Penha Longa Resort in Sintra: superb setting, perfectible atmosphere

The Penha Longa is a very nice hotel for those who are looking for beautiful landscapes and high quality services. But it remains perfectible in terms of service and lacks a little charm.

Last step of this Portuguese escapade: Sintra where I will stay at Penha Longa. I close a loop that brings me back to Lisbon from where I will return to Paris.

After a Moxy and a Sheraton this 2 days stay is supposed to be the culmination of the trip in terms of hotels since as its name does not let you guess the Penha Longa Resort is aRitz Carlton.
As a reminder, the articles related to this stay.

#TypeSubject
1FlightParis Orly-Lisbon, TAP, Business Class
2HotelMoxy Lisbon City Center
3RestaurantDown Under by Justin Jennings, Lisbon
4RestaurantElevador, Lisbon
5HotelSheraton Cascais & Resort
6HotelPenha Longa Resort, Sintra
7LoungeTAP Premium Lounge – Lisbon
8FlightLisbon- Porto, TAP, Business Class
9FlightPorto-Paris Orly, TAP, Business Class (Operated by Portugalia)

Booking

I booked an entry-level Deluxe room (meaning no view) from the Marriott website a few weeks before my arrival with a rate of 230 euros per night. That’s why it will be the place where I will stay the least time.

It is off season so I expected that it must be a little softer but I will realize only the day of my arrival that it was the Easter weekend. However, in the middle of summer, expect the bill to be much higher.

Location

The Penha Longa is not really in Sintra: it is located in a huge park outside the city, even more close to Lisbon. A green and hilly park in which there are some residential areas, the hotel and some old buildings that have been rehabilitated to serve as dependencies of the hotel. Last but not least, the hotel has a golf course that allows even non-golfers like me to go for nice walks as long as we have the legs to go up and down the hills.

If you want to cut yourself off from the world and spend a relaxing moment in nature and greenery you will be pleased.

Here is a map of the resort to help you visualize it all.

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Arrival at the hotel and check-in

I arrive by cab from Cascais. The driver struggles a bit to find the right entrance but, after having obtained the opening of the gates by the security, we are on our way to the hotel through the park. As you can see on the plan it takes some time.

He finally drops me off in front of the property.

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As soon as I got out of the car, a bellman picked me up with my luggage and accompanied me to check-in. There is a real traffic jam at the check-inand, moreover, there is no priority queue and there seems to be some confusion. It’s surprising for a hotel in this range but it suddenly reminds me of another Ritz Carlton, the Arts Barcelona, where the check-in experience was messy as hell.

I’m asked to change lanes to go to a faster one. I am also offered a drink to wait. Finally comes the time when it’s my turn.

I look around and see a rather amusing sight. We are at a point where some countries have started to relax their policy on masks. In Portugal it is still mandatory indoors, which is no longer the case in France and Great Britain. But if the foreigners follow with more or less enthusiasm the local regulations it is not the case of the British who do not understand or make fun of the reproving looks of the locals. As for the hotel staff, they seem to have given up all hope of getting them back on the right track and act as if they saw nothing

I had been monitoring the Marriott app lately and was a little disappointed to see no upgrades. It was only a few days before my stay that I realized I had booked for the Easter weekend. In short, the hotel was packed.

The formalities go quickly and the agent who takes care of me is friendly and efficient. No upgrade but a room with a view of the golf course in the main building.

It lists all the benefits I get as a titanium member of the loyalty program including a guaranteed late check-out until 4pm.

She also informs me that given the contextthe restaurants of the hotel are almost fulland suggests me to check the availability and take the reservations immediately. The hotel has a dozen restaurants, two of which are starred, but we’ll talk about that later. Finally I take two reservations and leave an option on a starred but the miracle will not happen.

My room is not yet ready and should be ready for the normal check in time, 1h30 later. I need a place to seclude myself for a video conference in the next few minutes and ask the receptionist what she suggests. To my surprise, the hotel does not have a business center, so in fact I have the bar terrace or one of the lounge areas located near the conference rooms on the floors. I would choose the second option but I am disappointed by both the lack of business center and the lack of quality options offered in a property of this standing.

Before moving on, a view of the lobby at a time when it was less populated.

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At the said time a text message will inform me that my room is ready and when I arrive there my suitcase will have already been deposited.

General aspect of the hotel

Before going any further, a few words about the hotel. As you can see on the photo of the arrival, its facade does not look like much at first glance. When you change the angle it gets better.

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Don’t be fooled, this is actually a modern designed hotel underneath its fake old look. This can be seen especially on the second floor where it has everything of the American resort with everything we don’t like: huge empty spaces with low ceilings and populated by sofas, desperately empty. This is because the hotel has meeting and conference rooms for businesses and there has to be space to store all these people during breaks. But this part really lacks charm. In short, some of the comments I made about the Ritz Carlton Cancun are also valid here.

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Secondly, and you have understood this, this hotel is a big carrier. When it is full it is really swarming with people. Fortunately there is no shortage of space outside to walk around.

The Deluxe Room

You enter the room through a corridor that leads to the night area.

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As always at Ritz Carlton it is sober with rather dark shades.

