For five years, I have regularly sung the praises of the Portuguese capital. But it also turns out that you can go about an hour from Lisbon, or less, in almost any direction, and stumble upon something completely different and completely wonderful. Here are seven places to end a tour of Portugal or make it a trip in its own right.
This nature retreat in the mountains of Arrábida was inspired by the philosophy of Epicurus’ garden – a private and pleasant space away from the city. Pleasure is a priority, but it is generally healthy in nature. The food — a daily cooked-to-order breakfast and three-course dinners upon request — is organic, sourced from local farmers, vegetarian, and delicious. The sea views from the three suites in the main house and the two self-contained eco-villas are healing in their own right. There’s a geodesic dome for yoga and sound healing, and an exceptionally eco-friendly, chemical-free infinity pool. In winter, private retreats are offered, with individual programs designed by the resident wellness advisor, expert in Ayurveda and other modalities.
Between ocean and mountain, between Sintra and Cascais, the brand new Dream Guincho is the image of refined serenity. Each of the eight rooms in the house tells its own story (they are named after famous novels), as well as a room with a billiard table and a piano, another room just for reading a nook with an artist’s table set up in front of the window photo, perfect for capturing the scenery. There is no restaurant, but there is a host table dinner once a week, as well as homemade cakes every afternoon and an a la carte breakfast served under whimsical books hanging from the ceiling and served whenever you wake up, whatever time it is.
An edgy yet low-key ocean getaway just 45 minutes west of Lisbon, this collection of serviced apartments sits on the cliffs outside the village of Azenhas do Mar and offers views of Cabo de Roca (the westernmost point of Europe) to the waves Mecca of Ericeira. The main house was built in the 1940s as a family estate, designed by Portuguese architect Raul Lino, known for his traditionally Portuguese yet functional and sustainable construction in the Sintra and Cascais region. The handful of apartments, some in the main house and others in free-standing casitas, have luxury hotel amenities and access to a large garden, swimming pool, tennis court, outdoor gym, outdoors, a sauna and a yoga studio. Breakfast baskets are delivered on request and an honesty pantry stocks basic food and drinks.
Looking at the photos on Instagram, it would be easy to believe that this country house is in Bali. In fact, it’s in Ribatejo, near the banks of the Tagus (Tejo), just over 30 minutes northeast of Lisbon. But stay. The gardens have lily ponds and teak pagodas, giant ferns sway outside the bedroom (and bathrooms), and beds are atmospherically draped with decorative mosquito netting. The local restaurants they recommend to guests, however, are unmistakably Portuguese, as are the activities on offer, such as horseback riding alongside the region’s vineyards, boat safaris on the Tagus and falconry, a tradition so important in the nearby village of Salvaterra. de Magos that it has been recognized by UNESCO.
The big novelty of this classic Sintra palace is its culinary partnership with Michelin-starred chef Joachim Koerper (the Eleven restaurant in Lisbon) and his talented pastry chef wife, Cintia. They came on board to make the food more contemporary and make the hotel a culinary destination in its own right. Food aside, the hotel is notable for its typical palace architecture – it dates from the 18th century – ornate bedroom furniture, beautiful frescoes, garden mazes and views of important Sintra sites like the castle Moorish and Pena Palace.
This modern hotel has a fantastic location, right on Cascais Bay, one of the poshest areas of the Portuguese Atlantic (they call it the Portuguese Riviera), where guests can watch the yachts come and go from their balconies. Or from their bed, because the rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows to take advantage of these views. The restaurant, bar, and pool enjoy this same view, and the whole thing benefits from its proximity to some of the classiest spots in the Estoril and Cascais area.
By far the most international resort in the area – you’ll hear more English than Portuguese – this property, managed by the Ritz-Carlton, aims to be a timeless link to five centuries of Portuguese luxury, with natural beauty huge and lots of outdoor activities on offer. It’s also a contemporary golf resort with nine restaurants and bars (including two Michelin-starred ones, Sergi Arola’s Spanish-tinged LAB and Midori’s Japanese gourmet dining room – and that’s not counting a third Michelin-starred restaurant and affiliated with Lisbon itself, Eneko Lisboa), a serious spa and historical circuit-slash-treasure walk that’s offered every morning on the property.