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EXPLORING THE ALENTEJO REGION OF PORTUGAL

Destination weddings and honeymoons are the perfect opportunity to experience new sights, sounds, and cultures around the world. While many couples will opt for popular locations like France, Italy, and the Caribbean, others may choose less frequented cities in an effort to uncover hidden gems. When the Wedding Style team was invited to tour Portugal’s Alentejo region, we were thrilled to see what the southern portion of the country had to offer. As expected, exploring the Alentejo region of Portugal proved to be a memorable trip filled with gorgeous scenery, historic sites, charming locals, and a warm sense of hospitality. 

For starters, the São Lourenço do Barrocal is a farmscape hotel that exudes understated luxury, making it an ideal backdrop for a wedding celebration. Upon arrival, the lavender lined walkways lead guests into another world steeped in tradition. The 780-hectare estate is located in the medieval village of Monsaraz and has been in the same family for over 200 years. The property has undergone a thoughtful renovation spearheaded by José António Uva, an eighth-generation owner, and they have created a modern retreat while maintaining their deep connection with the region’s rich history. The São Lourenço do Barrocal is part retreat, part working farm, and amenities include a hotel, spa, restaurant, and winery.

Specializing in savory Alentejo Region dishes, the main restaurant’s organic farm-to-table menu highlights each season’s bounty and will please the most discerning palate. They have their own organic beef herd of pedigree cows, and the region is known for its plentiful wild game. Their vineyard produces 30,000 bottles of wine year, and guests can enjoy the expert pairing of wine with the famous proco preto – black pork – or other locally sourced seafood dishes. In addition to the main restaurant, there is bar lounge and an eatery by the pool, overlooking the lush vegetable gardens.

The São Lourenço do Barrocal Spa, featuring the Suzanne Kaufman line, has four treatment rooms that promise a transformative experience. There is also a gym, yoga, and Pilates studio located adjacent to the spa. Other activities for guests include ballooning, horseback riding, biking trails, pottery workshops, archeological tours, and guided stargazing tours.

If couples are looking for a luxury wedding experience, then the Convento Espinheiro Hotel and Spa is the place to be. Situated in the olive groves and vineyards of the Evora area of the Alentejo region, this gorgeous hotel has something for everyone. Couples, for example, can treat themselves to the Royal Suite. Previously only reserved for members of the Portuguese Royal family, the suite overlooks the World Heritage city of Évora. There are a total of 92 rooms and 10 suites, and the tasteful décor transitions from historic-classic, to a modern-chic design.

The beautiful Church of Nossa Senhora do Espinheiro, which dates back to 1412, is adjoined to hotel and has long been visited by royalty. It has stunning golden carvings and a commanding pulpit – an impressive setting for any wedding.

Convento Espihnheiro has a number of options for dining. The more formal restaurant is Divinus. They also have an Italian restaurant, Olive, Lounge Cloister, the Cisterna Wine Bar, a pub, and the Pool Bar. Cisterna Wine Bar is located in a 15th century Gothic cistern. It has illuminated marble bars topped with sparking glassware, speaking to the successful blending of original elements with new twists of contemporary style throughout the hotel. This space is perfect for welcome parties.

The award-winning Fitness and Wellness Spa features YTSARA Thai botanicals and traditional treatments. There’s a 17-meter indoor pool, a jacuzzi, a Turkish bath, and a sauna. They also have a fully equipped gym, tennis, and paddle courts. The spa and outdoor pool overlook gardens that tempt visitors down pathways, where they will find different areas of the grounds where they may host celebrations.

Between exploring properties in the Alentejo region of Portugal, we spent an afternoon visiting the ancient city of Beja, where we had a guided tour of the Museum Center of Sembrano Street. Our guides led us through the ancient city’s winding streets, and when we turned the corner, we were standing in front a modern building. The owners had started a renovation and discovered it was built upon Roman ruins. The city took over the property and discovered the remains of a wall dating back to the second part of the first millennium BC, proving there was an established community in Beja even before the Romans. We also toured the Convent of Nossa Senhora da Conceicao, where the world-famous love letters, Lettres Portugaises, were written by Sister Mariana Alcoforado, a nun at the convent. To wrap up our afternoon adventure, we climbed the castle of Beja to take in sweeping views of the countryside.

Finally, we discovered that M'AR de AR hotels has two hotels located in the historic city center of Evora, a classified World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The Aqueduto is a 5-star hotel that was once the Palace of Sepúlveda, which dates back to the 16th century. They have preserved the chapel and three Manueline windows on the main facade. The hotel’s combination of modern features in such a traditional building are refreshing and  very unexpected, considering its location. There are 64 rooms available, and our room was well-appointed, comfortable, and overlooked the Roman aqueduct. Amenities include a spa and lovely pool area, and the city and shopping are mere steps away.

The most memorable part of our Aqueduto experience was the restaurant, Degust`AR. We were treated to an exquisite eight-course gourmet Mediterranean meal with the signature of Chef António Nobre – undoubtedly one of our Alentejo region highlights.

>Written By: Lynda Terhune
 



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