Palacio Ramalhete

Lapa, Lisbon, Portugal Book from

Reviewed by Abi Dare
A beautifully restored townhouse hotel wrapped around a tranquil courtyard, with an excellent bar and a pool
History seeps from every corner of this 18th-century mansion. It’s set in the peaceful, gently Bohemian district of Lapa, long a favourite with writers and artists, and book worms might recognise it as the setting for famous Portuguese author Eça de Queiroz’s classic 1888 novel Os Maias. But even if you don’t know much about literature, you’ll soon be seduced by the elegant architecture and serene ambiance.

The rooms and suites have been skilfully woven into the structure of the old house - all are different, and all are packed with original features. One is clad in handsome oak panelling; another sits in the former kitchen, with sofas beneath a huge stone hearth. There’s also a trio of azulejo-lined lounges, a bar serving the kind of sophisticated drinks you’d expect (including 10 different takes on the G&T), and even a secret passageway hidden behind a revolving dresser. Perhaps the biggest draw is the tiered courtyard outside, where daybeds and glowing lanterns are scattered among pots of fragrant roses and jacaranda. Crowning it all is the palm-shaded pool on the upper level, where you can lie back, gaze out over the rooftops to the River Tagus beyond, and completely forget you’re in one of Europe’s busiest capitals.

Highs

  • A wonderful respite from the noise and heat of the city - and it’s one of the few boutique hotels in Lisbon with its own pool
  • The feel is refined, romantic and authentic, yet far from stuffy - this is a place where you can really unwind
  • The delicious breakfast spread - one of the best we’ve tasted in Portugal. There's also a selection of tapas-style dishes - ideal with cocktails or a glass of wine
  • The renowned National Museum of Ancient Art is just down the road, and nearby Tram 15 will whizz you downtown or to the historic sights of Belém in 10 minutes
  • Warm, welcoming staff who are clearly passionate about the building and its past

Lows

  • This is a quiet, residential area a little way from the city centre - not ideal if you want to be in the heart of the action
  • There’s no lift, so you’ll have to climb up several flights of stairs to reach the top-floor rooms (though staff will help with luggage)
  • The pool area soon fills up when the hotel is busy - get there early if you want to nab a lounger
  • Only a couple of twin rooms (it's best suited to couples), though there are extra beds and baby cots for little ones

Best time to go

Lisbon is a year-round city, and even in the height of summer Atlantic breezes mean temperatures here are more bearable than elsewhere in southern Europe. If you want to make the most of the courtyard and pool then visit between May and September, but the lounges and bar mean this is a wonderful base in any season.

Our top tips

If the hotel’s beautiful architecture inspires you to learn more about Portuguese tiles, take a taxi or bus to the Museu Nacional do Azulejo, where you’ll find examples from the 15th century onwards, together with modern interpretations. The museum also houses a vast panel depicting Lisbon as it was before the 1755 earthquake destroyed much of the city.

Great for...

City Style
Honeymoon
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 16
  • Breakfast & light meals (restaurants nearby)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
Room: Patio Suite

Rooms

No two rooms are the same, but all are light, bright and blissfully quiet, with wooden floors, antique furniture, and beautiful ceilings clad in whitewashed beams or ornate plasterwork. You’ll also get comfy queensize or kingsize beds, along with flat-screen TVs, free WiFi, bathrobes and Rituals toiletries.

The higher up the price ladder you go, the more space and opulence you get. If you can afford to splash out, the Executive Rooms and Suites - all with sofas or separate lounges, and some with river views - are truly stunning. Our favourites were the Dove Room, once the house’s chapel, which has waist-high azulejos and a frescoed wall behind the shower, and the quirky Old Kitchen Suite, whose sitting area is set under the original copper-roofed stone hearth. We also loved the panelled Old Oak Room, which has Chesterfield sofas and a palette of masculine greys; it's the only room which can be set up as a twin. Most luxurious of all is the Ramalhete Suite, which comes with chaises longues and a vast sitting room. More recently, 4 newer Suites have been added around the swimming pool area, which we look forward to viewing on our next visit.

But don’t worry if your budget won’t stretch, as the cheaper Standard and Superior Rooms, set in the eaves at the top of the building with views of the river or patio, are still spacious enough. Ours, Os Maias, had tile-trimmed walls and a little ante room with a cushion-piled sofa; another, the Garden Room, opens out onto the courtyard. There are also 2 rooms (the Museum Room and Attic Room) which sit side by side on their own landing and can be closed off to form a private area for families.

