A humble bed and breakfast turned sleek mountain lodge, Casa de São Lourenço is a minimalist design haven nestled in the peaks of Portugal’s remote Serra da Estrela range. Up here, you’re one with the breathtaking landscape, thanks to a floor-to-ceiling glass façade which frames the peaks and valleys, luring you to outdoor adventure and mountainside meanderings – walk amongst wildflowers in spring, admire the changing leaves in autumn and snowshoe the slopes in winter. When the sun sets, head for lazy laps in the heated outdoor pool, steamy sauna sessions and tension-banishing spa treatments infused with foraged herbs.
Get this when you book through us:
Two cocktails (per booking) and 20% off spa treatments; for GoldSmiths, a picnic for two and late check-out (subject to availability)
3pm; check-in is from noon. Both can be flexible, subject to availability.
Double rooms from £165.37 (€194), including tax at 6 per cent.
Rates generally include breakfast – there’s a salubrious spread of fresh produce: homemade bread, fresh fruit, smoked salmon and local cheese as well as à la carte items like eggs cooked to order.
If you miss out on the burel factory tour, you can still stock up on whimsical wool delights – there are Burel Mountain Originals shops in both Lisbon and Porto.
At the hotel
250km of marked mountain trails; heated indoor/outdoor swimming pool; spa, sauna and hammam; bicycles, sleds and snowshoes are free to rent; free parking on site; free WiFi. All bookings include a two-hour guided walking ‘orientation’ as well a guided tour of the owners’ burel factory in the village of Manteigas. In rooms: air-conditioning, black-out curtains, pillow menu and plug adaptors.
Our favourite rooms
We’re particularly partial to the Premium Panorama Room which lives up to its billing thanks to cinematic valley views from the furnished private terrace. The Instagrammable interiors are set off by soothing burel panels in slate grey.
The heated swimming pool is fed by a natural spring and surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows that look out over meadows and mountains in summer or swathes of snow in winter. You can swim between the indoor and outdoor areas to feel the crisp mountain air or lie supine on a sunlounger with a good book. The pool is open from 8am to 8pm daily. Children are welcome in the pool until 6pm – it’s adults-only after that.
The Scandi-inspired Mountain Spa makes the most of its setting by bringing the outdoors in, thanks to panoramic vistas and all-natural products packed with sturdy shrubs and health-giving herbs. Sweat it out in the picture-windowed sauna or hammam and then choose from tantalising treatments like anti-aging facials, birch-stick massages with rosemary and juniper oils or a hydrating body wrap.
In these high-altitude climes, fog and rain can roll in quickly, so it’s prudent to pack extra layers. Leave extra room in your suitcase in case you’re tempted by a burel bedspread in a rich forest hue.
All common areas are suitable for wheelchair users and there’s one accessible bedroom.
All ages are very welcome, but the hotel is best suited to older children and teenagers. There are baby-changing facilities, a children’s menu in the restaurant and colouring books available on request.
'We are committed to the mountain because the mountain is our house’ – the simple value that underpins life here. Designer touches are from local Portuguese craftsfolk (with a sizeable spotlight shone on artist Maria Keil) and sustainability drives most other efforts but the hotel’s most remarkable achievement is with burel. The region was once the major producer of this tactile textile until recession rendered the factory all but shuttered. Spotting its architectural potential, the owners incorporated the rough-hewn wool liberally into their plans, helping it back on the map and reversing its fortunes.
You’ll want to snag a table by the windows to best enjoy the contrast of snug warmth to stark summits.
Wear peacock colours to ensure you stand out from the hotel’s soothing neutral palette.
Meals are served in the hotel’s glass-fronted restaurant with jaw-dropping views, where head chef Manuel Figueira reimagines rustic Portugese dishes. Above the tables is a constellation of burel stars in autumnal hues – the art installation pays homage to the history of the wool industry in this shepherding region. The trad-with-a-twist dishes include fish soup with a puff-pie pastry topper, goat grilled over hot coals and perfectly executed flans for dessert.
Hungry hikers returning home can graze on the free snacks and goodies served 5–7pm everyday.
Just off the restaurant, the lounge has comfy armchairs positioned around a roaring central fireplace. This is the spot for curling up with a book or chatting to fellow guests in the evenings. The bar serves an inventive menu of cocktails made with herbal and mineral mountain ingredients. There are excellent bar snacks, too – choose from gamey sausages with apple purée, ham and goat’s cheese sandwiches or fresh salads.
