We chose three hotels for our stay, each one on its own merits to allowing us to spend a great 4-days in the charms of Cascais, Sintra and Estoril. Firstly, if you haven’t been to this side of Portugal then definitely make sure you stay and enjoy the fantastic splendour of this area. All three places are within proximity of one another and so it makes a great 3-centre stay. The coastline is incredibly dramatic at this time of year watching the waves crash as we walked for miles and miles across their promenade. When you factor in that the journey time from the Algarve, a smidgen of 2.5 hours then it’s a great place to re-charge your batteries. A change of scenery, coupled with some amazing food, views and a plethora of stunning architecture. I think it’s fair to say that Estoril still has the charm from the bygone era, albeit and unfortunately, it’s not as grand as it used to be; which is a shame. Take for instance the casino, which is now the largest in Europe. Back in the heyday, the casino was quite a bit smaller, but the grounds were utterly immaculate and encapsulated the celebrity status that Estoril snared. At one point the casino gardens had a stronghold of 13 gardeners tended to manicured grass and an abundance of decadent colourful flower beds. Today, the grass is maintained, but unfortunately, the flower beds are long since gone.
Cascais and Estoril meander into one another, but Cascais which never used to have the prestigious pull that Estoril had, has now definitely smartened its game and affords some fantastic eateries, bars, shops, hotels and a great marina. The promenade which is positioned adjacent to the sea and the railway at certain points is a great place for a morning walk/jog. There is a great cosmopolitan feel, and the walk is very cleverly designed with intermittent subways for pedestrians. I cannot help but notice the signage for tsunami warnings and escape routes, which is encouraging that measures have been implemented.
Sintra is an oasis and mecca for tourists throughout the year. There genuinely are so many places to visit which are off the scale from a cultural and architectural point of view. It’s a mountainous region, festooned with palaces galore. The opulence is apparent with the enchanting buildings, you only have to look at the local Camara building to realise that this city is indeed a wealthy one. We chose to visit one of the lesser-known palaces. Park & Palace of Monserrate (Palacio de Monserrate) is a palatial villa that used to be the traditional summer resort of the Portuguese court. Strategically positioned high in the hills affording breath-taking views across the valley and to the sea; just north of Lisbon. You could literally spend all day here, it’s very well signposted and the palace is beautifully regal. Our favourite part was the visit to the kitchens of this majestic building. It was like being transformed into a series from Downton Abbey. I will be writing about Monserrate in our next issue as it’s a literary dream and a feast for the eyes and one which requires an editorial all on its own.
On the 6th of December 2021, they celebrate the 26th anniversary of the elevation of Sintra the Cultural Landscape of Humanitarian Heritage in 1995.
We press the intercom, introduce ourselves and the double gates retract to reveal an almost German-like fairytale mansion. The reveal is beautiful, it’s an oasis within an oasis; which is Sintra. If you’ve never been to Sintra, then I would say that this 4-day trip will enchant and will serenade you with its utter charm. It’s a beautifully romantic city, which is embedded in valleys of trees and a massive mountain range adorned with palaces aplenty. I digress, our arrival at the first of our luxury stays is the 5-star Marmoris Sintra Palace; from first impressions, it looks every bit like a palace. We are met by the two resident peacocks who gracefully glide around the grounds. One thing I would say is to ensure that the front door is kept closed as they truly are resident peacocks and love nothing more than being in the grand house.
The property was initially created in the 1890s by Hans Heinrich Andresen, a very well-known Danish merchant and was passed from generation to generation by the family Andresen Alfredo da Costa until 1984. Unfortunately, during the latter years towards 1984, the property was left abandoned. Thankfully, the Alves family purchased the house. At the time the main house had no roof, the upper floors were badly damaged, in certain areas, there were no floors. The labour of love commenced and a complete rebuild of the entire building took place. The exact same materials were used as in the original construction. They maintained the exterior façade and kept the same aspect. Ly personal change made was to replace the original wooden floors with marble.
The Marmoris Palace was, until 2014 a family-owned house which the owners lived in for almost 30-years. Back then the house was a mere 3-bedrooms and so it was truly of biblical proportion in grandeur, size and setting. If you think that today the guest house has 9 beautifully presented bedrooms, which all have their own beguiling charm. They decided when they were in their 80’s, to downsize as there were only the two of them living there. The family decided to transform the place into a guest house for others to experience this amazing house and setting. For generations, the family was synonymous with their work in the marble industry. Today, they still own several quarries and most marble panels in the house came from the family business; located in Vila Vila Viçosa – Alentejo.
We were met by the GM who is an incredibly charming, knowledgeable, and proud man who is fully hands-on and is the keeper of this house.
We are led to the lushly designed gardens, which have remained unchanged since their design and inception. Most of the cedars are more than 100 years old. We enjoy a welcome glass of champagne. The setting is truly spectacular as we toast our glasses, whilst allowing our eyes to gaze to the incredible vista which is a myriad of trees and then the stunning hilltop palace into the distance. Instantly, you cannot help being under the spell of this beguiling charm. The winter sun is that of a truly “Indian Summer” as we relax on the garden chairs. We walk around the gardens only to find an amazing greenhouse which has once again been the same for over 100 years. The great find is when you step inside to find a fountain that utilises the water from the rich natural aquifers of the Sintra Mountain. We’re drawn to the limestone oven, used to cook the powder of marble and then paint the houses; which is even older than the original property from 1892 and is still in perfect condition.
