Fancy getting the royal treatment during your stay in Lisbon? This is the place. Palacio Belmonte is a 15th Century palace perched high on a hillside within the walled grounds of the city's castle and offers truly luxurious lodgings in its 11 suites and its resplendent shared spaces. A favorite with wealthy artists and the fashion set (this is whispered to be one of Christian Louboutin's favorite hotels anywhere in the world), the palace has been restored in the best possible taste, and the attention to detail is astonishing. The place feels secluded from the busy city streets outside and guests can play at being Portuguese royalty as they swish around the gorgeous gardens and ballroom, snuggle up in the library or enjoy a drink on their private terrace. The property is adorned with intricate blue and white. A black slate infinity pool brings things up to date, but overall the experience feels like stepping into a very opulent past. Service is discreet, but everything from barbers to butler service can be arranged on request.
Film buffs may find the palace looks familiar--it was featured in the Wim Wenders classic Lisbon Story
Accommodations are divided into 11 dramatically different suites, each of which has a story to tell. The most accessibly priced is the 45-square meter Fernão Magalhães suite is named after the Portuguese explorer and is tucked away in a Moorish tower at the palace entrance, and whose bathtub is built into an old tunnel. The most expensive suites (we're talking upwards of $3000 per night) are huge in size and count on everything from private libraries and antique art collections to dining rooms with antique furnishings. Terrace Suites have views over the old city and the river.
YOU SHOULD KNOW Don't expect high tech amenities (there's no air conditioning, for example) but prepare for an experience that can't be replicated at a modern hotel.
Bathrooms are as unique in style, size and layout as the bedrooms, but feature plenty of black marble, fresh flowers, and deep baths with overhead showers.
Slipping through the deep red wooden doors to this hidden hotel feels something like entering a portal to centuries past, where elegant ladies and grand noblemen take a turn around the ballroom and royal visitors take tea on the patio. In reality, most guests will feel like they have the run of the place, as staff members are discreet and seldom to be seen in the corridors. The lobby space, with its high marble pillars, is beyond grand. Reception is a one-man operation, but the hotel's exclusivity means there's never likely to be a queue.
Do ask reception staff for restaurant recommendations--they will happily do the booking for you.
Set in the hotel's flower-filled gardens, the black infinity pool at Palacio Belmonte feels like a gorgeous getaway right in the middle of the city. Sun loungers scattered beneath the trees provide a chance to sunbathe in style, and the hotel even provides bottles of sunscreen for guests' use.
YOU SHOULD KNOW The nearby patio can be busy with non-guests visiting the hotel's cafe, somewhat spoiling the sense of splendid isolation.
A breakfast of pastries, juices, cold cuts and the like is included in the room rate, and can be enjoyed in the lovely gardens when weather allows.
A terrace cafe-restaurant at the hotel is open to non-guests, and gets very busy with sightseers visiting Lisbon's hilltop castle. There's a small play area for children, regular live fado music, and a steady supply of fresh-baked pastries, coffee, juices and wine by the glass or bottle. A formal dining restaurant, Leopold, serves a tasting menu of high-end Portuguese cuisine in an elegant setting
A Chef's Table can be booked at the very highly-regarded Leopold restaurant.
Guests can mix themselves a drink at a self-service bar, and enjoy it wherever they please in the hotel and its grounds.
The hotel sits atop one of Lisbon's seven hills, which makes for wonderful views but also means some hilly climbs. Luckily, the famous 28 tram runs close by and is both tourist attraction and public transport service. Taxis or Ubers take around 20 minutes to do the airport run, and will also transport guests around the city. Exploring the Medieval cobbled streets of Alfama on foot is really an enjoyable Lisbon experience, though, and there are plenty of places to stop a refuel along the sightseeing route.
Foodie guests inspired by the tasting menu at the in-house restaurant Leopold will find more multi-course culinary adventures at Alfama's esteemed Boi-Cavalo (10-minute walk), while a more traditional Portuguese dining experience can be found in nearby Graça, where Pitéu da Graça, is renowned among food-savvy locals as one of the best spots in town for delicious food in generous proportions and served with energy and enthusiasm.
There are many, many places to drink in Alfama, but one of the best ways to begin a night out in the city is to enjoy an al-fresco tipple at Portas do Sol (5-minute walk) viewpoint at sunset. An outdoor kiosk here serves food and drink to a crowd keen to appreciate the panoramas below. Fado fans will also find plenty of it in this part of town, with Maria da Mouraria (10-15-minute walk) a good bet for quality music, good wine, and a decent menu.
WHY WE LIKE IT
This gorgeous palace offers unique stays in a privileged location right beneath Lisbon castle. The whole place exudes a sense of historic opulence, and the large building coupled with the small number of rooms means guests will feel as though they have their own private royal residence. Many of Lisbon's biggest sights and most in-demand bars and restaurants are nearby, too.