Lisbon hosted its first Web Summit last November, and my daughter Jen Lew, a high-tech social media strategist & web designer, was one of 53,000 attendees. When she invited me to accompany her, I offered to book accommodations, always a challenge during major events. The fortunate resolution was a stay in one of only 90 rooms at the culturally significant and comfortable Pousada de Lisboa, opened in June 2015. Though I had never stayed at a Pestana hotel, its affiliation with Small Luxury Hotels of the World assured me, and I booked four nights in the restored art-filled building.
Pousadas are nationally protected and preserved properties within Portuguese castles, convents, palaces, monasteries and historic buildings. In this case, the stunning edifice formerly housed the government offices of the former prime minister and dictator António de Oliveira Salazar. It is one of 33 Pousadas the Pestana group updated and transformed into hotels with amazing character.
Architect Jaime Morais retained many of the original 18th-century architectural elements, including high ceilings and a stunning staircase, and added modern bathrooms, a fitness center and the Magic Spa featuring an indoor pool, sauna, Turkish bath and a variety of body and beauty services.
Location is one of the hotel’s major advantages, as the front door opens on the important Praça do Comércio — Lisbon’s major downtown water-front plaza facing the Tejo River. While some rooms view the iconic São Jorge Castle, ours — a large, elongated corner space on the second floor with a seating area — faced the square, bordered by golden-hued buildings and outdoor cafés. It is also home to The Wines of Portugal tasting room. Just outside the hotel door — amidst cyclist-driven tuk tuks and tiny touristic vehicles — I wiggled into a sidecar and had a great time zipping around with a guide.
For breakfast, we ate in the light-filled solarium, and at night we dined under the curved brick ceiling at Lisboeta, a well-regarded restaurant where Chef Tiago Bonito —Portugal’s 2011 Chef of the Year — reigns. When I returned to Lisbon in May, I discovered a new and more casual dining venue: RIB Beef & Wine, a popular steakhouse.
Pousada de Lisboa
Praça do Comércio 31-34
1100-148 Lisboa, Portugal
tel 351 21 040 7640
Written for Global Traveler