Fun on your doorstep

In 2005, the 18th century Hotel d’Europe was transformed into the Hotel do Bairro Alto. The result is a unique combination of aristocratic charm, modern comfort and superb location.

After checking in, you can relax on the top floor terrace and enjoy the fantastic view of the Tagus river. Once you walk out, ready to explore the city, you’re seconds away from Lisbon’s most famous café, A Brasileira, and two minutes from Santini‘s fabulous artisan gelato. You can shop for porcelain to your heart’s content at Vista Alegre or choose beautiful cutlery at Cutipol. You can walk to Bairro Alto, enjoy the view of St. Jorge’s castle, stop for a drink at the port-wine institute, listen to some fado, and check out the avant-garde scene at Galeria Zé dos Bois. Or you can go downtown to stroll on Rossio and Terreiro do Paço. Where else in the world, dear reader, can you find so much fun on your doorstep?

Hotel do Bairro Alto, Praça Luís de Camões 2, Lisbon, tel. 213 408 288, email: reservations@bairroaltohotel.com. Click here for the hotel’s website.

A place of serenity

You can have an unforgettable vacation at Casas da Areia, a beautiful retreat on the margins of the Sado river, one hour south of Lisbon. Here, you can rent one of four fisherman huts built from local materials. They have striking African-inspired thatched roofs and impeccable minimalist design.

There are many pristine beaches close by. But, once you settle at Casas da Areia, you’ll probably just want to enjoy the magnificent vistas and bike around the gorgeous Sado estuary. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself talking to Christian Louboutin about the serenity of this place; he has a house nearby.

After staying at Casas de Areia, it’s hard to stop asking your friends “did I tell you about my unforgettable vacation in Portugal?”

You can find more information about Casas na Areia here.

Hotel Britania

In the 1940s, it was impossible to find an hotel room in Lisbon. Aristocrats, businessmen, smugglers, and spies of all stripes filled the luxury hotels. They also crowded the gambling tables in Casino Estoril, the place where Ian Fleming, a young British intelligence officer, found the inspiration for the first James Bond novel, Casino Royale.

Most of the hotels popular in the 1940s have been renovated beyond recognition. One exception is the beautiful Hotel Britania, which was recently restored to its original elegance and understated glamour.

Built in 1944, it was designed by architect Cassiano Branco in an art deco style. Located on a quiet street, it is the kind of place where Ingrid Bergman could have mended her broken heart, and where martinis are served shaken, not stirred.

Click here for Hotel Britania’s web site.

Palácio Belmonte

To stay in this 15th century palace in Alfama, the ancient neighborhood around St. Jorge’s Castle, you first have to find it. Despite its bright red doors, this small luxury hotel is so discrete that no one knows where it is.

The palace, one of the few to survive the 1755 earthquake, incorporates castle walls that go back to Roman and Moorish times. It was at one point the residence of Pedro Álvares Cabral, the navigator who discovered Brazil.  Five centuries later, the German director Wim Wenders used it in his movie The Lisbon Story. Sostiene Pereira, a movie with Marcello Mastroianni, was also shot here.

In 1994 the French entrepreneur Frédérique Coustols saw the palace in disrepair during a stroll in Alfama. He bought it and restored it with impeccable sensitivity and taste.

When you stay at Palácio Belmonte, you feel like royalty. Siting in the terrace in the late afternoon, drinking chilled white port and enjoying the stunning views of Lisbon, you quickly realize that it is good to be king.

Palácio Belmonte, Páteo Dom Fradique, 14, Lisboa, Tel: 21 881 66 00,  e-mail: office@palaciobelmonte.com. Click here for the palace’s website.

Areias do Seixo

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 info@areiasdoseixo.com, click here for website.

Quinta das Lágrimas

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: comercial@quintadaslagrimas.pt, click here for website.

Noble bed and breakfasts

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.