Because there were not many touristy sights around, we decided to take on some of the free activities offered by the hotel: morning Yoga class (on an outdoor wooden platform), and a 4-mile bike ride along Santa Rita beach and the River Alcabrichel. We also enjoyed a big farmhouse-style breakfast at the hotel breakfast bar.
The hotel bikes were well-equiped with front baskets and straw hats. We thought about bringing some snacks for a picnic but were advised by hotel staff that there would be a couple of good spots to stop for food/drinks along the bike route. We highly recommend one of them, Restaurant Ernesto. It's a simple seafood shack right on beach and we had one of the best grilled octopus dishes we have ever had.
We decided to make a lunch stop at Ericeira on our way from the airport to our hotel. This traditional Portuguese fishing village is a top surfing destination but also has plenty to explore for culture-lovers. Ericeira has a charming and authentic old town with narrow cobblestone streets filled with old houses, cute cafés, and restaurants. There are some great seafood restaurants to choose from - we ate at Marisqueira Ribas and savored all sorts of seafood (we had some of the famous local delicacy, percebes). Not far from the restaurant is the popular surfer destination, Fisherman's Beach.
a popular surfer desitnation
a beautiful design hotel
outdoor dining area
every little detail is pleasant
welcome tea upon check-in
thoughtful amenities provided by the hotel
sand dunes right behind the hotel
hotel spa entrance
spa hor d'oeuvres prepared by the hotel
relax at our own outdoor spa pool
Areias do Seixo Charm Hotel is located in a secluded seaside area in the Lisbon district (only ~1hr drive from Lisbon airport). There is no better word to describe the hotel other than "magical". The owners, Marta and Gonçalo, put their heart and soul into designing and building this place. It was one of the best design hotels we have stayed at and definitely deserved the 4.5 rating on Tripadvisor.
Despite the lack of dining options in the immediately surrounding rea, we very much enjoyed our dinners at the hotel restaurant, Food by Heart @ Areias do Seixo. Every dish was Portuguese home-cooking with fresh organic ingredients from the hotel's very own vegetable garden.
uniquely styled bathroom
a miniature model of the hotel
well-manicured pathway to beach
each room has an outdoor deck
hotel infiniti pool
sunbathing area next to the hotel pool
a big hearty breakfast - farm style
free bike rental provided by the hotel
simply prepared seafood yet so delicious
The hotel is not technically on the beach, but we enjoyed the 10-min scenic walk to the beach through small sand dunes. With few tourists around, we found many spots where it was just the two of us, immersed in the mighty and beautiful settings of the cliff, the ocean, and the dreamy coastal line.
Don's miss the sunset here. There was something very powerful in its tranquility when the sun set into the horizon of Seixo Beach. At the top of the seacliff, we couldn't help feeling drawn towards the warmth of the sun and hoping to hold on to the last few rays before the ocean engulfed it.
As we were very impressed with the fresh ingredients in every dish we had at the hotel restaurant, we didn't want to miss a tour of the organic vegetable garden led by its very passionate horticulturist. He explained to us that they built this organic garden from scratch with no machinery/chemical involved. He introduced us to the hard-working resident plowers who helped him clean and reseed the fields after every harvest. He also showed us how he made natural fertilizer from manure (the smell was quite pungent but stil an interesting part of the tour). We ended the tour with a few fresh strands of lemongrass leaves, with which the hotel bartender made us the farewell tea before our departure to Sintra. What a perfect ending to our stay which began with this lovely welcome tea two days ago!
A palace hotel with beautiful grounds and grand common areas. The actual guest rooms were a bit outdated but we still enjoyed our stay overall.
Sintra is an old hilly town filled with numerous castles and palaces (we even got to stay in a hotel converted from an old palace!). We spent our first day in Sintra exploring the exuberant and whimsical playground at Quinta da Regaleira. The website doesn't quite do this place justice but Tripadvisor surely gives it two thumbs up. We were also lucky to see a temporary exhibition on site of its designer, Luigi Manini, a talented Portuguese architect/artist.
Luigi Manini, is not a well-known artist outside Portugal so we couldn't find much info about him on the internet. The exhibition we saw showcased many of his meticulous design drawings of Quinta da Regaleira. The most fun part was to match up his design drawings with the actual buildings and objects still present today. For example, here is a design drawing of the intricate door knob. Those drawings were so good that we wanted to buy them (but of course couldn't afford to). Instead, we got this Luigi Manini book from the exhibition which included many beautiful photos of his works. We wish they had an English version of the book though!
There are multiple palaces and monuments to visit in Sintra and we chose Park and National Palace of Pena given its unique style which is very different from any other European palaces we have visited. The architects of this palace indulged every whim and fantasy to create a magical world of fairytale palaces surrounded by enchanted forests. The choices of very bright colors , yellow, pink, and purple, make the palace look like a real-size version of a Disney toy castle. If you are a fan of minimalism and elegance then this might not be your favorite place to visit. But otherwise, you will have a blast exploring the design details of this crazy mashup of styles: a mock medieval castle with islamic domes, Moorish geometric tiles, and Disney-esque pink towers.
Pick 1-2 sites to visit rather than hitting a few if you have only one day in Sintra. Each site is large in area and there are so many details within that they are worth exploring at a slow and leisure pace.
a fun ziplining experience