Portugal Offers the Right Ingredients for Memorable Meetings

Pastéis De Belém

Where to …
DINE - ZamBeZe
This restaurant combines the regional cuisine of Central Portugal with unique and intense African flavors. The restaurant's terrace has some of the best views in the city. It's possible to see all the major sites including Castelo de São Jorge, the Tagus River, Lisbon's two bridges (Ponte Vasco de Gama and Ponte 25 de Abril) and Cristo Rei, the 328-foot-tall statue of Jesus.

PLAY - Cálem cellars
Top-quality port wines have been produced since 1859 at Cálem, one of the most famous wine cellars in Porto. There is a wine museum and tasting room here, located on Douro River's south bank in the old part of the city.  

STAY - EPIC SANA Lisboa Hotel
Boasting a prime location in Amoreiras, a short distance from Marquês de Pombal and Avenida da Liberdade, this five-star hotel opened last year. The EPIC SANA Lisboa Hotel offers 311 rooms, two restaurants, and extensive meeting space.

Few countries can boast the diversity of Portugal -- from the lush green mountains and river valleys in Porto and the North Region to the stunning beaches of the south, to the vibrant capital of Lisbon and volcanic islands of Madeira and Azores. Lisbon, Portugal's capital city and Europe's westernmost mainland city, has rich history stretching back centuries, but today is known for its "cool" factor, with stylish restaurants, nightspots, boutiques, hotels, and booming high-tech industries.

Often voted the best European golf destination, Portugal has an impressive collection of over 80 world-class golf courses, mainly in the Lisbon and Algarve regions. Most of these have been designed by famous golf and landscape architects. Its 425 miles of coastline provides for dazzling beaches, quaint fishing villages, and peaceful lagoons. At the same time, Portugal came in 13th in the world for international association conventions by the annual rankings compiled by the International Congress & Convention Association.

One Planner's Perspective of Portugal
Chris Aubanel, president of New York City-based TMC International, Inc., a high-end incentive and meetings management company, visited Portugal in October and was impressed not only by the country's accessibility but by its cost-effectiveness as well. "Portugal is such an incredible value," says Aubanel.

The flight from New York was just six hours. "Its location makes it an amazing meeting and incentive destination as it is literally halfway for North American and European attendees. We landed in Lisbon Airport, which is within the city and it was such a short ride to the hotel," he says.

Sintra, a center of 19th-century European Romantic architecture, was a favorite of Aubanel's. He found the historic mansions set against the backdrop of lush hills magical. "The town is set on a hill facing the Atlantic and has magnificent mansions, beautiful trees, and lots of flowers."

A stay at Penha Longa Resort, set within a 545-acre national park on the southern Sintra Mountains, was luxurious, Aubanel adds. Once the retreat for the Portuguese Royal Family, Penha Longa lies just 16 miles from downtown Lisbon. Not only is there a hotel on the grounds, but a 19th-century palace that was originally founded as a monastery in the 14th century, two golf courses, and a spa.

The next night, Aubanel stayed at the Altis Belém Hotel & Spa, overlooking the Tagus River. From the architecture to the location, within walking distance of the Belém Tower and the Monument to the Discoveries that commemorates Henry the Navigator, Aubanel was awestruck.

Then it was off to the Four Seasons Hotel Ritz in the heart of Lisbon. Not only was he impressed by the hotel's architecture but by the meeting space that includes the Pedro Leitão ballroom for groups of up to 450.

Another hotel that Aubanel visited is Tivoli Palacio de Setais, two miles from Sintra. A 29-guestroom boutique hotel in a 19th-century palace, Palacio de Setais is perfect for a small meeting, according to Aubanel.

Portugal's offsite venues for special events are second to none, he says. They include Camro Convent, a medieval convent that was damaged in the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, and includes the ruins of a Gothic church. Today, it is an archaeological museum and a popular special event spot.

Convention Center: Lisbon: FIL Exhibition Centre (134,000 sf); Lisboa Congress Centre (33,000 sf); Porto: Alfândega Porto Congress Centre (164,000 sf)

Varies by city

Old and New
The futuristic architecture of Eastern Lisbon is a complete contrast to the old city, with much of it built for Expo 98, the World Fair that took place in Lisbon in 1998. Pavilhão Atlântico, an exhibition hall in the area, is one of the most modern covered pavilions in Europe. It has a 20,000-person capacity.

Portugal offers a wealth of attractions to explore and activities in which to partake. Aubanel enjoyed a boat trip that departed from Estoril and ended in Lisbon. Another vantage point was from one of the city's historic trams. "It was a great way to tour the city, as Lisbon is built around hills. It is such a colorful city with the houses all painted in festive shades," he says.

For a whole other perspective, he also took a tuk-tuk tour. What is a tuk-tuk? It's a type of rickshaw with a motor and steering wheel.

"The weather was magnificent, as was the culture, food, wines, and sightseeing," he says. "Views from Portugal's hills are amazing. Plus, there is world-class golf."

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This article appears in the November 2014 issue of Successful Meetings.