Take a step back in time and experience the medieval grandeur of the Pousada Castelo Palmela.
South of Lisbon, across the iconic Ponte 25 de Avril bridge, is the Setubal Peninsula – home to the Arrabida Nature Park: a beautiful, protected area which is popular amongst the residents of the capital for its quiet beaches, chalk sea cliffs and green rolling hills, but less well-known outside of Portugal.
Perched high on the eastern edge of the Serra da Arrabida hills is Palmela Castle. Overlooking the small, wine-producing town of same name, there’s been a settlement on this strategically important promontory since the Neolithic Period. The Romans, the Visigoths and the Moors all occupied Palmela – the latter constructed the first significant fortress in the 8th century, before Portuguese King Afonso Henriques took the castle during his conquest of Lisbon (in 1147).
Once the kingdom of Portugal was firmly established, the castle’s military usefulness came to an end and Afonso’s descendants donated the fortress to the monks of the Order of Santiago. They constructed and consecrated the Convent of Santiago de Palmela, which forms part of the modern day Pousada, and the neighbouring Igreja de Sao Tiago de Palmela church. They also abandoned the castle following the 1755 earthquake and the castle returned to military ownership.
The building was saved from dereliction in the 1960s and painstakingly restored over a ten-year period, before opening its doors to the public as the Pousada Castelo Palmela hotel in 1979. The vaulted ceilings, impressive cloisters and preserved battlements call to mind the buildings medieval military past. Thankfully the once-austere, monastic cells have been converted into twenty-nine comfortable, spacious rooms, complete with vintage azulejo-tiled ensuite bathrooms.
Outside, there’s a wonderful view from the Patio do Pessegueiro across the Serra da Arrabida, and out towards the Tagus river. The Palmela restaurant is an excellent option for diner in the with an excellent selection of local wines – Bacalhoa, Dona Ermelinda de Freitas and José Maria da Fonseca – and it’s a short stroll into the centre of nearby Palmela.