Portugal’s 6 best new hotels for design lovers

Estoril Vintage - Swimming Pool
Estoril Vintage - Swimming Pool

From Lisbon to the Algarve, these six new design-driven hotels are turning heads across Portugal. Here’s where to check in if you’re fond of the finer things.

The Ivens, Lisbon

Located in Lisbon’s vibrant Chiado neighbourhood, next to the Museu de Arte Contemporânea, The Ivens unites the design talents of well-known Spanish interiorist Lázaro Rosa-Violán and Portuguese Cristina Matos. Together, their creative input tells the journey of Ivens and Capelo, two of the greatest Portuguese explorers of the 19th century.

The property’s heritage building dates to the 18th century, and Matos and Rosa-Violán embrace this history throughout. Every space comes with unexpected pops of colour and texture — in the wallpaper, carpets and even artistic ceilings — and each cocoons you in an urban jungle of tropical plants, parrots, macaws, beetles… the golden age of exploration indeed.

We love: Rocco, the hottest restaurant ticket in town, and the fact amenities are by Jo Malone, with a personalised citrus fragrance for the hotel.

Palacio Principe Real, Lisbon

This hotel is in the middle of Portugal’s largest city. But when you step inside, you feel like you’ve tumbled down a rabbit hole into a romantic world of manicured gardens and palatial architecture. Indeed, the 1877 mansion was home to one of Portugal’s most prominent families before it became a hotel — it has always looked good.

But today, thanks to new owners Miles and Gail Curley, its 28 rooms and suites positively gleam. The duo were hands-on lovingly (and individually) designing every space, uniting with colourful azulejos (Portuguese tiles) with hand-painted arabesque ceilings. Expect a dose of vintage whimsy throughout, in everything from the hand-selected objets d’art to the bathroom furnishings — the deep copper tubs for soaking are heaven.

We love: Some rooms open directly to the courtyard garden, which means you can step out into the sunshine and order wine by the pool.

Praia do Canal Nature Resort, Aljezur

Praia do Canal’s resort design is a cross between expansive science-fiction desert landscape (think: Tatooine) and luxe Roman bath. Accessed (slowly) by a road, itself narrowly distinct from native landscape, its buildings seem to spring from the dry surrounding earth like so many hills that decorate southwestern Portugal — particularly the nature reserve the hotel calls home.

Local driftwood of a scale reflecting the resort’s expansive theme decorates its hallways and courtyards, and hewn tables and stools help ground its restaurants to the land. Pervasive pools — both communal and private — offer an ironic perch whence to admire parched earthen tones within, and dusty beauty beyond the luxurious grounds.

We love: The spa (Esteva), the resort’s on-site homage to the Roman thermae, with massages to die for, set amid baths spanning the temperature spectrum.

Pa.Te.Os, Melides

Plastic. Rushed. Veneers. Flashy. Shortcuts. These words infuse our lives. Which is why you need to escape to the hills overlooking Portugal’s southwestern shore. A play on the word “patio”, Pa.Te.Os (that’s an “ōsh” to you non-Portuguese speakers) defies these modernisms and in fact any singular characterisation — with the possible exception of the pervasive sense of “home”.

Part luxury villa set, part emerging un-rushed winery, part nascent farm-to-table restaurant, part resort (complete with angled infinity pool), this brainchild property of visionary developers Miguel and Sofia Charters in partnership with architect Manuel Aires Mateus exudes authenticity. Look anywhere, and you’ll find only natural, solid materials in earthen hues, woven with detail-oriented luxury.

We love: The 10+-square-metre (yes, square METRE) glass doors to each villa, opened via electric motor on the rare occasion the vast countryside (and typically ocean) views don’t already provide sufficient grounding to the land when closed.

Vermelho Hotel, Meledis

Famed shoe designer Christian Louboutin has long had an obsession with Portugal and is now offering fans of his creations a reason to follow in his footsteps. Welcome to Vermelho Hotel (‘red’ in Portuguese), an eclectic and extravagant 13-room abode in the sleepy seaside town of Melides. Needless to stay, style throughout is impeccable — a mix of Spanish and Alentejo traditional design with plenty of colour and curiosity.

While Louboutin has been hands-on in curating spaces throughout — many artworks are from his personal collection — he also called in the who’s who to assist: Portuguese architect Madalena Caiado, Italian sculptor Giuseppe Ducrot, fabric designer Carolina Irving, light artist Eric Helaine, and Greek painter Konstantin Kakanias, responsible for subtle wall murals.

We love: The footwear guru will open another hotel here in 2024 next to Lagoa de Melides and a third is planned for the following year among the forest.

Estoril Vintage Hotel, Estoril

Once a getaway or home-in-exile for ruling families from Spain, Italy, France, Bulgaria, and Romania, the seaside town of Estoril exudes royalty. And the princely Estoril Vintage Hotel, is a snapshot of its namesake. Originally a 15-room home of a 1920s Portuguese industrialist, the mansion’s later owner has converted the property to a hotel (with a restaurant) worthy of its elegant heritage.

The ornate central stairway, complete with carved wood, carpeting and stair rods, and bespoke azulejos tile cut on top to the scenes depicted, opens to a full-on ornate shrine before which you’d expect to find an exiled king kneeling in penitence. Original art pervades. The Greco-Roman pool, continually filled via an exquisite and alluring fountain, is fronted by sun-lovers’ deck chairs and a separate villa.

We love: The lower-story business conference centre, complete with flip boards, markers, and break-out rooms (the aforementioned pool villa). Want to make your customers feel like kings and queens? Hold your next presentation at Estoril Vintage.

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