Santar is a Portuguese village located in the center of Portugal, inland of better-known Aveiro and about a one-and-a-half hour drive from Porto. It’s not a place where you’d end up by total accident. That is unless you’re familiar with the works of Spanish landscape designer Fernando Caruncho or have a special interest in the House of Bragança, also known as the Brigantine dynasty. Thanks to an intricate renovation, private gardens and a former palace in Santar have now been turned into the Valverde Santar Hotel & Spa.
Living in a palace is something many of us will probably never be able to experience. Looking at it objectively, it’s not even the smartest thing to do. It costs a lot of money, it’s often too cold to be comfortable during winter and cleaning your house takes either a lot of time or a lot of personnel. Not ideal but if you want to experience the palace way of living for a while nonetheless, a stay in a former royal palace turned hotel is without a doubt one of the nicest ways to do so.
Fernando Caruncho started working on what were once private gardens in Santar about a decade ago, turning them in a stunning landscaped garden. Then, he took a look at the former palace and decided to turn it into a luxurious hotel with the help of architecture firm Atelier Bastir, boasting 21 rooms and a restaurant called Memórias which uses ingredients straight from the garden. That all resulted in Valverde Santar, a hotel and spa that has just opened a few weeks ago.
As you’d expect from a palace turned hotel, the rooms are dipped in a bath of luxury. Mouldings, marble backsplashes, historical furniture and portraits of elegant-looking women that have since long gone make up for a picture-perfect decor. In the garden, visitors will find centuries-old olive trees next to a very new and refreshing pool. And if you’re not tired yet and don’t want to go to your room at night, the communal parts of the hotel feature multiple reading rooms, libraries and so on. In other words: how to get a taste of palace living on a smaller budget. With rooms starting at 315 euros a night, it’s still a splurge but nothing compared to running your own palace.