If you’re planning a romantic trip to Lisbon, then I highly recommend including a visit to nearby Sintra. This enchanting town, located less than an hour by train from the capital, has several incredible castles, stunning scenery and the oldest hotel not only in Portugal but the whole Iberian Peninsula, Lawrence’s Hotel. Here’s why you should extend your excursion to Sintra into an overnight and enjoy the romantic spirit of the town at this exquisite five-star hotel.
Aboard one of the frequent westbound commuter trains, you’ll gradually leave behind Lisbon and drift further into the verdant Serra de Sintra pine-covered hills. The area’s picturesque setting and cooler climate has attracted the royals and nobility of Portugal ever since the middle ages, however, the town truly boomed in the 19th century with the construction of elaborate palaces, extravagant mansions and bewitching gardens. Those who were not guests of one of the more ostentatious abodes could board at the graceful Lawrence’s hotel, nestled at the edge of town and on the way to the Pena Palace and divinely romantic Quinta da Regaleira estate.
The Inn of the Romantic Era
Established by an Englishman in 1764, Lawrence’s developed a reputation as the writers’ hotel. One of its earliest illustrious guests was Lord Byron, who lodged at the inn in 1809 at the beginning of his famous Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. In addition to renowned foreign guests, the lovely hotel has housed a great variety of Portuguese writers, including Eça de Queirós, who even mentions the hotel several times in his writings.
Over the decades the hotel had a few different owners and eventually fell into an unfortunately period of neglect. In virtual ruins, it was saved by its the present owners, Jan & Coreen Bos, who restored the hotel to its former splendor and even managed to acquire some of its original antiques.
An Enchanting Trip Back in Time
Stepping inside the warm foyer, you’ll be greeted by the friendly reception staff. A gurgling fountain adds to the serene ambiance. Hidden around the corner and, past a refined sitting area, is the cozy library, lined with a myriad of books in a many different languages. On the second level, you’ll also find another refined lounge and a the lovely terrace with a view of the main street and the hills beyond. These charming common areas give the hotel a genuine homey feel. The hotel’s tea salon also once drew the holidaying elite of the romantic era, so order yourself a pot and relax in one of these exquisite havens.
The Spirit of Each Room
One of the most attractive features of the hotel is that each of its 11 rooms and five suites are unique and named after one of the key historical figures or an important occurrence connected to the hotel, such as Eça de Queiroz Suite, Lord Byron, and Jane Lawrence. Each room has been individually decorated in the spirit of its namesake and may include four-poster or canopy beds, fireplaces, antique trunks, vintage prints and paintings as well all sorts of special little details.
Luxurious Fittings & Contemporary Comforts
I was treated to the spacious Casa de Chá suite, located on the north corner of the building. It has an attractive, sunny living room, bordered by windows with a whole wall facing the woods. This inviting room is furnished classy country-chic wicker furniture, a table for two, a coffee and tea station and international cable TV. You may not want to leave this splendid space, but there is much exploring to do in Sintra. At the end of your day of castle wanderings, the suite’s heavenly spa tub awaits before you sink into the plush king-sized bed.
Tea on the Terrace, Gourmet Dishes in the Restaurant
Dining and refreshments are also a high point of Lawrence’s. In addition to the sun-terrace on the second floor, there is another terrace at the front on the street-side where you can get a light meal and another one extending along the restaurant on the forest side. You can also get a drink or snack in the bar with a quirky collection of golf bars from around the world gifted by the hotel’s previous guests. The hotel’s refined restaurant is well reputed in the area and popular with the sophisticated locals. It serves a range of Portuguese and international dishes like cod flakes Lawrence’s style with herbs and maize bread and veal tenderloin with toasted “Serra” cheese and potato gratin with grape and Port wine sauce. Hotel guests can fill up on a generous breakfast before going off to carry on with their explorations of Sintra.
There is so much to do in Sintra that it certainly merits an overnight, especially for a romantic trip to Lisbon. Your visit will be made all the more exceptional with a stay at Lawrence’s.
Prices range from 170 to 280 euros depending on the type of room and time of year. For more information and booking, see Lawrence’s website here.
I was a guest of Lawrence’s Hotel, however, all of the opinions expressed above are entirely my own.