High in the hills above the shores of the river Tagus, sits Palacio Belmonte. An incredible property and location that has played center stage to many of history’s pivotal moments of discovery. The city rolls downhill to the coastline in a beautiful and unpredictable pattern. Buildings angled and built within tight spaces make for a perfect labyrinth, with few if any dead ends. The entire moving art piece best appreciated from above. The magnificent Palacio offers the very best views found anywhere in the world’s “it” city. Terraces great and small on various levels and sides of the sprawling structure are a photographers dream. A living, breathing masterpiece. Formerly a noble family home dating back to the 15th century, today is a labour of love, a fairytale destination steeped in Portuguese history and culture.
The night gives way to day with a gentle loosening of it’s grip, making way for golden morning light to peek over the horizon and in through the bay windows. In Lisbon, no two morning are the same, as is the case with the various suites of Palacio Belmonte. One morning the sky is as clear as 18th century crystal, with out a cloud in the sky, the very next morning all but the space a few inches from your nose is swallowed by dense fog.
The delicate dance between classical and contemporary in the hotel is a microscosm of Alfama, and perhaps Portugal as a whole. It seems here, like in few other places, this dance is recited and rehearsed, performed and perfected daily. Old world traditions run deep. The sense of community is ever present. Artisans and musicians wind their way through the streets to find a tiny piece of stone on which to display and share their passions. In the courtyard men read newspapers over an espresso in the sunlight. The high walls and magestic door create the ideal backdrop in which to muse on topics of art and culture, politics and religion.
Romance is thick in the air. From the moment you enter through the grand doorway, the high arched ceilings complemented by warm lighting invite you to take the hand of your partner and chart your own route through the hotel. The space flows from passage way to winding staircase to grand ballrooms, accented by traditional tile mosaics dating back to the eighteenth century and rich splashes of colour.
Eye catching art work and comfortable seating areas complete the sense of home. Central to the hotel is the heart, the hearth. A fire crackles and heats the library. Books, records and CD’s create a connection with the creator, Frédéric Coustols. Each and every book in the seven libraries are books this fascinating man has read. Get a glimpse into the mind behind it all and view into his myriad of interests and passions. A true renaissance man, his love of all the beautiful things in this world is felt throughout the space; inspiring guests, friends and family to fearlessly pursue that which sets their soul on fire.
Palacio Belmonte is a living breathing organism, each Saturday the front gate opens early to allow people to pass through. Everyone from locals to tour groups complete the hilltop loop with a coffee and pastel de nata in the courtyard cafe, The flow is constant, yet measured, Internally the hotel was built with history and the microclimate in mind. The result is stunning. A perfectly tempered space. Warm in winter and cool in summer without the use of heating and air conditioning.
Make your way to the rear of the building, where you’ll discover a tranquil Mediterranean contemporary garden. Orange trees bear fruit over head while birds tip toe along the pool side. The steep slopes and ancient walls stand as barriers to the dynamic city below. You would never suspect such a place could exist, yet there it is. An elegant oasis designed to take advantage of all the sunshine that Europe’s sunniest capital has to offer.
Palacio Belmonte is much more than an otherworldly place to stay. It’s an experience, carefully curated with consideration paid the the smallest of details. Few guests make it out to explore for very long each day as evidenced from our time there. Why would you, how could you? You’re already living the quintessential Portuguese vacation dream.