Portugal’s Latest Michelin Stars

Lisbon's Eleven Restaurant

The influential Michelin Restaurants Guide has just announced its star awards for Portugal. Two new entries this year are for restaurants in Amarante (“Casa da Calçada”) and Madeira (“Il Gallo d’Oro” in the Cliff Bay Hotel), while a previously awarded restaurant, Porto de Santa Maria in Cascais has had its star taken away after 25 years. But that seaside town of Cascais just outside Lisbon still has a Michelin star shining at Fortaleza do Guincho.

Lisbon’s Eleven kept its star, while Portugal’s best restaurant according to that guide is Villa Joya in Algarve with two stars. In fact, Michelin’s favorite Portuguese restaurants are mostly found in that southern tip of the country, with other winners São Gabriel, Henrique Leis e Amadeus all located in Almacil. Also recognized was Coimbra’s “Arcadas da Capela” inside Quinta das Lagrimas Hotel with one star.

Trying hard to make it to this exclusive list next year: Lisbon’s Tavares.

Portugal is Hot

Beach in Portugal

Conde Nast Traveler magazine just published its “100 Best in the World” list in its November issue, ranking the hottest destinations according to its readers. Portugal seems to be a new favorite, ranking high in several categories.

In the European Resorts list, Penha Longa in Sintra was considered the best one in the continent, while #3 is also found in Portugal — Evora’s Convento do Espinheiro Hotel and Spa. In the top 20 are also the Albatroz Hotel in Cascais (#14), and Quinta do Lago in Algarve (#15).

In its hotel rankings, the publication also devides the lists by continents, and Europe into “Northern Europe” and “Southern Europe.” Lisbon’s Bairro Alto Hotel was considered the 9th best Southern European hotel in a list dominated by Italian and French hotels.

In the best European island category (topped by Mykonos and followed by Capri), Madeira ranked 6th, ahead of Sardinia and Crete.

These results are just the latest confirmation that Portugal is quietly seducing visitors through excellence and becoming a hot European destination. For complete information about all of the country’s cities and sights, see GoLisbon’s extensive Portugal guide.

10 Reasons to Go to the New Cool and Sophisticated Algarve in September

Memmo Baleeira Hotel, Algarve
Portugal’s Algarve has gone from being a cheap holiday destination for British tourists, to an attractive European family getaway, to an increasingly upmarket resort area. We just told you about Europe’s first 6-star hotel opening up in the region soon, and a growing number of luxurious and more sophisticated design hotels are popping up like mushrooms along the coast.

The rich and the famous have taken notice, and this year saw familiar faces like Hollywood actor Tim Robbins and French actress Catherine Deneuve descending towards the southern Portuguese shores. Joining the crowds then came Olympic medalist Michael Phelps, who flew straight from Beijing to Algarve for a few days of rest by the beach after his record-breaking performance in this year’s Olympics. It was reported that he spent €5,000 in drinks in just one night, but you don’t have to spend that much or be a celebrity to enjoy the best of Algarve. There are many reasons why you should go there this month, and these are the top 10:

1. The August crowds are gone, prices have gone slightly down, and the weather is still great! Summer goes on in September in Algarve, and in fact, lasts through October. These are the most enjoyable weeks in the region.

2. I stayed at the Memmo Baleeira Hotel last year and will return again next time I’m in Sagres. The rooms look out over the pool standing on top of a cliff which also offers a view to the coast that was known as “the end of the world” to the ancient Europeans before Prince Henry the Navigators’ exploration of the oceans. Even cooler is the modern design all throughout the hotel, including in the wellness center and spa.

3. An alternative to Memmo Baleeira is Pousada de Sagres, just a few steps away. It does not have the all-modern design but offers the elegance and top-notch service that the Pousadas de Portugal chain is known for. Look from your window or stand by the pool and you’ll see Prince Henry the Navigator’s fortress in the distance, which you may visit later in the day. Even better news is that in September there are good deals you can’t get during the traditional summer months.

4. I have stayed in six Pousadas de Portugal so far and the Pousada de Tavira was one of my favorites (which I wrote about here). Being housed in a former 16th century convent, it has the historical feel of other pousadas, but the contemporary décor gives it a light and fresh atmosphere which is just what you want when you’re so close to the beach. And speaking of the beach, the little island of Tavira just outside the town of Tavira is perfect under the still-warm September sun, minus the summer overcrowding!

5. Another sign of Algarve moving towards satisfying the more refined tastes of the modern traveler is Monte D’Oiro Refugio Design Hotel. It’s located just outside Lagos, arguably Algarve’s most beautiful town and with the best beaches. Every detail from the breakfast room to the outdoor swimming pool combines characteristics of the Algarve with stylish modern furnishings. A hotel of this calibre would cost you about 5 times more anywhere else, so the time to book it is now.

6. You no longer have to go to Miami or St. Tropez to experience the ultra-cool Nikki Beach. Now open in Algarve’s Vilamoura, this beach club and lounge is the place to see and be seen. Surrounded by the famous marina, you can relax in luxury at the lakeside restaurant and then stay all night long for drinks. It’s only open until October, so if you don’t want to have to wait until next year, go now.

