TRAVEL

5 European Cities To Visit In 2019

Prague. Credit: Prague City Tourism

2019 is all about your next European adventure — it’s not just where you’re going but what you’re going to do. We’ve got a lineup of incredible events happening in five of the continent’s most dynamic cities.

Prague
A haven for culture lovers, the Czech Republic hot spot was named a UNESCO Creative City of Literature in 2014, thanks in part to its incredible array of browse-worthy bookshops (the historic city has Europe’s highest concentration of tome-lined storefronts) and literary cafés.

Throughout the year, Prague celebrates its book smarts through a series of festivals dedicated to literature and art, including May’s poetry-focused Microfestival and October’s Prague Writers’ Festival.

Four Seasons Hotel Prague.  Credit: Four Seasons Hotel Prague

Four Seasons Hotel Prague. Credit: Four Seasons Hotel Prague

This article first appeared in Forbes Travel, January 2019.

One of the more delectable draws is the 17-day Czech Beer Festival (May 9 to 25). In recent years, the event has become a culinary attraction, where chefs and restaurants partner to showcase a wide breadth of classic cuisines and pairings.

When you’ve had your fill of local dishes, digest at Four Seasons Hotel Prague, a true Bohemian rhapsody sitting on the Vltava River in Old Town. The posh property is a beautiful labyrinth of the Czech Republic’s varied architectural styles, uniting three historic structures (classical, Renaissance and 18th-century baroque) with contemporary builds to create an irreplaceable compilation both inside and out.

Milan
It should come as no surprise that Italy’s fashion capital is also a top global destination for design. Nothing shows off Milan’s stylish side better than Salone del Mobile (aka Salone), a five-day showcase bringing together the world’s best designers (interior, industrial, fashion, tech and fine arts) in a celebration of upcoming trends and movements.

From April 9 through 14, expect fabulous exhibitions, clever collaborations and electrifying launches as well as coveted parties by artists, designers and fashion houses.

Between gatherings, rest your head at Forbes Travel Guide Recommended ME Milan Il Duca, a stunning, strategically located stay within walking distance of the famous Quadrilatero della Moda (fashion district) and the modern Porta Nuova quarter.

The boutique luxury hotel fits Salone’s vibe well with 132 chic rooms adorned with Molteni&C furnishings and a buzzy rooftop bar.

Altis Avenida Hotel. Credit: Altis Hotels Group

Lisbon
Portugal’s sun-drenched capital has been making its way onto everyone’s travel bucket list over the past few years, and its time you made it to the city. From May 17 to 20, Lisbon hosts Festival Internacional da Mascára Ibérica (International Iberian Mask Festival), a costumed parade and four-day celebration of the historical and cultural ties that exist between Spanish and Portuguese regions.

But if you want a more contemporary vibe, book a weekender in July for Super Bock Super Rock (July 18 to 20), one of Europe’s top music festivals. The 2019 lineup includes Lana Del Rey, The 1975, Metronomy, Kaytranada, FKJ and Superorganism.

Whenever you choose to visit, be sure to book a room in the historic Altis Avenida Hotel. The 1940s-era building charms with art-deco touches, a central locale and the spectacular Rossio rooftop restaurant

Le Richemond Genève. Credit: Genève Tourisme

Geneva
As headquarters of the United Nations, this scenic Swiss city is a cultural melting pot. Just stand on its pristine sidewalks and you’ll hear dialogue in more languages than you can imagine.  

Summer is prime time to visit this mountainside metropolis. Stop by in June to take in the internationally renowned Montreux Jazz Festival (June 28 to July 13), then drive over to nearby Vevey for the epic Fête des Vignerons (July 18 to August 11). Held only five times a century (last celebrated in 1999), this UNESCO-recognized event is Switzerland’s oldest and largest wine festival.  

Perched on the banks of Lake Geneva, Five-Star Le Richemond Genève provides a picturesque respite between outings. With nearly 145 years of history, this is a grand masterpiece of marble floors, gold-filigree finishes and vintage pieces.

Grand Hotel du Cap Ferrat, France. Credit: Manuel Zublena

Cap Ferrat, France
This unspoiled promontory on the French Riviera is a historic haunt for the wealthy and rowdy, including actor Charlie Chaplin, The Great Gatsby author F. Scott Fitzgerald, Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards and U2 front man Bono.

