Lisbon owes much of its beauty and charm to its wealth of architectural treasures: gothic cathedrals and monasteries, Moorish castles and countless historic palaces and mansions. Credit the earthquake of 1755 for the city’s elegant visual coherence: Lisbon was almost entirely wiped out by the catastrophe and rebuilt in a consistent neoclassical style. Today many of those pastel-painted, red-roofed, azulejo-tiled buildings are being converted into boutique hotels, in part a response to the record number of visitors coming from overseas (a more than 12% increase since 2017). But it’s also testament to the city’s resurgent creative energy, which expresses itself in food, art, design and culture, in addition to hospitality.
Lisbon already has some fine luxury hotels, including the lavish 109-room Olissippo Lapa Palace and the stylish Valverde Hotel, located on tony Avenida da Liberdade. Another favorite, the Bairro Alto Hotel, reopens after extensive renovations later this month. But on a recent spring visit, I decided to check out a few of these more intimate options, each promising historical resonance, contemporary flair and five-star accommodation.
Santiago de Alfama
Santiago de Alfama in Lisbon, Portugal - Photo by Hideaway Report editorMy first stop was the hilly Alfama neighborhood, where a 15th-century palace was converted a few years ago into the 19-room Santiago de Alfama. The city’s oldest quarter, Alfama wasn’t destroyed by the earthquake and hence retains a medieval atmosphere, with sharply angled alleyways and steep staircases converging onto cobblestoned plazas. The hotel sits on one such square, an ecru-colored building with striped awnings and tables set outside. A smiling staffer met me at the door as I arrived, ushering me past a skylit lobby tucked between two grand stone arches and into the reception area. This was a small, brightly wallpapered room lined with displays of Portuguese soaps, wines and jewelry. My room was not yet ready, so she gave me a map and suggested walking uphill to the Castelo de São Jorge, the Moorish-era citadel that sits at Alfama’s highest point and provides an ideal first perspective on Lisbon.