When you ask Maria Mendonca, the owner of Palacio Belmonte, what she loves most about Lisbon, you will not hear about her favourite places and things to do about town, but more about her feelings and senses regarding the city. The light, the colour and mostly how the Portuguese people take care of each other living together in this almost 2000-year-old Portuguese capital city.
To feel that truly by heart we checked in at the Palacio Belmonte, which is at the top of the city in the Alfama area right next to the castle overlooking the old part of Lisbon and the bay “straw see”. Actually the moment you enter through the red wooden door, you do not want to leave the Palacio anymore. Built in 1449, the palace was the former residence of the Marques d’Atalia, Alvares Cabral and the Earls of Belmonte for over 500 years and it is the oldest building of its kind in the city. In 1994 Frederic Coustols and his artist wife Maria bought the Palacio and transformed it, following sustainable principles, into a small one-of-a-kind luxury “hotel”.
Both live in the Palacio as well and they add the biggest asset to it with their own way of life. Maria is an artist and her paintings are in some of the suites and Frederic is an art collector, an artist as well and an avid reader (he reads a book a day). Together they make this place and give the magic to it which you feel the minute you step through the red door.
On my way to our suite (the guest palace has only 10 individual suites), you pass great salons, filled with books and art and objets trouvé collected over time by the owners themselves. There is no mise en scène about all that but rather a nonchalance, a very relaxed but at the same time modest and elegant feel about this atmosphere. You feel, smell and sense truly a part of the old Europe and that is what Lisbon is all about.
The magnificent details make this place so special, like for example the blue and white Portuguese tiles in the salons and rooms, which had been commissioned in 1720-30 by Portuguese tile masters. They show the life at court and were not destroyed in the big earthquake in 1775.
We truly recommend to stay at least two nights and have breakfast on the garden terrace before enjoying your morning swim in the Bougainvillea-covered pool. We guarantee that you probably feel like simply staying in your suite all day long. ☺
Take your sketchbook, laptop or anything else to document your creative mind which will be stimulated in all different ways, or just daydream sitting on your terrace or get lost in the hotel’s library with art books and literature.