Portugal’s Alentejo, Three Ways


Just two hours from Lisbon, a lesser–explored landscape of cork–oak forests and vine–covered hills is home to noteworthy design hotels, artisan boutiques and wineries.

For the Design Enthusiast

The exterior of Dá Licença at dusk in Alentejo
A private pool off of a guest room at the Dá Licença in Alentejo
Dá Licença   Photos: Francisco Nogueira


Amid the olive groves and sheep pastures, design haven Dá Licença emerges like a mirage just outside Estremoz. A cluster of white cubist buildings includes nine stylish and contemporary guest rooms, an art gallery and a belvedere with 360–degree views. Dá Licença’s design puts a spotlight on the world–renowned marble from local quarries, with pieces in various hues defining the majestic circular main pool plus private lap pools, remarkable bathtubs carved from one sensuous slab in The Loft and The Rock suites, and even door handles.

Breakfast is served amid jasmine–lined private palapas and always includes fresh produce from the property and nearby farms. Orange juice will never taste the same after you have tried the freshly squeezed juice from Dá Licença’s groves.

February 7, 2024


Howard’s Folly is not only Portugal's inaugural urban winery, but also a vibrant restaurant where chef Hugo Bernardo artfully reimagines Alentejo classics like papada de porco. In a converted heritage building in the historic town of Estremoz, the complex also includes daytime eatery Pelourinho Bistro, a wine and local provisions boutique, and a visitor centre with a tasting room. Take home a bottle of the highly rated 2018 Sonhador local red as souvenir.

The magnificent exterior of the Berardo Estremoz Museum in Alentejo
Berardo Estremoz Museum   Photo: Alentejo Promotion Office
An artist with their finished plate from Casa Cubista in Alentejo
A colourfully striped plate and vases from Casa Cubista in Alentejo
Casa Cubista


Portugal’s architecture is adorned inside and out with the vibrant hues and intricate patterns of azulejo tiles. Explore this 800–year–old art form at the Berardo Estremoz Museum (Palácio Torcha), an opulent sprawling mansion just off Estremoz’s refined main square.

Ceramic master craftsmanship lives on in São Pedro do Corval, a hub of more than 20 artisanal pottery workshops that welcome visitors. Skilled artisans continue ancient clay–shaping traditions alongside hip new companies like Casa Cubista. Founded by Canadians Arren Williams and David Pimentel, the line is building global buzz by infusing mid–century design aesthetics into the Portuguese pottery and homewares traditions.

For the Epicure

The cozy living area of a suite at São Lourenço do Barrocal in Alentejo
Beekeeping at the São Lourenço do Barrocal in Alentejo
São Lourenço do Barrocal   Photos: Ash James (left); Jorge Vieira (right)


It would be inaccurate to describe São Lourenço do Barrocal as merely a hotel. The massive 1,927–acre family estate encompasses a farm, a vineyard, a restored village and a cultural hub dedicated to preserving traditional crafts. It has all the trappings of luxury digs, including huge rooms, a spa, two restaurants and two bars, and an estate produce shop. An agrarian paradise, as reinvented by Pritzker Prize–winning Portuguese architect Eduardo Souto de Moura, its grand swimming pool alone is worth the visit. Set out on the hotel’s bicycles to explore kilometres of scenic trails.

The winding hilltop village of Monsaraz in Alentejo
Monsaraz   Photo: Alentejo Promotion Office


In the unlikely event you tire of the farm–to–table menu at São Lourenço do Barrocal, take a 10–minute drive to the medieval hilltop village of Monsaraz and nab a patio table at Taverna Os Templários. Alentejo recipes like borrego assado (roasted lamb) have stood unchanged for centuries form the bedrock of the region’s culinary identity. Afterward, walk off the inevitably large portions on the cobbled streets and ruins of this living–museum village.


Alentejo has many architecturally significant wineries, among which Herdade do Freixo stands out. Imagine New York’s Guggenheim Museum in reverse: this facility spirals into the 740–acre landscape like a colossal corkscrew, sustainably harnessing gravity for the winemaking process while preserving the beauty of the sprawling estate. Guided tours culminate in a chilly cavernous tasting room three floors below the vineyard.

For the Architecture Buff

The brightly lit dining area of Casa do Gadanha in Alentejo
The elegant lounge area of Casa do Gadanha beside a minimalist staircase in Alentejo
Casa do Gadanha


Enter the world of Brazilian native Michele Marques, owner of upscale restaurant and boutique Mercearia Gadanha. Just a few blocks away is Casa do Gadanha, a 12–room ancestral mansion she has reimagined into a boutique hotel that fuses urban elegance and rural allure. Bespoke ceramic tiles and sinks adorn bathrooms accessorized with locally sourced linens and amenities.

From the rooftop bar, terrace and “cocktail pool,” panoramic views of Estremoz confirm why it’s dubbed “the white city”, showcasing alabaster facades and marble deposits that dot the surrounding landscape.


Estremoz’s restored main square hosts a vibrant Saturday market and makes an ideal everyday picnic spot. Shop like a local and assemble a gourmet spread from the nearby Pingo Doce supermarket, including Évora sheep’s milk cheese, artisanal charcuterie, fresh bread, pastries and a bottle of wine.

Linger over after–picnic drinks at Mercearia Gadanha or one of the many casual establishments lining Rua 31 de Janeiro between Largo General Graça and the Praça de Toiros bullring.

The Duke's Room at the Ducal Palace at Vila Viçosa in Alentejo
Ducal Palace at Vila Viçosa     Photo: Fundação da Casa de Bragança
Deep marble quarries at Rota do Mármore in Alentejo
Rota do Mármore


Unleash your inner Edward Burtynsky on a tour of ancient yet operational marble quarries near the town of Vila Viçosa. Rota do Mármore offers two– to three–hour expeditions of the marble route under the guidance of João Bravinho, self–proclaimed “Mayor of the Quarries.”  Look down into primary quarries (some descending as much as 200 metres) that offer epic photo opportunities, then stop at processing plants and artists’ studios between Estremoz and Vila Viçosa.

The Ducal Palace at Vila Viçosa is a showcase for the quarries’ masterpieces. A resplendent 110–metre–long blue marble facade adorns the palace, and meticulously restored period interiors offering glimpses into 500 years of the Bragança royal family legacy.