Surrounded by lush fields and vineyards where Vinho Verde wine is produced, the quite exceptional Pousada de Amares is situated in the beautiful Minho region of northern Portugal between the historic city of Braga – the religious capital of Portugal – and the stunning Peneda Gerês National Park.
Originally a 12th-century Cistercian monastery, the Pousada de Amares (Santa Maria do Bouro) has been charmingly modernised by the award-winning Portuguese architect, Souto de Moura. The granite facade is typical of the region and the statues of significant characters and kings in Portuguese history, along with the gardens, a historic church and a sacristy showcasing 18th century tiles are of particular note. Royal protection enabled the monastery to flourish and generate wealth and even today you can sense its importance in the local community. An earlier church stood on this site and the façade of the monastery with its 3 large arches sits on the threshhold of this church. Statues of several saints are mounted above. Balconies and 5 statues can be seen in its interior, above the sizeable font and beyond the pillars and arches.
Impressively set into the hillside and standing out from the wooded landscape, you cannot fail to be impressed by the majesty and tranquility of Amares’ historic Pousada. The building today which features Baroque, Rococo, Neo-classical and contemporary styles, and a central cloister – with attractive trees and lighting, is a striking setting for lunch or dinner whilst you enjoy the impressive architecture surrounding you. The restaurant inside is just as striking though, with its original, bare stone walls and arches and the imposing stone table which is often the setting of the breakfast buffet. Many of the recipes used here today date back centuries or use ingredients found locally, in addition to more contemporary dishes, offering you a superb dining experience complemented by local wines. Cod is always to be found on Portuguese menus and here is no exception, but other fish, seafood, meat and poultry are also to be enjoyed here.
The Pousada has retained its character of monastic serenity and much of the original construction remains intact. However the bedrooms and bathrooms combine the strong design of the monastery walls and ceilings with some aspects of modernity, allowing guests to experience a comfortable stay in a very dramatic historic building whilst enjoying 21st century comforts.
Amares’ Pousada successfully blends the original architecture with certain aspects of modern décor. It has a particularly inviting swimming pool in the adjoining garden which is open during the peak summer period. It is a delightful, relaxing base from which to explore the many cultural sites of the Minho region.
The Minho region, above the Douro and next to the Peneda Geres National Park, is a fertile area with significant agricultural produce including oranges and grapes, as well as being particularly well known for the young wines of Vinho Verde (both red and white). Religion has heavily influenced the development of this corner of Portugal, notably the Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries of the 11th and 12th century and several Baroque churches.
The national park is one of the most popular and well known for outdoor activities, this is great walking country and the Pousada can provide you with details of paths and tracks to enjoy.
The city of Braga – Portugal’s oldest town – is only 16 km away and if you head in this direction, you are well advised to visit the shrines on the hill above which include the Bom Jesus sanctuary and a complex of gardens, steps and statues leading down in the direction of the city. Braga has quite good shopping and colourful architecture as well as lovely cafes and restaurants.