— Please tell me a bit about the history of Palácio Belmonte. What was the inspiration to open it to the public as a boutique hotel?
Maria: “Palácio Belmonte is the oldest palácio in Lisbon. The house had been in the same family for more than 500 years. It is a stunning sculpture, a 2197-year-synthesis of Portuguese history and culture, located on top of the historical centre of the city.
When I saw it for the first time from its courtyard, I just felt an overwhelming attraction. My heart started to beat faster. I felt as if arriving home. It happened to be for sale and bought it the next day without even visiting it.
When I came to see it again six months later there were so many windows and terraces, each one with incredible views of old Lisbon and the Straw sea. It was so beautiful, so special, so unique that I felt compelled to share it with a few guests.”
— Ricardo Reis Suite
— The refurbishment obviously respected the rich history of Palácio Belmonte, but there are also contemporary elements. How would you describe the interior design?
Maria: “Six years of work, a labor of love, were necessary to bring the house back to its former splendor — the huge terrace facing east, 5 other terraces private to the apartments and suites of the former palácio, the dining and sitting rooms with 8m high ceilings, a ‘caisson’, two libraries...
Architect Pedro Quirino da Fonseca, head of the National Monument and a wonderful Portuguese craftsman, helped us during all those years. We had endless discussions on Portuguese history. The first year, I remember walking days and nights to understand and write down a pitch on a ‘2197-year-old house coming back to life’, the changes of light, the sound of rain, the sun, the wind, the boats’ horns, the textures, the volumes, the colors.
We rediscovered all the different layers of construction, hidden frescos, walled rooms and found fabulous archives, letters of queens and kings of Portugal, an escape dating from the Roman time leading to the Tagus, cisterns, roman tower, 59 panels of Azulejos.”
— Fernão Mendes Pinto Suite
— What would you describe to be the essence of Palácio Belmonte and your philosophy?
Maria: “One of total freshness, natural comfort, privacy, astounding simplicity and freedom in the historical centre and cultural heart of Lisbon. Silence, the songs of birds and the bells of the seven neighboring churches.
It is not a standard accommodation offer, but a few days in one’s life where one can lose track of time in a house where you will really feel ‘at home’.
We try to provide our guests with the highest level of exclusivity and ‘a la carte’ services. Palácio Belmonte’s concierges and butlers bring our guests an insider’s knowledge of Lisbon and Portugal in general.”
— Please tell us a bit about the facilities, the rooms and the gardens.
Maria: “Fully restored, our boutique hotel offers 10 suites on its 3700sqm, each of them uniquely decorated with modern paintings, sculptures and antiques collection, many with private terraces and beautiful views over Lisbon and the Tagus river. As a tribute to Portuguese personalities that have earned the greatest respect in history, the rooms’ names, including books and information on each one of them, are another featured element that make Palácio Belmonte your house for a day or a year.
The library, with more than 4000 books, publications and papers in a variety of languages and themes, is open to our guests as well.
Outside, the beautiful black marble swimming pool is surrounded by lush gardens, totally redesigned on five levels and planted according to organic principles. Palácio Belmonte has its own organic ‘pottager’, orange trees, and scented herbs among other local plants.”
— Amadeo Souza Cardoso Suite
— You are also hosting exhibitions and other events at Palácio Belmonte. Please tell us a bit about the Belmonte Cultural Club.
Maria: “The Belmonte Culture Club is a unique place where the world's finest artists along with people from all walks of life enjoy being together to inspire and be inspired by art, conversation and good cigars while tasting some Portuguese specialties.
The group Soundwalk opened its new creation ‘Ulysse’s journey’ in June 2011, the international renowned New York based Concert Pianist Elisha Abas gave a concert in July. In August 2011 the Belmonte Culture Club in association with DaST received 20 students and professors from China, Russia, France and Portugal to prepare a sustainable regeneration program for the São Jorge Castle in Lisbon and at midnight of September 30th opened Maria Pia Oliveira’s exhibition ‘clouds’.
Our motto: create private live concerts, lectures, exhibitions and close contact with great artists while discovering the finest Portuguese wines, cakes and cheeses... another memorable moment at Palácio Belmonte.”
— Bartolomeu de Gusmao Suite
— To you personally, what is the highlight, the most amazing thing, about Palácio Belmonte?
Maria: “Silence, beauty, exclusivity and insider information.”