We finish our champagne, and the GM enchants us further with the history of the house and indeed Sintra itself. It’s then time to choose our bedroom. We are privileged to have a choice of rooms and so we are shown to our first room, which is just across the corridor from the main entrance. A sense of grandeur is apparent, coupled with attentive service, but service which makes you truly feel that you firmly belong as a family member almost with this house.
The bedroom, room number 3? Formerly used to be the library for the owners. The panelled wood so evocative of a literary charm makes for a charming room, the bathtub was made from a block of marble carved in the 18th century.
We are then invited to see our other choice, bedroom number 5 (which is actually my lucky number, so my hopes for a truly special room have been higher even further). The GM reveals that number 5 was the owner’s bedroom and with no further ado; we open the double doors to the room. Too often people refer to a “Wow factor” it’s a common-day terminology which in my opinion is overused. However, the reveal with the bedroom is exactly that. Firstly, we have a private lift which takes us to both floors 2 and 3 which our bedroom is nestled upon. Floor 3 houses an en-suite bathroom with the most majestic stain-glassed windows which allow the light to flood through and create a rainbow of charm. Off the corridor is a small stairwell to floor 2 with a guest bedroom and then through another set of double doors is the main bedroom suite. The decoration and furniture are so in-keeping and the GM tells us the furniture and decoration is pretty much how it was when the owners used to live there. It’s opulent and the curtains are as though they are out of a Parisian theatre house enveloping and framing windows with charming views amongst the canopy of pine trees – it’s truly magical.
Following on from the previous issue we just had to stay at The Estoril Palacio. Nestled between the seafront and the casino, stands the beautiful bold white façade of the Estoril Palace. It’s steeped in history, it celebrated 90-years in 2020. The Banyan Spa which has just been “Best for targeted healing” recently voted in the Conde Nast magazine.
We enter this grand dame and are met with an opulent entrance and an even grander smile from their concierge, the effervescent character as we detailed within our James Bond editorial in our previous issue. The one single thing that strikes us both is you cannot help but be taken aback as to the level of dignitaries and royalty who have stayed at this hotel. The main corridor which divides the hotel is quite literally a “Who’s who!” There is an element of time standing still when you wander through the lounges and can’t help but sit in certain sofas and armchairs in the hope that a certain royalty may well have done exactly the same.
I’ve got to say the Banyan Tree Spa is utterly superb. The spa has incredible thermal properties sourced naturally. Once you don your towel robe you then walk through the hotel and proceed to the Banyan Tree Spa, which is actually a few metres away from the hotel. However, cleverly you don’t leave the hotel, you go on a journey of corridors which then set the senses to that of an air of tranquillity and then somehow, you’re actually at the spa. The utterly stand out is both the size of the pool and then the lazy river which allows you to effortlessly glide through the water in an oversized circle. The service is as you would imagine excellent, it’s an oasis which means that whatever the outside weather is, it doesn’t matter one bit.
Hotel Cascais Miragem
We just had to add Cascais as we were astonished by the utter charm and wealth which affords this stunning place.
We stayed at the seafront Hotel Cascais Miragem which is positioned impeccably and affords breath-taking views of the ocean. The design of the hotel which is the gently staging enables sea views from every opportunity. Then the position of the swimming pool is utterly majestic. I do love being in a pool that then has the horizon on offer, it’s an utter win-win. Their spa facilities are very special too. Particularly like the designated children’s pool, separated from the adult’s pool in the spa; which once again with the clever usage of glass brings the outside garden inside. Excellent Turkish spa and complimentary waters make for an invigorating and calming spa, especially in the evening too.
Without giving the game away completely, I don’t ever recall parking at a hotel car park and then having a car museum on offer. The cars in question are owned by the hotel owner and son. The entrance foyer is a fantastic showcase for the hotel, it’s vast, but welcoming and the glass is mesmerising. The external walls of the hotel are made of glass which is sloped to allow far-reaching ocean views. However, water is constantly and mesmerising trickling down the glass, our friendly concierge explains that the water is used to constantly cool the hotel and it works impeccably.
From the moment of check-in, the service levels throughout this hotel were utterly exemplary. The communication throughout all staff is top-level, the point to also note is the attention to detail, professionalism and members of staff who make your stay a very special one indeed. In fact here are the 5 reasons to choose the Hotel Cascais Miragem:
- One-of-a-kind: The unique architecture and modern décor of the hotel offer luxurious comfort.
- Amazing Location: in front of the beach, with breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean.
- Walking distance: To Estoril and Cascais with all the shops, bars, restaurants, and other attractions.
- Easy access: 25 minutes to Lisbon and its international airport, 15 minutes to Sintra.
- Excellent service: to exceed your expectations, see our clients’ reviews on Trip Advisor.
I adore Lisbon, the capital of Portugal and the utter diversity it offers too. However, a 20-minute drive and Sintra, Estoril and Cascais are available to you. We will be returning in the coming months and engaging through the seasons as we’ve been encapsulated by its charm. Portugal is indeed full of wonder and Sintra, Estoril and Cascais it has been an utter pleasure.