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Review: Penha Longa, a Ritz Carlton hotel resort in Sintra near Lisbon

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HfP in Portugal

This is our review of Penha Longa, a Ritz Carlton resort.

It is part of our ‘HfP in Portugal’ series in partnership with Marriott Bonvoy, who very kindly provided the stay. HfP paid for its own flights and all other expenses.

You can see our review of the Gatwick ExpressTest PCR testing facilities here and review of the Moxy Lisbon City here. A review of Pine Cliffs will follow in a few days.

You can find out more about Penha Longa on its website here.

Penha Longa Ritz Carlton

After the hustle and bustle of Lisbon and the funky-but-budget Moxy Lisbon City we thought we would take things a little further upmarket. The Penha Longa Ritz Carlton is nestled in the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, a stone’s throw away from Sintra and a slightly further toss from Lisbon.

Penha Longa location

Penha Longa is low key about its Ritz Carlton branding due to rights issues with the Ritz name (an issue in a few European countries, including the UK) so it can sometimes fly under the radar as a Bonvoy hotel.

Penha Longa Ritz Carlton entrance

Location

As previously mentioned, Penha Longa sits in the verdant hills of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park – a sort of ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ preservation recognition.

The hotel itself is built on the grounds of a 14th Century Monastery and takes its names from the large rocks in the grounds:

Penha Longa Ritz Carlton monastery

The area has something of a microclimate and is wonderfully green and lush, which is why Penha Longa is also home to a 27-hole Championship golf course. (I know nothing about golf so that’s all I have to say on the matter ….)

Penha Longa Ritz Carlton golf course

It is also quite blustery, with strong winds. This wouldn’t be an issue in the height of summer but can be a bit of a shock if you are coming from Lisbon, where the temperatures are usually several degrees higher. Still, you can still lay quite comfortably by the pool over an afternoon in May.

The easiest way to get from Lisbon or the airport is with a quick and cheap Uber – the 30 minute trip is normally less than 30 euros. However, unless you plan on staying on the resort it’s probably best to take a car which lets you drive into the nearby towns of Sintra and Cascais where castles, coastlines and cod await.

Penha Longa, a Ritz Carlton Resort

The hotel itself is home to 200-odd rooms. It doesn’t feel that large, though. The building itself never looks imposing, and is partly terraced into the hillside. Looking from the outside you wouldn’t expect it to be as big as it is.

Penha Longa Ritz Carlton resort

This also means that it feels quite homely. I never felt lost in the hotel and all the public amenities are situated close together.

After staying at the Moxy Lisbon City for two nights the Ritz Carlton is refreshingly luxurious. On check-in we were greeted with two glasses of was probably Portuguese sparkling wine and told to take a seat whilst othe paperwork was taken care of:

Penha Longa Ritz Carlton welcome drinks

When it was all sorted we were escorted to our room, a twin resort view Junior Suite.

The rooms at Penha Longa

The rooms at Penha Longa are generously sized. Ours was 60sqm with twin beds. I think these must be small doubles because they’re bigger than what I remember a twin bed being!

Penha Longa Ritz Carlton room 2

For a hotel of this calibre, the rooms are a little plain and there are a lot of beige walls. It is around 15 years since the last full refurbishment of the rooms and I have been told that the hotel is planning to do so again in the next few years, which should bring them up to spec.

Nonetheless, I liked the space. The solid wood cabinetry and marble bathroom have aged well and the room is well laid out, with a sofa and desk on a lower mezzanine:

Penha Longa Ritz Carlton room view

Here is the view from the lower level back towards the beds:

Penha Longa Ritz Carlton room mezzanine

A welcome amenity with pasteis was waiting:

Penha Longa Ritz Carlton welcome amenity

You also get a large balcony, with ours one overlooking the main pool:

Penha Longa Ritz Carlton balcony

You enter the bathroom through a mini-portal that features a wardrobe with ironing board, shoe polish etc on one side and a luggage rack, cupboard and safe on the other.

In the bathroom, you have a separate shower and bathtub:

Penha Longa Ritz Carlton bathroom

…. as well as two sinks (the main shower is in the back corner here):

Penha Longa Ritz Carlton shower sink

Under which are some scales. the toilet is at the end, with a bidet next to it.

Penha Longa Ritz Carlton toilet bidet

Amenities are provided by Asprey and are in mini bottles which is a rare sight these days. You also get the usual dental kit/shower cap/vanity kit/etc that you can expect from a luxury hotel.

