Memmo Alfama, Lisbon, Portugal. If your favourite part of travelling is coming home, this uniquely cosy but modern boutique hotel might be just what you need. Memmo Alfama oozes homestyle comfort in a chic and fresh environment.
Nestled on the hillside of the character-rich Alfama district, Memmo Alfama is in the heart the oldest part of Lisbon. With its crumbling old buildings and cobbled laneways, this corner of Lisbon is the perfect place to dive into the city's rich history. The streets are lined with traditional restaurants, modern eateries, bustling bars and a diverse range of retail offerings. But perhaps most appealing are the regular places to pause and soak in the view at one of the area's multiple lookouts. The vistas are stunning – especially if you find the one with the enormous pinky-purple bougainvillea that dominates the blue tiled courtyard. Every so often you'll pass a basic but delicious pop-up restaurant, with fish and meat on the barbecue to wash down with cold drinks.
A quaint cobblestone driveway delivers you to the quiet, welcoming entrance. Once inside, guests are greeted in a cosy lounge room rather than an ornate hotel lobby, and welcomed by the soothing combination of expansive timber bookshelves, leather armchairs, subtle lighting and large wooden tables for relaxed shared dining. Up a flight of stairs, another sofa-stuffed room with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves opens onto a deck in fine weather – perfect for a bite to eat, a tipple or just a spot to read or catch-up with fellow travellers.
White walls and natural-toned furnishings, plus a clever use of glass, ensure that a compact room seems more spacious than it is. All have windows with either district and river views, or a small outdoor patio. The hotel's design is such that other rooms don't feel too close. In fact, the cleverly designed building is deceiving – even fully occupied, there are no queues for the one lift, or the chatter of fellow guests in the corridors outside.
A comprehensive self-service breakfast buffet takes over the main lounge room each morning, and by lunchtime the upstairs Terrace bar is open, serving drinks from an authentic local wine list and a menu of light Portuguese meals overlooking a plunge pool. New arrivals accept the opportunity to check in, then collapse poolside with a drink, and later watch the sunset over the Tagus River and the district's terracotta roofs. A private terrace is available for functions.
It's easy to spend hours, sometimes days, wandering the pretty, narrow cobbled streets of Alfama. Famous Lisbon attractions such as the Cathedral and Castelo de Sao Jorge – and even the National Tile Museum – are within easy meandering distance. You can truly get lost in its streets, browsing the stalls packed with souvenirs, original artworks and stylish clothing. In one quiet street, you can watch craftsmen and women painting original tiles, and explaining the designs. The area is also well serviced by a funicular or two (who needs to climb hills when they are in service?) and exploring nearby districts is easy by jumping on the Lisbon-crossing "tourist tram" No. 28 – there's a stop just at the end of the hotel's driveway. The city's famous fado music might not be for everyone, but the sound at night adds much to the city's atmosphere as you stroll between restaurants and entertainment.
A home-away-from-home, Memmo Alfama is a calm oasis in the bustling historic heart of Lisbon, where the only thing you might wish for is more time to enjoy it in between exploring.
The serenity that envelops the hotel from the historic courtyard at the front, through the warm shared spaces to the jaw-dropping views from the terrace.
If you are looking for an extensive menu for an evening meal, you'll have to venture outside the hotel.
Lisa Davies stayed as a guest of Design Hotels.