Portugal is a richly diverse country, with a wealth of Mediterranean cityscapes and natural wonders to boot. Best of all, much of it remains unexplored, making it perfect road trip territory. We took it for a test-run…
Well-served by major airlines, Portugal’s second city, Porto, is a great starting point. The city is one of the oldest in Europe, combining a UNESCO-listed centre with a modern culinary and cultural scene.
Rua do Rosário, in one of the city’s trendiest neighbourhoods, is home to a host of art galleries and studios. At its heart is the Rosa Et Al Townhouse, a homely yet stylish 6-bedroom hotel, imaginatively restored by brother-and-sister duo Emanuel and Patrícia, with vintage 60s furniture and an ever-changing collection of modern art. The building isn’t obviously marked, making it delightfully discreet if a little tricky to spot.
Foodies and wine enthusiasts will love luxury spa hotel The Yeatman – the hotel is home to Porto’s only double Michelin starred restaurant and boasts a plentiful 25,000-bottle wine cellar. Take a stroll down to the lively riverfront promenade of Cais de Gaia at sunset, explore the open air-market, or soak up the stunning views of Dom Luis Bridge and historic Porto from the wooden terrace of chic Bogani Café.
After a few days in the city, head inland to the mountainous Beiras region, still relatively untouched by tourism. In the winter, this is where the Portuguese come to ski, but in the summer months it’s a haven for climbing and hiking.
Villa Pedra encapsulates the peace and calm of this under-the-radar region. Go hiking in nearby Serra de Estrela or, if R&R is what you’re after, the walled pool is a blissfully quiet spot to while away an afternoon.
Batteries recharged, rejoin the coastal road for a short drive down to Peniche, an old fishing town with fantastic seafood restaurants. Areias do Seixo is a unique eco-design hotel just 30 minutes’ drive away and has some of the most romantic rooms we’ve ever stayed in. A favourite is the vast Love Room Oxalá (meaning ‘if only’) – with a Jacuzzi and terrace framed by the deep blue of the Atlantic.
From here, Portugal’s capital is an hour’s drive. This is a city best explored by public transport, or on foot. A 19th-century tram system winds its way through narrow, cobbled streets or there’s a short metro system for longer journeys.
Avoid the crowds in the historic hilltop neighbourhood of Graça, a 15-minute walk from the impressive São Jorge Castle. MiCasaEnLisboa is an intimate 9-bedroom guesthouse, marrying vintage art and industrial minimalism. You’ll eat well here, too – there are weekly in-house dinners prepared by Lisboan chefs and a breakfast menu that changes daily. It’s deservedly popular so book well in advance.
In the vibrant Baixa neighbourhood, close to the bustling Praça do Comercio, a former canning factory is now home to the stylish Lisboans Apartments. Converted by 2 designers and an architect, the hotel blends their own designs with Portuguese art and textiles. We can’t wait for their next addition: the Lisboans’ own restaurant and store, coming soon to the ground floor!
A short hop outside the city is the enchanting-UNESCO-listed town of Sintra. It’s possible (and popular) to visit as a day trip from Lisbon, but we recommend taking your time to really get a feel for the cobbled streets, fairytale turreted palaces and grotto-filled gardens.
Spend a night in Aguamel, a beautiful renovation of a graceful 19th-century house, tucked away in Sintra’s historic centre. We loved the 2 Superior Rooms, which open onto a shared balcony gazing out over the plains far below. You might even spot the sea sparkling on the horizon.
From Sintra, rejoin the coast to your last stop in hip Comporta. One of Portugal’s best-kept secrets, the village has a chic but laid-back vibe, yet its destination restaurants and unspoilt beaches have made it a hotspot for designers, artists and royals alike.
Minimalist design rules at the aptly-named Sublime Comporta, a chic collection of rooms, suites and villas. We really loved the newly added ‘cabana’ villas. Sleek as they are, they don’t steal the limelight from their natural surroundings – 17 hectares of fragrant pine forest, visible through floor-to-ceiling windows. The perfect final pit-stop before you have to say Tchau.