Why we love it: A historic property with fascinating details, gorgeous tiles, and breathtaking views
- Stunning views of the waterfront from every suite
- A serene pool terrace in the palace gardens
- A central location with none of the street noise
Comprised of just 10 suites with distinctly different designs, Palácio Belmonte feels more like a dream vacation home than a hotel. The vibe is spot on, given the backstory: A Frenchman traveled to Lisbon looking for a vacation home in the Portuguese capital. He first saw the building from a taxi and thought to himself, “It has nine windows, just like my home in France. I’ll buy it.” It wasn’t until after purchasing the property that he actually set foot inside and saw just how enormous it was—far too large for him and his family. Thus, he set about remodeling the building (which was originally owned by a noble family in the 1400s) with the notion of converting it into a space for visitors.
When the property opened as Palácio Belmonte, special care was taken to make as few changes as possible—to this day, there are no elevators, but instead a labyrinth of stone staircases. There is also no air conditioning, but the entire building stays cool due to the abundance of stone, tile, and marble surfaces, as well as a cross-hatch window ventilation system borrowed from Morocco tradition. A few things were added, however, including personal terraces and heated floors in the guest rooms, and a glimmering turquoise pool surrounded by a vibrant garden full of bougainvilleas. The hotel owner also partnered with two French chefs to open a bistro right across from the hotel entrance to ensure that guests would have a casual yet high-quality dining option in an area that’s otherwise lacking in authentic cuisine.
Palacio Belmonte is a masterpiece—the type of architectural stunner that is said to be ‘mumbling beauty’ in every one of its corners. Every piece of material used to restore it, as well as every piece of furniture inside of it, was produced in Portugal. The resulting blue and teal hues in many of the rooms complement each other perfectly.
Best hotel in Lisbon
Ideally perched in Alfama, along the walls of the Castelo de São Jorge, the Palacio Belmonte is a labor of love for devoted owners, Frederic and Maria. The hotel has 10 elegantly designed suites decorated with ancient tapestries and contemporary art, with magnificent marble bathrooms, charming terraces or verandas, and stunning views of the Tagus River and Castlelo de São Jorge. More than 3,800 traditional blue-and-white Portuguese tiles adorn the hotel, all dating back to the 1700s. The arts, music, literature, and history are resounding themes throughout your stay and quite by design. There is a quaint black marble infinity pool surrounded by gardens enraptured by aromatic orange trees. Prepare to be immersed in another world during your stay, one that you will find hard to leave.
Palacio Belmonte, One of Lisbon veiled secrets
Some might see Palacio Belmonte as one of the most veiled secrets in Lisbon and the history of the place is the story of Portugal itself. It is the oldest building of its kind in the city, the Palace was the residence of the Marques d’Atalia, Alvares Cabral and the Earls of Belmonte for over 500 years. In 1994 Fredric Coustols bought Palacio Belmonte and started a six-years restoration project to convert this beautiful space into ten luxurious suites, each different to the other. Suites that preserve the history and the beauty of the place and at the same time, equipped with modern comforts and conveniences to better accommodate the lifestyle of the sophisticated traveler. You have to meet Fredric and his wife Maria in person, in order to understand the uniqueness of the place, its style and more important, the inviting atmosphere. They are both down to earth, creative, friendly and warm people. Their personality and creativity blends well with everything in the space. While Fredric’s books are in every corner in the palace, Maria’s paintings decorate some of the walls.
See the sunrise over Alfama
There are very few sunrises, like the one over Alfama seen from the top terrace of Suite Bartolomeu de Gusmão at Palacio Belmonte. Once a mosque and the location of where morning prayers were announced during the Moorish occupation of Lisbon, this tower suite has its main façade turned towards Meca. From here you can see that big orange&red fireball rising over the water, right next to the alfama skyline silhouette made up the churches, bell towers and the maroon clay rooftops, while dispersing its amber light on the tiles that line the buildings. Some call it a photographers dream place, I call it an everlasting memory of that Lisbon trip, it is well worth the early rise, specially combined with your breakfast being served as the sun makes it journey up on a hot summer morning.
Portuguese Street Tile Hunting
I have to confess that I am addicted to Portuguese tiles. Some people are addicted to chocolate or singing in the shower, while others like me are constantly taken by the intrinsic detail and colourful patterns of one of the most beautiful forms of street art in the world. Although the most elaborate examples were kept for the interior of the houses, these are in its great majority painted with a Lapis lazuli blue on a white background and are best reviewed as paintings. Lisbon has an Azulejo Museum of its own, that I strongly urge you to visit, as a complementary educational visit to the ones you find in the narrow back streets of the Alfama, Castelo, Baixa, Bairro alto, Chiado and Principe Real districts.
You may not want to ever leave Palacio Belmonte
The Palacio Belmonte in Lisbon is truly one of the most fabulous hotels I have ever set my eyes on. As soon as I walked into the property I started having a daydream where I saw myself in one of the luxurious suites. It’s an easy place to get wrapped up in. It was like a romance. There are ten suites at Palacio Belmonte. Each is unique and decorated with such good taste that I asked if they had used Feng Shui in the process. The blue chairs pictured above still linger in my mind. I also saw some of the best views in the city. Owner Frederic Coustols has made a huge effort in the restoration process, so the palace really does have tiles and design aesthetics from when it was originally built. I also love the Alfama neighborhood. It’s a bit less busy than Chiado and Bairro Alto and there are tons of great restaurants. If you are heading to Lisbon I think you deserve to experience this property. The only problem will be that you may not want to leave the hotel.
A Palace to Call My Own
When traveling, certain places will claim a special place in your heart. Lisbon’s Palacio Belmonte is one of those places. Next to the former royal castle, Palacio Belmonte was the home of the noble Belmonte family. The origins of the palace date from 1449 (but include Roman towers from 130 BC and Moorish towers from the 7th century). The current owner bought the palace from the Belmontes in 1995 and turned it into a luxury guest palace with ten suites. The palace gives visitors a sense of noble life in old Lisbon. Over 30,000 blue and white tiles from the 1700s cover the walls. A letter from the King of Portgual (found during the renovations) hangs framed. Terraces overlook the São Vicente da Fora monastery, the National Pantheon, and the Tagus River. When my family visited, we felt as if we had the entire palace to ourselves - we breathed in the living history of its walls and couldn’t help but feel deeply connected to Portugeuse history. How unexpected that such a grand house could also be so warm, intimate and inviting - broken-in custom leather chairs, colorful rugs, a cozy library, antique furniture, gracious hosts, and more. And the breakfasts - served on the terrace with a breathtaking view - ranks as one of my all-time favorites. If you seek an off-the-beaten-path, romantic, and historic experience, this is the place for you.