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Portugal: Pestana Cidadela Cascais, Lisbon

Lucy King
03 November 2016

With a thriving art scene all of its own and a stunning harbour-side setting, the Cidadela Cascais is a must-stay on a visit to the capital of Portugal, says Lucy King

THE LOWDOWN:
Less than half an hour’s drive south along the coast from Lisbon is the pretty town of Cascais. This up-market seaside spot is a very popular location with weekenders from the capital city – and it’s not hard to see why. Boutiques, restaurants and bars line the front and fill the narrow cobbled streets of the old town, while boats bob in the palm-fringed harbour and the sandy beaches are filled on sunny weekends.

Housed in what was a naval fortress, the Pestana Cidadela Cascais is entered via huge fortified gates. Oversized artworks sit in the large courtyard – on one side the restaurant and the hotel’s bookshop reside and in front is the hotel itself.

In the past few years the Cidadela Cascais has opened its door to the burgeoning local art scene (hence the art that meets you on first arrival), inviting exhibitions and even hosting an in-house artist to create bespoke pieces for the hotel as well as help curate the chosen works – and there are many – displayed throughout the property. The nature of the building lends itself perfectly to display areas. There are even artists’ studios to rent on the grounds, some of which are open to view.

In contrast to the thick stone walls and its fortifications, the rooms are modern and slick, most featuring original art and sculpture and with views of the tranquil harbour and the sea. Decorated in pared-down neutrals with flashes of colour, original features such as huge window arches (where land-locked mariners must have looked out to sea) are cleverly incorporated into the décor giving the rooms an originality so many hotels lack. All mod-con bathrooms are present and correct – my bath even had in-tub lighting...

Across the courtyard from the main hotel building is a bookshop, Dejá Lu. Selling quirkily categorized donated books from around the world, with proceeds going to charity, it has an impressively diverse selection on offer and is a lovely place to browse before eating at the Taberna Praca restaurant underneath it. Fast becoming a destination for locals and Cascais weekenders as well as those staying in the hotel, the cosy, buzzy Taberna Praca serves authentic Portuguese tapas, great seafood (try the octopus salad) and hearty dishes such as sausage with beans, alongside local wines. It also does a brunch at weekends – the perfect way to kick off a visit to the area.

If you over indulge at dinner, the hotel has a fitness area and indoor and outdoor swimming pools, or borrow a bike and venture along a seven-kilometre trail.

THE GOOD:
The peace and quiet of being cocooned in thick stone walls.

The art.

The choice of indoor and outdoor swimming pools – handy if you visit during cooler months.

THE NOT-SO-GOOD:
Those used to hotels housed in contemporary buildings may not love some of the rooms with their interesting original features. I however found this added to the character.

THE VERDICT:
A quirky mix of old and new, the Cidadela Cascais is a wonderful place to stay and is well worth making the trip here on a visit to Lisbon.

BOOK IT:
Doubles from £212. Cidadela de Cascais, Avenida D. Carlos (+351 214 814 300; pestana.com)