Today I’m combining my love of travel and design by launching a new series of posts featuring stylish places to stay in some of my favourite destinations. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while now: after years working in the travel industry, I’ve come across plenty of good (and not so good!) hotels and apartments, and I’m really excited about sharing the best options for all my fellow minimalists and design addicts.
First up is beautiful, beguiling Lisbon. Tumbling down seven hillsides towards the shimmering River Tagus, it’s a city of paradoxes: charmingly old-fashioned yet innovative and creative, highly ornate yet appealingly shabby. Sleek shops sit next to crumbling mansions, cutting-edge restaurants by tatty neighbourhood cafés, and rickety yellow trams rattle along the cobbled streets much like they have done since the 1900s.
Here are my top picks for where to stay when in town…
Santa Clara 1728
This beautifully restored 18th-century townhouse – one of the few to survive the city’s 1755 earthquake – sits atop a hill in the neighbourhood of Santa Clara, overlooking the Pantheon and the famous Feira da Ladra flea market. It’s the first Lisbon venture of hotelier João Rodrigues and architect Manuel Aires Mateus, who have created a string of stylish places to stay elsewhere in Portugal, and it’s a wonderful blend of old and new.
The clean-lined, contemporary interiors showcase the building’s ancient stone walls and soaring arches, and the atmosphere throughout is relaxed and serene. The six pared-back bedrooms have natural linens, pine-wood floors and understated furniture by the likes of Carl Hansen & Son, Antonio Citterio and B&B Italia; their ensuite bathrooms are vast, with tubs and sinks hewn from local limestone. Downstairs is a lounge where Portuguese wines and complimentary afternoon cakes are laid on under a huge ‘Moon’ light by Davide Groppi, plus a dining room serving delicious food using vegetables from the hotel’s sunny courtyard garden.
Santa Clara 1728, Campo Santa Clara 128, 1100-471 Lisbon; double rooms from €300 per night.
This collection of 15 one- and two-bedroom apartments sits in a former can factory in a quiet corner of the downtown Baixa district. It’s the creation of art directors Isaac and Tânia Almeida and architect Marta Fonseca, who stumbled across the dilapidated building and spent months transforming it into a stylish haven that reflects the creative spirit of the city.
Each of the light-filled apartments mixes vintage and contemporary pieces, so you’ll find mid-century furniture alongside hand-painted Portuguese tiles, traditional loom-woven throws on boxy sofas, and colourful rag rugs on engineered wooden floors. Throughout are quirky little touches – perhaps a stack of old National Geographics, graffiti commissioned from urban artist AKA Corleone or faded maps on the walls. All have swish white kitchenettes with custom-made geometric splashbacks from local firm New Terracotta, but there’s no pressure to cook: breakfast is left outside your door each morning, and on arrival you’ll be given a handy guide listing recommended restaurants nearby.
The Lisboans, Travessa do Almada 9, 1100-018 Lisbon; apartments from €120 per night.
Baixa is also home to this cluster of airy serviced apartments for two to seven people, which offset pristine white walls and wooden floorboards with bright bursts of colour. There are 13 in total, each decked out with reclaimed furniture and retro finds that owner Jesus Moraime sourced from flea markets and vintage shops all over Spain and Portugal. I particularly love the swathes of salvaged azulejos, which look stunning next to contemporary white kitchen units, and the vibrant artwork on the walls. There are also plenty of eclectic additions – a collection of straw-framed mirrors in one apartment, a pile of antique books in place of a bedside table in another. Again, there’s no need to self-cater if you fancy a break from cooking, as your fridge is filled with breakfast goodies each day, and every apartment comes with a box of cards pointing you in the direction of the staff’s favourite restaurants.
If you want to see more of Baixa House, check out this lovely review by Emma from Field & Nest.
Baixa House, Rua dos Fanqueiros 81, 1100-227 Lisbon; apartments from €115 per night.
This sleek adults-only hotel occupies a former shoe-polish factory in Alfama, Lisbon’s historic heart, and it’s where I stayed on my last visit to the city. Its 19th-century façade blends seamlessly into the neighbourhood’s jumble of whitewashed buildings and narrow alleyways, the only clue to its transformation being a mural by local street artist Vihls which is carved into one wall. But step inside and you’ll find striking minimalist style.
The 42 rooms are almost entirely white and beige, with glassed-in bathrooms (don’t worry, there are blinds for privacy!) and swathes of polished concrete; the only decoration is a framed fado LP above each bed, celebrating the fact that Alfama is the home of this traditional Portuguese music. Downstairs is a lounge dotted with Arne Jacobsen ‘Swan’ chairs, plus a reading nook in the old brick-lined bread oven. Both make lovely spaces to unwind, but the real treats await at the very top of the hotel, where you’ll find a red-tiled infinity pool, a tapas bar and a vast terrace with sweeping views across the rooftops to the river below.
Memmo Alfama, Travessa Merceeiras 27, 1100-348 Lisbon; double rooms from €150.
This hotel is the odd one out in the list as it’s not exactly minimal, but I stayed there a couple of years ago as part of my former day job with i-escape and loved it, so it had to make the cut. It sits in an 18th-century mansion (the setting for Portuguese author Eça de Queiroz’s famous 1888 novel Os Maias) in the peaceful district of Lapa, and there’s a lovely air of laid-back elegance about it.
The rooms and suites have been woven into the structure of the old house and are brimming with original features. One is clad in handsome oak panelling; another sits in the former kitchen, with sofas beneath a huge stone hearth. There are also ornately tiled lounges, a bar and even a secret passageway hidden behind a revolving dresser. But the biggest draw is the tiered courtyard at the rear, where daybeds, glowing lanterns and a small pool are scattered among fragrant jacarandas and swaying palms.
Palacio Ramalhete, Rua das Janelas Verdes 92, 1200-692 Lisbon; double rooms from €150.
For more Lisbon inspiration, see my tips on where to shop, eat and explore.