Note that bathrooms across all categories have a mix of showers and tubs, and there’s no guarantee of the latter even at the top end of the spectrum. If a soak is important to you, enquire when booking.

Features include:

  • Bathrobes
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

Palacio Ramalhete’s breakfast buffet (normally included in the rates) is one of the best spreads we’ve come across in Portugal. Laid out in the elegant panelled bar each morning are all sorts of cheeses, cold meats, juices, yoghurts, breads and pastries, along with some more unusual additions such as pâtés and smoked salmon. You can eat inside or take your plate out to the courtyard, where the delicate scent of jacaranda floats on the breeze. Staff will come and find you at your table to take orders for hot drinks - the cappuccinos and espressos are very good.

At other times of the day, there’s a menu of tapas-style dishes (also available via room service) - gazpacho, mussels, cheese and charcuterie boards, bachalau lasagne. They're perfect for a quick lunch, a light supper or a snack to accompany the vast selection of wines, spirits and cocktails - we can highly recommend the Botanist (Scottish gin, tonic, fresh mint and citrus zest) and the Summer Healer (dry white port, rum, lemon and basil) from the range of tempting concoctions.

You’ll have to head out for anything more substantial, but there are a couple of excellent restaurants nearby. We strolled a little way down the street to Le Chat, a striking glass cube set on top of the cliff just behind the National Museum of Ancient Art, and tucked into an octopus salad, sweet potato chips and delicious mojito-flavoured ice cream as container ships manoeuvred around the port beneath us. You can also hop on the tram to the numerous eateries lining Praça do Comércio in the centre of town - our favourite was Chefe Cordeiro, where Michelin-starred José Cordeiro serves up inventive seafood dishes such as seared scallops with lime risotto.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Children meals
  • Light meals
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Browse the extensive collection at the National Museum of Ancient Art, just a few doors up the street from the hotel. Perhaps most interesting are the lacquer screens depicting the arrival of Portuguese explorers in Japan in the 1540s, and an exhibition of extravagant gold jewellery from colonial Goa
  • Hop on the tram and head into the downtown Baixa district, where you'll find excellent shopping together with the Museum of Fashion and Design, which charts the evolution of style over the course of the 20th century
  • Pop into the national winemakers' association (ViniPortugal) on Praça do Comércio for an exhibition on Portuguese tipples. Entry is free, and there are tasting opportunities along the way
  • For independent boutiques, take the 1901 iron-built Elevador de Santa Justa from Baixa to the classy Chiado district
  • From Baixa, you can also catch Tram 28, the most iconic route on Lisbon’s network of rickety yellow streetcars, and rattle up through the twisting streets of the historic Alfama neighbourhood to the Sé cathedral and São Jorge Castle
  • Or head in the opposite direction from the hotel to Belém, from where Portuguese ships set off to conquer the new world. Here you’ll find 2 of Lisbon’s most iconic monuments - the Padro dos Descombrimentos and the Torre de Belém - along with the gothic Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, which houses the archeological museum
  • Once you’ve seen Belém’s sights, stop at the Antiga Confeitaria de Belém (open since 1837) for some of the best custard tarts in the city, or head over to modern cocktail bar A Margem for sundowners overlooking the Tagus
  • Learn about Portugal’s haunting folk music at the Museu do Fado, then take in a live performance at one of the many fado clubs dotted around Alfama. We particularly liked Mesa de Frades, housed in a tiny converted chapel

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Music
  • Nightlife
  • Private guided tours
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Wine tasting

Kids

Although Palacio Ramalhete is a peaceful and refined retreat, children of all ages are welcome - and a splash around the pool will provide welcome relief from the heat of the city.

Best for:

All ages

Family friendly accommodation:

Most of the Superior Rooms, Executive Rooms and Suites can accommodate an extra bed or baby cot, and some Suite has space for 2 children. Families can also book the Standard Museum and Attic Rooms, which sit side by side on their own landing and can be closed off to form a private area - each of these can also hold an extra bed or baby cot.

Children's meals:

The menu of light dishes has a few child-friendly options, including ham and cheese toasties and spaghetti with tuna. Plenty of soft drinks are available, too.

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
8/
Food
9/
Service
8/
Value
9/
Overall

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