Lisbon. The European city du jour, luring millennials with its affordable charms and buzzy nightlife. Having read so much about its youthful demographic, decorative architecture, patterned tiles, vintage trams and delectable pastéis de nata, I thought I’d have this hipster magnet sussed instantly. But, with the sun beating down on its famously steep, labyrinthine streets as I battle with a suitcase in one hand and GoogleMaps in the other, I’m feeling pretty clueless.
Fortunately, the hotel Memmo Príncipe Real (Rua D Pedro V, +351 21 901 6800; designhotels.com) is just steps away and immediately pulls me out of my fluster. This contemporary, geometric pile is in extreme contrast to the surrounding historic terracotta roofs and yet is proudly Portuguese. From limestone tiles to original artworks, the hotel is a platform for local artists thanks to the talents of architect Samuel Torres de Carvalho and the discerning eye of the hotel’s owner, Rodrigo Machaz.
It’s a sleek beauty outside but by no means sterile inside. The open-plan lobby and dining area is bright and comfortable, with velvet textiles and sculptural lighting, while oak and a deep green rug add warmth and texture to my minimalist room. The icing on the already wonderful cake, though, is the mini bar that contains all the ingredients to make my very own, complimentary white port and tonic cocktail. Add a generous dash of city views and I could happily never leave my room.
The Memmo has other ideas, however. It runs free, guided walking tours for guests each evening, exploring the trendy Príncipe Real area, starting at the São Pedro de Alcântara viewpoint, where, construction work permitting, there are scenic photo opportunities aplenty. We pit-stop at The Decadente bar (Rua São Pedro de Alcântara, +351 21 346 1381; thedecadente.pt), whose outside terrace is a great place for an early evening drink. Our guide, Diogo, also recommends a visit to Nannarella (Rua Nova da Piedade, +351 926 878 553; nannarella.pt) for some of the best ice cream in the city. The menu changes daily, and my chocolate gelato and lemon sorbet – a questionable combination you might think –
is the perfect refresher.
When I return to my room, there’s a green felt bowler hat on my desk with a box containing two truffles and more smart trips for my stay: a 25 per cent discount card for nearby cocktail bar Cobre (Rua do Alecrim 24, +351 21 346 1381), which means copper in Portuguese. And copper it is, from the counter to the lamps, which instantly provide a warming atmosphere. This is the first of nightly notes recommending places to visit, drink or eat, including a sailing trip along the Tagus river to view the city from another perspective.
The next morning, as I survey my surroundings at breakfast, the remarkable view, the bold décor, I realise that this trendy neighbourhood isn’t just for super-trendy youths. What’s not to love about this thoughtful enclave in a fashionable part of Lisbon? designhotels.com
This article features in the new December 2017/January 2018, which is on all Aer Lingus planes from Friday, December 1. aerlingus.com