Hotel Review: Pousada de Cascais in Cascais, Portugal
By SETH SHERWOOD
Published: March 19, 2013
Rooms start at 150 euros (about $190 at $1.26 to the euro).
Situated along the waterfront in an upscale seaside suburb of Lisbon, this Renaissance-era citadel served successively over the centuries as a fortification against pirates, a royal residence, a presidential palace and a military base before being reborn in early 2012 as a sprawling, stylish hotel. The martial and aristocratic trappings have been replaced by an attitude-free 126-room hotel with a bevy of restaurants, a spa and other amenities.
Edging the ocean, the hotel and its walled grounds feel like a fortress of solitude. But central Cascais, a palm-fringed beachfront resort town with echoes of Cannes or Antibes, is just outside the gates. One nearby highlight is the Casa das Historias, a museum devoted to the works of Paula Rego, perhaps Portugal’s most famous contemporary painter. Another is the town’s charming core of boutique-lined streets and lively, restaurant-ringed squares. It’s a 10-minute walk to the train station, for the 30-minute trip into central Lisbon.
My room, a standard double booked for 200 euros, was mainly white, uncluttered and angular, with a few subdued colors — beige headboard, blond wood floors — for an overall Scandinavian-minimalist feel. The lone burst of color came from two red leather L-shaped chairs. The room was flooded with natural light from a wall of glass doors (which led to a pleasant tiny patio) and employed floor lamps that cast diffuse, warm glows.
Plenty of discreetly deployed gizmos ensured functionality, including an electronic safe, flat-screen television, minibar (mainly juice and beer) and gooseneck reading lamps sprouting from the headboard of the comfortable king-size bed. Alas, there was no iPod station or clock, and Wi-Fi was a hefty 20 euros a day.
A blue ceiling light cast a cool glow over the immaculate space, whose abundance of white and rectangular forms suggested a postmodern igloo: rectangular white floor tiles, rectangular white wall panels, long rectangular white sink (piled with Laura Kayal toiletries) and rectangular white tub (with rainmaker shower head and hand-held sprayer). Only the (white) toilet and (white) bidet sported a few curves. You can cover your own in the soft terry cloth robes. Can you guess their color?
The hotel wisely exploits Cascais’s greatest resources — sea and sun — with its glass-walled and skylit indoor pool and adjacent outdoor sun deck. Both offer views of the town’s marina beyond the crenelated battlements. A spa offers treatments like hot stone massages (55 euros an hour) and facials (85 euros for 75 minutes) while a very small, sun-flooded gym packs in high-tech goodies like a treadmill, cross-trainer and weight system by Technogym. Like a 21st-century great hall, the lobby bar is a soaring space with many tightly packed, low, rectangular couches and chairs and a high wall decorated entirely with swooping black ceramic birds. Even sleeker, the bar-restaurant next to the pool serves up sea views and a seafood-heavy menu (including grilled bacalhau) to guests in S-shaped Verner Panton chairs.
Outside the hotel building, the grounds are also peppered with venerable historical edifices now housing contemporary cafes, art galleries and clothing boutiques. The marquee attraction is the hip and refined Taberna da Praça restaurant, a stone tunnel-like space that specializes in modern takes on Portuguese home cooking and comfort food (like very rich scrambled eggs with farinheira sausage).
The former military base has scored an impressive victory in its new civilian role. With its seaside perch, comfortable, contemporary rooms, abundant restaurants and proximity to the beaches and cultural venues of the surrounding town, Pousada de Cascais makes a stylish base or a worthy splurge for those on a budget. If you don’t need to be in the core of Lisbon, this new hotel ranks highly indeed.
Pousada de Cascais-Cidadela Historic Hotel, Avenida Dom Carlos I, Cascais, Portugal; (351-21) 040-1712.