There are hotels with history and then there is the Palácio Belmonte. The Romans built one of the towers, and another two were erected over a thousand years ago when the Arabs ruled Lisbon. The noble palace chambers linking them together were constructed in the 15th century and once were home to the family of Pedro Álvares Cabral, the man credited, at least in this part of the world, with "discovering" Brazil. The current French owner has invested €26 million into turning the palace into an ultra-luxurious hotel with 10 suites. Each is unique, most have fabulous views over the medieval Alfama district and across to the river beyond, and all are furnished with comely antiques. There are bathrooms clad in rare gray marble with walk-in showers, sunken baths, and their own panoramic vistas. One tower-topping bedroom boasts 360-degree views high above the city, others have private terraces where you can take your organic, freshly prepared breakfast. A Michelin-starred chef is on hand to do the catering should you decide to dine in your suite. The walled garden is a haven of peace, complete with luxuriant vegetation, a swimming pool, and waterfall. Blue-and-white 17th-century tiles cover many walls, there are oriental carpets underfoot, and displays of contemporary art in the patio and the hotel's own gallery. It's a step away from the São Jorge castle. As if that weren't enough, it's about to grow—plans have been approved to convert the ruined cottages that once housed the palace's staff behind the hotel into more suites and a spa.
- Paul Ames