The Perfect Weekend In Lisbon, According To A Local Expert

How to experience Lisbon, Portugal in high style.

Salomé Gorgiladze / Courtesy SANA Hotels Group

On a recent trip to Lisbon, we contacted Salomé Gorgiladze on the advice of a friend for tips on the perfect weekend getaway. The gorgeous Salomé, SANA Hotels Group‘s Director of Business Development and member of the Executive Board, has built a reputation for impeccable taste and style while putting the luxury hospitality company on the map, in particular with the opening of SUD Lisboa, a multifaceted luxury venue designed to “break the mould for how people meet, network, socialize, dine, and party.”

According to SUD Magazine, “This accomplished business leader is so much more than a glamorous ambassador for SUD Lisboa and SANA Hotels…. Undeniably smart, highly-educated and of course multilingual.” The daughter of diplomats from the Republic of Georgia, she began her career in private equity, and settled in Lisbon, where her father had been an ambassador, after receiving her MBA. In 2015 she joined SANA Hotels Group, soon heading up the business development role.

In addition to SUD Lisboa, which is attracting the attention of international media, socialites and celebrities from around the world, SANA Group has ten hotels in and around Lisbon, including the incredible new five-star Epic SANA Marquês. “I personally love living in Portugal,” Salomé tells Maxim.

“It is an extraordinary country that makes foreigners feel at home… I believe that places are made by people, and people in Portugal are, indeed, very warm, and friendly. I often draw parallels between Georgian and  Portugal culinary traditions, for instance, the importance of friends and family and the close bonds shared at the table. And Portugal has a rich culinary tradition with unique flavors and dishes.”

Courtesy Evolution Cascais-Estoril

Obviously Lisbon, which was recently named the Best Urban Destination in Europe at the World Travel Awards, has a lot to offer. But given a few extra days Salomé recommends nearby Cascais for a perfect weekend getaway.

“It’s very near to Lisbon but it is a perfect place to reconnect with nature,” she enthuses. “Situated on the coast, it is a calm and relaxing place to spend the weekend days, but opportunities for activities are also definitely not lacking. And the views by themselves speak enough for the beauty of this region.”

SUD Lisboa / Courtesy SANA Hotels Group

“The perfect place to enjoy sunset is at the infinity pool of the Evolution Estoril-Cascais, with views over Tamariz beach; and then you should dine at Pastorinha, a family-run spot which has been guided by quality, refinement and the art of hospitality for more than 40 years. Located in a privileged area of Carcavelos Beach, this oceanfront restaurant offers the perfect setting to enjoy the most delicious dishes.”

Salomé with Cindy Crawford at SUD Lisboa / Courtesy SANA Hotels Group

It’s all in keeping with Salomé’s approach to luxury hospitality. “Conceived over half a decade ago, the vision of SANA Hotels was to redefine Portugal as the epitome of international hospitality,” she tells us.

“Fast forward six years, and that dream has transformed into a resounding reality.” SUD Lisboa, which “combines cocktails, gourmet bites and DJ sets at the infinity SUD Pool Lounge; Mediterranean and Italian dining on the SUD Lisboa Terrazza; and a high-end events space, the SUD Lisboa Hall,” has been visited by the likes of Valentino, Monica Bellucci, Madonna, Michael Fassbender, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Cindy Crawford, who hosted an event for Omega watches there.

SUD Lisboa / Courtesy SANA Hotels Group

“SUD Lisboa serves as a splendid embodiment of Lisbon’s pristine beauty, diverse culture, iconic cuisine, and an extravagant lifestyle,” Salomé notes. “It stands as a testament to the unwavering commitment and sincere promise made by the SANA Hotels team—to bring the unique blend of Portuguese culture and landscape to the forefront of bespoke international travel.” Here we talk to Salomé about everything the Group has going on in the country that’s quickly becoming one of Europe’s most desirable destinations:

Epic SANA Marquês / Courtesy SANA Hotels Group

What is the philosophy of SANA Hotels Group? What is its mission?

“SANA Hotels aim to bring to its customers unforgettable moments by providing quality and relaxing accommodation that exceeds all the expectations. The guiding principles are a Product Excellence—a family of hotels with classy design and thoughtful details striving to ensure the highest quality; and Premium Customer Service—amazing, friendly and personalized hospitality. Our daily mission is to always provide  exceptional service and memorable experiences. Customers can  reward us with the best of the gifts—their return!”

