Ornate plasterwork, four-poster beds, curlicued balconies and imperial staircases bring polished grandeur to Octant Lousã – a mansion turned boutique hotel in the wooded hills of the Serra Lousã. There are fewer flourishes in the hotel’s modern wing, but rooms are just as high-spec. And there are victuals fit for a viscondessa at its Portuguese restaurant and bar. The hotel’s mountain locale has timeless appeal and is a lure for cyclists, too – this grand bolthole having achieved Bikotel status: all guests (Lycra-clad or otherwise) can take a free tour on two wheels.
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Regional treats including Lousã honey, a local liqueur and cookies. GoldSmiths save 10 per cent on spa treatments, too
Noon; earliest check-in, 3pm but both are flexible, subject to availability.
Double rooms from £76.99 (€91), including tax at 6 per cent.
Rates include breakfast.
The hotel can arrange a ‘blind dinner’ (not to be confused with a blind date) in a private corner of the grounds with a surprise menu of food and drink designed to conjure a memorable, romantic evening.
At the hotel
Gardens, indoor and outdoor pools, spa, playground, bike workshop and wash station. In rooms: free WiFi, smart TV, minibar, Nespresso machine and kettle.
Our favourite rooms
Rooms in the modern wing, contemporarily dressed in monochrome against soft-blue walls, are practical for families (with extra space) and cyclists (there's even a bike rack in your room), but it’s the original house that steals our hearts with period plasterwork details, ornate window frames and (in some cases) Juliet balconies. Our tip is the double deluxe rooms (201 especially) on the second floor.
In addition to the soon-to-open indoor pool at the spa, an outdoor pool in the garden is bordered in stone paving and reached by a series of grand staircases. Its generous proportions are crowned by a semicircular shallow end with curved steps and, adjacent to the deep end, there’s a broad sun terrace of parasols and sunloungers.
The newest addition to Octant Lousã is a spa complex at garden level and we can’t wait to see how the heated indoor pool and trio of treatment rooms complement their historic setting.
Elegantly draped tailoring and a fair bit of sparkle are de rigueur if you don’t want to be outdone by the grandeur of the palácio’s high ceilings, chandeliers and sweeping staircases.
Lifts provide access to all floors and one room is adapted for wheelchair users.
Welcome: extra beds and cots can be added to some suites; the hotel can arrange babysitting (at extra cost) and there’s a kids’ menu at À Terra.
The hotel has taken steps to reduce its waste to landfill and its energy consumption. The restaurant team works with local suppliers to source ingredients and have been sure to offer a menu with a balance of plant-based options.
In a glass-ceilinged annexe, the chef’s table seats 12 on high stools and oozes exclusivity. For drama with dinner, take a seat by the open kitchen, or opt for the serene scenery that comes with a winter garden table.
À Terra’s casual set-up has no need of a dress code, but a little finery will go a long way to make you feel at home in the hotel’s series of elegant salons for post-prandial drinks.
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, top-floor À Terra prides itself on unpretentious Portuguese fare that borrows liberally from other cuisines. Its menu of regional mains (baked sea bass, slow-cooked lamb with chestnuts), tapas-style small plates, cheese platters, burgers and pizza backs up the restaurant’s casual ambience with irreverent section headings such as ‘starving’ and ‘crazy for cheese’. Its décor, however, reflects the palácio’s refined standards, with woven chairs, pale wooden floors, Japanese lantern-style pendant lights and potted ferns strung from the ceiling. A pillared conservatory (called the winter garden), with floor-to-ceiling windows, has tables for two or four with a side of mountain scenery. Due to open in summer 2022, A Viscondessa is the hotel’s fine dining restaurant, serving upscale Portuguese cuisine: if the food can even meet the beauty of the fresco- and gilt-adorned 18th-century dining room halfway, it’s sure to be an impressive addition.
À Terra welcomes drinkers as warmly as diners with a choice of craft beers on tap, bottled cider and beer and extensive cocktail list covering everything from martinis to negronis via caipirinhas. Portuguese wines from Minho, Douro and Alentejo are available by the bottle or glass.
Breakfast is served at À Terra from 7.30am–11am. At both restaurants, lunch hours are 1pm–3pm and dinner, 7.30pm–9.30pm.
Inland in central Portugal, among the wooded hills of the Serra Lousã, you’ll find Octant Lousã, a 30-minute drive south-east from Coimbra.
Porto airport is one hour and 45 minutes away by road and Lisbon airport is a two-hour drive from the hotel; private transfers can be arranged at an extra cost.
There’s a free car park on site at the hotel. Driving from Porto is straightforward with only a few turn-offs to navigate.
Worth getting out of bed for
The Serra Lousã is a landscape of forested hills, home to deer and wild boar, but also waterfalls (Pedra Ferida), Lousã’s very own ruined 11th-century casteloand mountainside schist villages (aldeias do xisto): one of the best preserved of these 17th-century stone hamlets is Talasnal, where terracotta-topped ancient dwellings, draped in sun-loving vines, are ribboned with steep alleyways and there’s also a restaurant and a couple of craft shops. Unesco-listed university town Coimbra on the river Modego has an attractive old town, a Romanesque cathedral and a monastery where Portugal’s first king is buried. Guided outings into the countryside arranged by the hotel (on foot, by tuk-tuk or bike) include a bike ride to a blueberry farm, complete with picnic, jam-making workshop and blueberry cocktails back at the palácio, and a trip to the apiary, to see what makes Lousã’s origin-protected honey so special. Road biking and mountain biking in this wild terrain attracts cyclists of all sorts; hiking, too, is popular.
Stacks of pancakes, freshly squeezed orange juice and wholesome granola bowls make pastel-tinged Taberna Burguesa in Lousã an attractive spot for brunch; or go for the extensive choice of burgers, tapas-style plates and sharing platters later in the day. A Scandi-style timbered dining room of wooden tables and benches is the place for pasta, burgers and ovos rotos (broken eggs), as well as small plates and sharing boards at Q.b. Restobar, also in Lousã.
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 country-house hotel in central Portugal and unpacked their embroidered linens and Lousã honey, a full account of their mountain break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Octant Lousã near Coimbra…
In the heart of the village of Lousã, this 18th-century former stately home has you at olá with its fancy façade, crowned by neoclassical urns and studded with ornately paned windows. Beyond a lantern-lit lobby, an imperial staircase sweeps you upstairs to refined rooms rich in period detail, plus a series of glamorous salons where you’re encouraged to feel at home. Unlike lesser storied stays, however, Octant Lousã is not reliant on historic romance alone: a quiet evolution, which has prized practicality over pretension, has brought the addition of a contemporary wing, a new spa with an indoor pool, and a modern, top-floor restaurant specialising in casual Portuguese fare. The unexpected delights continue on closer inspection of your surroundings, too: the Serra Lousã may not be as well known as Portugal’s coastal or urban centres, but is all the more unspoilt for it – its wooded hills home to an impressive roll call of wildlife, waterfalls, ancient schist villages and a ruined castle, with fado-famed Coimbra only a short drive away. Fancy its flourish-adorned façade may be, but this is a palácio with pulling power beyond the surface.