Charming Lisbon is an emerging luxury city break destination, offering sleek spas, well-preserved colonial gems, and a rainbow of cosmopolitan cuisine.
Lisbon’s sun-soaked location is in easy reach of attractive coastline, and a marked lack of crowds makes the Portuguese capital a relaxing spot in which to indulge and unwind.
Hang out with an elite crowd at Lisbon’s modern art hub the Berado Museum (tel: 213 612 878/www.museuberardo.com): the aesthetically pleasing space features collections by the likes of Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali and Jackson Pollock. A special multi-media exhibition, Warhol TV, details the life and extended work of Andy Warhol, until 14 November 2010.
For a regal day trip in the greater Lisbon area, enjoy the striking palaces and enchanting greenery of Sintra – a 50-minute train ride from Lisbon. Explore the Romantic architecture of Pena National Palace. This decadent UNESCO World Heritage Site is sat on one of the Sintra Mountains, and features fairy-tale turrets, vibrant tiles, and grounds speckled with pagodas, fountains and bridges. A favourite getaway of 18th century English poet Lord Byron, Sintra boasts its own microclimate – always a few degrees cooler than Lisbon – thanks to its steep mountains and dense folliage.
For a high-style Lisbon stay in a vibrant location, the Altis Belém Hotel & Spa (tel: 210 400 200/www.altishotels.com) fits the bill. This 5-star design hotel, nudging the Tagus River, fuses Lisbon’s maritime history with modern style through wall-panel motifs depicting the ongoing theme of the Portuguese discoveries – the global explorations made by the Portuguese in the 15th and 16th centuries. Visitors travel through the Orient, Africa and the Americas, with every room different from the last. For added luxury, take a massage on the river-side sundeck.
Lisbon’s colonial charms can be found in restored 5-star glory at the Pestana Palace (tel: 29 172 4210/www.pestana.com): a converted palace set just outside the city centre, whose ornate and spacious penthouses attract a wealth of glamourous guests, such as US pop icon Madonna, and look out over the hotel’s extensive grassy grounds.
Find inventive Lisbon dining at 100 Maneiras (tel: 21 099 0475/www.restaurante100maneiras.com). This small and popular restaurant offers just one set menu, changing daily. Dishes are delightfully innovative (such as pieces of battered fish hung on a mini line with clothes pegs), and booking is normally essential, as the diminutive space fills up quickly.
It may well host a renowned golf course in an idyllic countryside setting, and an extensive Six Senses Spa, but Penha Longa Hotel & Golf Resort (tel: 21 924 9011/www.penhalonga.com) in leafy Sintra is worth the trip from Lisbon for its food alone. Of several onsite eateries, including a dedicated sushi restaurant, the glossy and modern dining space Arola shines particularly brightly. From curved, white seating, diners enjoy a modern take on traditional Portuguese tapas. Complimenting the attractive dishes, a rich range of wines – including some fantastic Portuguese blends – is served from a see-through cellar that takes centre stage in the heart of the restaurant.
Treat yourself to twinkling art nouveau jewellery in Lisbon’s chic Chiado district. Chiado’s charming streets are well-endowed with high-end jewellery boutiques and clothing stores, and cater for brains as well as beauty with book shops, theatres and museums.
Once laden with fancy purchases, Lisbon shoppers can thoroughly indulge taste buds in the name of tradition at bustling café Pastéis de Belém in the Belém neighbourhood, home to the eponymous golden egg-custard pastry treat. Find locals and visitors alike tucking into stacks of the circular little pastry tarts filled with a secret-recipe custard. Only three people know the treasured recipe at one time, making the custard every morning in a locked part of the kitchen. Many Lisbon cafés offer imitations, but it is only here that can truly claim the authentic pastéis de Belém formula.
Lisbon’s clutch of gold-standard 5-star hotels do spas very well indeed, but with its roof-top gym gazing out across the city, and softly-lit and sumptuous basement spa offering what has to be the best massage in town, the Four Season’s Hotel Ritz Lisbon (tel: 21 384 3005/www.fourseasons.com) is a winning pampering spot. The spa’s hour-long Signature body massage is first class, with deep tissue massage, lighter strokes and aromatherapy. Away from the treatment rooms, guests enjoy high-end spa facilities, with a glistening 18m (59ft) pool lined with wide, sleep-inducingly soft loungers, separate relaxation room, sauna, steam room, and, for an invigorating, skin-tingling fix, a crushed ice fountain.
World-renowned spa brand Banyan Tree have also secured a high-up slot in the Lisbon spa ranks, with Banyan Tree Spa Estoril (tel: 21 465 8600 19/www.banyantreespa.com), found at the Hotel Palácio Estoril. Staff may appear a little detached, but the state of the art facilities are worth the short journey from Lisbon along to coast to Estoril. Soak in a sizeable pool, complete with massage jets and fountains to prep up bodies before treatments. An optional counter-current gives swimmers added resistance, and a sauna and steam room are but a few lazy steps from the poolside.