Situated midway between Nice and Monte Carlo, this tiny peninsula offers a gorgeous getaway during the 77th Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix (May 26 through 29).

Consider Five-Star Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, A Four Seasons Hotel the perfect pitstop between races. This glamorous, 17-acre waterfront retreat puts you just 20 minutes from the glitz of Monaco. You can even organize Riviera boat transfers from the harbor of Saint-Jean Cap-Ferrat to the main event.

Before you make any plans official, remember that the high-end hotel is a seasonal property and closes each winter until March 1. Visit after April 26 to take advantage of its renowned alfresco restaurant, Club Dauphin.

5 Lisbon Hotels We Can’t Wait To Visit

This article original appeared in Forbes Travel, January 2018.

Pousada de Lisboa. Credit: Pestana Group

Mark your calendar for a European getaway this year because it’s all about Lisbon. Portugal’s capital city capitalizes on its coastal locale, a vibrant arts scene and a gorgeous culinary landscape. Here are five properties that will pique your curiosity and leave you with such a sense of saudade that you’ll be longing to come back to the City of the Light before you even leave.

Pousada de Lisboa
If you’re looking for luxury with a side of history, then this Forbes Travel Guide Recommended 18th-century address is for you.

Brazilian interior designer Jaime Morais upgraded the hotel’s 90 rooms to evoke a classic modern-chic style with artistic furniture, restored antique features like chandeliers and stained glass windows, and original works by Portuguese artists selected from local museums. 

The most enticing accommodation at this luxury Lisbon address is the Dom Pérignon Suite, which consists of 1,184 square feet of elegance in the form of a living room, two balconies with panoramic views of the Tagus River and an Irish green marble bathroom bathed in natural light.

Altis Avenida Hotel. Credit: Altis Hotel Group

Altis Avenida Hotel 
This retro-chic hotel is perfectly perched in the middle of everything you want to do in Lisbon. Located at the Praça dos Restauradores and opposite the Rossio train station, Altis Avenida has the city center at its doorsteps and all of the capital’s must-see sites within walking distance, as long as you don’t mind traversing a few hills. 

The throwback art deco décor plays to the hotel’s history as a 1940s office building with a palette of ebonies and ecrus, slick marble, Lucite and a modernist design.

2018 will bring big changes to the property (including 46 more guest rooms in an adjacent building), with all eyes on the soon-to-open rooftop bar and sun deck that surely will be Lisbon’s next hot spot.

Tivoli Avenida Liberdade’s Sky Bar. Credit: Tivoli Avenida Liberdade

Tivoli Avenida Liberdade
Another art deco reboot with a bit more of a modern flair can be found in this newly renovated hotel on Avenida da Liberdade, just below Principe Real park. Its location along this glamorous boulevard offers a straight shot to both the historic center and to the trendy Bairro Alto neighborhood.

After exploring the city, you’ll return to a tranquil retreat. Each of the historic hotel’s 286 rooms is outfitted in a calming blanket of light, muted tones with large, all-white bathrooms.

Explore the property’s verdant gardens to find a hidden oasis, the Tivoli Spa, for elegant pampering and a circular swimming pool set below the shade of palm fronds.

The perfect spot for a sip can be found on the rooftop Sky Bar, offering some of Lisbon’s best sunset views.

Martinhal Lisbon Chiado Family Suites. Credit: Martinhal Lisbon Chiado Family Suites

Martinhal Lisbon Chiado Family Suites
If you’re traveling with tots in tow, you may want to try this residential-style Lisbon retreat. The surprisingly upscale property offers 37 chicly designed suites in a 19th-century palazzo.  Martinhal’s cheerful aesthetic is a celebration of bright colors, vintage cartoon posters and classic toys, with a sophisticated style that will please parents.

Location is key — these sumptuous suites are in the very family-friendly Chiado neighborhood lined with cafés, shops, boutiques and restaurants. Popular sites such as the National Azulejo Museum and the lively Mercado da Ribeira food hall are just a short walk away as well.

Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon’s Central Lap Pool. Credit: Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon

Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon 
The luxury Four Seasons brand consistently follows through on its philosophy of white glove service, ever-present staff and immaculate facilities. Its Lisbon incarnation does not sway from this line of thinking. 

