Lisbon’s popularity with tourists continues to soar, but fortunately so does its supply of accommodation, with exciting new places opening every year. Some hotels are purpose-built, but the majority are revamped townhouses and historic buildings in and around the city centre, making your stay a memorable one and allowing you to get right in among the trams, churches and markets that make the Portuguese capital such a pleasure to visit.
You know you’re in Lisbon when you peer out from your front room and see trams rattling by or the City Hall where the Portuguese Republic was declared in 1910. Nestled into a corner of a cute central square, AlmaLusa sits inside a restored historic building. It neatly combines period features (flagstone floors, original fireplaces) with modern comforts, and all rooms are slightly different in size and decor. A good breakfast is served in the downstairs restaurant, and there’s also an outdoor terrace on the square.
Down near the waterfront, the LX Boutique Hotel was one of the first places to launch the formerly rundown district of Cais de Sodré into the hip category. This tall, former townhouse is now home to individually styled rooms, all spacious with shutters and lofty ceilings – the best come with river views. The downstairs restaurant, Confraria LX, is rated one of Lisbon’s top places to eat and drink and offers a complimentary sushi sample every afternoon. You are also right by Rua Nova do Carvalho, also known as Pink Street, with a pink tarmac denoting its role as one of the most happening streets for bars and clubs.
After a catastrophic fire ripped through Lisbon’s upmarket Chiado district in the 1980s, Pritzker Prize-winning architect Álvaro Siza Vieira was asked to help revamp it, and this classy hotel was part of the project. The windows give tantalising glimpses over the cityscape – you’re on one of Lisbon’s hills here – while the chic bar and terrace command terrific views across the city towards the castle and river. Rooms are big and airy, and some have terraces. You are also in the heart of Lisbon’s main designer shopping district, with the Armazéns do Chiado shopping centre right below you.
Hats off to the owners of this historic building who have artfully converted adjacent mansions into two different but equally stylish places to stay. The Independente Hostel offers 11 dorms with ornate tiled flooring, while there are also quirky budget rooms on the top floor for those wanting a bit more privacy. The downstairs restaurant-bar and patio is the place to meet people and find out about the various activities organised by the owners. Next door offers roomy double rooms, some with great views over the city, as well as an extremely hip rooftop bar and restaurant, The Insólito.
In a city with few high-rise buildings, the Sheraton certainly stands out. Whatever you think of its 1970s exterior, there’s no denying the fact that it offers some of the best value five-star facilities of any hotel in Lisbon. Modern rooms have all creature comforts, and the higher the floor, the better the view (and the lower the street noise). There are top-of-the-range spa facilities, a heated outdoor pool and an unmissable top-floor bar-restaurant.
Staying here feels like being an aristocratic guest in someone’s home (which at some point, it was). The stunning 19th-century townhouse is all stained glass, large mirrors and chandeliers, along with huge double beds that seem dwarfed in the palatial bedrooms. Its location, at the foot of the Alfama district, means you’re only an (admittedly hefty) olive’s throw away from the river, and many rooms have Tagus views. There’s also a giant breakfast served in the ornate dining room.
The Pensão Londres is old-school Lisbon at its best, in a tall building superbly positioned between the Bairro Alto’s bars and clubs and the fashionable district of Príncipe Real. A rambling place, there is a range of budget rooms of various shapes and sizes over four floors, the cheapest with shared facilities. Try and bag a top-floor room with a view – they have the best panoramas of the river.
Avenida da Liberdade is home to Lisbon’s top designer shops and most expensive real estate, making a stay at this wonderfully converted mansion something of a catch. There’s an appealing mix of traditional decor – you can still see the counter from its previous incarnation as a store selling herbal remedies – and contemporary comforts, including a small gym and plunge pool. Rooms are all sumptuous comforts and retro fittings, with the best ones peering out towards the castle.
As you would expect from a place partly owned by Cristiano Ronaldo (hence the CR7 name), this hotel is flash and superbly equipped. Rooms are colourful and plush and, inevitably, there’s a prominent football theme, from table football in the lobby to arty footy photos on the walls. Pestana CR7 Lisboa also has a hip bar and bistro, fitness centre and complimentary signed postcards from the man himself. Right in the heart of the old town, it’s a sure-fire winner, like anything else Mr Ronaldo puts his hand to.
In a building that was once a Carmelite convent, there’s an inevitable air of serenity at this small historic hotel. Many of the contemporary-style rooms are arranged around a lovely interior courtyard, where you can enjoy a drink or a meal from its highly rated restaurant. Tucked away behind high walls in the upmarket Lapa district, the hotel is a short tram ride away from the centre and an easy walk to the riverfront and the wonderful Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga.
This hotel proudly boasts its green credentials, with allergy-friendly rooms, low-energy fittings and local ingredients used in the restaurant. Even the modern building is partly recycled, retaining the facade of a traditional townhouse. The rooms are designed according to the concept of feng shui, complete with glass-wall showers, and there is also a wellness centre and spa. On a pleasant side street, it’s also an easy downhill walk to the city centre.
Mary Lussiana contributed additional reporting to this article.