Just Back from Portugal

Lisbon and beyond

Lisbon Highlights

The best suites in Lisbon are in the Carlton Palace hotel, which opened in February. The finest of the deluxe suites, the Don Manuel II and Don Luis Filipe, are baroque fantasies of gilded carved plaster and marquetry floors made of century-old African woods imported by the house's original owner. The palace, built in 1876, is dazzling—particularly the two Belle Epoque dining salons with frescoed ceilings and the Chinese and Louis XVI sitting rooms—restored by a company that worked on the Vatican, and decorated by Portuguese interior designer Pedro Espirito Santo. An extensive garden with outdoor pool, a glass-enclosed indoor pool, and a restaurant with talented French chef Aime Barroyer at the helm complete the refined picture. But there's a hitch. Attached to the palace are two wings of modern rooms earmarked for attendees of the conferences that are a mainstay of the hotel. It's best to visit the hotel when a business group is not there. $222-$1,157. Dinner: $80. Rua Jau 54, 1300-314 Lisbon, Portugal; 800-457-4000, 351-21-362-3860; fax 351-21-364-7682; www.pestana.com.

Other great lodgings in Lisbon include the eight new suites in Palacio Belmonte, a 15th-century palace on the edge of the Castelo São George district. Painstakingly restored by French owner Frederic Coustols, the suites contain remnants of Roman towers and original azulejos, the regional blue-and-white tiles; some also have terraces with postcard views over the city to the river. Note: no concierge or 24-hour room service. $324-$787. Pateo don Fradique 11, Lisbon, Portugal; 351-21-886-2582; fax 351-21-886-2592; www.palaciobelmonte.com.

From the terrace of the bar at the hotel Lisboa Regency Chiado, there is a perfect view across to the Alfama, the Castelo St. Jorge, and the Tagus River. Rua Nova do Almada 114, 1200-290 Lisbon, Portugal; 351-21-325-6200.

At Sant'Anna, the blue-and-white faience is hand-painted and fired with the same techniques that have been used since 1741, producing ceramics of exquisite delicacy and detail. Prices range from $5 for a tile square to $2,315 for a table. Custom orders are available and are generally filled in three to four weeks. Rua do Alecrim 95, 1200-015 Lisbon, Portugal; 351-21-342-2537; fax 351-21-347-6746.

A Weekend in the Country

In Sintra, 30 minutes from Lisbon, you can stay at Quinta da Capela, one of the 15 manor houses once occupied by the noblemen who accompanied the Portuguese kings to their summer court there. Co-proprietors Arturo de Pereira and Marc Zurcher have transformed the 17th-century house into a handsome, restful place for the modern-day traveler. Inside they blended 18th- and 19th-century French, English, and Portuguese antiques; outside they created a formal garden complete with peacocks, doves, and a stone pool with swans. Best of the ten rooms: cottage one, with a fireplace and private deck overlooking the surrounding forest as well as neighboring Pena Palace and Monserrate Palace. $139-$171. Monserrate, 2710 Sintra, Portugal; 351-21-929-0170; fax 351-21-929-3425.

Quinta da Capela also owns one of the best nearby restaurants, Colares Velho, which serves simple but expertly prepared dishes, such as duck mousse with onion confit and a tender skate wing in mustard cream sauce. $60. Largo Dr. Carlos Franca 1-4, 2710 Colares, Portugal; 351-21-929-2406. Stop for lunch at the Portuguese Romantic-styled Palacio da Pena restaurant—an international eatery. Don't miss the dogfish soup. $55. Estrada da Pena, 2710-616 Sintra, Portugal; 351-21-923-1208.

If your interest is golf, Oitavos Golfe at Quinta da Marinha, a par-71 links course designed by Arthur Hills and due to open in September, is uncommonly beautiful because every hole borders the Atlantic. Nonmembers will be allowed tee times during the week. Casa da Quinta N-25, 2750-715 Cascais, Portugal; 351-21-486-0000.

Douro Bound

The best base in the Douro Valley for exploring port country is Solar da Rede Pousada, a 17th-century manor house that became a hotel in 1999. The views over the Duoro River and the terraced vineyards are exceptional, and so is the hotel decor. Room four, the best in the house, has crystal chandeliers, carved-wood bedframe, silk divan—all in a burgundy-and-gold color scheme. $148-$191. 5040 Mesão Frio, Portugal; 351-254-89-01-30; www.pousadas.pt.