The 10-level, retro-modernist building is situated on the northern edge of Lisbon’s Marques de Pombal square — a nice walk to the historic center and art museums — overlooking the open greens of Eduardo VII Park. Its 282 rooms and four suites are done in opulent Louis XVI-style with 18th-century replica furniture, jewel-toned carpets and spacious marble bathrooms. 

Though noted for its spa and 59-foot wooden-decked central lap pool, the hotel also boasts a scenic rooftop running track that traces the perimeter of the building for a one-of-a-kind workout.

Weekender: The Best Way To See Sintra In Two Days

This article first appeared in Forbes Travel, November 2017.

Sintra’s Palace Of Pena, Photo Credit: Erica Firpo

It’s time to say olá, Portugal — and with good reason. Portugal may have been on the map since 1138 (it even rewrote the map during the Age of Discovery 500 years ago), but its heyday is now thanks to a phalanx of non-stop flights to Lisbon, its wallet-friendly affordability and limitless adventures.

If you’re planning to get to know Lisbon, you’ll want to work your trip around a weekend in Sintra. For centuries, the hillside town has been a revered outdoor retreat. Long before Portuguese nobility set up summer homes here for the fresh air and spectacular views, the Celts and Romans celebrated Sintra’s verdant vegetation and worshipped the moon gods. Moorish princes also would set up impassible outposts in its hills.

Just a 30-minute drive from the Portuguese capital, the fairytale town where castles bloom on the hillside is listed as a UNESCO cultural landscape.  

When you get there, drop your bags at Tivoli Palácio de Seteais Sintra Hotel, an 18th-century neoclassical palace that captures the region’s romantic vibe. The 30-room property is both a period piece and hilltop kingdom — rooms follow the building’s original décor while the sprawling grounds consist of gardens with fruit trees, herbs and a topiary maze, tennis courts and a panoramic pool area overlooking the countryside.

From the Palácio, it’s a relaxing 10-minute walk to Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra’s most eclectic estate. The Regaleira palace is an architectural mélange of Gothic, Roman, Moorish and Renaissance features and its four-hectare grounds are ripe for exploration — discover the decorative gazebos, waterfalls, tunnels and even the Initiation Wells, a pair of subterranean spiral towers.

Head back to your hotel for a sunset view just behind Palácio de Seteais’ own historic landmark — a neoclassical arch built in 1802 in honor of Portugal’s Prince regent John VI and Princess Carlota Joaquina.

As dusk descends, make your way to dinner in the palace’s grand salon, an elegant restaurant led by chef Miguel Silva, whose concept of revisited Portuguese cuisine is a celebration of the country’s best fish dishes as well as farm-to-table recipes

Day One

Wake up early and put on comfortable shoes. The hilltops of Sintra are known for beautiful trekking, but if you need the extra minutes of beauty sleep, you can also take a taxi to the day’s destination.

By 9 a.m., you’ll want be at the Parque de Sintra’s Palacio de Pena entrance to queue for tickets. The Parcque de Sintra is a wooded labyrinth on the town’s Monte da Lua, where cultural sites flourish, including the colorful Palace of Pena, the beautiful Palace of Monserrate, the medieval Moorish Castle and the wild Convent of the Capuchos.

It’s easy to lose yourself in the castles, and even more so in the surrounding forest grounds where you’ll find monuments, gardens, lakes and other royal amusements.

Make sure to plan the day in advance; think about whether you’d rather economize your time with a combination Pena/Moorish Castle ticket with bus service or, for the more ambitious, the all-in-one five-park pass.

For equestrians, the most beautiful way to see the sights is on horseback.

Make the windy two-mile trek back to Sintra’s city center, or hop in a tuk-tuk for a bumpy ride down the one-lane road. The tiny town is an intriguing maze of historic buildings, shops and eateries and, lately, it’s become a popular destination, so make sure to book dinner reservations in advance. Some of our favorite spots are Tascantiga, a contemporary tapas restaurant, and Tacho Real for traditional Portuguese dishes.

Day Two

After storming all the castles of Sintra, you deserve to center your second day on some R&R. If you’re visiting on a weekend, start things off with Sunday brunch in the hotel’s frescoed dining room. From local favorites like queijadas (tiny egg pastries made with local cheese) to salads featuring fresh herbs and vegetables and tasty omelets, the spread is a cornucopia of not-to-be-missed delights. 

