BoutiqueHomes' Pascal Frey is just back from Portugal, where he visited some of our most beautiful homes and the visionaries behind them. Here, he shares his journey, and what he discovered along the way.
From the countryside of Alentejo to the well-known Algarve region, I had the chance to visit some of our visionaries and creators, and the journey changed my perspective on how timeless many of our BoutiqueHomes experiences truly are. Each homeowner had a remarkable story and insights about how to enjoy their destination.
Over the years, Portugal has become one of the most visited countries in Europe, but there are still so many nuances to be discovered in every corner. A deeper dive into its rich history, local producers, and contemporary cultural movements reveals how surprising the country can be, from its diverse and vibrant culture to its natural landscapes and contemporary artistic movements.
On this visit, my journey brought me out of the city to the countryside and rolling hills west of Lisbon. I took the A6 highway and drove past fields and cork farms until I arrived at Countryside Retreat in Evora, Alentejo. The last part of the trip was disorienting at times as I was the only one on the road for quite a while, but the serenity and beauty of pure nature made up for the labyrinth of hills and pebbled streets.
Arriving at the house was a warm and welcoming moment. Renato and his family opened the gate to a truly unique experience. I spent the evening listening to his daughter playing classical music in the living room, stargazing into a perfect evening sky on the terrace, while Renato prepared dinner and shared a bottle of local wine. It was an ideal place to recalibrate and find absolute peace of mind after a long trip.
The next day, we drove by Fábrica Alentejana de Lanifícios, the heritage factory which Renato and his wife Margarida took over in 2020. Nestled in the Évora region of Portugal, the municipality of Reguengos de Monsaraz is nationally recognized for its handicrafts—especially the famous mantas de Reguengos, the blankets made at this factory, which has become a hub for artistic development. We also visited the Castle of Monsaraz, located on a hill overlooking the Alqueva Lake, the largest artificial lake in Europe, a vast mass of water reaching as far as the eye can see, surrounded by an enviable natural landscape.
From there, my journey took me all the way south to Faro. After a long drive, I used the time to explore the village and the exceptional seafood at Old Tavern. Faro is considered a perfect base for exploring beautiful lagoons, sandy beaches, river routes, and hidden bays, and its surroundings are home not only to The Modernist and Casa da Cidade Velha but also to (at last count) another 34 BoutiqueHomes.
Just a 20-minute drive from Faro, passing Olhao, you get to Casa Modesta, overlooking Illha da Armona, where you can observe from afar people oyster farming at low tide. While I walked the property with owner Carlos, he showed me some of its secrets. He and his family associate happy childhood memories with the estate that once belonged to their grandfather, and you find those memories in every corner — from a secret wine cellar reached through the floor, to the antique bread fireplace in the old part of the house. They love to invite people over and have locals create experiences that bring aspects of their rich history into the home. (Read more about Casa Modesta here.)
Driving along the coastline, I stopped by Casa Esteval, a new member of our collection north of Albufeira, which is hidden in the northern hills. Its owners, Chantal and Wim, decided to move to Esteval from Belgium and open their own bed & breakfast in a serene location. Due to its vast scale which provides a lot of privacy and an unexpected project in the garden, it has become a destination for couples to stay throughout the year. Visitors can decide if they want to stay in the house, designed by StudioArte, or at Estevas Desportivas, a dome in the garden, which has its own fireplace and overlooks the surrounding hills. Chantal and Wim welcome each guest, explaining the story and architecture of the building, while giving a very personal hospitality experience.
On the way back to Lisbon, I passed Comporta, a notable design center and home to a community of famous designers and artists. It comes as no surprise that some of the BoutiqueHomes in this region are stunning from an architectural and design perspective. I had the chance to visit Ameixeira designed by Pedro Silva Lopes, and Comporta Modern designed by Manuel Aires Mateus. Both homes allow you to oversee the hills and enjoy the most beautiful sunsets while being immersed in truly architectural gems, making them perfect for creative retreats and photo shoots, or as private places to stay with family.
Just a 30-minute drive north from Lisbon, you reach the majestic hills of Sintra. Hidden in pine forests and exotic gardens are palaces and castles in bright colors. This place has attracted creatives from around the world for centuries and still feels like a page torn from a fairytale. Beyond their beautiful appearance, the hills of Sintra have an immediate impact on your wellbeing, the reflection of light in the trees, the fresh breeze from the sea and its unique climate grounds you. No wonder that the people who live in this area conserve the serenity and privacy of Sintra and translate it into their architectural creations. One of these creations is Casa da Rampa, placed within the Sintra-Cascais National Park. Designed by Frederico Valsassina, it is immersed in pine trees and in perfect balance with its surroundings. You can immediately feel how artists and writers use this place to get into a state of flow for their creations.
Back in Lisbon, the journey wasn’t over just yet. While I was not able to visit all of our properties in Portugal on this journey, I met some of our truly long-time members in Lisbon to experience traditional and contemporary cuisine. With Maria and João Wengorovius of Alentejo House, I visited the newly opened Oitto by Carlos Afonso, a truly innovative restaurant that pairs traditional Portuguese dishes with French cuisine. With Agnieszka from Latitude, I got to experience Pastelaria Versailles, a local pastry cafe. I discovered many treasures in my short visit to Portugal, but the hospitality of its residents was perhaps the greatest of them.
Follow in Pascal's footsteps and explore our collection of BoutiqueHomes in Portugal here.