Few hotels have the ability to make your jaw drop as well as charm you with its intimate details the way that Palácio Belmonte in Lisbon, Portugal does. A virtual archaeological artifact, with parts of it dating back to the Roman era, the palace sits atop a hill in the beautiful neighborhood of Alfama. Palácio Belmonte is a treasure trove of history, luxury, beauty and design – all tied together with a ribbon of love and care.
The hotel features only 9 suites, all different in character and nature. Some have rooftop balconies with commanding views of the Atlantic, while others offer private dining rooms fit for a king and all his men. The proprietors of the hotel, Frederic and Maria, purchased the property in the mid 1990s as a home, without ever stepping foot inside. Instead, they put trust in their instincts, which have turned out for the better. After a painstaking restoration that lasted years, they were left with a hotel within their home – surrounded by citrus trees, bubbling fountains and a courtyard draped in bougainvillea.
As a recent guest of the property, I experienced the hotel for three nights. I arrived at 6:00 am where Frederic met me inside the courtyard that sits behind the palace’s gargantuan red doors. The manager, Farhan, a charming man originally from Pakistan, had not arrived yet, so I was invited inside the private kitchen of the owner to indulge in a cup of Portuguese coffee. An hour later, Farhan arrived and I was led to my suite, named “Bartolomeu de Gusmão” after the famous Portuguese priest. It was three stories of absolute bliss.
The room featured a spiral staircase, which began in the kitchenette on the lowest level, up to meet a sprawling marble bathroom and up again to a spacious circular dining area with windows overlooking the sparkling blue sea. The windows were flanked with built-in seating, anchored with original blue Portuguese tiles from the 1700s. A writing desk and large white sofa also graced this area. Up another bit of stairs I reached the bedroom with, yet again, views of the sea and a king-sized bed dressed in cozy linens. Stepping up the last bit of stairs, passing strategically placed pieces of art, I reached a small red door which led me out to my private terrace with views of the entire city below.
As a guest at Palácio Belmonte you are treated like family. Housekeepers dressed from head to toe in black and white uniforms typically serve breakfast. A knock on your door, at your desired morning hour, means a parade will come through with beautiful plates of fruit, yogurt, eggs, pastries and fresh coffee. I often lingered for hours in my dining area; sipping coffee and watching the boats drift by. In the evenings, my favorite activity was wandering throughout the house – discovering the endless number of rooms, each one different than the last. The most unique room, in my opinion, is the chapel. A beautiful little wooden bar was opened at 6:00 pm, where guests could pour themselves complementary cocktails in crystal classes accented with wedges of lemon from the garden.
The staff at Palácio Belmonte are willing to aid you in reservations or activities, if you’re able to break yourself away for a few hours. The courtyard of the hotel features a lovely café, Belmonte Restaurant, where lunch and snacks are served. Their traditional pastel de nata are the best in town. They are soon building a restaurant nearby that will offer dinner. Life at the palace is relaxed and intimate, a fete not easily understood by many luxury hotels in the city.
I must say that Palácio Belmonte is probably one of the most unique and one of my favorite hotels I’ve ever visited. After this experience, It’s truly difficult to think about staying anywhere else in Lisbon.