Palace of wine: The new palacete in Lisbon, built by an architect ahead of his time, “offers discerning travellers a sophisticated wine experience in the heart of the Portuguese capital”
At the crossroads of Lisbon’s Chiado, Bairro Alto and Príncipe Real neighbourhoods, a new five-star hotel blends some of the city’s architectural foundations with the country’s most remarkable wine traditions.
The extravagant Palácio Ludovice Wine Experience Hotel is set within an 18th-century palacete named after its founder, Johann Friedrich Ludwig. The German-born goldsmith and architect, who changed his name to Ludovice when he worked in Rome, moved to Portugal to become King D. João V’s architect in the early 1700s.
In search of a place to build a private residence, he found the perfect spot in the very heart of the city. Overlooking the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara, his large palacete, the first to occupy an entire block, was one of the few buildings to have survived the Great Lisbon Earthquake in 1755. This was thanks to the architect’s innovative construction technique, which the Marquês de Pombal later used as inspiration to rebuild the city.
Three centuries later, another architect has taken on the responsibility of perpetuating the building’s heritage, bringing its rooms and halls back to life as 61 contemporary rooms and suites. Acclaimed architect and designer Miguel Câncio Martins – who designed the iconic Buddha Bar in Paris in the 1990s and, more recently, the sumptuous Quinta da Comporta Hotel on the Portuguese coast – brought the palacete into the 21st century. Today, it offers discerning travellers a sophisticated wine experience in the heart of the Portuguese capital.
Under his care, the original white-and-blue 18th-century tiles, fresco paintings and stucco ceilings were restored, and a new and palatial accommodation arose, marking the beginning of a new era in this historical landmark.
Behind its bold yellow façade, the hotel’s lobby gives guests a good idea of what they are about to experience. The tall ceiling covered in metallic vine-shaped lamp fixtures, an extra-large portrait of Ludovice against a bare brick wall, and an irregularly shaped green carpet evoking the terraced vineyards of the Douro Valley create a glamorous interior where wine is celebrated above all.
To the left of the entrance, the Solar do Vinho do Porto (Port Wine Institute), which took up residence on the ground floor of the palacete in 1946, gives visitors a glimpse of delicious Douro and Port vintages.
Throughout the hotel, a labyrinth of corridors is lined with vineyard-themed carpets, and large stone staircases are flanked with blue and white tiles. Golden retro details combined with original fresco murals give it the perfect “Old World meets New World” look, and a chapel with Masonic symbols and a Hebraic inscription adds an air of mystery.
Each exquisite room and suite of the Palácio Ludovice boasts a unique décor. Carefully designed to bring back elements of the 18th century with a contemporary feel, they offer the most luxurious modern comforts.
Overlooking the vertical garden within the inner courtyard or offering a bird’s eye view over the city, the rooms feature elegant bespoke furniture, original hand-painted tiles and carved wood on the ceilings blended with modern design, materials and colourful fabrics.
The grand luminous bathrooms with gold-trimmed mirrors, large walk-in showers and stand-alone baths almost feel like private spas.
Speaking of which, on the ground floor, the hotel features Lisbon’s only Caudalie Vinothérapie Boutique Spa, where guests can enjoy body treatments and facials in two sumptuous rooms.
Sitting under the magnificent skylight of a five-story atrium, Federico, the hotel’s superb restaurant and bar, offers in-depth wine-tasting experiences in an incredible setting.
With a penchant for dramatic interiors, Câncio Martins enhanced the existing architectural features of the building to create a striking indoor patio where lisboetas and visitors alike come to see and be seen.
Filled with bright natural light during the day, at night, Federico’s courtyard turns into an intimate setting for a gourmet dinner or evening drink at the bar.
Vine-shaped lighting fixtures lead the way into the airy atrium, where a lush vertical garden brings life to an otherwise sober interior. A constellation of lamps dangles above the marble tables from the glass ceiling, mimicking Lisbon’s starry sky on a clear night. And surrounding the patio, the large ancient stone arches, where ‘Federico’ is written in neon lights, and a fountain have been refurbished, revealing the building’s authenticity.
The bistro-style tables, with wicker chairs and long plush benches strewn with cushions, populate the restaurant floor. Earthy tones of beige, brown and green create a space of warmth and understated sophistication.
Along the kitchen wall, large shelves covered in decorative pieces and books add a slight disarray to the scene.
Here, chef Ricardo Simões marvels foodies with a mix of traditional Portuguese and French comfort food, innovatively and daringly interpreted, and paired with an enviable selection of wines.
The menu kickstarts with a traditional Portuguese chicken soup (canja de galinha), followed by a light and creamy burrata with tomato and basil. Classic French-inspired dishes include a pumpkin and chèvre cheese soufflé, a perfectly executed steak tartare and foie gras terrine with red onion jam, whilst more exotic suggestions include a monkfish carpaccio with passion fruit and lime and green eggs with guacamole.
For the main course, the Tornedó steak with foie gras and mushrooms is the epitome of French flavours. Portuguese cuisine is evoked in the typical Coimbra-style chanfana (goat stew), accompanied by truffled mashed potatoes and sprout foam, a cod confit with chickpea, with coriander sauce and pork feet, and monkfish rice with shrimp. Vegetarian dishes are no less aromatic, with the spicy vegetable curry, savoury linguini al pesto and unctuous mushroom risotto with pumpkin.
Delighting his diners with his ingenuity, for dessert, chef Simões serves the most unexpected reinterpretation of the Pastel de Nata with coffee ice cream and caramel sauce, among other delights.
Staying true to Palácio Ludovice’s oenological identity, the restaurant has compiled a list of Portuguese wines worthy of a knowledgeable palate. Paying homage to the country’s wine-making history, Federico’s selection proudly represents each Portuguese wine-producing region, including the island of Madeira and the Algarve.
At the back of the restaurant, Federico’s pièce de resistance, a vibrant signature bar built on the foundations of a former cellar, exudes a cosmopolitan atmosphere. From late morning to midnight, it is the place to sip cocktails and rare vintages poured by the glass, paired with succulent snacks.
Lisbon’s hospitality scene may be in full effervescence with new hotels offering five-star accommodation, but few boast as much history, heritage and style as the Palácio Ludovice.