In Portugal, a Hotel and Spa Fit for Aristocracy

Valverde Santar Hotel & Spa in the Portuguese village of Santar is an ancestral estate where guests can roam.

Article by Siobhan Reid

The outdoor pool, designed by Spanish landscape designer Fernando Caruncho, at Valverde Santar Hotel & Spa in central Portugal. Photograph by Bruno Barbosa.

A decade ago, the Spanish landscape designer Fernando Caruncho began working on a project that would link the private walled gardens of several aristocratic estates in the Portuguese village of Santar, in the Dão wine region. Now, visitors will have a new way to access the 50-acre parkland: One of the ancestral manor homes within Caruncho’s greenscape has been converted into a small hotel. Formerly known as Casa das Fidalgas and owned by the House of Bragança, who ruled Portugal from 1640 to 1910, when the monarchy was overthrown, Valverde Santar Hotel & Spa served as a residence for the Bragança family until 2019. The Porto-based design firm Atelier Bastir carried out a restoration of the residence, preserving original details — including pitched, wood-panelled ceilings, 18th-century French and Portuguese furniture and bookshelves lined with hundreds of timeworn tomes — while carving out 21 rooms, some with hand-painted ceilings. At the Memórias restaurant, the chef Luís Almeida serves regional specialties such as roasted goat with smoked rice and a buttery cheese-and-citrus pudding, made with ingredients sourced from Santar Vila Jardim’s gardens. Guests can wander through the property’s vast acreage to pick aromatic herbs including lemongrass and chamomile to be used for massages and facials at the hotel’s spa, housed in what was once the estate’s wine cellar. From approximately $760 a night,