Penha Longa Ritz Carlton toiletries

Leisure facilities at Penha Longa

There are two pools at the hotel, both adjacent to each other. There is the larger family pool next to the pool restaurant:

Penha Longa Ritz Carlton pool

…. as well as an adults-only infinity pool:

Penha Longa Ritz Carlton adult pool

Are two pools enough for the hotel? I’m not sure – whilst they look empty here, on the sunnier day the majority of the deck chairs were occupied around the family pool whilst the hotel was still operating at a fairly low capacity.

Both pools back onto changing rooms, each with sauna, steam room and plunge pool:

Penha Longa Ritz Carlton sauna steam room

The changing rooms are very classily done:

Penha Longa Ritz Carlton changing rooms

There’s also a surprisingly large gym:

Penha Longa Ritz Carlton gym

…. and a kids soft-play area. This means that the leisure facilities are all very close to each other. There’s also a larger outdoor playground within the resort grounds:

Penha Longa Ritz Carlton playground

Penha Longa also has extensive spa facilities, as you would expect. The spa is located in the monastery complex:

Penha Longa Ritz Carlton spa

…. and features a number of treatment rooms. In addition, the spa also includes an outdoor pool and relaxation area as well as steam room, sauna and other spa-y bits. These were not open during my stay due to low occupancy so I can’t show any photos, but here’s the spa reception:

Penha Longa Ritz Carlton spa waiting room

I opted (and paid!) for the Penha Longa Signature massage and was spoiled to 80 minutes that were so relaxing I’m pretty sure I fell asleep at one point. I had a lovely masseuse whose name I have unfortunately forgotten but who was impressive.

Dining at Penha Longa

Apart from the poolside cafe and lobby bar the other restaurants are all on the first floor.

One of Penha Longa’s key selling points is that it has three Michelin starred restaurants. You won’t find many other resorts across Europe with such a diverse choice of dining options. Here is the full list of restaurants:

  • Lab by Sergi Arola (Michelin star)
  • Midori (Japanese, Michelin star)
  • Eneka Lisboa (Michelin star)
  • Basque
  • Mercatto (Italian)
  • Spices (pan-Asian)
  • Arola (‘modern’)
  • B Lounge (lobby bar)
  • Aqua (pool restaurant/bar)

Unfortunately most of these were still closed when I went: the hotel was going from 0 – 60 in record time as it geared up for the first bank holiday weekend with the green list in place (before they changed it again…). I was able to try both Mercatto, the Italian restaurant and Spices, a pan-asian restaurant.

I was seriously impressed by Mercatto, which had an inventive menu and fantastic service (shout out to Filippa who was exceptional). The restaurant encourages you to order several small plates, which we did and thoroughly enjoyed.

Bread and homemade butters are bought out straight away, as is the Portuguese tradition:

Penha Longa Mercatto bread

To start, we had the veal carpaccio, duck ravioli and truffled caccio peppe spaghetti:

Penha Longa Mercatto starter

We then moved on to the Octopus:

Penha Longa Mercatto octopus

…. plus the piglet porchetta:

Penha Longa roast pork

For dessert, we had the Ferrero Rocher and ‘The Lemon’ coupled with a very light and refreshing negroni that the restaurant is testing out!

Penha Longa Mercatto desert

As you can imagine, we were pretty stuffed after all that!

We asked Filippa to pair our choices with wine and she picked the house red from a vineyard called Messias in the Duouro region. It was the best wine I have ever had for €7 a glass, and I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid paying at double the price. We ended up trying the entire Messias range which includes a white and Portuguese sparkling wine – I highly recommend it.

Spices, on the other hand, was the polar opposite. It is the newest restaurant at the hotel and feels like it is having a bit of an identity crisis by offering Japanese, Thai, Chinese and Indian cuisine. The menu itself lumps all the dishes together with no clear separation by locale, so it is quite hard to scan without reading every single line.

Penha Longa Spices (2)

The service itself felt quite impersonal and rushed, in complete contrast to Mercatto. This may be a temporary issue – I understand the hotel is desperately recruiting as it ramps up from just a handful of guests to a fairly busy summer season (at least, when Portugal was still on the green list..) It is possible that staff are simply not getting enough training and that this will improve as time goes on.

Nonetheless, it’s nowhere near the level of service you would expect at a luxury hotel, even at a casual restaurant.

Breakfast

Breakfast is served in the Mercatto restaurant, which has lovely views:

Penha Longa Ritz Carlton Mercato view

Buffets are back! Depending on hotel occupancy the hotel is offering either a full buffet or a mini-buffet at your table with optional a la carte extras.

