Lisbon is Portugal’s hilly, coastal capital city. From imposing São Jorge Castle, the view encompasses the old city’s pastel-colored buildings, Tagus Estuary and Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge. Nearby, the National Azulejo Museum displays 5 centuries of decorative ceramic tiles. Just outside Lisbon is a string of Atlantic beaches, from Cascais to Estoril.
With six establishments in the city, the Altis Hotel Group certainly has the upper hand in Lisbon. The group has created a magnet for le tout Lisbon with this ultra-contemporary five-star hotel in the Belém district, whose award-winning restaurant and spa provide equally good reasons for a visit. Add to this the fact that the hotel sits perpendicular to the Tagus, a privilege secured from the local authorities on condition that the building was architecturally in keeping with nearby Centro Cultural de Belém and jointly designed by Italian architect Vittorio Gregotti and his Portuguese colleague Manuel Salgado. The latter was responsible for the hotel’s main building, a huge, low, light-filled space whose facade exhibits a subtle play of materials. The Altis Belém is the only hotel located on the river in Lisbon, exactly equidistant from the Padrão dos Descobrimentos and the Torré De Belém, and its extensive terraces make the most of this perfect spot. The stunning, contemporary decor in all its huge rooms refers to different staging posts on the Silk Road – Coromandel, Burma, Malabar and Shanghai – featuring one far-flung country per floor. Interior designers Margarida Grácio Nunes and Fernando Sanchez Salvador depict these new Silk Roads in elegant, imaginative and glamorous ways. The rooms are bathed in an abundance of sunlight whose intensity can be controlled by automatic screen walls and blinds. The smallest rooms (just 58 square metres!) overlook the river in the direction of the Ponte 25 de Abril, while the largest (230 square metres) look towards the mouth of the Tagus and the ocean. Both functional and spacious, the marble and glass bathrooms also make a feature of their use of Corian, and include both a bathtub and shower. At the prow of this ship, the suites with a terrace and sometimes a Jacuzzi as well offer a stunning view of the Tagus, even from the bed. And from behind the huge, well-insulated windows you’ll catch a whiff of the Atlantic. FEITORIA is an excellent gourmet restaurant, accommodated in its own building and managed by João Rodrigues, one of the best chefs in Portugal today, who’s always on a voyage of discovery to unexplored culinary lands. In addition the Altis is home to MENSAGEM, the brasserie and cafeteria, whose terrace overlooks the small marina of Bom Sucesso; the 38°41’ cocktail bar, which also spills out into a huge lounge terrace sheltered from the wind; and in particular the BSPA, constructed in pale Thássos marble and a pure oasis of wellbeing with its sublime pool and unique treatments by Karin Herzog. It all adds up to a successful complex – a little away from the city centre but still close to lots of museums and cultural venues.
The logo, a stylized shepherd with a felt hat and a wool cape folded over his shoulder, says it all. Ecolã has found its place naturally under the moulded ceilings of Embaixada, Lisbon’s hip concept store and showcase of what makes Portugal different. The logo is a timeless image for an equally timeless style, straight from the Serra da Estrela, the mountainous region traditionally populated by shepherds and sheep. Ecolã woollens are made with brown, beige and white wool from three different breeds of sheep, resulting in naturally tricoloured plaids. To achieve other colours, the company develops dyes made from natural pigments backed by Oeko-Tex 100 certification, reserved for environment-friendly textiles. Her speciality is burel, a warm, resistant, waterproof wool that António Costa, the brand manager, compares to the Austrian loden, the homespun cloth of French monks or Italian lana cotta. Since 1925, when Ecolã was founded, it has applied a craft-industry method inherited from medieval mountain know-how. Its entire manufacturing process is Portuguese, from sheep breeding to shearing and from weaving to the sale of finished products. With the arrival of a fourth generation – the lovely Joana and Margarida Clara, who look like Italian heiresses worthy of Missoni and Trussardi – the brand is considered a fine example of a family micro-business. It was also awarded the 2015 prize for the business with the most “portugality”.
This restaurant is a huge popular success, attracting a queue that has continued to lengthen since it opened in late 2014. A Cevicheria has clearly become the beating heart of Príncipe Real. Chef Kiko Martins has certainly made an impact by hanging a giant octopus from the ceiling. The creature floats above the bar and spreads its tentacles over the heads of customers. But Kiko’s cooking is the main reason why people line up here for hours. You can’t book, so you just add your name to the list of hopefuls when you arrive. Then you wait patiently, sipping a pisco sour – like most fashionable places, A Cevicheria serves extremely seductive cocktails. But be careful to not be carried away, since you will want to keep your senses perfectly tuned for the dinner to come. Kiko was born and brought up in Brazil, and his work here is extremely personal, a distillation of his extensive experience in Latin America and his passion for ceviche. He is keen to develop it further and show his compatriots other ways to eat fish and seafood. The first revelatory occasion he tasted ceviche was on a beach in Chile. The second was with Peruvian friends in Mozambique. The man’s an obsessive character. In his other restaurant, O TALHO (Rua Carlos Testa 1B, Avenidas Novas, tel 213154105) he works only with meat. Here he adapts Portuguese sea products to Peruvian and Mexican recipes, as they both claim the birthright of ceviche, just as both Chile and Peru claim to have invented pisco. High in citric acid and very fresh, Kiko’s dishes are inventive and tasty: ceviche of cod and mashed chickpeas, quinoto de polvo (octopus and quinoa in a risotto), and Algarve gazpacho (tapioca, shrimp and fish eggs). For dessert, go for a quinoa crème brûlée and guava, or a piña colada tart (with dulce de leche and pineapple coconut cream).
Livraria Palavra de Viajante
A traveller’s dream, this learned and unusual bookshop is dedicated to the world of wanderlust. There are guidebooks, of course, but that’s not all, as the shop stocks all subject areas, from literature, poetry and general fiction to travel literature and maps – there’s also a children’s section and an exhibition space. Not satisfied with expanding her range of interests beyond genres, oceans and borders, Ana Coelho also sells foreign-language books (English, French, Italian and German) to maintain the authenticity of the “traveller’s words” – as her bookshop itself is called. In short it’s a real gold mine where everything is intelligently organized and thought out by country or continent. Searching at random you’ll stumble on a guide to travelling down the Nile, a unique book combining texts and illustrations on how the earth has been represented by various civilizations, and classics such as Pier Paolo Pasolini’s The Scent of India, The Adventures of Tintin, works by Jules Verne, Partir… (a selection of writings by Michel Déon), a compilation of international railway networks, the biography of a Jesuit priest who was a missionary in 17th-century Ethiopia, and Graham Greene’s Travels with My Aunt. The landscape and vision belong to Ana Coelho, who engages directly with our imagination, dreams, wanderings and desire to escape, promising happiness and foreign adventures. Ana’s shop keeps the golden age of discovery well and truly alive.
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