When I first visited Lisbon seven years ago, the city was going through an existential crisis: bruised by the recession, young people were moving to Berlin or Brazil. Solitary men huddled around tiny ginjinha bars that served cherry liqueur shots for one euro. Alfama, the city's oldest neighborhood, was little more than a down-at-the-heels flea market and a few melancholy fado joints.
How times change. When I returned to Lisbon this spring with my six-year-old son, I found a city aglow. Creative start-ups have reinvigorated the economy, while canny property developers (and a major increase in flights, especially from the U.S.) have sparked a surge in tourism. MAAT, the Museum of Art, Architecture & Technology, sits like a ceramic spaceship on the waterfront. Abandoned warehouses are now co-working studios where hipsters nurse flat whites instead of the typical bica, or eye-poppingly strong espresso.
The hotel landscape has also undergone a sea change. Derelict buildings are now stylish short-stay apartments; rambling palazzos have become five-star hideaways. Read on for the best new places to stay in the city of seven hills, with or without an excitable kid in tow.
Vintage Hotel & Spa
You've got to love a hotel where the staff members smile indulgently as your child sprints down the corridor and screeches to a halt on his knees. This is soccer-mad Portugal, after all, and my son was only pretending to be Ronaldo after scoring a winning goal.
The Vintage is a paean to Midcentury Modernism, but never slips into pastiche. While the sunflower-yellow chairs and 1950s bar cart lent our dusky-blue bedroom a firmly retro feel, the graphic prints hanging on the wall added a 21st-century edge. The 56 bedrooms and suites come in three different size categories, each themed by color: blue, a reference to the nearby Algarve coast; fern, a nod to the city's Botanical Gardens; and russet, echoing Lisbon's patchwork of terra-cotta-tiled rooftops.
Interior designer Daniela Franceschini sourced each piece of furniture personally, layering modern classics by Kai Kristiansen, Poul Cadovius, and Arne Vodder with art and objects by local artists. It all comes together beautifully.
The guest rooms are generous, and there is a ton of public space, too, including a lobby bar with rich mahogany floors and velvet cocktail chairs, a roof terrace with the requisite views of Castelo de São Jorge, and a moody spa with a plunge pool, steam room, and sauna to soothe sore calves after scaling Lisbon's unforgiving hills. The night we arrived, we headed out to explore the hip Principe Real neighborhood, a short walk from the hotel. But the following morning, breakfast in the luminous street-level restaurant was such a feast — corn bread, local cheese, quince preserves, zucchini omelette — that I regretted not having made a dinner reservation there the night before.
To book: thevintagelisbon.com, doubles from $188
Arriving at the Lisboans, you might think you'd stepped into a design studio rather than a guesthouse. Check-in takes place at a long communal table, and the names of new arrivals are written on a blackboard in colored chalk. In his checked shirt and baseball cap, front desk clerk Mário Nascimento comes across more like a cool friend than an employee. He happily sat and drew ninjas with my son while the soft-spoken Isaac Almeida, one of the four owners, showed me around. Fun fact: the other three, including Isaac's wife, Tânia, are triplets.
Isaac and Tânia met as art directors at an advertising agency. When the global recession came crashing down on Lisbon, they joined forces with Tânia's sisters and borrowed the money to buy an abandoned factory, where the industrial machinery had become entwined with ivy and bindweed. It took four years to restore the building. They designed most of the Scandi-style furniture themselves and traveled all over Portugal shopping for the handwoven throws on the beds and the shimmering tiles in the crisp kitchenettes. Friends and family created some of the prints and photographs on the sun-kissed walls.
Kitchens are stocked with yogurt and house-made granola, with fresh bread and orange juice delivered each morning. For a treat, pick up goat cheese, red-pepper relish, and Madeira cake from Prado Mercearia, their sage-green deli-café next door. It's a luscious showcase of the ingredients used at Prado, the farm-to-fork restaurant a few doors down. (All three businesses occupy a single block on a quiet side street.) Ask Mário to pull some chef's-apron strings; getting a table at Prado is tricky, especially on weekends.
To book: thelisboans.com, doubles from $250
What's in a name? In this case, everything. Casa Fortunato feels more like a home than a hotel. And if you score one of the nine sought-after rooms, then you should consider yourself fortunate indeed. Inês Biscaya, a beaming brunette in a gingham frock, and a black Labrador named Cacau welcomed us into the circular lobby — an extravagant vision of pink marble and stucco. Beyond the reception area (a pair of vintage mint-green desks, one adorned with a smiley-face lamp) is a kitchen and living space, where breakfast is laid out on a communal table.
Every detail at this turn-of-the-20th-century town house is playful and unexpected. It was designed by architect Antonio Costa-Lopes and his wife, Filipa Fortunato, a children's-book author, who live on the top floor with their four children, ages five to 17. "We often talked about what we'd do when our kids left home," Filipa said, offering me a slice of plum cake. "Instead of rattling around an empty house arguing, we thought, We must have lots of guests." They've also filled the soaring rooms with family heirlooms, modern art, and designer treasures collected during 20 years of marriage. Even the bathrooms, blessed with luxuriant tubs, are a celebration of color, pattern, and texture.
Every morning, there's a complimentary yoga class in a fragrant, chipboard-clad studio. The library, where the Fortunato kids take piano lessons, has picture windows for gazing at the ebb and flow of life in Amoreiras, a vibrant neighborhood favored by financial and creative companies. You don't just feel part of the community — you feel like you've been invited to the coolest house party in Lisbon.
To book: casafortunato.com, doubles from $440
One Palácio da Anunciada
In its 16th-century heyday, the house One Palácio da Anunciada is set in contained 18,000 books and paintings by Rubens and Titian. Today there's nothing but a monumental bouquet of spring blossoms to distract from the frescoes and marble inlays in the foyer. Even the entrance to the hotel, on a narrow street just steps from Avenida da Liberdade, Lisbon's Fifth Avenue, is discreet — so much so, in fact, that our taxi driver couldn't find it.
The palace had been abandoned for decades before the H10 Hotels group launched a rigorous renovation. It took a team of six experts three years to restore all of the original features. Photographs detailing this painstaking progress decorated our unabashedly modern bedroom, which was designed in a muted cookies-and-cream palette, with a carpet so plush you could curl up and sleep on it. A sweeping staircase with stained-glass windows leads to a trio of dining rooms with coffered, hand-painted 20-foot ceilings. French doors open onto a secluded garden, where daybeds are perfectly arranged around a glittering pool.
We dined in grand style at the Condes de Ericeira restaurant, where the bread basket is accompanied by edible flowers. I thought the formal atmosphere might be a little too much for my son, but he pronounced the One his favorite hotel in Lisbon. Why? "Because it's so fancy. And they have pink croissants."
To book: hotelstheone.com, doubles from $283