In the heart of Lisbon, Convent Square Hotel becom...

In the heart of Lisbon, Convent Square Hotel becomes a contemporary refuge

By: Alexandra Stilwell 

Sleeping with history

Lisbon has become the fashionable city everyone wants to be part of. Counting over 2,000 years of history, in the last decade, it has experienced a renaissance.

The capital city’s long-lost glamour is making a comeback, as beautiful façades are being rejuvenated, old shops refreshed with contemporary brands and new trendy eateries opening on every street corner.

Historical landmarks are also getting face-lifts. Overlooking the Largo de São Domingos, where kings and queens were married and crowned in Lisbon’s oldest church, where earthquakes, fires and floods destroyed priceless treasures, and where Dominican monks welcomed travellers from near and far, an exceptional hotel opened its doors in a 13th-century convent.

At the heart of Lisbon’s Baixa neighbourhood, the Convent Square Hotel is an unexpected sanctuary. Opened under the Vignette Collection banner, it comes to complement the IHG group’s Luxury and Lifestyle portfolio, reflecting the hotel chain’s exquisite attention to detail and dedication to authenticity.

Behind its discreet façade covered in azulejo tiles and shaded with chic green awnings, the hotel reveals a luminous and colourful interior inspired by the neighbouring São Domingos Church. Following a large fire in 1959, the historic church was stripped of its paintings and frescos, revealing an austere blush pink and ethereal grey interior. These striking and warm colours were the base for the hotel’s modern design. Copper, marble and soft velvet in shades of pink and grey mix with the Convent’s ancient stones, giving the historical building a new pulse.

Throughout the hotel, there is a deliberate balance between the simplicity found in the church and refined luxury, between the building’s heritage and sensorial contemporary design. Everywhere you look, you are surrounded by art, as eight centuries of superb architecture contrast with modern pieces by renowned Portuguese artists, such as works by Pedro Calapez and an oversized white sculpture by Pedro Cabrita Reis.

Beyond the reception’s copper cocoon, floor-to-ceiling windows open onto the Convent’s divine Cloister where monks once grew medicinal herbs. Surrounded by vast stone arches, a sun-drenched terrace with grounding trees, colourful armchairs and terracotta-coloured umbrellas sets the tone for a replenishing moment. Carefully restored, the Cloister is now a contemporary space where modern travellers come to sip a cup of soothing herbal tea, enjoy a light meal or find a cosy seat by the firepit to sip a glass of wine to the sound of the hotel’s curated soundtrack.

This peaceful terrace appears to flow into the hotel’s bar and restaurant, Capítulo, at the opposite end of the Cloister, where another set of monumental glass doors gives onto what was the chapter house, the noblest room in the Convent.

Standing between the large windows and the restaurant’s dining area, the bar is where guests can initiate a unique gastronomic journey. The beautiful structure, where cocktails are prepared from late morning into the late evening, features a stylish metallic and marble design with a rustic chic décor. It is an alluring setting for cocktail lovers, where, perched on tall colourful stools, they are invited to witness the bartender blend 13th-century-inspired ingredients with Portuguese spirits to create uplifting signature cocktails.

Open for all-day dining, the restaurant was designed as a space where travellers and locals alike come to experience the best of Portuguese gastronomy. Its setting is a feast for the senses. Laid out under the large room’s vaulted ceilings supported by tall marble columns, it combines ancient architecture and contemporary design. Its huge glass windows fill the room with natural light during the day, whilst hundreds of candles blended with the décor’s earthy tones give the room a warm and intimate atmosphere after sunset. Marble tombs with ancient inscriptions and old azulejos perpetuate the location’s spiritual heritage, contrasting with modern features, such as the classy centrepiece bar, floor-to-ceiling wine cellars and designer lighting fixtures.

This awe-inspiring design sets the scene for a gastronomic experience curated by chef Vítor Sobral, paired with a selection of Portugal’s finest wines. A great reference in Portuguese gastronomy, Sobral is known for his unique reinterpretation of traditional dishes made with sustainably produced ingredients.

For Capítulo, he has created a menu that takes guests on a journey through Portuguese flavours. Recipes such as sautéed squid with white asparagus, rosemary and roasted aubergine cream, seafood rice with squid, shrimp, cockles and fish, and Alentejo black pork cheeks with pea and mushroom rice are served in generous portions designed to be shared.

There are also snacks to nibble on all day, such as veal croquettes, cod pataniscas (fritters), and an assortment of Portuguese cheeses.

Upstairs, the monks’ old sleeping quarters have been transformed into heavenly rooms designed for the ultimate sleep experience.

The 121 stylish guest rooms are divided into five typologies, either featuring a characteristic view of Lisbon’s cobbled streets or the hotel’s peaceful Cloister, and share a similar soothing décor in shades of blush pink and grey complemented by creative art pieces by Portuguese artist Jorge Possollo.

The naturally lit rooms are equipped with blackout curtains and wooden shutters for complete privacy, and comfortable Queen-size or Twin beds adorned with sumptuous 300-thread cotton sheets for a luxurious night’s sleep. The large, celestial pink marble bathrooms feature a walk-in shower or a bath, a luscious assortment of premium Karl Lagerfeld beauty amenities and elegant essentials such as plush 420-thread cotton bathrobes, slippers and bio-degradable amenities.

The hotel also features a wellness centre on the top floor. Filled with natural light, it offers views of the Cloister and São Domingos church to help you unwind as you soak in the plunge pool.

You can use the fully equipped fitness room with a treadmill, elliptical machine and free weights to atone for your gluttonous sins or sweat them off in the sauna.

Alternatively, you can head down to the Cloister at 5pm, when afternoon tea pays homage to the monks whose botanical skills helped pilgrims recover in what is now undoubtedly Lisbon’s most unexpected refuge.


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