Pousadas de Portugal in Alentejo is a network of quality and characterful hotels that give the guest a chance to experience unique charm. The group was started in the 1940s and now has forty-three properties. The network is mostly owned by the Portuguese government but managed by a private group, Grupo Pestana Pousadas.
The first Pousada was opened in April 1942 in Elvas, in the Alentejo, and this region still boasts the largest number of historic inns.
São Francisco de Beja
This hotel is a former Franciscan monastery. São Francisco de Beja dates back to the thirteenth century. In November 1268 the monastery was started on the initiative of the Captain-General of Beja, Lopo Esteves. The land where the monastery was built was originally outside the city but now the houses and shops have grown to join this striking building.
The building was started in the reign of King Afonso III, who died in 1279 but left a gift of fifty pounds to the convent. In 1302 King Dinis build a chapel in honour of St. Louis. In 1834 Portugal abolished the male religious orders and in 1850 it became the barracks for the army, who set about ruining the work of generations.
The project to restore this Pousada was undertaken between 1993 and 1995 and now the Pousada de Beja, São Francisco, is a striking hotel right in the centre of the city. It still shows the original gothic architecture of the monastery with high ceilings, exposed stonework and white walls, but the rooms are a lot more comfortable than those used by the monks of old.
The monks’ cells have been remodelled into contemporary bedrooms with tasteful hints of their ancient incarnations. Shutters on windows, classic fabrics, the best of linen help to pamper the guest, who will appreciate the most radical of refurbishments …the addition of a modern and spacious bathroom!
The Pousada São Francisco de Beja has a total of 35 rooms: 30 standard rooms, 4 superior rooms and 1 suite. The public spaces are imposing and act as a showcase for historic artwork and artefacts. The dining room is in the old monastery refectory and has seats for 60 or so diners. The tables are well-spaced, making this a convivial spot for either families or just romantic meals for two. The menu entices with contemporary plates and regional specialities.
Pousada de Beja, São Francisco
Largo D. Nuno Álvares Pereira
Phone:(+351) 284 313 580
Phone:(+351) 284 329 143
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Convento do Espinheiro in Évora
This is a stunner and in my opinion your unmissable lodgings for at least a part of any tour of Alentejo. Évora, classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site, is only one hour away from Lisbon so it’s an easy hop from the airport to a most memorable hotel.
Convento do Espinheiro, or The Convent of Our Lady of the Thorn, is located on the outskirts of the neighbourhood of Canaviais, just a couple of kilometres from the historic centre of Évora. It dates back to the fifteenth century and legend has it that the Virgin Mary appeared in a burning bush. In 1458 this place of pilgrimage established a monastery.
With the dissolution of monasteries the building was abandoned and taken into Portuguese state ownership, to be sold to individuals for a negligible sum. It was eventually purchased by Manuel Gabriel Lopes, who undertook major restoration, making it habitable again. The chapel of Garcia de Resende is now also supported by local notables and used for celebrating religious festivals.
Currently reclassified as a five-star hotel, the former monastery retains many original features. The old cellar has given way to a restaurant; the ancient kitchen has been turned into a contemporary piano bar. The most striking of transformations is that of the cistern, or water storage tank, which has Gothic pillars and vaulted roofs. It now houses a wine ‘cellar’ displaying some of the best vintages the region has to offer along with a selection of fine wines from the rest of the world. Visit Cisterna Wine Bar and enjoy this unique space.
Divinus Restaurant is found in the monastery’s former wine-cellar. The columns and curved ceilings illuminated by gentle light create intimate spaces for dinner. Browse a menu that celebrates fresh local produce – it’s a sophisticated restaurant that still manages to remain cosy and welcoming.
Convento do Espinheiro offers a total of 92 guest rooms, including 6 suites. One can choose between modern vibe – said to be inspired by the colour and style of the ´50s – these rooms are in the new wing; or one can enjoy a more classic room in the original 15th-century monastery building. Both contemporary and classic rooms offer comfort and charm.
Convento do Espinheiro Hotel & Spa ·
Phone: 351-266 788 200
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Herdade do Sobroso Estate
The Alentejo is hot in summer so consider a spring or an autumn tour for more gentle temperatures. The spring presents vineyards bursting with pale-green buds and fresh leaves, while the autumn offers crisp air, blue skies and the vibrant red of withering vine leaves. Herdade do Sobroso Estate allows the visitor to relax and enjoy nature during any season.
This is a working wine estate but your stay will be made memorable by liberal application of not only fine wine but delicious local foods, and log fires help to complete the picture of a rather high-end idyll.
Herdade do Sobroso Estate is typically Portuguese in many ways but the owners have evidently travelled the globe and have very fine taste in interior design, and in fact exterior design, as many of their more exotic purchases now decorate the covered terrace outside the main house.
Casa da Quinta is the name of the main house, which offers public spaces for enjoying a pre-dinner drink in front of the aforementioned log fire, a dining room and some guest rooms, too. Each room is different but all give the impression of home, granted an immaculately decorated home, but more individual and unique than many a chain hotel alternative.
Casa da Cegonha is independent from the main house and away from common areas. It’s popular with families as it offers cooking facilities so mums don’t have to worry that young travellers won’t enjoy unfamiliar restaurant food. They will be missing out on some rather special fare, though – Alentejo dishes paired with Herdade do Sobroso wines. Breakfast is also worth saving space for. Ignore the yoghurt and dive for the Portuguese custard tarts and local cakes. One can burn off the calories while walking around the 50 hectares of vineyard at Herdade do Sobroso. There is also the winery where you can sample and purchase the estate wines, olive oil, honey and jams.
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Boutique Hotel O Poejo – Marvão
This is a very individual boutique hotel in Alentejo, near to Marvão, a medieval town in Serra S. Mamede Natural Park. It’s not a rambling historic pile, but what it lacks in old grandeur it makes up for in confident and quirky design.
It’s a small hotel as the name would suggest but it’s thoughtfully presented and comfortably appointed. The 13 guest rooms and suite are all different with varying colour schemes and configurations of beds. It has the air of an intimate family-run establishment with friendly staff who will likely know you by name after a day or two.
Evenings can be spent snuggled by the fire in the sitting room, after enjoying a dinner of local lamb or fish. Breakfast is a buffet feast of cheese, ham, cakes, fruit, the usual continental suspects, along with some of the best bread to be found anywhere in the world. It’s tempting to linger over such a spread …and why not?
Boutique Hotel o Poejo
Av. 25 de Abril, Nº 20
7330-251 Santo António das Areias,
Phone: (+351) 245 992 640
Fax: (+351) 245 992 500 / (+351) 245 99 22 76
Cell Phone: (+351) 96 855 96 65 / (+351) 96 855 96 74
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Travel review by Chrissie Walker © 2018