Lisbon is, without question, one of my favourite European cities (although I can count the ones I really dislike on one hand). Vibrant and colourful, luxurious and bohemian, historic and progressive; the essence of Lisbon is to seize life and enjoy it. The InterContinental Lisbon sits at the centre of it all, the modern structure with stepped architecture and the windows positioned in dramatic stripes down the facade. There’s also a fabulous view over Lisbon from the top!
Just across the road, one can find the tranquil Eduardo VII park and a five minute walk from the InterContinental Lisbon will provide plenty of opportunities for visiting luxury boutiques. But who’s in Lisbon just to shop? The reason I love it is that there is a density of culture here that is quite delicious; whatever you are looking for in a city break, Lisbon has it!
What is the InterContinental Lisbon like?
Entering the hotel, one can immediately feel that a lot of thought has gone into the design. Colours seem to be drawn from the teal and blue tones of the river Tagus and the sky, while more muted greys and burnished metallic tones add an understated luxury. Hotel lobbies are often dull, but this is one in which you could spend time, maybe wait for a friend or even hold a business meeting. There are twinkling decorations that don’t feel ostentatious and I keep feeling like I want to touch everything like a curious toddler. A good first impression for sure.
Upon arrival, the doorman immediately helped us with our bags, which further added to the good impression. Check in was smooth and, since we were quite keen to head out for some sightseeing, it was perfectly possible for us to deposit our bags in the room and spruce up before heading out.
When we had more time to spend in the room, we found it slightly less exciting in terms of decor. The teal hasn’t really been carried through, but there’s still a luxurious feeling to the fittings and furniture. Our twin river view room overlooked the downtown area and the Tagus, which was beautiful in the glittering sunshine of the early morning. The beds were comfortable and the shower was excellent – a nifty little design feature of a sloped floor meant that you didn’t end up with water seeping across the whole bathroom.
What are the dining options at the InterContinental Lisbon?
Have I mentioned that teal is one of my favourite colours? This calming hue pervades through public spaces and corridors, alongside a sumptuous lapis lazuli blue that I also love. I could probably keep banging on about the design at the InterContinental Lisbon, but maybe it would be more useful for me to write about the facilities a little… There is a tasty buffet breakfast with a range of hot options served in the Eduardo VII room. Wanda, who showed us to our breakfast table on the first morning, was amazing – sunny and super organised.
For later in the day, there’s also a bar where (warning: more comment on design incoming) a brightly backlit bar in colours that would not look out of place in an underground nightclub, serves a good selection of beverages. There’s a happy hour, but it doesn’t include standard cocktails so make sure you ask if you want to make the most of the offer! Fortunately, if those F&B options prove too tempting, there is a well appointed fitness centre free for all guests to use.
We dined at the InterContinental Lisbon’s main restaurant, Akla, on our last night in Lisbon and it was a fine ending to a great trip. We had the signature couvert as we made out choices, a selection of breads with butters and hummus with olive and tomato fougasse strips. Our waiter Duarte was very helpful and attentive, passing on advice from the kitchen about which seafood choices were particularly good that day. The Mediterranean menu, overseen by Chef Eddy Melo, features seasonal Portuguese ingredients and celebrates some of Lisbon’s artisan products. There is also an Azores menu, with more exotic influences, and you can mix and match as you see fit.
Charlotte opted to tweak one of the main courses on the Azores menu to enjoy as a starter, a sauteed seaweed ‘Malandro’ rice dish with sea lettuce, sea beans, pumpkin, aged local cheese, thyme, honey and annona (custard apple). The kitchen were able to accommodate this change and the dish was much more cohesive than it sounds from the list of ingredients, even becoming a little one-note, despite a smaller portion size!
My starter was a hearty portion of yellowfin tuna tartar with miso served on a crunchy mille-feuille-style cracker with sambal mayonnaise. Being part Indonesian, I know a thing or two about sambal and this was fine, but was missing the real punch of flavour and spice. Duarte let us taste a couple of the wines served by the glass and we settled on a fresh and light encruzado reserva from Quinta das Camélias in Dão.
The mains were also both creative dishes. I had braised grouper fillet, topped with celery and served with a nashi pear gratin with truffle and pecorino. I asked for a little less truffle and the flavours were still well balanced. Charlotte also enjoyed her josper-grilled fresh Azorean tuna, which was served with a slightly spicy banana pepper sauce and sizeable slices of sweet potato. We both finished the meal with another interesting choice – a choco-citrus entremet which was rich with dark chocolate and creamy inside. Most exciting was the wasabi ice-cream, which was delicious and had enough wasabi to set the nose tingling!
What else can I do while staying at the InterContinental Lisbon?
It is very easy to navigate Lisbon and worth looking into the Lisboa Card if you do for a host of free and discounted travel, tours and activities. Look at our other articles from Lisbon for more suggestions! It is also, however, easy to see some things absolutely free. My top recommendation while staying at the InterContinental Lisbon would be to take the metro blue line from the edge of the Eduardo VII park – the station is called Marquês de Pombal – to go to Baixa-Chiado or Terreiro do Paço. Baixa-Chiado is area of Lisbon constructed in a grid of streets after the 1755 earthquake that levelled large parts of the city.
The metro stop is close to the Elevador de Santa Justa, where you can pay a few euros to ride on the giant lift that connects lower Lisbon with Carmo Square. From the top, take a walk to Rossio to see two of Lisbon’s most famous squares, Praça Dom Pedro IV and Praça da Figueira, as well as theatres, boutiques and restaurants aplenty.
As an alternative, skip the Elevator or get off the metro at Terreira do Paço and head to Praça do Comércio to see some very grand architecture and, if you’re in the mood for something unusual, the Codfish History Interpretation Centre (this one isn’t free). After this, get yourself lost in the winding streets of Alfama, which have a totally different vibe to the grid system of Baixa. There are a lot of little artisan shops and you should aim to visit the cathedral, known as the Sé, on your way up the steep streets to Castelo de São Jorge, a Moorish era castle which has one of the best views in the city.
If you get a chance, it’s also worth trying to get out of the city. As well as the historical day trips to Sintra or Mafra, consider visiting a few local wineries that pepper the wild scenery just outside the city. Our favourite is Quinta do Gradil, which has been around since 1492, and produces high quality red and white wines from several grapes (variety makes this a perfect place for a tasting!).
Whatever you choose to do with your time in or around the city, you will be very happy to step back into the welcoming embrace of the InterContinental Lisbon. Perfectly positioned for exploration, while being a calming haven of relaxation that reflects the natural tones of Lisbon’s river and adds a little sparkle, this is definitely a hotel that will make your trip comfortable.
Rua Castilho, 149