Take your day of indulgence to the next level with a decadent massage. The palace’s dovecote has been converted into Anantara Seteais Spa, a sanctuary combining world-renowned Thai techniques with local ingredients (lavender, rosemary, regional Colares wine) to create treatments that reflect both a sense of history and place. 

Once you’ve been pampered, stake your claim at one of the poolside cabanas at the Seteais’ glamorous swimming hole, a wood-paneled pool overlooking the countryside.

Enjoy a traditional Portuguese cataplana (seafood stew) at the outdoor restaurant before heading back to Lisbon.

Weekender: Lisbon

Requisite, shameless Lisbon self-portrait.

Lisbon, it’s about time.  Over the past few years, I’ve heard so much about Portugal’s capital - from its food scene and azulegos to its 2017 title as Ibero-American Capital of Culture, that I finally booked a flight for a long weekend.  I had a pretty good idea I would like the city, but I didn't expect I would fall head-over-heels in love.

The City of the Seven Hills, Lisbon is an easy like.  Cascading hills with beautiful architecture, an incredible history thanks to the Age of Discovery history, and its sunshine- Portugal’s capital has the most optimal number of daylight hours in Europe.  Lisbon is so easy to like.   And then add its uncanny similarities with twin city, San Francisco- west coast, hills, waterfront, suspension bridge, cable cars and an epic earthquake that transformed the city.  But to love Lisbon?  For me, it was all down to the small details - the expected like the azulejos (color, patterned ceramics) decorating buildings in every neighborhood, the obvious like the vintage trams, and the subtle like the art nouveau leftovers, forgotten 1960s and 70s neon signs and the sweet yellow mustard on the bifana sandwich. 

With only 72 hours to get to know Lisbon, we had to have a plan, and over the years, we perfected our version of a great weekender: Choose Your Own Adventure, i.e. pick a monument, neighborhood, food, and see what happens.  Lisbon is perfect for that mentality.  It's a puzzle of neighborhoods built into the hills- filled with colors, history and great smells.   For the map-curious: we chose the historic Avenida da Liberdade, a long and luscious boulevard spanning 1100 meters across the old city to water, as home base and reference since the Avenida is visible from any high point.

Roterdao  (Cais do Sodré)


Roterdao (Cais do Sodré)

Monument

Castelo de São Jorge, an 11th century castle and fort in Alfama, one of the oldest areas of the city.  The Castelo is prime lookout over the entire city-  the entire city is laid out at Alfama's feet the east, a cascade of red terracotta roofs leading down to the glassy Tager river.  From here, you can snake your way down through Alfama - camera ready, of course, for its gorgeous Gothic churches, azulejo-tiled buildings and vintage trams (yes, they are part of public transportation) - to Baixa. Redesigned after the 1755 earthquake, Baixa is an easy grid, a tic-tac-toe of long boulevards leading to Praca de Comercio, the enormous waterfront plaza with even more monumental arc.   Pay attention as you may your way to the Praca and you'll find art deco and art nouveau signage and storefronts decorating new shops as well as some vintage finds.  There are sardine shops designed as 1920s boutiques and yesteryear caffes selling pastel de nata,a yes-you-must-eat pastry, as well the gambit of shopping- contemporary stores with early 1920s die cute lettering from boutiques past.  In Baixa center is a 45-meter-high and very elaborate wrought iron elevator, Elevador de Santa Justa, a panoramic from the 19th century.  Perfect for people with patience and looking for a Pay-Per-View.  If not, skip past and walk up Rua do Carmo, a shopping street, to the Bellalisa elevator for a great short cut to Carmo Convent, the ghostly remains of a 14th century gothic church destroyed in the earthquake. 

Monuments come in so many forms. Be on the look out for the Ponte de 25 Abril, a Golden Gate lookalike (and ironically built by the same team behind the Bay Bridge), and Ponte Vasco de Gama, a futuristic cable-stay bridge that sneaks up on you.

