Complete with neon sign declaring ‘animals sleep here’, Hotel Hotel’s gleaming snakeskin facade cuts a provocative dash on this otherwise unassuming side street in central Lisbon, just off bustling Avenida da Liberdade.
Lisbon Airport is around a 30-minute cab ride from the hotel, give or take a few minutes depending on traffic. Hotel Hotel can book transfers in advance at a cost of €39 for up to three passengers.
The Lisbon Metro is cheap, efficient and fast with trains that run from the airport to downtown in around 20 minutes. To get to the hotel, change at
São Sebastião then disembark at Restauradores station, a few minutes’ stroll from the front door. For day trips to the fairytale palaces of Sintra and beyond, the grand gothic monument that is Rossio train station is about five minutes’ walk from the hotel, at the southern end of Avenida da Liberdade.
Motoring masochists who relish the challenge of negotiating Lisbon’s famously narrow and congested streets can hire a car at the airport, though this is a city that’s best explored on foot and by metro. Parking is available on nearby Restauradores Square for the princely fee of €20 a day.
Worth getting out of bed for
If the hotel’s collection has whet your appetite for great art, you’ll find plenty more in and around the streets of the trendy Principe Réal neighbourhood. Ride the funicular up the steep narrow street that is Calçada da Glória for ringside views of some of the most eye-popping graffiti in town, the walls here providing a huge canvas for up-and-coming urban artists. Disembark at the top of the hill in Bairro Alto, where painterly views across the rooftops of old Alfama to 11th-century São Jorge Castle hit more like the work of an old master than that of a modern graffito.
In Lisbon, there’s even beauty to be found beneath the city streets, where some of Europe’s most exquisite metro stations turn tedious commutes into spellbinding journeys. Indeed Avenida, a mere five minutes’ walk from the hotel, is one of the city’s finest, with hypnotic geometric tiling in greens, yellows and blues by 20th-century Portuguese artist Rogério Ribeiro. Other underground highlights include Maria Keil’s modern riff on Islamic tiling at Rossio and sculptor Francisco Simões extraordinary life-size marble figures of the Women of Lisbon at Campo Pequeno.
Even the most shopping-averse will find it near impossible not to be attracted, like a moth to a flame, to the shiny objects in the windows along Avenida da Liberdade. We’re talking Prada handbags, Armani suits, Louboutin heels, Cartier watches and other eye-wateringly luxurious goods including (but not limited to) perfectly packaged Portuguese wines, perfumes, olive oils and canned sardines.
When it all gets too much, exit stage left to the Jardim do Príncipe Real, where a short spell nursing an espresso and pastel de nata beneath the outspread branches of the park’s 150-year-old cypress tree will soon restore equilibrium. Or mosey on over to the nearby Botanical Garden to experience the exotic sub-tropical species and vibrant butterfly garden that inspired Hotel Hotel’s courtyard garden and living wall.
One of Avenida da Liberdade’s smartest addresses (and most difficult-to-pronounce names), JNcQUOI is a multi-concept extravaganza that’s part menswear boutique, part period property, part cool cocktail joint and part restaurant. It’s the latter we’re most interested in, and not just for the velociraptor skeleton that dominates the main dining room, looking every bit as ravenous as you might expect in a place like this. On the menu: life-enhancing burrata with lobster, tender Iberico pork and the aptly-named Dinosaur’s Drool dessert, a confection that packs in chocolate mousse, caramel, crumbled cookies, ganache and whipped cream, and for which the term ‘decadent’ may well have been coined.
Just the other side of the Avenida from Hotel Hotel, Solar dos Presuntos is all old-school Portuguese charm; a place where caricatures and sentimental snaps of beloved guests past and present line the walls and the menu promises unfussy but excellent seafood and local fare. Gorge on cured meats, grilled octopus and lobster and prawn paella.
Red bricks, light woods and hanging plants make fashionable Fabrica Coffee Roasters, just the other side of the Avenida, a strong choice for morning coffee and still-warm croissants. As the name suggests, they roast their own beans and, better yet, coffee here means more than just espresso, with a range that runs the gamut from flat white to frothy cappuccino.
Not a café per se, but it would be remiss to stay in Principe Réal without sampling an ice cream or six from Nannarella on Rua Nova da Piedade. Enter through the ornate azulejo-tiled facade before retreating to a leafy square with your delicious quarry: a traditional Italian gelato in classic stracciatella or pistachio flavours. Or try a seasonal limited edition like pear, pumpkin or pomegranate.
Five minutes’ walk from the hotel, Red Frog is a classic speakeasy-style bar complete with chandeliers, low lighting and leather sofas that creak reassuringly when you sit down. Take a medicinal Penicillin (Ardbeg and Copper Dog whiskies blended with honey, ginger and lemon) or say it with flowers with a fragrant rose-and-cucumber Star Fizz shot through with gin.
Sophisticated Cinco Lounge in Principe Réal aims to restore ‘the lost art of polite drinking’. It certainly starts that way, but as refined gimlets and debonair martinis give way to Jumping Jessicas, Hugo-a-Go-Gos and Screaming Orgasms, it’s anyone’s guess as to how politely the evening might pan out.