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.

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