Ascensor da Glòria (Baixa/Bairro Alto)

Neighborhood

So many neighborhood to explore, so once you've walked Alfama, your next stop should be Bairro Alto and Principe Reale, two pocket neighborhoods on the western overlooking hills that will eventually lead you down to Chaido, Baixa and the rest of Lisbon.   Calm and collected, Principe Real is an easy hike from Avenida, serpentining past small parks and crumbling azulejos-decorated buildings to the park itself, a green square with playground, caffes and weekend street market.  The area is a Pandora's box of local flavor.  Hidden in the park is an underground museum-  Museo del Agua- an octagonal reservoir that was the city’s water source, while facing it is Embaixada, a concept store featuring local designers in a neo-classical Arabian palace.  The Rua Dom Pedro V is lined with boutiques, eateries and bars.  You'll have your choice for whatever your flavor but be on the look out for Solar, a family-run antiques store with catacombs of authentic azulejos, and Pastelaria Padaria Sao Roque, an art nouveau coffee shop.  Bairro Alto is where you'll want to make sure you have your back up battery- this is where you'll find in situ azulejos on decadent, abandoned and recycled buildings and inside churches.  Make three wishes when you stop in Sao Pedro de Alcantara, Sao Roque and Santa Catarina- beautifully decorated churches worth stepping into.   Short cut to Baixa with Ascensor da Gloria, a vintage tram whose single route it's a straight shot up and down a steep incline.  Or keep walking, you'll find yourself in Chaido, where the relaxed pace of Bairro Alto moves into more frenetic rhythm with its shops, cafes and businesses.  Meander and you'll find MAAT, the contemporary art museum and eventually Cais do Sodré, the former red light district close to the water. In the daytime, it's simply another charming distressed neighborhood with street art, great late 60s/70s signage, and everyone's favorite canned fish and aperitivo at Sol e Pesca, and at night, it's a scene- more hot pink, than red light.

If you want to flip the script on traditional, take the metro to Parque das Naçoes, a modern microcosm that requires only a 30 minute metro ride to Lisbon's northeast.   Designed and constructed for 1998 World Fair, Parque das Nacoes is a Portuguese Gattaca of wide streets, slick architecture and rectilinear design. From the moment you step out of Oriente Station, you get the vibe. An eco-concerned (and friendly) Lisbon Future where organization, intellectual stimulation and perhaps even art are paramount.  Large maps line the boulevards detailing public art and architecture. And accenting the grid of museums (science, Oceanarium, et cetera), parks and playgrounds, are environmentally-forward projects including public bike stands and recycled waterfalls. This is where you bring kids like me.

Oceanario (Parque de Naçoes

Food

It's always good to have goals and mine are double the fun- pastel de natas, that delicious egg tart, that if slightly singed makes my heart sing, and bifana, a braised pork sandwich garnished with a sweet mustard.  Make it easy by starting in Baixa and follow your nose around Praca Rossio, a large square in Baixa where there are several pastry shops and caffes.  Chances are you'll find pastel de natas and more, and it can't hurt to try them all. In fact, my rule of thumb is no matter where you are in Lisbon, if there is a pastel de nata, eat it.  (For the serious foodie, you can take a 3O metro ride from Rossio to Pasteis de Belem, considered the very best pastry in Lisbon and located near national monument Belem tower).  Bifanas require more foot work and on hand cash.  Baixa is also ideal for bifanas since it always has the most concentration of people and these no frills sandwiches are best enjoyed at no frills caffes, aka cheap.  East of Pracas Rossio is Casas das Bifanas, aka the home of the pork sandwich, and around the NW corner of Pracas Rossio is Cafe Beira Gare, a stand up bar with table service and barely any elbow room.  Though I enjoyed several a bifana, I was completely captivated by its beef counterpart-  the prego, marinated beef strips on bread bun.  Bar tab: 4 euro, sandwich and beer.   No, we did not just snack. Cataplana, a traditional seafood dish from the Algarve region, should be Unesco recognized.  If it's not, we recognized it, as with the rest of Lisbon's seafood.

Prego at Cafe Beira Gare (Baixa)

Tips and Tricks

GUIDE: Lisboa Autentica is a grassroots organization of Lisbon academics who organize tours- walking, biking, around the city- themed and bespoke.  They love Lisbon and it shows. We spent a few hours walking from Principe Real to Chaido with Davide.  Tell him we said hello.

