JS Editor Siobhan Reid checks into Lisbon's historic palaces, hip hostels and arty boutique stays.
I recently had the pleasure of spending four magical days in Lisbon. It’s a vast, vertiginous metropolis best explored by foot or yellow cable car, but plenty can be gleaned about the culturally-rich capital through its hotels. Design-centric, food-driven and steeped in history, Lisbon's accommodations are not unlike the city itself, which has quietly emerged as one of Europe's most dynamic —and affordable— spots over the past few years. Below, I've rounded up a handful of my favorites sleeps. Get packing.
Corinthia Hotel Lisbon
When celebrities and dignitaries visit the city, they bed down at the Corinthia Lisbon—a luxurious stay in the financial district. As a writer, I didn't fit the usual professional profile, but felt just as pampered at the high-end hotel, known for its comfort-minded accommodations and superior customer service. The look is contemporary and chic, combining marble and wood, gold and glass, plus modern artwork by emergent Lisbon artists like Diogo Navarro and Maria Antońia Santos. At the spa (the largest in the city), I indulged in a yoga class and a deep tissue massage, then whiled away a few blissful hours poolside in the hydrotherapy room. Cured of my jet lag, I joined friends for dinner at the tapas restaurant Tipico, where we tucked into pan friend foie gras, saffron risotto with green olive relish and crispy salted codfish (a national speciality). Port wine and jazz music followed at the breezy, umbrella-dotted Terrace Lounge.
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The Independente Hostel & Suites
It’s technically a hostel, but the Independente has so much swagger that you’ll swear you’re staying at an artsy-chic boutique hotel. Or at least I did, after wandering the hostel's common areas, where soaring ceilings, vintage artwork, and quirky, mismatched furniture look like they've designed by filmmaker Wes Anderson. Upstairs, the dorms are just as cute, with triple bunk beds, bohemian decor, and oversized windows, but the main social scene takes place in the two on-site restaurants. Decandente has a warm, lively vibe with an atmospheric patio and Portuguese-inspired bites (think: warm octopus and coriander salad), while the rooftop Insolito was more of a romantic affair, with its views of the Atlantic and the city's terra cotta rooftops. Traveling as a couple? I'd recommend splurging on one of the property's four suites, which have Juliet balconies and spacious en suite bathrooms.
Make this new 28-room gem your home base, and you’ll be in the center of all the action. The boutique hotel sits on the magnificent Praça de Munícipio, the site of the historic city hall of Lisbon, not far from the bank of the Tagus River and the Praça do Comércio, from where ships sail for the New World centuries before. Guestrooms are individually-designed—each boasting distinct design elements ranging from ancient fireplaces to original flagstone floors and wooden antiques. The hotel’s Delfino restaurant has a brasserie-like feel, and is your one-stop for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Ask the concierge to arrange an excursion of neighboring Sintra or a Segway tour through Lisbon’s winding streets.
Stately and historic, Palacio Belmonte is a splurge-worthy stay with amenities (sitting rooms, libraries, terraces) fit for a king. The Palace is the oldest building of its kind in the city, once serving as the residence of the Marques d’Atalia, Alvares Cabral and the Earls of Belmonte—something you might be able to intuit from the aristocratic interiors, which blend antique rugs, 18th-century hand-painted tiles, period oil-paintings and preserved Roman walls. There’s no restaurant on-site, but a breakfast is served on a breezy private terrace that overlooks the city’s terracotta rooftops, and all other meals can be ordered from Michelin-starred Belcanto. Spend your days relaxing by the orange tree and herb garden-lined black marble swimming pool, or brushing up on your reading one of two wood-paneled libraries.
Santiago de Alfama
It took nearly six years for renowned architect Luís Rebelo de Andrade and owner Heleen Uitenbroek to lovingly restore this 15-century building in the Alfama district. But the results speak for themselves: ancient walls, shimmering tiles, modern artwork by Sandra Baia and intimate sitting areas perfect for quiet contemplation. The 19 sun-strewn guestrooms have oversized windows, powder-blue accents, wood-paneled ceilings and freestanding tubs, where you can soak away your troubles while catching sublime views of the Tagus River. Jump start your day with an espresso and an egg’s benny at the hotel’s cheery Café Audrey, then explore the many attractions on the hotel’s doorstep: The Tile Museum, the Feira da Ladra flee market and the Fado Museum are all nearby.
Twenty minutes outside Lisbon’s city center, this 19th-century seafront mansion is located in Cascais, a sleepy fishing enclave known for its glorious beaches and al fresco seafood joints. The interiors—all done up in bold blue tones, with scrubbed cerulean tiles and dazzling gold accents—channel the beauty of the shimmering Atlantic Ocean at the property’s edge. Splurge on the penthouse suite and be treated to 360-degree views of the sea from its three terraces or from a massive freestanding tub in the angular, high-ceilinged bathroom. After tucking into a royal crab salad and octopus carpaaccio at the villa’s oceanfront eatery, rent a set of wheels and pedal on over to Paia do Guincho, which has the best surfing in the area.
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This boutique sleep is so tucked away in the cobbled, winding hills of Alfama that my cab driver had to consult Google Maps to locate it. But once we did, pulling up to the building's romantic, whitewashed facade, my cabbie couldn't believe it was his first time stumbling across the property and its ancient courtyard. Sleek, clean-lined and decorated in taupe and wood tones, the hotel's interiors are eminently eye-catching (read: nothing like its blink-and-you'll-miss-it address). After checking in, a bellboy led me upstairs to my room, but not before taking a detour to the rooftop lounge to catch the sublime, pink-tinged sunset. The scenery was outmatched only by the sophisticated clientele, who clinked glasses and lounged around the red-tiled pool as the sun slipped below the Tagus River. In the days following, I found the hip pad to be the ideal base from which to explore the neighborhood's many attractions. São Jorge Castle and the city’s 12th century cathedral, as well as specialty foods store, Conserveira de Lisboa are all within walking distance.