Boutique Accommodations in Portugal
When it comes to boutique accommodations in Portugal, we tried a wide range, from trendy apartments (via AirBnB) to sumptuous palaces and pousadas in royal palaces, to modern and sleek luxury hotels boasting state-of-the-art spas. We even found cozy guesthouses that reflect the same boutique hotel chic as other, much pricier options. This is a country where when it comes to accommodations, you can mix it up – and you’ll definitely want to indulge in some of the 5-star properties, since the Euro goes much farther here than in many other European destinations – but the level of grownup luxury is the same. (the kind of price/value ratio I like to call a ‘Score’!)
SCORE!CASA DO PRINCIPE B&B, Lisbon www.casadoprincipe.com Whether it’s your first time in Lisbon, or your last lingering night there, there’s no better way to make a great first or fabulous lasting impression than by staying at this elegant and historic B&B. Located on a chic street just north of the hard-core nightlife of Bairro Alto, this guesthouse is close enough to the historic centre to be convenient to everything, but far enough removed to offer some peace and quiet. Pedro, the owner has meticulously renovated this 18th century historic property being careful to preserve the details of the original plasterwork and other period features, and his welcome is as gracious as his rooms. Some of the rooms, like the Don Pedro V Suite where we stayed, have soaring ceilings and multiple sets of doors opening onto a wrought-iron balcony that runs the length of the suite and overlooks Principe Real Park just across the street. Comfortable beds, fluffy towels and an abundant and tasty breakfast make this a ’boutique B&B’ experience you’ll remember. Plus there are great restaurants right in the neighbourhood.
STAYCHALET SAUDADE, Sintra www.saudade.pt Sintra is one of the most magical towns you’ll probably ever visit in Europe, so you should stay in a place that has the same sense of wonder and charm, and that place is Chalet Saudade. When the owners renovated the property, they obviously did it as a labour of love, adding in whimsical touches like miniature “mouse doorways” in the baseboards and carved animals as newell posts – the kind of quirky details that reflect their own personality and taste. Chalet Saudade is full of unique and eclectic features like this, with azulejo tiles in their sunroom, a painted fireplace and antique furniture in their reception area, and art nouveau details in the stained glass, windows and woodwork throughout the house. We chose to stay in the Oliveira Suite with its rustic stone walls, separate sitting area, and a French door walkout to their quiet garden at the rear of the multi-level property. As good as the hotel is, the restaurant owned by the same people, Cafe Saudade, is equally charming and serves an absolutely delicious and huge artisinal breakfast with the price of the room. And service at both the Chalet and the Cafe is nothing short of stellar, with super-friendly staff who will do just about anything for you.
SCORE!BUSSACO PALACE, Luso www.bussacopalace.com If you are planning to be anywhere near Coimbra (about 2 hours from Lisbon), or just looking for a reason to visit this part of Portugal, Bussaco Palace is it – but only if you are a fan of fantasy palaces, sumptuous detail, fairytale gardens, and elegance in every form, from the beyond-grand staircase to the intimate lacey details in the dining room’s adjacent verandah. If your mouth doesn’t drop open when you see the interior of this palace, there just might be something wrong with you. But by far the best part about being an overnight guest at Bussaco Palace is not so much the guest rooms per se, (as they are less updated than other more modern luxury hotels), but that you get to experience staying in an historic royal palace. This is something that day visitors who come here to see the gardens do not have the privilege of doing, since the interior of the palace is strictly for the use of its guests. And there is no way to describe what it is like to stroll through the wisteria-draped garden promenade after a delicious dinner, with evening mist shrouding the palace in even more mystery. All for the price of a Holiday Inn in Manhattan. Seriously.
STAYDOURO ROYAL VALLEY HOTEL & SPA, Pala (near Baiâo 75 kilometres upriver from Porto on the Douro River) www.douroroyal.com When you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by the excess of history, art, and museums that Portugal offers in its larger cities, the Douro Royal Valley Hotel & Spa offers stimulation of an entirely different kind: the calming natural beauty of the picturesque Douro River that soothes the mind and soul as it flows serenely by the property. Relaxation is the cornerstone of this hotel and its ‘Elements’ Spa, which embraces a modern, zen aesthetic on the interior, but provides all of the amenities you would expect from a new luxury property. All of the spacious rooms have balconies or terraces overlooking the river and with floor-to-ceiling windows, you won’t even have to leave the comfort of your bed to watch the sun light up the valley in the morning. Stay on the property to indulge in a spa treatment or take a swim in their huge infinity pool. Or if you prefer to get out onto the river, or want to visit one of the wineries in Douro’s famous Port-producing region, the concierge is more than happy to help make arrangements for you for any off-property excursions. Either way, you’ll be in good hands. (Read a longer review here.)
STAYHOTEL MOLICEIRO, Aveiro www.hotelmoliceiro.pt The Hotel Moliceiro is a perfect example of how, with a little imagination, you can take an attractive but otherwise unremarkable building, and turn it into a truly special boutique hotel experience. Located right on the main street of Portugal’s “canal town”, the Moliceiro is ideally located for visitors wanting to come here to explore the historic centre, or take a tour on one of the colourfully decorated canal boats moored at the park just opposite the hotel. But it is the special touches that have been added to the rooms that make the Moliceiro different – especially if you book into one of the Superior or Deluxe Rooms, or splurge on one of their Suites. Each one is decorated with a different theme, with decor and objets d’art that make what could have been an ordinary hotel room extraordinary. Tour the rooms virtually on their website and you’re sure to find a room that appeals to your own particular design taste, however eclectic. We stayed in the Marrakech room, and loved the romantic atmosphere created with the rich colours and exotic wood furniture (augmented by special touches provided by the attentive and welcoming staff when they learned we were celebrating our anniversary.) This hotel was definitely one of the reasons why we enjoyed our visit to Aveiro.
SCORE!DOMUS26GUESTHOUSE, Braga www.domus26guesthouse.pt Whether you are coming to Braga for its annual ‘Braga Romana’ historic festival, are planning a visit to the city’s impressive Bom Jesus cathedral, or just want to spend time in this charming and friendly city in Portugal’s northwest, stay here. Located only steps from the historic centre and its Sé Cathedral, this B&B has been renovated in exquisite detail by the owners, Conceiçâo and her husband, who along with their daughter Rita, offer a boutique hotel’s modern style and comfort, a breakfast that is as beautifully presented as it is tasty, and one of the warmest welcomes you’ll find anywhere in the country. (They even helped us find a parking spot by moving their own car to leave us a space on the street.) Open less than a year, this bright and airy B&B is one of those special finds I almost want to keep to myself – because with such an affordable price, Domus26Guesthouse is sure to be solidly booked next time I want to visit.
Want to read more about our experiences in Portugal? Click here.