Portugal’s famous pousadas are a group of 37 luxury hotels scattered throughout the country in former palaces, convents or monasteries. These authentic architectural treasures have evolved into luxurious lodges where art-loving tourists can find an atmosphere of absolute comfort during their sojourns through the Western end of the Iberian Peninsula. These properties embody the rich heritage of Portugal, a country of impeccable traditions and excellent cuisine.
The following pousadas are distinguished for their luxurious service, historic value and interesting locations, perfect places to stay on your next stop in Portugal.
Pousada de Santa Marinha sits on a hilltop monastery with vast vistas that extend, endlessly, towards the horizon. According to history, Queen Mafalda, wife of King Alfonso Henriques, donated the property to the order of St. Augustine in 1154. Santa Marinha is located in the noble city of Guimarães, named European Capital of Culture in 2012. Renovated by architect Fernando Távora, the beautiful monument was awarded the National Prize for Architecture in 1985. Its location, about two miles from the historic city center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, makes it a privileged boutique hotel with magnificent views of the city. Thanks to Távoras‘s painstaking renovations in 1975, the current pousada, is a perfect blend of history and modernity. The hotel has 49 spacious double rooms and two magnificent suites. As a side note: 22 of its rooms are upgrades of the original cells occupied by the monks; these are found along a stately arcade inside the Augustinian monastery. It is also known that one of the families who bought the convent used to train horses in this corridor. The meticulous renovation of the mid 1970s preserved every space that could be saved. Now, the comfortable rooms occupy the area corresponding to two adjoining cells. In one of the building’s monumental halls, guests are invited to try Dona Mafalda restaurant, with beautiful stone arches that were once the monastery’s cellar and granary. The restaurant dishes out regional recipes from the traditional cuisine of northern Portugal. Outside the hotel complex, visitors can opt for golf, horseback riding, cable car rides at Parque da Penha, or tours of the historic city of Guimarães.
Castelo de Óbidos
This is perhaps the most impressive pousada in all of Portugal. It is located only 60 miles away from Lisbon, inside the castle of Óbidos, one of the best-preserved medieval cities of Europe. This is Portugal’s oldest pousada, opened to the public in 1951. The majestic castle is considered one of the seven wonders of Portugal, but it is yet to be declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The original palace, designed in the Portuguese Gothic style, was built by decree of João de Noronha, Count of Dijon, who was the city’s mayor in the early 16th century. Pousada Castelo de Óbidos is a regal and exclusive hotel of only 17 rooms, all named after kings and queens whose stories are closely related to Óbidos. Superlative gastronomy is a cornerstone at this pousada where guests can enjoy delectable Portuguese cuisine in an elegant atmosphere, accompanied by the best wines of the country. We highly recommend a visit to the town of Óbidos. Its walled enclosure guards centuries of history and the rich heritage of Portuguese religious architecture. The surrounding area also boasts interesting attractions such as the aqueduct built under Queen Catherine of Austria, and Óbidos Lagoon, a landscape especially suitable for fishing and hunting, where the royal court used to hold majestic picnics.
The luxurious Pousada at Estoi Palace, in the charming village of Estoi, is the result of a comprehensive rehabilitation of an old 18th century manor house. It is located just 6 miles away from Faro, in the area known as the Algarve, one of Portugal’s most prosperous regions. This enchanting rococo building, surrounded by gardens with fragrant orange trees and palms brought from the island of Madeira, was declared a heritage building in 1977. The palace belonged to José Francisco da Silva, Viscount of Estoi and was opened in 1909. In 1987, it was acquired by the city of Faro and subsequently sold to be the lovely pousada we find today. Gonçalo Byrne was in charge of the renovation work, and among its amenities, the classic inn boasts a fabulous health club with Turkish bath, sauna, tropical shower and indoor pool. Pousada at Estoi Palace has 63 rooms, eight of which communicate with each other. The best option is to take one of the three suites in the hotel. All the rooms fuse sophistication and modernity thanks to the contemporary furnishings and the masterful design of architect Byrne. The bedrooms have large double beds; the rooms are cozy and have quaint views of the garden. The O Visconde restaurant is a highlight of this pousada. In it, the modern, sophisticated decor delicately contrast with the building’s old aesthetics. This gastronomic temple offers traditional flavors from the region. The nearby golf course, boat trips through the canals of the Ria Formosa, fishing and horseback riding are the perfect complement to this wonderful place that will please your every whim. ■