Tried & tested: Torre de Palma Wine Hotel, Alentejo, Portugal
"A wine hotel?", you muse, "what might that be?" Think super stylish accommodation surrounded by rolling vineyards, and you're on the right track. After sampling everything this historic residence has to offer, it's time to share what makes Torre de Palma so special, and why you should add it to your luxury hotel wish list for 2017/2018.
- What makes Torre de Palma special?
- Room types
- Wining and dining
- Things to do at Torre de Palma
- Tried and tested tips
- Where is Torre de Palma?
What makes Torre de Palma Wine Hotel special?
You know that feeling of walking into the heavenly-scented, calming atmosphere of The White Company? Well, it's a little like that with a touch of the classical at Torre de Palma. Here, the clean lines, minimalist spaces, and almost Scandi flavour combine with the traditional architecture to accentuate the restored estate buildings.
The house, which dates back to 1338, had fallen into a serious state of disrepair when it was bought by a British couple in the early noughties. In 2014, they opened their exquisitely designed, decorated, and finished Torre de Palma Wine Hotel to the public, and today it welcomes visitors from around the globe.
At Torre de Palma, it's all about making yourself comfortable, feeling at home, and indulging in life's little pleasures - forget your hectic lifestyle and slip into the laidback vibe. The public areas are very chilled with big soft sofas in the lounge where you can switch on a film or read a book, and intimate spaces in the bar. Lookout for curious works of art dotted around, such as the suspended (and scaled down) dinosaur skeleton.
One of the most appealing things about Torre de Palma has to be its setting. The landscape offers much to admire, with plains of wheat and olive groves unfurling to the west, and vineyards standing to attention in the more immediate surroundings. Watch the resident storks perching high on their platforms, and wander among the kitchen garden where homegrown herbs and vegetables flourish.
What are the rooms like?
In a word, bliss. There are four different room types to choose from at Torre de Palma: double, superior double, family rooms, and a master suite. Whichever you choose, you're guaranteed a private space bursting with character, each being a little different to the next, with individual quirks and features.
The delightful double and superior double rooms are great for couples or if you're travelling solo. Family rooms, meanwhile, are also a great size for couples settling in for more than a night or two. All of the rooms are so lovingly, creatively put together with distinct colours and themes differentiating them.
The master suite, as you might expect, offers an opulent space in which to relax and unwind for up to five people. Settle into your living and dining areas before seeking out the separate bedroom, all expertly decorated with wood and stone featuring throughout.
While the looks vary from room to room, there are a few consistencies you can count on, such as air conditioning, a mini-bar, safe, hairdryer, wifi, robes, iPod docking station, TV, and more.
Wining and dining at Torre de Palma
We all judge a hotel by its breakfast, and at Torre de Palma you won't be disappointed. Basilii, the hotel's signature restaurant, puts on a mighty continental spread of fresh pastries, fruit, juices, yoghurt, meats and cheeses. You can also choose from the hot menu, and have your eggs cooked to order.
Basilii serves up far more than a breakfast of champions, however. The monochrome interiors artfully blend old and new; vintage chandeliers hang alongside contemporary porcelain animals heads, which look down on fine white-clothed-tables ringed by Kartell's iconic Louis Ghost chairs.
This theme is also reflected in the menu as Alentejo favourites are given a new age facelift - pig popcorn and wasabi merengue just two of the standout combos. Dinner at Bailii is a romantic affair, and the menu gives plenty of options from creative fish and succulent meat dishes to extravagant desserts. Meals can be paired with the estate's wines, something that's worth trying during your stay at Torre de Palma.
You will only truly get to know Torre de Palma by getting to know its wine, and there's no better place to do so than at the hotel's winery. Pick from a variety of experiences, be it a simple introduction and short tasting, to a more detailed tasting with local delicacies, or a comprehensive look at the way the wine is produced.
If you would like a more hands-on experience, stay at the end of summer to get involved with harvesting the grapes. You will learn about the different varieties, sort, and even have a go at 'foot treading' all the while earning your reward, a bottle of wine and paired dinner in Basilii.
What activities are on offer at Torre de Palma Wine Hotel?
Torre de Palma has a number of things to do on site, ranging from relaxing pampering to exciting activities. The spa has a tempting treatment menu, with the usual suspects like facial treatments, massages, exfoliating scrubs, and wraps. There's also an indoor pool, a Turkish bath (or hamam) and a Jacuzzi at the spa. Outside, you'll find the sun-drenched swimming pool lined with grape vine, and stocked with a bar, day beds and parasols.
If you fancy trying something a little more active, head to the stables and give horse riding a go. Whether you're a novice (opt for beginner's lessons in the paddock) or a pro on four legs, there's an appropriate horse riding experience for you. For a memorable start to the day, you might want to book an early morning hot air balloon ride to get your very own bird's eye view of the estate.
Torre de Palma is also ideally located for exploring Alentejo. The UNESCO sites at Evora and Elvas are a short drive away, while countless other wineries can be found on Alentejo's official wine route. Then there's the Alentejo path network, which has quite literally a book full of waymarked hikes of all lengths and difficulties in the area. A scenic day trip is found heading into the Natural Park of Serra de São Mamede, where you'll discover pretty whitewashed villages such as Castelo de Vide, and the impressive hilltop town of Marvão. Just some of the places you can look to visit while staying at Torre de Palma.
Tried and tested tips
There are a few things worth squirrelling away if you want to make your stay at Torre de Palma extra special: firstly, there's an evening 'welcome drink' hosted on at the top of the central tower, typically at around dusk so you can watch the sunset, house wine in hand. Take your glass up the twisting staircase, where you're met with views across the plains in every direction while the sun descends in front of you.
Secondly, head for the hotel bar with rope swings suspended from the ceiling. Here you can sip on Torre de Palma wine or enjoy a chilled glass of bubbles in a cool sophisticated environment made for the big kids in all of us.
Whether you're into horse riding or not, a short walk to the stables to meet the region's lusitano horses is a must. The Portuguese are rightfully proud of these strong, lean horses, whose connection with the Iberian peninsula dates back thousands of years. The staff will be on hand to tell you a little about the breed and may be able to supervise a quick brush or scratch behind the ears.
Where is Torre de Palma Wine Hotel?
Torre de Palma sits close to Monforte in the Alto Alentejo, or upper Alentejo, region of Portugal. While Torre de Palma is easily accessible, it feels delightfully remote with nothing but fields, olive groves, and vineyards stretching out across the surrounding plains, punctuated only by an oak tree or two and the odd farm building.
- Distance from Lisbon: Torre de Palma is 125 miles (200 km) east of Lisbon, and can be reached in around two hours by car.
- Distance from nearest town: Monforte is a mere 10-minute drive away, while other Alentejo destinations, such as Portalegre (30-minute drive), Elvas (40-minute drive), and Evora (60-minute drive), are all within driving distance.
- How to get there: Torre de Palma is best accessed by car. If you are hiring a car from Lisbon Airport (LIS) (which is a very cost effective and easy way of exploring this region), the quickest route is to head east along the A6, and then turn off onto the E802 north of Evora. Torre de Palma is to your left as you head up the N369 northwest of Monforte. Alternatively, you could make your way to nearby Monforte via public transport, and then book a taxi.
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