9 Hotels in Portugal With Fascinating Past Lives (2023)

Tucked away on the edge of the Atlantic, where dappled sunlight and ocean breezes kiss the shores and old-world romanticism abounds, Portugal has something to offer every type of traveler, from the cosmopolitan capital city of Lisbon's buzzy food and cultural scene to the spacious golden plains of the Alentejo. In recent years, a range of new hotel openings has solidified the uniquely Portuguese talent for seamlessly merging historic preservation with architectural creativity.

The result is an abundance of intimate boutique hotels with fascinating former lives. History is deeply woven into the fabric of modern life in Portugal, and rather than focusing strictly on luxury amenities, these properties honor a vision for travel that works to protect and uplift the country’s proud heritage. Below, find the best places to experience the country’s illustrious past—from artfully renovated rural retreats to elegant city stays.

Rooms at former vineyard, Herdade da Malhadinha Nova, overlook the Alentejo farm land.

Herdade da Malhadinha Nova

Herdade da Malhadinha Nova's luxe infinity pool

Herdade da Malhadinha Nova

Alentejo: A repurposed vineyard, Renaissance-style convent, and luxurious farmhouses

A sprawlingquinta that spans over 1,000 golden pastoral acres, Herdade da Malhadinha Nova embodies the best of the Alentejo; good wine, sweeping views, and warm hospitality. When the Soares family purchased the abandoned farm in 1998, they set about recovering the farm's ruins, using heritage techniques in the restoration process, such as “casas caiadas”—an artisanal lime white-washing process. The first accommodations debuted in 2008, but in 2020 architect Joana Raposo also transformed the remaining ruins of agricultural buildings on the property into four stunning new guest homes.

Boasting a long and distinguished history, Convento do Espinheiro is one of the earliest examples of Renaissance architecture in the Unesco World Heritage city of Évora. Once inhabited by monks from the Order of St. Jerome, the hotel and sprawling grounds exude a rich sense of their previous life as a monastery's cloisters, as seen in the meticulously restored gilded chapel and the vaulted cellar-turned-fine-dining-restaurant, which serves regional cuisine paired with an extensive Portuguese wine list. A swimming pool set amongst olive and fig trees, and tranquil full-service spa round out the luxurious offerings.

São Lourenço do Barrocal's shaded pool restaurant was once the farm aqueduct for animals' drinking water.

Ash James

The property's whitewashed buildings include villas, a farm-to-table restaurant, and a spa.

Ash James

Surrounded by olive groves and gnarled, ancient cork trees, São Lourenço do Barrocal was once a thriving 19th-century farming village, providing enough livestock, grain, vegetables, and wine to sustain up to 50 resident families year-round. The 780-acre property eventually fell into disrepair until José António Uva (whose family had owned the property for over 200 years) commissioned Pritzker Prize-winning architect Eduardo Souto de Moura to turn the traditional whitewashed stone farm buildings—including the former stables and barn—into an elegant collection of rooms, cottages, a restaurant and spa. The serene interiors incorporate antique objects from the estate’s past—photographs, farming tools, pottery and cooking utensils—which help bring to life its fascinating history.

Hospedaria is the latest project resulting from the successful partnership between Lisbon-based architects Atelier RUA and owner Rui Liberato de Sous.

Francisco Nogueira

The Algarve: A former post office and general store

Hospedaria, located just a short stroll from the now well-establishedPensão Agrícola (and ideally situated between the historic town of Tavira and the sleepy fishing village of Cacela Velha) once served as a post office, general store, and social hub. Dating back to 1917, much of the building's original charm remains intact, right down to the burgundy post box sandwiched between two cherry red doors greeting guests upon check-in. Traditional bamboo-caned ceilings lend a rustic touch to the serene interiors, which strike a perfect balance between eclectic and modern, with handcrafted furniture, contemporary artwork, and vintage accessories.

Casa das Penhas Douradas was Portugal's first mountain resort in the late 1800s

José Campos

Casa das Penhas Douradas' design takes advantage of wool and burel fabrics for which the region is known

José Campos

Central Portugal: An abandoned sanatorium-turned-spa

Following the Scientific Expedition of 1881 carried out by Sociedade de Geographia de Lisboa, Serra da Estrela was deemed the healthiest place in Portugal. Portugal’s first mountain resort was built at Casa das Penhas Douradas, which later served as a sanatorium. In 2010 the present owners found the fire-damaged, neglected property while out on a hike and decided to convert it into a boutique hotel. At 1,500 km altitude, the 17 rooms and one suite boast sweeping, panoramic views of the mountainous landscape. The modern decor features pieces by Nordic and Portuguese artists and designers such as Catarina Pinto Leite, Hans Wegner, Bruno Mathsson, Borg Mogensen, Pedro Silva Dias and Pedro Brígida, as well as the use of wool and burel fabrics for which the region is known. Nearby trekking and mountain biking trails are plentiful, and a heated indoor pool (soon to be joined by an outdoor hot tub) provides ideal post-hike relaxation.

Ventozelo Hotel & Quinta, a vineyard option in the Douro Valley

Luis Ferraz

Ventozelo Hotel & Quinta's farm produces the wine and olive oil used in its restaurant.

Luis Ferraz

Northern Portugal: Centuries-old farmhouses

With nearly 1,000 acres of land and 500 years of history, Ventozelo Hotel and Quinta is one of the oldest and largest farms in the Douro Valley. The 29 guest rooms scattered around the estate are housed in converted farm buildings. The Balões (or balloons) with their curved whitewash walls, were once large rounded concrete vats used for wine storage. Now, the comfortable pair of suites offer sweeping views of the vineyards and distant Douro River. While the hotel opened in 2019, the farm still remains active and produces wine and olive oil which guests can enjoy at the Cantina, a farm-to-table restaurant and wine bar housed in the old farm workers’ cafeteria.

A former bakery-turned-guest house, the family-run A Padaria Farmhouse offers an intimate stay in the tiny, lush village of São Cristóvão de Nogueira, through which the Douro flows. The innkeeper, Maria João Sousa Montenegro and her mother, Jacinta, greet guests each morning with a homemade breakfast spread highlighting the bounty of their working farm, orchard, vineyard, and vegetable garden. It was Maria, with the help of local craftsmen, who oversaw the three year renovation which transformed her grandfather’s bakery into a cozy, minimalist space with simple whitewashed walls and handcrafted furnishings.

The Lisboans offers apartment-style lodging options, two restaurants, and a wine bar.

Rodrigo Simões Cardoso

The Lisboans exterior in central Lisbon

Rodrigo Simões Cardoso

Lisbon: A converted cannery and a former palace

In Lisbon’s historic center, a derelict building that once housed a 19th-century canning factory received a second life in the form of The Lisboans, which counts 15 full-service apartments, as well as the acclaimed fine-dining restaurant, Prado, and Prado Mercearia, a market, bistro, and wine bar. In 2016, the building was completely refurbished, though the facade maintained its original architectural integrity. The charming one and two bedroom apartments feature decor from Portuguese artisans, as well as locally made textiles and vintage finds.

Located in the heart of Lisbon, at the crossroads of the Chiado, Bairro Alto and Príncipe Real neighborhoods, the sunny yellow Palácio Ludovice once served as the private residence of João Federico Ludovice, architect to King João V. During its transformation into a luxury boutique hotel, the original white-and-blue tiles from the 18th century, fresco paintings, and soaring, arched stucco ceilings were preserved. The interior seamlessly combines historic touches—hand painted tiles and carved wooden walls—with a contemporary touch.

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