Penha Longa Ritz Carlton breakfast buffet pastries

To comply with Covid regulations the buffet is facilitated by hotel staff, who will plate your food. The buffet features all the usual bits and bobs, including a wide variety of pastries, cheeses, cold meats, smoked salmon etc as well as a decent selection of hot full English style items. There’s also a fresh eggs station where you can get omelettes etc.

Penha Longa Ritz Carlton breakfast buffet

On days where the buffet is closed you get an impressive mini-buffet on your table instead, which is quite impressive:

Penha Longa Ritz Carlton breakfast table bufet

The a la carte breakfast menu includes items such as eggs benedict, waffles, boiled eggs etc.

Conclusion

Penha Longa is a great option if you’re looking to take a break from Lisbon or just want to explore everything Sintra has to offer. Despite being just 30 minutes from central Lisbon it feels like a completely different world, a calming retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Whilst it needs a bit of TLC the rooms have aged quite well, although they are starting to look a little dated. With a full refurbishment slated for the next few years Penha Longa is a great option. Fingers crossed the current service issues are ironed out sooner rather than later.

Penha Longa is a Category 5 hotel, which means you’ll need between 30,000 and 40,000 Bonvoy points per night. Cash prices start at €308 for a weekday night in July. If you agree with our valuation of a Bonvoy point at 0.5p you are better of using points when the cash price is above €232 at the most – less if it’s an off-peak redemption.

HfP’s hotel booking partner, Emyr Thomas, can access special rates at the Penha Longa via the Marriott STARS programme which is exclusively offered to luxury travel agents.

If you book via Emyr and pay Best Flexible Rate, you will receive:

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Complimentary Breakfast for two daily for duration of the stay
  • $100 USD equivalent Hotel credit 
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability 
  • Welcome amenity 

Emyr can usually match any rate offered via the Marriott website and get you the above benefits added on.  You can contact Emyr via our online form here.

You can see more, and book, on the hotel website here.


How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points and status from UK credit cards

How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points and status from UK credit cards (October 2021)

There are various ways of earning Marriott Bonvoy points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses.

The official Marriott Bonvoy American Express card usually comes with 20,000 points for signing up, 2 points for every £1 you spend and 15 elite night credits per year.

You can apply here.

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20,000 points sign-up bonus and 15 elite night credits Read our full review

You can also earn Marriott Bonvoy points by converting American Express Membership Rewards points at the rate of 2:3.

Do you know that holders of The Platinum Card from American Express receive FREE Marriott Bonvoy Gold status for as long as they hold the card?  It also comes with Hilton Honors Gold, Radisson Rewards Gold and MeliaRewards Gold status.  We reviewed American Express Platinum in detail here and you can apply here.

Until 2nd November 2021, The Platinum Card comes with a sign-up bonus of 60,000 Amex points. This converts into 90,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.

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Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which can be used to earn Marriott Bonvoy points

(Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Offers’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

Comments (42)

  • Yvo says:

    Thank you for this. Sintra is beautiful and well worth visiting on a tour from Lisbon, if pushed for time. Lots of history and a real contrast to the city.

  • Danny says:

    The bit about Portugal being on the green list needs updating.

    • Mike says:

      Oh is it off the Green list now – I hadn’t noticed – they should probably cover it on the news !

  • Omar says:

    I stayed there end of Jan 2020, just before first lockdown. Got a great deal on BA holidays as it was off season. Fantastic staff and stay.

  • cinereus says:

    Would be nice to actually see more than one dish from the Asian restaurant. Surprised the Michelin star joints weren’t open.

    It’s “porchetta” not some type of German high performance car.

    Bit weird to mention the wind when that’s by no means a permanent fixture.

    • Rhys says:

      Have you had your morning caffeine yet? 😉

      • cinereus says:

        Sorry, Rhys, I’m not sure I follow.

        Also, the bathroom marble looks like horrible damp mould stains at first glance on a small screen!

        • AndyC says:

          “In the bathroom … the two sinks” – sorry, but surely it’s “sinks” in the kitchen, with it being
          “basins” in the bathroom?!

    • Tom says:

      I think the wind *is* a semi-permanent feature! It was so windy my balcony was effectively unusable on two of the three days of my recent stay (after Rhys, I think). Rhys has so been way too kind regarding service here.

      • Rhys says:

        To be fair, the only questionable service I had was at Spices. Everything else was stellar – although I imagine it was worse over the bank holiday weekend with many more guests arriving.

        • Harry T says:

          We had very good service at Spices last August but didn’t hang around too long because it was sadly full of of obnoxious parents and poorly behaved children.

