinta das Lágrimas (the quinta of tears). In the 18th century an elegant palace was constructed on the quinta. This palace has recently been converted into an exquisite small hotel. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself writing a novel during your stay.
Rua António Augusto Gonçalves, P-3041-901 Coimbra, tel. (239) 802 380, email: email@example.com, click here for website.
Portugal has many ancient manor houses and palaces built by noble families and wealthy landowners. These houses are expensive to maintain, so in the 20th century many fell into disrepair. The government created a program called “Turismo de Habitação” (home tourism) that subsidized their restoration. In return, the owners agreed to turn them into “bed and breakfasts.”
You can tour the country staying, at very affordable prices, in aristocratic homes, with expansive vistas and warm hospitality.
These proud houses are silent witnesses to centuries of history. When you visit them, you touch the soul of Portugal.
Click here for the Home Tourism web site.
In the 1940s, the Portuguese government started converting many castles, palaces and monasteries into historical hotels called pousadas. There are now more than forty of these wonderful establishments. They are places where you can sleep and eat like royalty without having to wear funny-looking hairdos or worry about court intrigue.
Click here for the pousadas website.