GETTING THERE: Easy.  National carrier TAP Air Portugal dominates the skies.  From Rome FCO, it’s an easy 3-hour direct flight. The planes were modern, the staff young and very friendly. TAP flies non-stop from New York JFK ,and London (along with British Airways.  We hired a car but getting from the airport to the city center is as simple as a metro ride, taxi or bus.

SLEEP: We rested our heads at Tivoli Avenida Liberdade- a reboot of what may be an Art Deco palace on the very posh Avenida da Liberdade, a long, tree-lined boulevard with public squares decorated with monuments and caffe chiosks, while shops with the occasional art deco facade flank.  Avenida's lobby set the stage for what we considered the best weekend ever: luminous, lush couches, vintage decor, contemporary art and an incredible floral arrangement.  Our rooms were modern minimalist, in other words, sleek and spacious, perfect meditation after a long day walking around. Avenida's best kept secret is not only the rooftop Skybar and Terrace restaurant (which is pretty amazing with that all encompassing view) but the backyard pool and spa, a seemingly private piscine (totally round!) surrounded by monumental magnolia trees and azulejos tiles.

EAT: You eat well in Lisbon and quality is priced well.  Along with Tivoli's terrace, think about 100 maneiras, Peixaria da Esquina, Tasca da Esquina  .  And peruse Nelson Carvalheiro's Lisbon-centric website.

Escape Lisbon at Sintra's Fairy-Tale Palace Hotel

When Lisbon starts to feel too much like a city, head to Sintra along the coast for palaces, parks, and a little R&R.   This article first appeared in Fathom, September 2017.

Your palace awaits.  Photo by Erica Firpo.

SINTRA, Portugal – We asked for a fairy tale, and we definitely got one. For a long weekend away from busy Lisbon, we went to the wooded mountainside of Sintra because it is home to a bounty of castles and palaces representing architecture and history spanning millennia. Perfect for hiding out. From medieval to Art Deco, our goal was full fairy-tale immersion in the UNESCO cultural landscape that is said to have inspired Walt Disney’s famous castle. Our hotel, the romantic era Tivoli Palácio de Seteais fell right in line with the fantasy.

RATES

Rates start from $490.

Salao Nobre at Tivoli Palácio de Seteais.

Salao Nobre at Tivoli Palácio de Seteais.

A room at the hotel.

You will feel like royalty.

CHECKING IN

Location
A standalone palace set in the higher foothills of the Sintra Mountains, where the entire expanse of the Sintra-Cascais National Park is at your feet and the romantic Palácio Nacional da Pena and the medieval Castelo dos Mouros (Moorish Castle) sit high on the rocky peaks above. The hotel is walking distance to the town of Sintra, and taxis are on call.

Hotel Style
The late 18th-century neoclassical palace is a period piece, a Portuguese Downton Abbey with elegant period furniture and decor that immediately transported me out of the 21st century. Though it is a palace with regal sprawl, the experience is incredibly personal and intimate. In spite of crashing a christening party, we felt the manor was ours and ours alone.

This Place Is Perfect For
Couples seeking a discreet and gorgeous weekend getaway. Groups (weddings!) wanting a full-service sojourn with lounging, spa, photo ops, and Michelin-worthy meals. And flawless families clad in luxurious linen who need a few days off.

But Not So Perfect For
Families with small, active children who may not appreciate antiques.

What's on Site
Seteais is a micro kingdom, a stately palace with gardens, tennis courts, a 19th-century topiary maze, a beautiful pool, and a wood-slat terrace. The two-wing palace is divided by a neoclassical arch, a historic monument immortalizing Prince Regent John VI and Princess Carlota Joaquin. Sitting rooms, dining rooms, and salons network the ground and bottom levels; guest rooms fill the ground and first levels through both wings. The bar extends to an open-air terrace decorated with fruit trees. The former dovecote is now a tiny and delightfully tranquil spa.

View of the Garden Maze. Photo by Erica Firpo.

View of the Garden Maze. Photo by Erica Firpo.

Swim or rest by the pool. Photo by Erica Firpo.

A Romantic Meal for Two.

Food + Drink
We had brunch and dinner at the Palace restaurant, and both were rich in taste and design. But our favorite meal was lunch from the bar on the terrace overlooking the pool and valley — an amazing and light sopa de peixe (fish soup) and a tiger prawn risotto. The setting was magical. (I can only imagine what it must be like caught in a rain storm during tea time). In the late afternoons, we enjoyed lemonade and ices freshly made from Seteais’ own fruit trees poolside.

