Whether you’re looking for a couple’s getaway, or taking a mid-winter break, February is the month to plan travels worth sharing. If you’ve never experienced the romance of train travel, climb onboard the Belmond Royal Scotsman. We also invite you to explore the latest in cruising, which has hit new heights of luxury and excitement.
Erika Reategui and Fernando Gonzalez
Lisbon’s popularity keeps soaring as record numbers of international tourists continue to flock to Portugal. On their most recent long weekend visit, our Madrid-based insiders Miguel Angel Caballero and Romana Illera also uncovered some exciting gems just outside of the capital.
Just 40 minutes by train from Lisbon, Sintra was the summer home to the royals. With its enchanting hillside castles, royal palaces, and opulent retreats, it retains a fairytale feel.
This was our third visit to Sintra, but our first overnight visit. It made a huge difference seeing the town after all of the day tourists had left.
We checked in to the Tivoli Palacio de Seteais, an 18th-century, neo-classical beauty decorated with tapestries and frescoes. Romance fills the air both inside and out as the palace has a legend behind it. For a special evening, book the Dining Delight for two. You’ll be led to a secret spot on the property that will take your breath away. Savor fine Portuguese dishes served with modern flair over candlelight. After dinner be sure to stroll through the grounds. From the pool area you have stunning views of the mountains, lush foliage and both the Pena Palace and Castle of the Moors.
During the day, the Pena Palace, Sintra National Palace, Castle of the Moors, Quinta de Regaliera, Park and Palace of Monserrate, Tivoli Palace of Seteais and Convento dos Capuchos are some of the many highlights. On this visit, we toured the Quinta de Regaliera, a spectacular estate with gardens full of secret passages, caves and waterfalls.
Do not miss a visit to Sintra’s most famous Piriquita pastry shops. Their secret recipes for pasteis de nata (custard tarts), travesseiros (almond cream-filled puff pastries), and queijadas (Portuguese cupcakes) will satisfy any sweet tooth.
Comporta, the anti-Algarve
Comporta was recently called “Portugal’s best secret beach spot” by Conde Nast Traveler. We couldn’t agree more. An hour’s drive from Lisbon, this seaside village has the hippie chic vibe of Montauk – very stylish yet laid back. Even shoe designer Christian Louboutin has a home here. Chill along a 13-mile stretch of fine sandy beaches without the crowds of the Algarve. We loved the fact that there are lounge chairs and even Balinese beds at our disposal. Restaurante Sal serves fresh and classic seafood. Or try the salt cod fishcakes at Ilha do Arroz.
Setubal is another charming day trip from Lisbon. We arrived at this bustling port town by ferry across the Sado River. Dating back to the Roman Empire, it still has a historic feel with fountains, gardens and pedestrianized areas. Today’s it’s known as the heart of Portugal’s sardine industry with an adorable fishing village. Definitely try the local fried cuttlefish known as “choco frito.” Fans of Portuguese “azulejos” tiles will love visiting the beautiful chapel inside the Fort of Sao Felipe, high above the city.
Lisbon is a city you can visit over and over and never get bored. We looked forward to staying at the newly refurbished Tivoli Avenida Liberdade, where we had stayed years ago. It has been transformed into a classy and colorful luxury retreat. The hotel is within walking distance to Bairro Alto and the Baixa district, full of shops, bars, restaurants, and the Rossio train station. An elegant afternoon tea is served in the flower filled lobby. Definitely toast your stay with a drink at the rooftop Sky Bar. The views are unforgettable.
The hotel sits on Avenida Liberdade. This street has so many tempting high-end boutiques, stylish restaurants, and theatres. Don’t miss the new JNcQUOI – a three level luxury concept which includes a restaurant, wine bar, gourmet shop, and men’s store – located in the historic Tivoli Theatre.
If it’s your first time, make sure to explore Jeronimos Monastery, Belem Tower, St. George´s Castle, Calouste Gulbenian Museum, Parque Das Nacoes, Berardo Museum, Madre de Deus Convent, Sao Roque Church (the world´s most expensive chapel), and the Design and Fashion Museum. In the evening, it’s always fun to hit the nightlife of Bairro Alto.