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There is a real desk area and a lot of room.
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The bed is large and will unsurprisingly prove to be very comfortable.

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There is an espresso machine and, rare today, the minibar is full.

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The bathroom, all in length, has a bathtub and a separate shower. The toilet, although in the bathroom, is also separate.

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A washbasin with two basins.

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The toiletries are from Asprey.

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Nothing to say that the bathroom if it is not, nevertheless, that one sees with the tap that the hotel is not very young.

Last but not least,the balcony overlooking the golf course and the resort.

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I think that speaks for itself.

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And to finish the visit in video.

The hotel facilities

Swimming pools

The hotel has several outdoor pools.

This is the main pool.

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It’s nice and the view on the resort and the golf course is superb.

A little further on, there is another pool reserved for adults to avoid the tumult of families with children.

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Between the two, a few rows of deckchairs.

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It’s nice but to be honest I’m afraid it’s not enough to meet all the demand when the hotel is full.

One last thing: you will often seem to hear engine noises very noticeably in the distance. They come from the nearby Estoril circuit.

There is also an indoor pool.

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Gym

The hotel’s gym is very large, has a nice view of the outside and is therefore very bright, which is good because it has a low ceiling.

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Il est également très bien équipé.

Spa

I did not have time to test the hotel’s spa.

Resort and Golf

One of the most valuable features of Penha Longa is the resort itself and the golf course, which allows for beautiful outdoor walks.

Directly in front of the hotel there are remains of medieval buildings that the hotel has rehabilitated and even uses for its guests. There are also many gardens.

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Many walking, running and biking trails are available around the golf course and crisscross the resort.

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I will have a nice 2 hour walk in the nature. Warning: it is quite easy to get lost. You will never get really lost, but you may walk a lot more miles than you expected. The hilly side of the place can be sometimes demanding in climb for people in perfectible physical condition.

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Bars and restaurants

As I said, the hotelhas a dozen bars and restaurants, including two starred and, more surprisingly, two “offsite”, located in Lisbon.

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Given the context and the filling of the hotel I will dine not where I want but where there will be room.

But let’s start with the bar.

The bar: B-Lounge

Located in the Lobby, it is quite small and not particularly impressive.

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The service is rather slow and casual: a lot of waiting, the staff seems to run in all directions in the room without real organization even if it means leaving the bar abandoned for long minutes.

In addition, the cocktails are made with a doser, which I hate.

The said cocktails will be correctbut not more.

Restaurant : Spices

It is a pan-Asian restaurant that adjoins the Midori (which is starred) and they share the same welcome.

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When I arrive the reception is deserted and I wait for a staff member to come. I will then realize that the person in question, in addition to taking care of the reception of the restaurants, occasionally goes to the bar to get cocktails for the guests of the restaurants. She would spend her evening running around. Weird.

The room is spacious and rather pleasant.

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The menu is composed of dishes in small portions to share.

My dinner:

– Gyozas: good but light.

– Nigiris: good but again light quantities.

– Butter chicken, naan, rice: again, light but pleasantly spicy. Stifling and insipid Naan.

– Duck croquettes: nice and more hearty than the rest. That said, I have a hard time finding the taste of duck.

– Spices cake (there were no more pancakes): good.

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Final verdict: for a pan-Asian restaurant the dishes lack diversity in terms of origins, the service was very warm but erratic (the menu is late in being brought, the appetizer arrives before the aperitif), dishes are well presented, quantities are small, and in the end it’s good but not more.

For 135 euros including wine I will make the same comment as the Yakuza by Olivier at the Sheraton Cascais. It’s absolutely not worth the price. But at least there the staff is pleasant.

Restaurant : Arola

Arola is presented as a Brasserie and tapas restaurant. It is located in an annex of the hotel a few minutes walk away.

My meal of the day:

– Chicken wings: very good.

– Patatas Bravas: well spiced, excellent.

– Shrimp Madagascar: fresh and good.

– Chicken: cooked to perfection

– Whiskey tart : surprising but good.

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It’s good, the service is very pleasant and all for a bill more consistent with the restaurant’s promise.

The service

Overall the service in the hotel will have been very good and attentive even if some things can be improved. But I put the few criticisms on the account of the context: a weekend where the hotel is full out of season and where the staff is not complete or perhaps still badly trained following the recovery after the COVID.

Check-out

I will do the mobile check out on the mobile app and leave the hotel without having to go through the front desk again.

Bottom line

A very good hotel in terms of services offered and, above all, because of its location in a beautiful natural surrounding.

The service is slightly perfectible.

On the other hand, it is more “resort” than “Ritz Carlton” and can lack the charm that one expects from such a property, the luxury side being sometimes blurred because of the crowd and the swarming of guests. This is very detrimental to the overall atmosphere and feeling

I am severe but the sign Ritz Carlton is to be deserved.

Bertrand Duperrin
Bertrand Duperrinhttp://www.duperrin.com
Compulsive traveler, present in the French #avgeek community since the late 2000s and passionate about (long) travel since his youth, Bertrand Duperrin co-founded Travel Guys with Olivier Delestre in March 2015.
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