If you’re one of those people who likes to go native on your European vacation, you want to make every minute of your vacation count towards living like the locals. Where you stay makes a difference then. If you’re also on a budget, or would like a romantic and historic place to stay that would normally be above your means, then Portugal is the logical choice.
As a travel writer who specializes in Europe, Portugal stands out to me as a country that’s done the most to make visitors welcome with a rather diverse catalog of vacation rental properties. At the same time, Portugal also stands out as a country of great value. Below are some vacation rental options you might want to consider if the standard hotel isn’t your thing.
Solares de Portugal
Solares de Portugal offers an interesting range of lodging broken into three categories.
- Casa Antigas – Manor houses and country estates largely from the 17th and 18th centuries. An elegant and romantic choice.
- Quintas & Herdades – Agricultural Farms and Estates in a rural setting.
- Casas Rusticas – As the name implies rustic cottages, comfortably furnished, in rural villages or within farm estates.
Let me throw out an example, a rustic cottage I’d be interested in staying in: Casa dos Tres Irmãos. This is the type of classic stone architecture you’ll find in the Portuguese countryside, with outer walls of shale. It’s near a historic town: Cabração, a town whose wealth was based on mining, even in ancient times.
What does a place like Casa dos Tres Irmãos cost per night for two people? €50. For a house with cooking facilities, no more than a decent hotel! Of course, you don’t have to cook; they’ll even provide breakfast stuff. On a summer’s night, you can get a hunk of Pata Negra, the fantastic black pig found in Portugal and Spain (the full-flavored opposite of “the other white meat”, and barbeque outside, just like the natives.
Solares de Portugal also offers special itineraries so that you can plan your Portugal vacation stays around a theme; say Garden Itineraries
See: Solares de Portugal on the web.
Pousadas de Portugal
Pousadas are historic properties run as luxury hotels. You might stay in a place that was once a monastery or convent. Each has a restaurant run by a chef who is devoted to exploring the regional cuisine, often with modern interpretations that don’t stray too far from tradition. I’ve never eaten in a bad Pousada restaurant.
At one time Pousadas were run by the government. Today, most have transferred to private ownership, which offers the visitor a more personal treatment in a unique setting.
Pousadas de Portugal on the web. Note that there are many special offers, including discounts for those over 55 years of age and for longer stays.
Other Vacation Rental Ideas for Portugal
HomeAway lists over 7000 Vacation Rentals in Portugal.
Besides rural properties, remember that you will also find short term stay apartments in the heart of Portugal’s cities. For example, if you’re searching for someplace romantic with great views, you might find this apartment near Lisbon’s castle enticing. It sleeps 4 for a mere €95 a night. There’s free wifi, the owner speaks English, and the eight user-reviews are all positive, 5 stars out of 5.
I hope this convinces you that Portugal not only offers a great value on unique lodging, but also gives you some ideas for a vacation in a fascinating country with extraordinary tourist infrastructure.
One of the interesting things about rural Europe is that many of the tiny little schools that used to dot the landscape have been decommissioned in favor of larger and more efficient learning factories for the kids. But have you ever stayed in one?
Schools remodeled into vacation rentals tend to be delightfully quirky. The living spaces tend to be large and sprawling. If you don’t like little boxes all in a row, you might think about these rare and oddly structured places.
Yes, I’ve stayed in a remodeled school, in France. It was inside a hilltop village that had been brought back from the dead. Great experience.
One such vacation rental in the Alentejo is Santana da Serra. Today it sits in the middle of an Ecological Reserve, so the rural attractions are immense. One can imagine the solitude.
Give it a look. You’ll need a car, of course, but if you’re intrepid, you’ll discover a lot about rural Portugal
Perhaps the era of inexpensive lodging right at the train station is returning with the new Axis hotel called Basic Braga
Rui Silva directed the architectural project and the decor is designed by Nuno Rodrigues, with the interior architect’s office Metrobox. The predominant brown and white, references to land-based clay and granite, typical of the region, and also wood.
The web site is offered in English, and there’s a decent if overly long video that outlines what the place is like.
A recent check of prices indicated that a basic room could be had for €25 with breakfast. Wireless is €2 a day, and parking is available for €5.
Check prices for Basic Braga.
Braga’s urban population makes it the third largest city in Portugal after Lisbon and Porto. Braga has the oldest archdiocese in the country.
Braga is served by fast trains from Lisbon and Porto. Braga is in the Minho region of Portugal. See our Minho Map for location.
(Picture: Gardens located next to the eastern wing of the Archbishop’s Palace. Click to see it larger.)
According to the web site:
The “Casa do Forno” building was in the past one of the community ovens of Salvaterra do Extremo, a little town located in the border municipality of Idanha-a-Nova, right next to Spain.
So what did they do with this derelict 19th century structure? They rebuilt the bottom, and added a top story so that you could wake up to the smell of the morning bread. There is no better smell.
Salvaterra do Extremo is in Portugal’s Centro region, west of Gardunha and Serra da Estrela mountains and the city of Castelo Branco.
For those of you who are going to explore the fascinating rural areas of Portugal, this sounds like the idea starting place for a journey up through the mountains, staying at Casa do ze Sapateiro to explore Centro’s Schist Villages on foot or by mountain bike, then perhaps a drive up the Serra da Estrela to enjoy the mountains and perhaps save some traditional cheese called queijo do serra while staying at Casa das Penhas Douradas
Check out the Casa do Forno web site. It’s got a very informative English translation (find the button, then use the tabs to navigate), very nicely written.
You can check prices and book Casa do Forno on Booking.com, and you don’t need a credit card to make a reservation, according to the site. The price is stunningly inexpensive.
Ok, for those of you who turn up your noses at camping, or even hostel living, you might want to capture the exquisiteness of sleeping under the stars in a resort set amongst vineyards in the Alentejo countryside.
L’And Vineyards is a 5-star resort that includes a hotel with 22 suites, extended, and 145 units of residential tourism located near Montemor-o-Novo. And it’s won a prize:
The L’AND Vineyards Resort that recently opened in Montemor-o-Novo was just awarded the prize for best tourism business in the Portuguese Real Estate National Awards.
There’s a restaurant. Miguel Laffan is the Executive Chef.
A Vinotherapy spa will be opening in July.
Spring for a Sky-view suite and you can fully open the bedroom ceiling. Look, Ma! No tent! Folded into the deal is an integrated private interior garden with heated “plunge pool”.
There are a variety of experiences for you to take part in, including parachute jumping.
Check out (and get prices for) L’AND Vineyards
It’s not as expensive as you might think. We’re talking Portugal here.