Epic SANA Marques / Courtesy SANA Hotels Group

What is unique about SANA Hotel Group’s hospitality projects?

“SANA Hotels offer the perfect solution for those who look to experience unique sensations. More than a Hotel chain, SANA Hotel is a set of exclusive concepts, a sensory project where each hotel has its own distinctive personality, nuances, flavors and character. If everybody is different, why must all hotels be the same?  We know our SANA customers have a disntinct and striking personality—fashionable, trendy, classic, relaxed and sophisticated. There is always a SANA Hotel that suits each customer. There are many things that make up the hospitality industry. And being authentic is essential!”

SUD Lisboa / Courtesy SANA Hotels Group

What is the philosophy behind SUD Lisboa? How much of an investment did it require?

“SUD Lisboa is a SANA Group concept and project. We have invested about 20 million euros in order to create one of the most unique places in Lisbon. The know-how SANA acquired during 20 years of experience in the hotel business and hosting luxury high-end events in our hotels made us want to innovate and bring our experience and know-how outside of the hotels. In the short period of time since the opening of SUD Lisboa, this space has become a reference on the national and international level. The brand equity is very strong already, in tandem with the SANA brand. Thus, the existing link between these two strong brands is very positive.”

SUD Lisboa / Courtesy SANA Hotels Group

What are the most unique features of SUD Lisboa? 

“SUD Lisboa is a unique and innovative concept in a very privileged location with an amazing view over the Tejo River. It stands out with a fascinating architecture, Mediterranean cuisine, an infinity swimming pool, and a pool lounge for after-work or after-dinner cocktails with live music, DJ sets and a whole range of entertainment that varies on a daily basis. SUD Lisboa Hall, on the other hand, is an exceptional event hall to make any social or corporate event, the most beautiful memory in life.”

“The destination is designed to combine elegance with innovation, a facet clearly visible in the exalted nature of the Terrazza and Lisboa Hall complex. Memorable, magnificent, luxurious yet relaxed, surprising, fashionable, and elegant. SUD Lisboa continues to focus on offering quality customer service, from its cuisine to its excellent entertainment, to its capacity for innovation. All of these elements place SUD Lisboa as the place-to-be in the capital.”

SUD Lisboa / Courtesy SANA Hotels Group

How important are food and drink to the SANA Hotel Group concepts?

“We develop sustainable and creative hospitality with our F&B Team. Our hospitality concepts are focused.  F&B is the heart and soul of our vision as entrepreneurs. It’s the narrative that threads through every dish, every sip, and every moment our guests spend in our space. It is the essence that defines who we are, what we stand for, and what sets us apart in a sea of options. A hospitality concept, it is a story that transcends mere sustenance and transforms into an unforgettable experience for the guests. I can say that our hospitality team is highly experienced in different F&B brands, from lifestyle hospitality, casual and fine casual experiences to fine dining.”

SUD Lisboa / Courtesy SANA Hotels Group

How have SANA Hotels Group and SUD Lisboa ushered in a new era of contemporary luxury in Portugal?

“SANA Hotels strategically aims to attract tourism to Portugal and create destination within the destination. I can give you an example of our 5-star properties being itself a unique destination, whether it is Myriad by Sana Hotels, the highest building of Portugal with a Michelin-star restaurant at the top of the emblematic Vasco da Gama Tower overlooking the capital, or Epic Sana Algarve with direct access to the world’s one of the most beautiful beaches. For us, every client is extremely important and customer experience is the key to success. Our clients prioritize unforgettable moments through excellence in quality and comfort.”

“Our approach recognizes the evolving preferences of luxury travelers and luxury tourists, distinct from casual visitors seeking beautiful beaches, who demand personalized services and unique experiences. Marketing strategies need to cater to the discerning nature of high-end guests who value caliber and exclusivity over conventional displays of wealth and glitz. The shift in the market, with more affluent individuals seeking extravagant vacations, prompts our hotel brands to adapt marketing strategies and stay current with tourism marketing trends.”

