Don’t overlook dream trip to lovely Lisbon
CHRISTINA BLANEY finds herself entranced by the beautiful architecture and atmosphere of Portugal’s capital
IT might be one of the city’s oldest hotels, but Tivoli Lisboa in the heart of Lisbon is still one of its most luxurious.
And my time there would be filled with moments I wouldn’t forget.
As if a stay there wasn’t enough, my time in Portugal would continue with a visit to the town of Sintra to stay in Tivoli Palácio de Seteais. The name sounded fancy enough, but nothing would prepare me for just how bewitching this hotel was.
Upon arrival in Lisbon, I was whisked to the sky bar on the ninth floor of Tivoli Lisboa. The view from here is simply breathtaking and widely regarded as one of the best places to enjoy the warm night air, stunning views and incredibly big cocktails.
The first offering as part of the ‘Experience Lisbon’ programme offered by Tivoli hotels was a vintage walking tour of the city.
Islamic tiles cover most of the buildings and houses, Indian elephants are depicted on the statue in Rossio square and the strong Catholic iconography is ever present in the many churches and monasteries.
The smell of coffee, cakes, cured meats and the sound of old trams chugging by fill the streets at every turn, it is the kind of place you could explore for a week and yet still find things you missed at first glance.
As someone who hates long walks, I have to say I couldn’t get enough of this.
I loved the relaxed pace and the depth of knowledge from our guide as well as the fact that we could stop and wander around small shops, taste some pastries or have a glass of port.
You simply wouldn’t get the same kind of experience sitting on a bus or listening to a tape.
Lunch was provided by Brasserie Flo Lisboa, a French-inspired Paterrie inside the hotel.
A selection of mini pastries including crème brule, lime sorbet and a shot of espresso was my absolute highlight.
Directly behind Tivoli Lisboa, Tivoli jardin was home to one of seven restaurants owned by renowned chef Oliver de Costa. The unanimous opinion of the food was that it was incredible – the octopus carpaccio in particular was just sensational and something I would never have tried before, the beef wellington was cooked to absolute perfection, the wine was perfectly matched, the whole experience was just sublime and was made even more enjoyable by a visit from the chef himself.
The next day we embarked on a tuk tuk tour of the city, which took us to several vantage points to take in the stunning views and beautiful architecture.
The electric buggy made short work of the rolling hills and winding cobbled streets.
This was definitely the best way to explore the city, especially if you despise long walks and steep climbs like myself and we were still able to get off and explore so this I would recommend as well as the walking tour.
We had lunch at Pap’açorda in the Timeout Market. The meal was lovely but what I have to mention here is the chocolate mousse we had for dessert.
It looked rather unappealling as it was scooped from a metal bowl and slapped on my plate so I wasn’t expecting much.
How wrong I was, this was the most epic chocolate dessert I have ever tasted, I just can’t put into words how good it was and I still have dreams about it.
The whole trip was worth it just to taste that mousse.
The sun was shining as we travelled to Sintra, only 20 minutes from the centre of Lisbon.
We were told that Sintra has its own microclimate, which meant that it could be sunny in the city yet misty and drizzly in the lusciously green mountain town.
Lucky for us it was sunny and clear, it was like stepping into a fairytale and yet was only a stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle of the city.
On our arrival at Tivoli Palácio de Seteais, the most luxurious hotel in Sintra, we were given a tour by a representative of FRESS, the foundation responsible for the restoration of the 18th century palace.
I have to say that this was one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen.
Home to 2,000 pieces of art including tapestries, engravings and furniture, the hotel is like a gallery in itself, each room making you look in every corner at hidden delights, in particular a grand piano decorated in gold leaf is simply enchanting.
The hotel is keen to pitch itself as a romantic setting, catering for private dinners in the gardens and offering the hire of the whole palace for up to 60 guests as a wedding venue.
Though I have never been described as a romantic, I could imagine getting married here and who I’d invite, where the photos would be taken, what the food would be, what my first dance would be etc and so was in a bit of a dream world for the rest of the tour.
If you are a romantic then this place is pure paradise, the ultimate couples retreat and beyond elegant.
After lunch we hopped in our waiting horse drawn carriage to ascend the hill on which the Palacio da Pena stood.
This palace was home to the last of the Portuguese royal family and was unlike any palace I had ever seen and was lovely to look around.
I spent a lazy afternoon swimming in the pool and soaking in the luxury of my suite, befitting the style of the hotel as a whole.
I enjoyed a simple three-course dinner and went to bed very upset that I would not be here for longer!
In Lisbon you can sit in a French themed pastry shop which is covered in Arabic tiles, drinking Spanish wine, eating cod from Norway then take a trip to the beach after an afternoon shopping.
There is something in this captivating city that would please anyone and everyone.
But what struck me most about Lisbon was the people.
Every single person I spoke to was so grateful I was spending time in their city and spoke about their home with so much pride, knowing its history inside out, commenting on places we had visited with such warmth and honesty.
But of course I could understand their love for their home, with its Mediterranean climate (and microclimates), glorious landscape, delicious food and an abundance of bars, shops, restaurants and attractions this idyllic place has it all.
Tivoli Hotels have made my stay feel more than just a few nights in a five-star hotel and staying in Tivoli Palácio de Seteais was the closest to feeling like a millionaire I think I will ever experience.
But the location is what matters here, Lisbon is a city which begs to be explored but is often overlooked.
With flights from Manchester from £56 return and the sun shining most of the year round, what better excuse is there to explore somewhere new?