A super stop-off en route to the bigger cities of Porto and Lisbon, Coimbra has plenty to see and do, making it well worth an overnight or two. It was once the country’s capital and is home to Portugal’s oldest university, now a UNESCO World Heritage site, that dates back to the 18th century (climb the bell tower for the best views). Coimbra is a river city with a charming medieval old town and a library containing hundreds of thousands of antique tomes — a boat trip along the Mondego is a great way to see it. And Coimbra has plenty of modern attractions too.
A former noblewoman’s residence, this palace in the Serra Lousã hills contains three centuries of stories inside, with mountain views outside. 46 rooms are available in the original house (with period features and a Juliet balcony), or in the newer wing — all are glamorous with on-trend meets vintage decor. Guests can swim indoors within the spa area, or in the garden’s outdoor pool. Portuguese plates are served in the fashionable top-floor À Terra, either in the main dining room or at the chef’s table in a glass-ceilinged annexe. And A Viscondessa is Octant Lousã’s new venue for fine food.
Quinta das Lágrimas
A grand home that once welcomed emperors and royalty (including providing the backdrop for Prince Pedro and Inês de Castro’s illicit love affair), Quinta das Lágrimas is now a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World. Indeed, you can read about the local history in ancient books contained within the hotel’s exotic wood-panelled library. Set among 12 acres of gardens, the estate includes a pool surrounded by Balinese-style daybeds, a golf course, a golf academy, a driving range, a putting green, sweeping stone staircases and a dining terrace. Inside is the Bamboo Garden Spa and pool with floor-to-ceiling windows and several excellent eateries.