Staff Review

Lisbon & the Algarve


1 Sep 2023

by The Kirker Team

Kirker Holidays

My trip started in the coastal capital of Portugal: Lisbon. Lisbon is perfect for a short city break on its own, but also works perfectly as part of a longer itinerary. In my case, this included a a journey through the countryside of the Alentejo to the beaches of the Algarve, and all the way to the border with Andalucia.

After a 2.5hr flight, I touched down in Lisbon and was whisked away to my hotel in a smart Mercedes with a friendly driver. The first item on my list was to visit the Torre de Belem, a 16th century fortification that served as the point of embarkation and disembarkation for Portuguese explorers. The Belem district is slightly outside of the main centre of the city, but well worth a visit to see the tower, take a stroll along the river or sample the renowned Pasteis de Nata served at the revered Pasteis de Belem.

My next stop was to Jeronimos Monastery – a magnificent piece of Portuguese Gothic architecture which served as the monastery for the Order of Saint Jerome. The Lisbon card, which is included in all our holidays to Lisbon, allowed me access into both attractions as well as the transport to get there and back. Before heading back to my hotel, I took a trip on the number 28, a historic tram which passes through the most popular districts of Lisbon and is a great way to see the city.

I stayed at the Lisboa Plaza; this is a simple 4* hotel in a great location just off the Avenida Liberdade, the city’s main thoroughfare and served as a great base for exploring Lisbon. Two other hotels that I highly recommend would be the Lapa Palace and Bairro Alto. The Lapa Palace is a short taxi ride from the centre of Lisbon and is a paradise in the summer, where you can relax in the gardens and take a dip in the pool whereas the Bairro Alto is located in a buzzy area of the city.

The Bairro Alto district is where I chose to dine that evening at the Bairro de Avillez – a modern style brasserie headed by one of Lisbon’s top chefs – Jose Avillez. It was a highlight of my trip indulging in fresh tuna tartare followed by Bacalhau (salt codfish), washed down with a glass of Vinho Verde.

After a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast I picked up a car from downtown Lisbon with Avis using their "Quick "Pass" system which sped up the whole process and was a painless experience. From here, I drove for a couple of hours southwest, down to the Alentejo region. The calm and wild Alentejo is a stark contrast from the lively metropolis of Lisbon and Herdade da Mahadinha Nova is an idyllic spot to spend a couple of nights. A Relais and Chateaux property split into 5 separate mini-hotels on a sprawling estate that is home to olive groves and vineyards. The food here farm to table, with the star being Alentejo pork accompanied by a glass, or even a bottle, of local red wine.

After two nights in Alentejo, I continued my journey southwards to the Algarve for sun, sea and sand. The Algarve boasts beautiful sandy beaches lapped by pure blue waters as well as fresh seafood including Portugal’s famed sardines. In terms of properties that we offer in this region, there were two standout hotels. The first was Domes Lake Hotel in Vilamoura – a 5* upscale resort, located in the golf area of Vilamoura and a 15 minute walk from the beach with a number of restaurants, pools and as the name suggests a lake. If you are looking for slightly more privacy, then opt for the "haute living" rooms which grant you access to an exclusive lounge area serving drinks and snacks throughout the day.

The second hotel was the Grand House in Vila Real de Santo Antonio. This is a hotel located in the deep south of the Algarve and is a hidden gem. It is a boutique hotel in a very upmarket town situated on the banks of the River Guardania, separating Portugal from Spain. Spain is a short ferry crossing over the water with Seville being an hour drive away, meaning this makes a great extension to your holiday spending a few days in Seville. The Grand House also has a beach club reached within 5 minutes by a complimentary shuttle; the beach club offers Mediterranean cuisine, a swimming pool and a small beach cove.

From here, I headed to Faro Airport already planning my next trip to Portugal...

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