7. Once you’ve been-there-done-that at Nikki Beach, head to Amo-te Pine Cliffs. Located in the Sheraton Pine Cliffs Resort, this 2-year-old space is one of the new places to be at night. The ambience may feel slightly formal when you look at some of the people but overall it manages to maintain a casual attitude in service. Have a caipirinha or a sangria as you listen to house music, or move to the more chilled-out zone in the open air.

8. From Septemer 26 to the 28th, the Grand Prix of Portugal Powerboat P1 World Championship will take place in Praia da Rocha, the postcard beach by the city of Portimão. As if there weren’t enough reasons to come to this big and beautiful beach, now you can watch the powerful boats cutting through the waves at speeds of over 160 kph in an exciting and spectacular contest.

9. Also in Portimão, the Formula Windsurfing World Championships will take place from September 9th to 14th. It’s the world’s largest annual windsurfing event, for which only the finest international windsurfers quality. Watch the thrilling competition from the beach, and work on your late-summer tan while you’re at it.

10. What would Algarve be like without golf? The two words are almost synonymous, as this is one of the top golfing destinations not just in Europe, but of the entire world. Check out the deals for this month at the Dona Maria San Lorenzo Resort, where you can golf in the stunning 18-hole course, or if you’re not into that, simply stay in the hotel with its breathtaking views of the Atlantic and world-class facilities at incredibly affordable prices. You have no excuse for not taking advantage of it.

See GoLisbon’s complete Algarve guide for all the information you’ll need about visiting Portugal’s southernmost province where it’s summer almost all year long.

Europe’s first 6-star hotel opening in Portugal

Europe's first 6-star hotel in Portugal As world travelers become more demanding and sophisticated, the regular 5-star treatment is just not enough. For a more exclusive luxurious experience, those who can afford it have been wanting something extra. The result was the creation of a 6-star service. But you’ll have to go to super-rich Dubai for that because there are still none in Europe — until next year.In 2009 Portugal will be home to Europe’s first 6-star accommodation, with the opening of Palacio da Quinta in Algarve. It will be located in Quinta do Lago, already an exclusive destination at the moment. It seems millionaire coach José Mourinho is one of the property’s investors, so you know you’ll be hearing a lot about it in the upcoming months.

Palacio da Quinta will not simply have hotels rooms. It will offer penthouses and apartments (from one to four-bedrooms) surrounded by 17 acres of subtropical gardens. For meals, guests do not have to worry about waking up for breakfast in time or having their choices limited by what’s available on the menu for dinner because they’ll have a private chef.

For other services they won’t need to call reception. Their butler will take care of whatever they need. Need to go somewhere? Their chauffeur will take them there. Need to go somewhere a little farther? Their private jet or yacht is waiting for them.

Of course you’re wondering if you can be one of them and how much it will all cost you. It will be a mere $1.9 million for a one-bedroom suite, all the way up to $5 million for the 4-bedroom penthouse. But don’t worry, if $1.9 million is all you can afford, everyone still gets a terrace spa bath with views of the garden, pools, and lakes included.

Now that you know what you’re paying for, you’re dying to know what it will all look like. Picture marble floors, an intelligent home system, and designer touches.

And since Portugal’s Algarve is one of the world’s top golf destinations, there are special discounts for the famous greens in Southern Portugal. That’s just to guarantee that you don’t miss all that Algarve has to offer.

After all, Portugal’s sunny province promotes itself in the tourism world with an extra “L” as “Allgarve,” reminding visitors that it’s got it all, not just beach and sun. And this new 6-star luxury leaves no room for doubt about that…

Summer in Algarve

Algarve beachIt is now time to begin making summer vacation plans and that usually means a warm sunny place by the sea, plenty of leisure facilities, and nightlife fun. With the weak dollar, that also means a relatively inexpensive place for most Americans, although that also applies to pretty much everyone else in these uncertain economic times. All that essentially summarizes one destination: Algarve.Portugal’s southernmost coast was once known as the end of the world and remains quite a mystical place today. The coast of Sagres (known as the retreat of Prince Henry the Navigator) is just as breathtaking and stunning as in the 15th century, and whitewashed towns such as lovely Tavira remain as charming and timeless as ever.

The rock formations and blue-green waters around Lagos and Ponta da Piedade will remind you of Cabo San Lucas in the Mexican Riviera, but step into the old center of Lagos or Albufeira and you’ll find typically Mediterranean towns (although facing the Atlantic), and a laid-back European atmosphere mixing an exotic Moorish or North African flavor.

Those looking for a more luxurious experience should look for the upscale resorts of Quinta do Lago, Vale do Lobo, and Vilamoura, which offer world-class golf and just the right amount of pampering to guarantee that you’ll return home feeling refreshed and recharged.

Complete detailed information about all of Algarve is found on the special Portugal section of the Go Lisbon website. It ranks the area’s top 10 beaches and destinations, as well as offer plenty of accommodation options. Algarve has all that you need for the perfect holiday, and GoLisbon.com has all you need to plan it.