With European cities steadily becoming more popular for our clients as destinations for incentives and meetings, when the invitation came from STAR Your World for a venue finder to join their Lisbon FAM trip, I jumped at the opportunity. Lisbon had been lingering on my bucket list for some time and I was excited to explore the city and see what it had to offer.
A short flight time of 2 hours 40 minutes and no time difference means that Lisbon is incredibly accessible from London. Safe to say everyone was impressed with the swanky new TAP plane too; with phone charging ports built into the seats and a free meal and drink…the luxury! The impressive transportation didn’t stop there, as waiting to collect us at the airport was a fleet of vintage convertible VW Beetles. With our luggage safely packed into a separate taxi, the group were driven through the city and up the winding roads of Monsanto Forest Park where we arrived at the abandoned restaurant Panorâmico de Monsanto.
The building has been empty for over ten years and now serves as a ‘secret’ viewpoint across the city and a haven for artists to paint and graffiti across its walls. Our group enjoyed a cocktail and the first Pastel de Nata of the trip before trying our hand at becoming the next Banksy.
A short drive back in our Herbies and we arrived at our hotel for the weekend – the exquisite Pestana Palace. Classified as a national monument, the palace opened its doors as a hotel in 2001 following an extensive renovation. Walking through the hotel is like walking through Buckingham Palace (or so I’d imagine…). The public lounge spaces available for you to work, relax or enjoy a drink are each as grand as the next, with frescoed ceilings and marble columns. The hotel’s grandeur has attracted many famous faces over the years and anyone at the hotel will indulge you in stories of when Madonna lived there for 11 months. Naturally, we had to have a snoop of the entire floor that she took exclusively and enjoy a glass of Champagne in her bedroom.
Alongside the spectacular rooms, suites and even a 40 person chapel, Pestana Palace has an impressive event offering, with over 20 versatile event spaces in the palace itself an exclusive, dedicated event space across the road, perfect for private parties. With a maximum capacity for a theatre-style conference of 480 guests and over 600 for a reception, the hotel is ideal for company off-sites and conferences.
After freshening up we set off for dinner. By now the VW Beetle’s had been swapped out for City Tuk Tuk’s. Taking the scenic route, the first stop was Padrão dos Descobrimentos – the Discoveries Monument on the Northern Bank of the Tagus River. Next up was the buzzy LX Factory. This abandoned industrial site has now been transformed into a thriving hub of vibey bars, restaurants and shops, with live music spilling out from different corners. Climbing the stairs up to the fifth floor of an old textile building, reveals rooftop bar Rio Maravilha. Boasting a vast terrace with stunning views out onto the Tagus River and 25th April Bridge, this was the perfect spot to enjoy a sun downer cocktail and take in the views. Dinner followed at Pap'Açorda – a restaurant within the famous Time Out Market. With over 30 food and drink outlets, the market arguably houses the best of Portuguese cuisine under one roof and everything that you will find has passed the taste test from Time Out Portugal’s panel of experts... a tough job I’m sure.
Day two began with a team-building exercise on the Tagus River. Dividing into two teams, we were given our life jackets and a quick ‘how to sail a boat and not get hit on the head by the boom’ safety briefing before setting sail. Once we had each gotten to grips with our roles on the boat and with the wind in our sails, it was time to take part in a series of races against the rival boat. The instructors were as knowledgeable as they were patient with their novice crew and it was an exhilarating activity that took people out of their comfort zone. Being a gracious loser works up a serious appetite and we were treated to a delicious seafood lunch at 5 Oceanos, one of the picturesque restaurants along the beautiful Docas de Santo Amaro waterfront.
The afternoon was spent 16 miles northwest of Lisbon in Sintra. Hidden in the hills of the Serra Mountains, the mystical town boasts its own micro-climate and used to be the summer retreat of choice for kings and aristocrats thanks to the cooler temperatures. Bordering Sintra’s centre, you will find Moorish Castle, rich botanical gardens and fabulous palaces; whilst in the Centre you can explore the colourful winding streets lined with shops offering beautiful ceramics. From Sintra, it’s a short drive to Cabo da Roca – the westernmost point of mainland Europe and from personal experience, the most windswept.
Sunday evening’s sunset drinks and dinner took place at O Faroleiro, the oldest restaurant in Guincho on the Cascais coast. With breath-taking views out onto the sand dunes and Atlantic Ocean, this was a really special spot to end the day in with a leisurely dinner of traditional Portuguese cuisine.
Our final morning was spent in the Old Town of Lisbon. The fantastic DMC who had looked after us so well all weekend had one final surprise for the group and had organised a private tram to drive us through the gorgeous seven hills of Lisbon. The most authentic way to get around the city, the trams have been in use since the early 1800’s and are full of character and charm. Once the tour had finished and the obligatory tram selfies had been taken, all that was left for our final day was to enjoy lunch. Nestled down a quiet street, you will find Restaurante Lautasco with its gorgeous cobbled courtyard and rustic charisma. This was the perfect end to a fantastic weekend in Lisbon and huge thanks go to STAR Your World and TA DMC for organizing such a memorable weekend in a wonderful city. I can’t wait to get back!
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