Breakfast is served 8.30–11am; lunch 1-3pm; snacks 5–7pm and dinner 8–10pm. The lounge also closes at 10pm.
There’s no room service, but all the meals are built with ravenous outdoor adventurers in mind, so we guarantee you won’t miss it.
4,000 feet above sea level, Casa de São Lourenço lies off the beaten tourist track, perched in Portugal’s stark Serra da Estrela mountain range.
Porto’s airport is the closest, a two-hour drive away. You can also fly into Lisbon, a three-hour drive away. The hotel can organise transfers – it’s €180 one way from Porto and €225 one way from Lisbon.
The closest train station is Covilhã, an hour’s drive away. The hotel can arrange transfers for €80 each way.
You’ll have cinematic views if you choose to take the corkscrew-shaped mountain roads up to the hotel. Brace yourself – the passes get nail-bitingly narrow as you ascend, so it’s best to drop your speed and just enjoy the spectacular scenes. Once you reach the hotel, there’s free parking on-site.
Worth getting out of bed for
First, start with what’s on offer at the casa (we recommend sleeping with the curtains open, so you’ll awake to those awe-inspiring views) – begin the day with a daring dip in the heated outdoor pool to work up an appetite and then head to the restaurant for the hale and hearty breakfast spread, designed to give walkers maximum energy. Slather your homemade loaf with the famous Queijo da Serra, a sublimely gooey sheep’s cheese that’s local to this part of Portugal. While you’re eating, look up at the stars – the yellow, orange and black woollen stars that form a dramatic art installation above your head. The use of woollen accents, like the brightly-coloured bedspreads and chair covers, will make sense when you realise the hotel’s owners are Joao Tomás and Isabel Costa, who single-handedly revitalised burel production in the region. The industry, born from the mountains’ shepherding traditions, was in dire straits until these Lisbon-based entrepreneurs began commissioning blankets, throws and carpets for use in their hotels. During a visit to the burel factory in Manteigas, a mountain village in the valley, you’ll learn about artisanal wool production and shop for Burel Original products like pure woollen blankets, scarves, pillows and home decor.
Then, don your newly-purchased hoodie-backpack and lace up your hiking boots because it’s time to trek. There are 250 km of marked routes nearby that take in the stark beauty of the Zȇzere river valley: waterfalls, glacial lagoons (stash a swimsuit if you’re game for wild swimming), Dali-esque granite boulders, historic churches and tiny slate villages. If you prefer to tackle the terrain on two wheels, the hotel has a pair of mountain bikes to rent. In winter, the Serra da Estrela is the only region in Portugal to regularly see snow – rent the casa’s snowshoes and go walking in a winter wonderland.
Back at the homestead, pour yourself a generous glass of port and gaze heavenwards for some superlative stargazing – these aren’t called the star mountains for nothing.
The only other restaurant in reach is the one at the casa’s sister hotel, Casa das Penhas Douradas. Visit during the evening for a five-course feast, which includes coffee, cheese, digestifs and frequently replenished house red or white wine.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this sleek retreat in Portugal and unpacked their Queijo da Serra cheese and burel blankets, a full account of their design-forward break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Casa de São Lourenço in Serra da Estrela…
There has been a pousada (a traditional Portuguese bed and breakfast) in this breathtaking mountainous spot for over 70 years, but we’re willing to bet the original owners wouldn’t recognize the glass-walled geometric spaces of the reimagined Casa de São Lourenço. The design-forward decor – clean lines, light wood and poured concrete – has a strong Portuguese perspective: ‘shell’ chairs by Lisbon-based Branca Design and boatloads of burel, a traditional woollen textile that’s been made in the Serra da Estrela region for centuries. As impressive as the interiors are, they never detract from the real stars – the mountain plains. They’re framed through floor-to-ceiling windows in every space of the hotel, bestowing each room with a glorious panorama. It’s impossible to resist the lure of the outdoors for long – take advantage of a free two-hour walking tour to orient yourself in the glacial valley before choosing your own hiking, biking or snow-shoeing adventure. In the evenings, shed your sports gear and slip into the spa for all-natural treatments made with foraged herbs and shrubs, indulge in chef Manuel’s reinterpreted regional classics or curl up by the fire in the sultry lounge, glass of port in hand.