    SUD Lisboa / Courtesy SANA Hotels Group

    “Two key elements define our strategy: first, staying attuned to market shifts due to the increasing number of wealthy individuals, expanding luxury brands’ target markets. Second, emphasizing excellent customer service, acknowledging that high-end hospitality thrives on personal interactions and establishing trust. While AI systems can automate some communication channels, ensuring the highest level of service necessitates personal interactions with potential consumers.”

    “Authentic experiences are paramount in the elite tourist community. High-impact tourists, booking in our opulent five-star hotels, appreciate and seek genuine encounters, valuing local experiences that integrate them into the visited culture. Transparency is crucial, and offering a behind-the-scenes look or sharing the property’s background contributes to creating a distinctive and authentic experience for our luxury customers.”

    Epic SANA Marques / Courtesy SANA Hotels Group

    Why is Portugal is becoming an ever-more-attractive destination for luxury travelers?

    “Tourists within the luxury travel segment visiting Portugal seek more than the typical offerings of traditional upscale destinations. They come to experience authenticity. The definition of Luxury Tourism is about immersing oneself in the genuine and hospitable local lifestyle, rich culture, gourmet gastronomy, and fantastic climate, and Portugal uniquely provides this opportunity. Have you ever dreamed of waking up in a country where the sun shines for 300 days a year, where food and wine are delicious and affordable, as are housing and traveling, and to be able to call it ‘home’?”

    “Portugal is the latest trend among movie stars, musicians, and other artists and the Portuguese are watching in awe as their small country which was overlooked for decades as a  relocating destination, is nowadays the object of attention of so many, including the wealthy and the famous. The country has an infinite number of possibilities as far as real estate is concerned, and if the cinema stars will probably go for high-end, top-of-the-notch properties, the country is sprinkled with an incredible variety of properties, ready-to-live-in or rebuild, in so many different settings, that can soon easily become your dream home.”

    SUD Lisboa / Courtesy SANA Hotels Group

    “Actors and musicians are known to have a soft spot for Portugal too! Some of them moved to the country for good and so many of them chose Lisbon as their base. See the cases of actor John Malkovich who moved here back in the late ’90s, or Monica Bellucci who purchased a renovated historical apartment in the Castelo neighborhood also in the capital city, and is now neighbors with no less than Madonna who also lives nearby. Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender admitted to having fallen in love with Lisbon’s light and decided to move to the oldest section of the city, and recently Scarlett Johansson bought herself an incredible apartment here as well.”

    SUD Lisboa / Courtesy SANA Hotels Group

    Does SUD Lisboa attract a lot of celebrities?

    “It is very common to meet celebrities at Sud Lisboa. Any day our clients can be surprised by running into national or international famous faces, government officials, or high-end delegations that book dinners, lunches or special events at SUD Lisboa. This makes us very proud because it means that we as a brand have managed to position ourselves at the map of the must-go international projects of the world. On the other hand, at SUD Lisboa Hall, we have been the stage of high end national or international exclusive events counting with the presence of numerous celebrities.”

    “Some of the names that we can mention include the prestigious luxury brands launch with celebrities like Cindy Crawford, the iconic fashion designer Valentino, Monica Bellucci, The Gipsy Kings, and Julio Iglesias Jr. Furthermore, SUD Lisboa has ensured that it caters to the bespoke clientele and accentuates Lisbon as the city of celebrations.”

    SUD Lisboa / Courtesy SANA Hotels Group

    What is next for SANA Hotels Group? What can we expect to see in the next few years?

    “In 2023, we experienced a remarkable year with significant achievements and expansion. Notably, we inaugurated key establishments both in Portugal, the EVOLUTION Cascais-Estoril and in France, and the Auberge du Jeu de Paume, a Relais & Châteaux hotel near the Château de Chantilly. Building on this success, we are poised for further growth. We have many projects in the pipeline and under construction with different inauguration dates. Some of these are exciting developments like new unit in Vila Nova de Gaia; a new EVOLUTION Valbom project in Lisbon. Additionally, we have two properties under construction in Morocco. “

    “As we look ahead in 2024, we are indeed planning to capitalize on the positive trend in the sector with ambitious expansion plans. The upcoming projects are just a glimpse of our commitment to seizing opportunities for growth. We believe that these strategic moves will not only enhance our brand presence but also contribute to the overall success and enrichment of the hospitality industry.”