It’s easy to see why Lis­bon tops the Euro­pean-city-to-visit list

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - Contents - Guy Kelly

Fall in love with Lis­bon


As a gen­eral rule, one should be wary of any dis­trict sold as hav­ing be­come ‘lively’. De­pend­ing on who’s say­ing it, it’s a term that can mean any­thing from ‘there is of­fi­cially now more than one café’ to ‘the mug­ging will be worth it, we prom­ise’. Yet when Memmo Príncipe Real ho­tel claims to be sit­u­ated in ‘an area slowly be­com­ing one of the liveli­est in Lis­bon’, it’s hard to ar­gue.

Just north of Bairro Alto, Príncipe Real – mean­ing ‘Royal Prince’ in hon­our of Queen Maria II’S first­born – was once a part of the Por­tuguese cap­i­tal marked by its beau­ti­ful 19th-cen­tury man­sions, sleepy squares and botan­i­cal gar­dens. Then it be­came known for gay bars and an­tiques shops. To­day, though, it has all those things and the rest: a rash of in­de­pen­dent shops, rowdy late-night fado (tra­di­tional mu­sic in­volv­ing a gui­tar player and a melo­dra­matic singer) bars, a thor­oughly de­cent restau­rant scene and a clutch of small art gal­leries. In a few decades, it has gone from stuffy to cool, with­out slid­ing into pre­ten­sion.

As a base for ex­plor­ing the steep streets, Memmo Príncipe Real is as good as any. The ho­tel is perched on one of Lis­bon’s seven hills, mean­ing views from any of its stylish, sleek rooms – or cock­tail bar, or restau­rant, or swim­ming pool – cover al­most the whole city. It is a treat at any time, but you’d be wise to take your port and tonic (com­pli­men­tary on ar­rival to all guests, thank you very much) on to the ter­race for sun­set, then head out to en­joy the neigh­bour­hood’s nightlife.

Lis­bon is more pop­u­lar than ever, par­tic­u­larly with Bri­tish tourists look­ing for a cheaper week­end away than much of north­ern Europe of­fers, and al­most every part of the city is jostling to be the place to visit. For now, Príncipe Real is win­ning. It’s cer­tainly lively.


A 15-minute stroll south to­wards the River Ta­gus, Al­malusa Baixa/chi­ado sits in one cor­ner of Praça do Mu­nicí­pio square on the border of the Baixa and Chi­ada neigh­bour­hoods. Tucked away in an 18th-cen­tury build­ing, which once stored Lis­bon’s can­nons and other weapons des­tined for the ships of de­part­ing Por­tuguese ex­plor­ers, this great lit­tle ho­tel looks across mo­saic cob­bles to the neo­clas­si­cal city hall. Be­ing a listed build­ing, its vaulted ceil­ings, weath­ered flag­stone floors and won­der­ful moss-green tiles have been left just as they were and no two be­d­rooms are alike. The in­te­rior de­sign style is con­tem­po­rary Por­tuguese, with fresh white­washed walls, muted earthy fab­rics and lo­cal ar­ti­san prod­ucts. On the ground floor is Del­fina, a laid-back sea­sonal Por­tuguese brasserie-style restau­rant. In warm weather, be sure to snag a ta­ble out­side on the square, or­der a plate of ba­cal­hau and a chilled glass of white and watch the world go by. — Francesca Syz



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