Built and revised in the late 1800s, Olissippo Lapa Palace of Lisbon is a grand hotel in an upscale neighborhood of Lisbon dotted with embassies and the luxury cars their diplomats ride around in. It served as grand home and aristocratic gathering place until it was converted to a hotel that opened to the public in 1992.
Many original touches remain, from stained glass windows to a 170-year-old carpet. A new wing contains the bulk of the 109 rooms, plus there’s a pool in the garden area, but 21 rooms and the best suite are in the original palace building.
The entrance is impressive, with an iron gate, Lisbon’s signature mosaic stones in the parking area, and a fountain backed by flowers. The water is in sight down the hill. A uniformed doorman welcomes you and the front desk staffers are fluent in English.
The main restaurant and separate lounge are in this main lobby. The Lapa Restaurant retains the Murano glass crystal and a few menu items from its days as an Italian restaurant, but is now more focused on Portuguese food from local ingredients in season. The elegant space is a sunlit room for lunch or a romantic spot for dinner. The Bar Rio Tejo lounge is a clubby affair with high tea in the afternoon (with 42 varieties) and a piano player most evenings.
Breakfast is served down one floor, a buffet of carefully chosen breads, pastries, cheeses, fruit, and hot dishes. Seating spills onto an attractive terrace in warm months. Room service is available 24 hours.
The large outdoor pool is heated, so there were people swimming when I visited the first week of May. It has a resort feel with its cushioned lounges, fountains, and surrounding trees. In the summer months a restaurant and bar is open for snacks and drinks. Parents will be happy with a children’s pool and small playground.
The gym is not large, but has a good range of aerobic machines, weight machines, and dumbbells. An attractive indoor pool is open year-round. The Lapa Palace spa has complimentary steam bath and sauna that guests can use, or you can choose to book a wide range of massage treatments targeting specific areas or the whole body. Facials and body scrubs are also on the menu.
This hotel was originally part of the Orient-Express chain and some of their signature elements remain, such as a TV that’s hidden away when you’re not using it and pops up at the end of the bed when you flip a switch to use it. Rooms are spacious and subdued, using traditional furniture, quality linens, and pampering baths. This is Europe, so your bed for two may be two twins pushed together and there’s a bidet in the bath, but otherwise, there are few surprises. Rooms in the garden and villa wings are basically all the same unless they’re suites, but the 21 palace rooms vary in terms of layout. These and the suites get a capsule-type coffee machine and a kettle for a range of quality teas. Many of these also have a double sink in the bath.
Standard rooms all have plenty of amenities: robes, slippers, minibars, safes big enough for a 14-inch laptop, make-up mirrors, and DVD players that can play movies you check out from the hotel library. And here’s a novelty for high-end hotels in Europe: complimentary Wi-Fi. Ample baths vary, but all have a bathtub, make-up mirror, and L’Occitane toiletries. Two bows on the back of your door can be hung appropriately: a red one for “Do not disturb,” a green one for “Make up my room.” If a panoramic city and water view is important, book direct and request that; it’s not as simple as booking a high floor as some rooms view the gardens and others look out at a large tree.
Service is excellent in every aspect of this jewel of Lisbon, with a high staff to guest ratio even at breakfast. The only real complaint I had—jaded though I am—was that the 7:00 automated wake-up call actually rang at 7:14. A clock reset is in order.
If your Portugal stay starts or ends at Lapa Palace, you’ll be following in the footsteps of plenty of heads of state, royalty, Nobel prize winners, and celebrities. You could satisfy most music tastes with the guest list here: U2, George Jones, REM, Duran Duran, Bon Jovi, Rod Stewart, Barbara Streisand, Bruce Springsteen, and Roger Waters for a start. Something tells me they weren’t hopping on one of the two tram lines running near here, but if you are you can get to downtown easily, with character.
Now part of the Olissippo chain of Portugal, Lapa Palace is frequently touted as one of the best in Europe. It is part of the Leading Hotels of the World group and the American Express Collection, meaning Platinum and Centurion card members who book through Amex get extra perks.
Rates generally start at around 240 euros for a standard garden room and go up to 2,600 euros for the Count of Valencas suite. See more information at the Lapa Palace website or book online >at Hotels.com.
Travel writer and editor Tim Leffel stayed at Lapa Palace as a guest of Visit Portugal.
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