Life’s better in Lisbon.
Luring explorers in with its magic, Lisbon is the ultimate location for a long weekend break. The Portuguese capital’s history, architecture, breathtaking landscapes and fantastic weather bring globetrotters here in their droves
It is early in the morning in Lisbon and already the city’s narrow streets are buzzing with people. They are flitting in and out of proud, colourful buildings and sipping espresso at pavement cafés. Just down the road the bells are chiming in the church tower, while in the distance the Tagus Estuary shimmers in the morning sunshine and the imposing 25 de Abril Bridge (blink and you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in San Francisco) dominates the skyline – Lisbon in late summer couldn’t
be more idyllic.
Home from Home
Our base for a long weekend away is York House, a small and quaint boutique hotel housed in an old 17th century Carmelite convent. It is tucked into the eastern edge of the city’s upscale Lapa quarter: a quiet, leafy and residential area of Lisbon bordering the Tagus river. The somewhat unlikely name comes from the two Yorkshire women who ran the hotel in the late 19th century.
The entrance is a surprise – tree canopied stone steps and high, pink-stucco walls ascend into an intimate cobblestone courtyard, fringed by a jungle of flowering trees and shrubs. Contemporary and unfussy, it isn’t hard to see that the hotel has focused on what the modern traveller needs: spacious rooms, airy communal spaces, good food and friendly and efficient service.
Each of the suites and rooms are individually decorated and unique in style. We are in one of the more classic suites overlooking the courtyard. The traditional elements of the room are perfectly married with modern lighting and contemporary furnishings. A lattice work of ancient wooden beams screens the sleeping area from the living area, while allowing natural light to flood through the space (and ensuring that the luscious greenery of the courtyard and the apparently eternally bright blue sky can be seen from the large and comfy bed – making prising yourself out of it a difficult task indeed).
On the Terraces
Full of characterful quirks, the interiors throughout the hotel feature antique furnishings, high vaulted corridors, marble flooring and traditional azulejo tiles, while the beautiful, leafy garden terrace is the perfect place to relax, read a book or sip on a chilled glass of Vinho Verde.
A leisurely breakfast of warm, fresh bread, delicious homemade jams, scrambled eggs, bacon, fresh juice and pastries is served every morning in the restaurant, which spills out onto the courtyard. In the evenings, the restaurant is transformed into a formal dining space – there is nothing better than rewarding yourself with dinner here after a long day sightseeing (or should that read hill walking?) in the city.
Open to locals as well as guests, it serves a simple but delicious menu of traditional Portuguese food. We enjoy several incredibly laid-back and romantic candlelit dinners here. The food is insanely good: be sure to try the prawns à lá guilho, grilled octopus and caramel chocolate mousse for dessert – all are not to be missed.
In fact, we cannot find fault with anything at York House. With its quiet, traditional ambience, it is a haven from the outside world, and proves itself to be the perfect sanctuary during our stay. Lisbon may well be a small city, but its attractions are huge – the people, the food, the culture, the history, all add up to make the ultimate weekend getaway destination. Simply wandering around the streets of Lisbon at any time of day or night is magical.