I’ve stayed in countless hotels and from luxury hotels to spartan cabins, there have always been a few that stood out as a step above the rest. About 3 that I’ve been so enamored by, the location, decor, staff, vibes that immediately felt like home and left me pining to go back. Palácio Belmonte in Lisbon, Portugal is definitely one of those places. My article for Fathom perfectly captures everything I loved about this property.
This is the text I received from the manager of Palácio Belmonte, which set the tone for the next few magical days. Located in the oldest historical Alfama district of Lisbon, high on one of the city’s many hills with views of both rivers, Palácio Belmonte was built into Roman and Moorish walls dating back to 198 B.C. In the mid-1400s it became the residence of a noble family and with it’s ten palatial suites and common areas, I too felt like medieval Portuguese nobility. But this is not your stuffy, white gloved palace hotel. Sure you might run into a shipping magnate or a magazine editor or two, but the thing is, once you’re in the Palácio Belmonte family, you’re in. Through those red doors, all pretense seems to fade away. It’s as though owners ecologist Frederic Coustouls and his wife, artist Maria Mendonça who purchased the property about fifteen years ago, have curated the salon of the century.
It took them six years to restore the grounds and revitalize many of the original frescoes and azulejos that still compose the wonderful decor. There are antique rugs and an impressive art collection and seasonal exhibitions. Centuries old art, seamlessly mixes with modern. The library has thousands of leather-bound books from Frederic’s personal collection (he reads a few books a week). It is a palace, with several towers, so if you’re anything like me, you will get lost a few times a day. But that’s the beauty of Palácio Belmonte: every time you get lost, whether it’s in a courtyard with bougainvillea spilling over walls or through a side room leading into the kitchen, you always discover a hidden gem.
This guesthouse is the epitome of luxury, truly one of the best in the world. Not that cookie-cutter luxury, but unique and homey, inviting and caring. Palácio Belmonte seamlessly balances modernity with old-world opulence. Once you’re here, you’re in the heart of Lisbon’s history, so don’t feel too guilty about your overwhelming desire to stay in and not explore the city.
This is probably the most deep dive photo diary I’ve ever done with a Perfect Stay and it really felt like every moment I spent wandering around Palácio Belmonte, I explored another beautiful, inspiring, corner. Hopefully these photos inspire some wanderlust and you’ll head there!
Trust me, they are amazing. The ten suites are equally as majestic as the common areas, each suite a feast of colors and interior design. Consistent throughout all the rooms is Palácio Belmonte’s immaculate attention to detail, from the permanent decor to the in-room books. The Amadeo de Souza Cardosa suite, with its dark woods, chill library, and lofted sleeping area, feels like the most sophisticated bachelor pad. The Ricardo Reis terrace suite actually has original azulejo tile panels by Master Valentim de Almeida as well as original frescoes. There’s also a small kitchen and superb natural light. As for me? I felt like a princess in a castle in my honeymoon suite.
I stayed in the Padre Himalaya honeymoon suite and I still have yet to find a room that can compare anywhere else in the world. With two floors built into the Roman tower, 360-degree views of the Alfama district and the River Tagus, and a full marble bathroom (as big as most hotel rooms) complete with sunken tub, this suite is the epitome of romance.
There was nothing like waking up to the birds chirping and the sun streaming in through the wooden cross-hatched shutters. The beauty of Belmonte is that every suite is special, so even the lower-priced Fernão Magalhães room is luxurious and flooded with natural light, with a separate sitting room and full marble bathroom. There really is no way to go wrong here.
When restoring the palace, Frederic simultaneously wanted to modernize the building and restore it to its former glory, and looked to time-honored techniques of the past. Natural ventilation replaced air-conditioning, the architecture strategically employing windows and natural shade to maintain the perfect temperature throughout the palace. There are no elevators but there are steps all over to encourage healthy movement. There is a first floor suite recommended for those with mobility issues. This is not your standard luxury hotel — no minibars and no televisions — guests are meant to engage with the space and each other. Listen to the birds in the garden, swim laps in the pool, or play the piano in the music room. (If you must be connected, know that the WiFi is excellent.)
One of my favorite places to watch the sunset was the grand terrace. What a dream event space, and most nights, as the sun set, I had it all to myself.
One of the most outstanding features of the palace are the 59 panels (in the public spaces as well as one of the suites) of restored azulejos (tin-glazed ceramic tiles) that were commissioned in 1720 and 1730 by the Portuguese noble family.
Remember I mentioned that Maria is an artist? Here is one of her paintings below. Her amazing eye also presides over the seamless blend between old and new at Palácio Belmonte. A live in gallery that you experience upon entering. If she has a moment, indulge Maria to tell you lively stories of exhibition installations at the palácio.
You may feel like you have the nooks and crannies all to yourself, but the inviting atmosphere makes you want to get to know your fellow guests. Do as you please, while listening to fado music and making yourself gin-and-tonics at the self-serve bar in the lounge.
Healthy, organic, and natural. That’s what to expect while dining at Palácio Belmonte. Place your breakfast order before bed, and it can be delivered to you terrace (mine overlooked the river). I wasn’t aware there was room service, but when my mother sprained her ankle, a beautiful multi-course dinner of soup, salad, and fish appeared in our suite as if by magic.
Páteo Dom Fradique, 14
1100-624 Lisboa, Portugal
Trust me, treat yourself and go now!