Number of Rooms
Thirty period piece rooms and suites. Our ground-level room faced the entrance courtyard, which gave us a front-row view to the mist over Palácio Nacional da Pena. The garden and valley views are even more spectacular.

In-Room Amenities
You had me at queijadas, those tiny egg pastries made with fresh cheese that appeared every afternoon alongside a bottle of port. We only glanced at the mini bar filled with local snacks, water, and beverages, and the de rigeur Nespresso machine. My daughter entertained herself with domino and Spillikin sets from the Tivoli Kids welcome bag, and we caught up Disney’s Soy Luna in Portuguese on the flat-screen TV. My favorite Elemis products were in the bathrooms.

Drawbacks
After enjoying a cornucopia of a Sunday brunch, the weekday breakfast was a bit weak.

Standout Detail
Palácio de Seteais has decidedly maintained its late 18th- and early 19th-century architectural history, from the original royal arch to the garden maze. Thanks to the unique microclimate of Sintra, Palácio de Seteais is incredibly atmospheric — foggy in the mornings, sunny midday, chilly by late afternoon, and cozy cold in the evenings.

Palazzo Pena, the castle that inspired Walt Disney. Photo by Erica Firpo.

The stunning views from the Sintra mountains. Photo by Erica Firpo.

CHECKING OUT

Sinatra is a beautiful, walkable town with lots of boutiques and restaurants, set in the green hills of the Sintra mountains. The area is great for laid-back walks or more strenuous hikes through the Parque de Sintra and visits to the numerous historic castles (from early medieval to romantic to 20th century) that hide in the hills. In 1992, the entire area became the first UNESCO cultural landscape. In other words, you can get your nature and culture on at the same time.

What to Do Nearby
The historic center of Sintra is a labyrinth of boutiques, wine bars, and restaurants. Souvenir shops abound, but the Sintra Bazar is a hub of traditional crafts. For culture vultures, plan to spend the entire day in the Parques de Sintra exploring fantasy Palacio de Pena, the medieval Moorish castle, a quirky chalet, a convent, and more. Then visit the eclectic Quinta de Regalieria, a turn-of-the-century architectural folly. My restaurant favorites are both set into the hills of historic Sintra: Tascantiga, a small tapas spot with a 21st-century vibe that definitely requires a reservation in the summer, and Tacho Real, an historic home with outdoor street seating, live Fado music, and traditional Portugese dishes.

Good to Know
Bring great walking shoes and a scarf. Plan to arrive early at Palacio de Pena (no later than 9.30 a.m.) for the ticket queue. You’ll want to buy the combined Pena/Moorish Castle ticket or, for the more ambitious, the five-park ticket. 

What I Didn’t Do But Wish I Had
A horseback riding trail tour through the park.

PLAN YOUR TRIP

How to Get There
Lisbon International Airport (LIS) is 20 miles (a 35-minute drive) from Sintra. The airport is served by flag carrier TAP Portugal, along with US airlines American, Delta, and United, as well as most major European carriers like Alitalia, British Airways, Turkish Airways, and Air France.

Getting Around
You will need a car to get there, but not once you are there. There are buses, taxis, and tuk-tuks, but the entire area is walkable.

Cheat Sheet: Day Trip from Lisbon
I stayed overnight, but Sintra is an easy day trip from Lisbon, accessible by local trains, Uber, and taxis. (The locals prefer Uber to taxis.) For a perfect day, wake up early and catch an Uber to Sintra. Start with a visit to Palácio Nacional da Pena, where the exterior is more interesting than the interior, and doesn’t require waiting on an insane line. Next stop, the less crowded Castelo dos Mouros, where the interiors and exteriors are both outstanding. Then go to Tivoli Palácio de Seteais for a long, leisurely lunch on the outdoor patio, followed by a stroll around the hotel where you should totally pretend it’s all yours. From there, walk to Quinta de Regalieria and wander for hours around the Game of Thrones castle through the grounds and turrets, pausing for pictures at the subterranean tower. The only reason to leave Quinta is because you're tired of walking. From here, it’s a 20-minute walk back to the shops and cafes in town for souvenirs and refreshments and to catch the train back to Lisbon.