Solar do Castelo
Rua das Cozinhas 2, Lisbon, 1100-181, Portugal
A member of the Historic Hotels of Europe, this boutique hideaway is located in an 18th-century mansion within the walls of Saint George's Castle. Original architectural features have been lovingly restored and archaeological finds put on display. Featuring classical furnishings and subtle color schemes, the standard rooms in the original building offer river views; rooms in the newer wing incorporate parts of the castle wall. Breakfast is served in a sunny, flower-filled courtyard, complete with strolling peacocks. Luxurious touches abound, including Molton Brown toiletries. There's no restaurant, but there are plenty nearby; the hotel also has 24-hour room service and a free afternoon tea (or espresso) with cakes. History buffs will love it - there's even a small museum showcasing antique royal artefacts.
YOU SHOULD KNOW Guests need a certain level of basic fitness to enjoy a stay here--access is via a steep pedestrianized cobbled street.
The fixtures and fittings of the 20 rooms at this elegant guesthouse reflect the grandeur of its location, but the rich velvets and heavy drapes are balanced by light, neutral colors on the walls, and modern touches such as flat-screen TVs and in-room Wi-Fi. Bed linens are light and good quality, and comfy robes allow guests to lounge around their room in style after a day's sightseeing or night exploring the restaurants and casas do fado of the Alfama district. Most rooms have glorious views over the grounds and out to the city and the River Tagus. There's 24-hour room service should you fancy a light meal or pastel de nata in the small hours.
Bathrooms have deep tubs, luxurious Molton Brown amenities, good/standard hairdryers, mirrors, and robes.
A stay at Solar do Castelo is all about escaping the hustle and bustle of the city, and guests arriving at the hotel after a steep climb are met by friendly staff in a cool lobby where antique armchairs beckon the weary traveler. There's a large living room, opened onto the patio when the weather is warm, with books, and magazines.
There's no lunch or dinner, but breakfast is a treat--with delicious fresh juices, pastries and strong Portuguese coffees served in that perfectly picturesque patio. Room service will bring light meals and drinks round the clock.
Load up on strong coffee and pastries at the breakfast buffet, safe in the knowledge you'll be burning plenty of energy sightseeing in this hilly part of town
An honesty bar, open 24 hours a day, means guests can mix themselves a drink or help themselves to a glass of wine, and enjoy it in the lounge or courtyard.
This isn't the best hotel for anybody with an aversion to exercise, and there's no disabled access. Bring comfortable shoes for walking, and take heart in the fact that you're never far away from an opportunity to recharge the batteries over a coffee and pastry with a view. There's no transport to the door, but buses and trams run nearby should you tire of sightseeing on foot.
There's no formal restaurant at Solar do Castelo, but guests are a stone's throw from the many dining opportunities of the Alfama district--which range from simple seafood suppers to fancy bistros. Nearby restaurants of note include Restaurante Casa de Leao (4-minute walk), which is right inside the castle grounds and serves solid--if not spectacular--renderings of Portuguese dishes. The real star here is the setting--a grand dining room and a terrace with magnificent views.
Less formal, but with similarly impressive vistas, the Miradoura Portas do Sol has several courtyard cafes, serving light meals, and petiscos (tapas-style small plates).
Close to the Solar do Castelo, bars, restaurants, and fado houses serve good and highly affordable wines to a lively crowd that takes in every age group and nationality. One stand out is the chic Memmo Alfama Wine Bar and Terrace (8-minute walk), where Converse-clad staffers serve drinks to a fashionable crowd, on a patio with a small infinity pool and gorgeous views over the terracotta roofs and down to the river. For drinks and live music, Café Teatro Santiago Alquimista (5-minute walk) has weekend bands and regular DJ sets, as well as a lively crowd and a good cocktail list.
WHY WE LIKE IT
As the only hotel in the grounds of Saint George Castle, the Solar do Castelo has charm, history and Instagram appeal by the bucketload. Service is excellent and the location is picture-perfect. Sitting in the courtyard with a glass of wine, amid strutting peacocks, guests will feel a million miles away from the crowds that form on the streets outside--this is the very heart of Lisbon's tourist district--the castle is one of the city's top attractions, and the cobbled historic streets of Alfama are busy with sightseers year-round.
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