Posted by on 01 Nov 2019 , in Europe
Natural beauty meets timeless luxury in Portugal’s solares. If the usual hotel setup has lost its charm on you and you’re out for something unique and authentic, it might be high time for you to book a stay in one of the stunning solares that dot Portugal from north to south. But what are they? Solares de Portugal are privately-owned stately manor houses, rustic farmhouses and elegant country homes. They are often found in places of natural beauty and surrounded by the country’s most spectacular of landscapes including beautifully designed gardens, vineyards that produce rich in-house wines, fruit orchards, and woodlands.
Solares are not your usual accommodation.
Staying in any of the solares is travelling back in time and exposing oneself to the history of Portugal. Each of the solares represents centuries of Portuguese heritage since majority of the grand 17th and 18th century houses are of noble origin and are still in the ownership of the descendants of the founding families. Don’t be surprised to find centuries-old furniture inside, or original painted portraits of some long-dead king or local baron adorning the dining room, only to find out later on that they were actually family relations who walked the same halls or killed time in the same living room you just walked out of.
Stone arches and wood beams in a breakfast room? Lovely.
Aside from their historical value, another great appeal to solares is the warm hospitality that awaits travellers. In hotels, you are treated like guests; in solares, you are treated like family. Expect your hosts to take you on leisurely tours of the nearby villages or explorations of the surrounding countryside. Prepare to be regaled with stories passed down through generations and learn of myths and legends known only to locals. In a solares, you’ll feel like you’re just visiting some distant relatives who happen to live in a jaw-dropping estate, not a stranger in a strange land.
Here are the ten most amazing solares of Portugal you might want to consider the next time you visit!
PACO DE CALHEIROS
This 17th century manor house is where you’ll want to stay if you want to wake up to wonderful views of the beautiful Lima Valley. Perched on a high hill and framed by 13 acres of orchards and vineyards, Paco de Calheiros offers a delightful experience to nature lovers, history buffs and wine aficionados. The manor house features rooms filled with furniture dating back to the 16th century, some of which belonged to Queen Carlota Joaquina, Queen of Portugal and Empress of Brazil, and some even accommodated Napoleon when he stayed in the Convento de Mafra.
CASA DE ÓBIDOS
Casa de Óbidos is a fine example of a great farming house in the region, highlighted by a 19th century manor house where guests are treated to unhampered views of the the Óbidos Castle, a medieval fortress from the 9th century and one of the 7 wonders of Portugal. If you can’t stay in the much sought-after castle, Casa de Óbidos is the next best thing! The manor house might have retained its historic characteristics but it is by no means outdated. It has a private swimming pool, an outstanding tennis court and charming gardens you’d like to get lost in.
CASA DO AMEAL
When they called Casa do Ameal “a green island at the foot of the city”, they weren’t kidding. This beautifully-preserved 16th century noble Minho house is surrounded by lots of charming green spaces, from ancient verdant trees to latticed vines, and boasts its own stone fountain and pond. Don’t forget to check out the in-house handicrafts and costumes museum! Casa do Ameal is located in the quiet Riberia Lima region, near the Lima river estuary and mere two kilometres from the historical centre of Viana do Castelo.
QUINTA DA VEIGA
Perched high on the right bank of the Douro River between Régua and Pinhão, there’s no better base to explore the majestic and mystical Douro Valley than Quinta da Veiga. This elegant country house’s privileged location inside the classified Douro World Heritage Area affords guests wonderful views of the river and the valley’s emerald slopes and wine terraces. The estate also offers a large sun terrace with a swimming pool, and much of its original architecture and materials and traditional characteristics were retained.
CASA DAS TORRES DE OLIVEIRA
Peso da Régua
Port wine fans, this one’s for you! Located in the heart of the Upper Douro region, Casa das Torres de Oliveira saw the rise in demand for Port wine and is a key player in its production and export. Stay in the early 18th century Baroque style manor house and learn not just the interesting history of the vast estate but also of the Port winemaking industry in the region. Take time to admire the mansion’s splendid granite stonework and proportioned forms. The white and blue ceramic tiles lining the base of several walls and the great stone staircase are common features of patrician buildings back then. Period furniture and works of art also fill the interior of the house, and its baroque-style private chapel is a masterpiece in itself.
CASA DAS TORRES DE FACHA
Designed by the renowned Italian architect Nicolau Nasoni, Casa das Torres beautifully captured and preserved 18th century design and architecture during the reign of Dom João V. The lavish, traditional manor house features remarkable Baroque windows, a lofty gateway and a spacious courtyard. Majestic ancient trees and inviting green spaces surround the property, and there’s a swimming pool for guests’ enjoyment. Also, if you want to gain some insight on how a manor house works or about farming in the region, this is your chance since you’ll probably be invited to take part in farming activities while there!
QUINTA DO MONTEVERDE
Built between the 16th and 17th centuries and situated near the sea, Quinta do Monteverde is an alluring refuge tucked in the hills and back-dropped by the sea. This stunning manor house was completely renovated but retained its original secular touch and the ancient-looking entrance is enough to convince anyone. Another attractive thing about this walled estate is that it’s only 10 minutes away from the old city of Viana do Castelo, and 30 minutes from the UNESCO World Heritage City of Porto. The Gerês National Park and some of Portugal’s fabulous beaches are also within reach.
CASA DO BARREIRO
You’ll be charmed the moment you step onto the gorgeous central courtyard of Casa do Barreiro. Built in 1652, this charming yellow-painted manor house exudes timeless elegance and warm welcome that keep guests coming again and again. The cosy ambiance of a family home becomes all the more pronounced when you come inside. Low ceilings, worn tile floors, old wooden doors, intimate furnishings, and family mementos fill the interior, and evening meals served in the exquisite dining room are something to look forward to.
CASA DA LAGE
The handsome Casa da Lage is a restored 17th century manor house complete with wooden-beamed ceilings, stone walls and Gothic four-poster beds. As expected of a fine Minho home, the house’s grand public rooms are opulently furnished and have highly ornate ceilings and excellent carvings, with the family’s coat of arms as prime example. Traditional regional costumes adorn the stone-walled dining room, and there’s also the pretty breakfast room (stone arches and wood beams, you get the idea) on the ground floor. Surrounded by rich agricultural and forestry land, Casa da Lage offers a lot for those seeking privacy and tranquility.
CASA DO CAMPO DE MOLARES
Rising high up in the hills overlooking the Tamega River, Casa do Campo is an impressive two-storey stone and stucco country manor house fronted by an aged wall and with a history tracing back to the 17th century. Each of the inviting guestrooms is lavishly furnished with handsome antiques, and guests have the privilege of exploring the terrace above the mansion. The estate’s to-die-for gardens are a wonderland made of covered pathways, fountains and immaculately trimmed Camellias believed to be around 200 years old. Some even claim that the oldest Camellia in all of Portugal is within the estate. When there, take the chance to visit the beautiful small Renaissance chapel in the property which still hosts masses until today.