Penha Longa literally translates to ‘long rock’ and is associated with the large-scale rocks that were piled up by nature forming a natural hideaway on top of a hill.
The resort, a destination in its own right, is run by the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and sits on 545 acres of national park surrounded by natural and architectural beauty.
Upon arrival at Penha Longa I was offered a smile, a cold towel and a refreshing juice. The impressive lobby lounge featuring very tall ceilings, a massive chandelier, marble flooring and walls, elegant lounge furniture and gorgeous flower arrangements sets the standard for the rest of the hotel.
Penha Longa has a long-standing history that dates all the way back to the 14th century. In 1355 Vasco Martins chose Penha Longa to establish the Jeronimos Order in Portugal and commissioned the construction of a monastery. In later years King Joāo I further developed the Religious Order and a church was built on the premises. During the 16th and 17th century Penha Longa became a popular summer retreat for the royal family of Portugal. During that period they also built a Palace (Palacio Pena) to host the Kings and their guests, gardens, fountains, watermills and oratories – monuments that represent great examples of Renaissance architecture and the Manueline style. In the late 17th and mid 18th century natural disasters destroyed parts of the monuments and they needed to be rebuilt. With the abolition of Religious Orders in 1834, Penha Longa including its monuments was sold in auction and thereafter remained in possession of noble families up to 1988. In 1993 the complex was purchased by Deutsche Bank and transformed into an exclusive luxury resort.
The main building, which is home to the 194 rooms and suites, the fitness and wellness centre, several restaurants and meeting rooms, was designed to match the architectural style of the historic buildings in its surroundings.
I checked into a spacious Deluxe room with lovely views and one of the most comfortable beds I have ever slept in! Even though I am not a fan of wall-to-wall carpets in hotels or anywhere for that matter, I appreciated the balcony, the Nespresso machine, the Asprey bath amenities and of course the bed! The style of the room is classic contemporary and features a neutral colour scheme.
Sports enthusiasts won’t be disappointed at the Penha Longa Resort. There is a multitude of activities available for all ages, including jogging trails, tennis courts, fitness, wellness, indoor and outdoor pools, kids’ & teen club, playground and mini golf. For the adult and more seasoned golfer there is a 27-hole golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones set within stunning landscape and Roman ruins.
The Wellness Centre is slightly dated, but of generous dimensions and the indoor and outdoor pool looked very inviting. The Spa (not included), which is located within the former Royal Apartments also features a Japanese inspired Zen garden and meditation labyrinth (complimentary). It’s the perfect place to relax the senses and ponder upon life.
A total of 6 restaurants, including the Michelin star LAB by Sergi Arola, offer you a wide range of cuisines, including Italian, Japanese and of course Portuguese. Each restaurant is designed differently, ranging from classic contemporary to hip and trendy. Personally, I particularly enjoyed the authentic antiques and artefacts dotted throughout the common areas, which harmoniously blend with the classic contemporary style of the hotel.
The historic 14th century monastery and chapel are a great place to explore and a wonderful representation of Portuguese architecture and design. The combination of colours and the many patterns found in wall tiles and ceiling ornamentation are truly inspiring.
For more history, architecture and design I headed to the Palacio Nacional da Pena and I was blown away. A fantastic mix of revivalist styles, such as neo-Gothic, neo-Manueline, neo-Islamic and neo-Renaissance. The facades are painted in a multitude of colours and are decorated with patterned tiles and ornaments. The interiors of the palace were kept in the original design of the Kings and Queens who had lived there. The rooms are filled with furniture and decor from that era. In addition you get to enjoy some fantastic views across the Cultural Landscape of Sintra’s World Heritage site, the coastal town of Cascais and the Atlantic Ocean.
Due to lack of time I didn’t get to explore the massive park surrounding the Palace, the Moorish Castle nor any other of the many historic sites in the region – reason enough to return to Sintra and discover more of what it has to offer!
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Photography: courtesy of Penha Longa
Note: This blog post was created in collaboration with the hotel (press trip)