          • Lord Doncaster says:

            Obnoxious parents?
            *crosses hotel off list*
            Don’t want to be surrounded by Hooray Henries who let their Tarquins and Tabithas run riot as the parents get loudly sloshed in the restaurant.

          • Harry T says:

            @Lord Doncaster
            One particular family insisted that a staff member queue for them at the assisted breakfast buffet and bring the food to their table (everyone else queued as you were meant to). They also insisted very loudly and aggressively on particular food groups/items not being acceptable for their children – they could only eat organic salmon etc. I’ve never really seen people be so persistently rude and entitled in their interactions with staff members.

          • kitten says:

            This definitely looks like a family resort therefore if you are not a family consider non-weekends

          • Lord Doncaster says:

            That really is bad, Harry T. I’d be tempted to do a Victor Meldrew and tell them to shove off if I was in there

        • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

          I don’t have any insider knowledge of the hotel industry, but surely they put a massive gold star next to your name when you’re on a review trip, send out a memo to staff etc? It would be a management failure if the service you get is less than exceptional.

          I understand the mentality that staff should be treating every guest like an influential reviewer but it just feels like too much of an open goal for the hotel.

          • Rhys says:

            Staff at reception often know but it doesn’t always trickle down. Filippa, our waitress in Mercatto, told me she didn’t realise until she was serving dessert!

    • ankomonkey says:

      The wind may be a consequence of the piglet porchetta…

  • Ned says:

    Interesting take on the bed size. I’ve normally found two double beds as the American-led norm for rooms with two beds in them (often because they are for 4 person max occupancy). I think sometimes in Italy it’s different and also Tel Aviv seems to be completely averse to more than 2 in a room which is frustrating for a family of four with two young children

  • David S says:

    Glad you liked the Portuguese wine. They have some great wines (not all cheap) and they simply don’t export them to the U.K.

  • Harry T says:

    @Rhys I hope Nuno is still working there? That delightful man gave us the best welcome to a hotel we have ever received. He was such a delight that I emailed the manager about him after the stay.

    I would recommend LAB if anyone is staying when it’s open. We had the full tasting menu with wine pairing last summer and I can attest to the quality of Portuguese wine.

    I would recommend going outside of the summer holidays though, as it was very full with families when we went and many of the British families were obviously obnoxious (cf. every other nationality there).

    The location is absolutely stunning and I would thoroughly recommend a walk around the golf course and the rest of the park. Sitting on the balcony in the evenings is also a treat. Sadly we did not get to use the spa when we stayed, as it was closed.

    The service was much better when we stayed, from the sounds of it, and I think they are probably just having difficulties with starting up again and possible loss of experienced staff.

    For anyone who cares, the gym was very recently refurbished and is easily the best I’ve seen in a hotel for both cardio and weights (RC Abama also good but a bit smaller). They had a football team (I can’t recall as I’m not a follower of the sport but it was a major one) – they apparently used the gym all hours of the day and I can’t blame them.

    On a final note, Emyr can often get a very good deal here with STARS rates, which can include free nights. We booked through him last year and benefitted from an excellent deal. I would recommend asking him for a quote if you are thinking of staying.

    • Rhys says:

      Forgot to add the bit about STARS – will add!

      • John says:

        Stayed here in 1997, it was decent.

        Didn’t understand the comment about ““Emyr can usually match any rate offered via the Four Seasons website and get you the above benefits added on”.. should that read “Marriott or Ritz Carlton website”, or am I missing something?

  • Chris L says:

    I’ve stayed at Penha Longa twice – the first time was a flying visit for a wedding. On the second visit, we were actually quite disappointed. The service was extremely variable – some of the staff clearly hadn’t received proper training. For example, we ordered a glass of Chardonnay from one member of staff. About 20 mins later he produced a glass of red wine. Also I did find some of the prices for refreshments were taking the biscuit a bit…but that may have changed. It’s a beautiful setting and there are some really nice facilities.

    • Phil says:

      The price for drinks really was astonishing. When we visited we got charged approx. £40 for two G&Ts. Other than that we had a wonderful stay and wouldn’t hesitate to return.

      • OP says:

        I seem to remember 8 euros for a soft drink (poured from a can!) at the poolside bar at Penha Longa. Also have they abandoned or kept the low end ‘towel card’ system?

        I liked the hotel overall last year, it just seemed like everything was *almost* right but not quite perfect.

        • Chris L says:

          Yes I think it was the €8 soft drinks that raised my eyebrows a bit. I certainly don’t recall any sort of towel card system.

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