Bussaco Forest – Coimbra, Beiras, Portugal
A Sylvan Setting for a Pleasure Palace Turned Hotel
The secluded Bussaco Forest (Floresta do Bussaco) isn’t really a forest, but an enormous walled arboretum carefully tended by local monks for centuries. As the Portuguese empire grew, exotic trees were brought from all corners of the globe, and eventually the monks achieved a botanical splendor of such renown that a 17th-century papal bull threatened excommunication to anyone who tampered with the trees.
Not long after religious orders were supressed in 1834, King Carlos I commissioned an Italian theater set designer to create a summer pleasure palace—the last summer residence built by the Portuguese monarchy—in the midst of the 250-acre forest.
The result is an extravagant pastiche bristling with pinnacles, turrets, and arched windows. Inside, the fantasy continues with stained- glass windows, hand-painted murals and tiles, suits of armor, and views that once seduced royalty.
It was the Portuguese monarch’s last hurrah: it was completed in 1907 and King Carlos was assassinated in 1908. His son used the palace before fleeing to England and a life of exile after his 1910 abdication.
The palace’s latest incarnation is as the Palace Hotel do Bussaco, one of Europe’s most special hotels, a tum-of-the-century jewel of romance and royal luxury.