Palácio Ludovice Wine Hotel & Casa Palmela

You’re going to Portugal this summer. Of course you are. When I went last month, they had already started arriving: the throngs of Portugal fans who keep the country on travel’s perpetual “it” list. And so, the secret to a heavenly holiday there, despite the crowds: two properties to get to before everyone else does.

Palácio Ludovice Wine Hotel How could the capital of a country with over 300 varieties of grapes not have a wine hotel? Behold the first—and it’s a palace. Literally: the former private residence of João Frederico Ludovice, architect to King João V in the 18th century, 00s century white-and-blue tiles, balconies with stunning views of the city, a chapel with Masonic symbols, frescoes, stucco ceilings and a majestic staircase—all painstakingly restored by Portuguese architect Miguel Câncio Martins, known for his work on Buddha Bar in Paris and the Opium in London. of Lisbon opened for guests earlier this year, with 61 absurdly comfortable rooms and suites.

And, yes, wine. It’s everywhere: in the tasting room adjacent to the lobby; at the bar, a former cellar boasting a full wall of Portuguese varieties; in the design scheme—green carpets and brass balconies are decked out in elegant vines; in the small gym, which was once the Solar do Vinho do Porto; and—best part! —In your room, where each night a small bottle and sweet treat magically appears.

At the gorgeous FEDERICO restaurant, local cuisine with French accents is both delectable and creative: Feast on Chanfanaa traditional Portuguese goat stew served with truffled mashed potatoes and turnip greens; monkfish carpaccio with passionfruit; cod confit with chickpea and coriander pig feet; and pastel de nata Of course, a charming, sage Sommelier is on hand to oversee your pairings and ensure that you try the really special ones on the grandiose wine list, like the Tinta Negra from Madeira and the Alicante Bouschet from the Algarve.

Hotel Casa Palmela Hotel Casa Palmela lets you do that, while also serving up sweeping golden-sand beaches, a national park crowned by chalky cliffs and an ancient monastery, villages steeped in local traditions—in an area mostly undiscovered by the masses, just 30 minutes from Lisbon.

Arrábida, a 10,000-hectare natural park nestled between the towns of Setúbal, Azeitão and Sesimbra, means “place of prayer” in Arabic; upon checking into Hotel Casa Palmela, set in the heart of it, you will indeed say a prayer of thanks .Located in Quinta do Estevala gorgeously appointed 17th-century manor house nestled among 170 hilly acres of Syrah and Moscatel vineyards, it’s the country’s best kept secret. Or so I decided as I strolled the grounds on arrival, marveling at the perfectly perched swimming pools, the small spa designed to look like a humble barn, the vegetable gardens and cherry trees, the walking trails lined with cork and olive trees (and soon the site of a cool soundscape project that lets guests experience the seasons via Bluetooth audio experience). Everywhere I thought I might want to sit down and listen to the symphony of birds, or watch the sun and clouds stage a light show on the majestic mountains, two chairs just so happened to be placed right there, beckoning.

After my first dinner at Hotel Casa Palmela, the chef was applauded by all. Rightly so. The menu is vast, diverse and flawless: partridge soup with egg and mint, duck and sausage risotto, cod tartar with gazpacho that looks like modern art on a plate, braised John Dory with lime rice and whelks and, my favorite, the pica-paua fish and seafood stew served with bolo de cacoa thick bread dressed in basil pesto.

I was loathe to leave the property at all, but—what else? —Wine lured me. The region is home to three large wineries, including Bacalhôa Vinhos de Portugal, along with a dozen small boutique ones, like the lovely Quinta de Alcube, steeped in history and views. There was plenty more to do after that. In nearby villages like Azeitão you can learn to make Queijo de Azeitão DOPa famous local cheese, or paint hand-made azulejos It’s worth exploring the sprawling 16th-century Monastery of Our Lady of Arrábida, founded in 1542 by the Franciscans and offering some glorious views. Savor oysters fresh from the Sado at a local oyster farm; discover the joys of a fish auction—yes, fish auction—At the historic Mercado do Livramento in Setúbal.

And of course, go to the beach—this area is home some of the region’s finest. On one of these shores you will find another hidden gem: Restaurante Farol, where you can feast on the freshest local catch and savor the most supreme lobster curry while watching dolphins dance—and, yes, sipping a glass of vinho verde..

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