Santiago de Alfama

Alfama, Lisbon, Portugal Book from

Reviewed by Kate Parsons
Elegance and luxury at this brand-new converted palace, hidden high in the historic streets of Alfama
As we stepped through the jaw-dropping doors of Santiago as its first-ever guests, we were hugely privileged to see a classic boutique hotel in its infancy. Yet there was already an aura of sophistication and confidence in place that belied its ‘new kid on the block’ status. Owners Heleen and Manny bought this 15th-century palace (then a run-down bra factory) 5 years ago, immediately seeing its full potential. Their visionary transformation has kept the building true to its past, yet it has been pulled into the 21st century and turned into a stylish and restful space.

There are just 19 bedrooms, along with an atmospheric bar, restaurant, café and Beauty Bar (Martini with your manicure? Why not!). Mod cons are well considered and subtle (sound-proofing, speakers in the bathrooms, smart TVs), and Roman ruins unearthed during the build have been exposed and celebrated. Better still, you get all the things that are missing in many boutique hotels - lots of space, wardrobes, great bathrooms and classic Claus Porto products. Heleen’s eye for detail has created nothing short of a masterpiece. We felt thoroughly spoilt (and, dare we say, a little smug to have discovered Lisbon’s hottest new gem?).


  • Space: all rooms, even the cheapest, are generous for a city hotel
  • Beautiful, understated style - high quality abounds but things remain simple
  • Equally suited to couples, friends and families; not an easy balance to achieve
  • Set on a quiet street in Lisbon's oldest district, a short walk from Castelo de São Jorge and viewpoints across the Tagus river
  • Trams rattle past a few hundred metres away so it's easy to hop on and explore the city


  • The hotel was still finding its feet when we stayed (did we mention we were its first guests?), but we're sure they will soon be at full tilt
  • The restaurant menu was limited during our stay, but again, this may develop
  • Breakfast is charged extra
  • Be aware this is a steep area of the city and not great for those with mobility problems
  • Most rooms can fit baby cots but none have space for extra beds, so if you bring children you'll need to book 2 rooms (interconnecting ones are available)

Best time to go

Lisbon is a fabulous city break at any time of year, though temperatures can tip 40C in July and August. Room prices are lowest in November, December and January, and the city rarely gets very cold.

Our top tips

If you long for a latte, macchiato or flat white over the ubiquitous Portuguese bica (espresso), try the Scandi-chic Copenhagen Coffee Lab in Principe Real; super hip!

Great for...

City Style
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 19
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym


Each of the 19 bedrooms is distinctly different with its own charms, hence the bewildering number of categories. All you really need to know is that even the smallest are spacious and elegant, and all have a smart TV, and most a wall of wardrobes. Some are more contemporary than others; one has an original Lichtenstein pop-art; another features Bristol’s own Banksy prints.

Bathrooms are beautifully tiled (this is Lisbon, after all) with delicious citron Claus Porto products and vast walk-in showers or enormous tubs. Bespoke fabrics, furniture and linens have been sourced from across the globe, including India, and all are top quality. Full sound-proofing is the icing on the cake - we woke restored and well rested, rarely the case in a city hotel.

The stand-out room is the Santiago Suite. Spread over the top of the palace, its panoramic river and Alfama views are stunning, and the divine bathtub screams romance (the room for a special occasion).

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Iron/ironing board on request
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Safe box
  • Slippers on request
  • Smart TV
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet


Although breakfast is not included in the room rate, there are plenty of irresistible options on offer (pastries, fruit platters, cooked dishes and a signature house bagel), served either in the beautifully tiled Audrey's Café or out on the sunny street terrace.

For other meals, we thoroughly enjoyed the Portuguese classics in the formal restaurant, A Fábrica de Santiago . We shared a delicious arroz malandrinho (a rice dish similar to paella), bursting with prawns, salmon and spiced white fish. Staff are super friendly and enthusiastic, and were keen to discuss the menu (and, more importantly, the wine list, which has a good array of Portuguese options). Have a cocktail in the high-ceilinged Manny's Bar before dinner or just a beer on the terrace; both feel elegant yet relaxed.

Of course, Alfama has plenty of good restaurants. For a change of scene, we'd recommend the tasting menu at Mini Bar Teatro.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Café
  • Children meals
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service


  • Enjoy the history of Lisbon's oldest district: wander cobbled streets, visit the famous Castelo de São Jorge, and see the church that Christopher Columbus got married in
  • Fado, the beautiful, haunting Portuguese singing, originated in Alfama; ask reception to recommend cafés with live performances
  • Jump on Tram 28 and head downtown or just enjoy a rattling ride around Lisbon
  • We loved LX Factory, a converted warehouse turned creative hub, housing cutting-edge shops, cafés and galleries
  • Or you can shop in the high-street stores of Baixa, the quirky boutiques of Bairro Alto and the upmarket hideaways of Chiado
  • No one should leave Lisbon without visiting Pastelaria de Belém, the spiritual home of the custard tart; take the train from Cais do Sodré (a cool area in itself) or a tram from the city. Whilst there, visit the Cultural Centre of Belém, which includes a terrific modern-art museum
  • When the sun's up, catch a tram to Cascais and bask on its golden beach

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Music
  • Nightlife
  • Shopping / markets
  • Well being


Children are warmly welcomed. Family is important to Heleen and Manny, who have 3 kids of their own, and they've provided heaps of equipment to borrow, from a buggy to stair gates (though we felt it best suited to older, well-behaved children although you'd most likely have to book two adjacent/interconnecting rooms as only two rooms can have extra beds added to them). 0-12 year olds stay and breakfast for free when sharing their parents room. 9 of the rooms have baths.

Best for:

All ages

Family friendly accommodation:

All rooms can fit a baby cot. There is also a toddler bed available for children up to 4 years of age which can be added to 10 of the rooms (on request). If you have one child up to 12 years old 5 rooms will work for your family (one each of the Deluxe River, Deluxe King, Deluxe Garden, Superior Garden and Classic Courtier categories) as these can squeeze in an extra bed. If you are travelling with two children or teens, you'd need to book 2 interconnecting rooms, the following pairs interconnect:
- 102 and 103, a Classic Courtier Bedroom (double) and a Classic Corner Bedroom (can be set up as a double or twin), and can sleep up to 4
- Deluxe King Bedrooms 201 and 202 (a double and a double or twin), with space for an extra bed which could work for a family of 5
- 203 and 204, an interconnecting Deluxe River Bedroom (double, which can also take an extra bed) and Classic Courtier Bedroom (can be double or twin), so could also work for a family of 5


On request

Baby equipment:

  • Baby cots
  • High chairs
  • Stair gates
  • Toddler bed
  • Buggy to borrow
  • Baby bedding
  • Potties
  • Night lights
  • Baby baths
  • Baby monitors
  • Bottle warming
  • Kids' books / toys

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

Kids' menu available all day, and special mealtimes for kids

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Zoo
  • Beach
  • Oceanarium
  • Ride trams


  • Airport: 20 minutes' drive (Lisbon)
  • Shop: 2 minutes
  • Hospital: 15 minutes
Kid Friendly: Junior Deluxe Twin Suite (Garden View)

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