When I learnt that I would have to stay an extra night in Lisbon after the conclusion of the WOW Team trip to Portugal last month before my early morning flight back to Hamburg (what a shame, right?), I knew immediately which neighbourhood I wanted to stay in. You see for me, location is everything when I travel and I specifically try and stay in districts that have loads of character and local charm and Alfama is the place to be in Lisbon.
When I came across the Memmo Alfama, the first boutique hotel in the Alfama district and one with a chic and minimalist feel, I simply knew I couldn’t stay anywhere else.
The Memmo Alfama is located right in the heart of Lisbon’s oldest and most traditional neighbourhood: Alfama. This neighbourhood is by far the most vibrant and charming in the whole city. Having been largely spared by the devastating earthquake of 1755, which caused widespread destruction across much of the city, it has retained its centuries-old charm. With the narrow, cobblestoned alleyways, steep flights of steps lined with weathered houses, and the drying linens hanging from balconies, Alfama really is Lisbon’s most alluring neighbourhood (see more Alfama inspiration here).
The Memmo Alfama is hidden away on a tiny cobblestoned street lined with orange trees, in true Alfama fashion. The hotel is a little tricky to find and my taxi driver didn’t know the name of the hotel so we got a little lost trying to locate it but luckily, after stopping to ask a few locals for directions, we found it. This was mostly my own fault since I hadn’t printed out the hotel’s address prior to arrival. Lesson learned! The fact that the hotel was hidden down a quiet alleyway and not on a busy street made it all the more perfect.
A former shoe-polish factory, only the façade of the original 19th century building remains. Transformed into a chic and contemporary 42-room hotel, the Memmo Alfama blends seamlessly into the surrounding environment in harmony with the neighbourhood’s traditions and history. A street art mural by Portuguese artist, Alexandre Farto, decorates one side of the building, immediately setting the tone for a hotel experience with a local and authentic feel. A member of the Design Hotels, the design team behind the Memmo Alfama concept have put strong emphasis on tactile and long-lasting materials, with lots of wood, warm tones and high-quality linens creating a soothing and homely ambience.
Stepping into the reception area, I felt like I had walked into a living room rather than entering a hotel’s check-in zone! There was no large reception desk, but rather a small, low table with comfortable chairs for both guests and staff. I arrived at the hotel at around 2pm, one hour before check-in time, which was at 3pm. The reception staff were warm and welcoming and offered me fresh iced tea as they organised the paperwork. They double-checked to see if my room happened to be ready early, which it wasn’t, but were happy to hold my luggage and point out a good, local eatery around the corner where I could grab a bite in the meantime. I didn’t mind one bit — I was ravenous after our three-hour drive from the Algarve that morning — and went to find Cruzes Credo for lunch and a sneaky glass of wine.
When I returned an hour later, my room was ready and I was shown to my Patio Room, which overlooked the hotel’s courtyard. As soon as I stepped inside, the clean design and neutral pallette made me feel instantly calm, especially after a long travel journey. The minimalist rooms are designed in neutral tones with bleached wood, white walls and linens and neutral fabrics. The bed was luxurious with Egyptian linens and piled with six plump pillows — you can never have too many in my opinion!
The rooms at the Memmo Alfama come equipped with all of the modern technological comforts guests expect nowadays, including complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi, an LED flat-screen TV, iPod docking station, safety deposit box, as well as intuitive touch-screen lighting.
I loved the quirky details in the room, like the fabric ‘mailbox’, filled with recommended sites and interesting things to do in the neighbourhood.
The bathroom was spacious and sleek, with polished concrete floors and separated by the bedroom by a glass wall, adding the perception of more space (with a curtain that can be pulled across for modesty). The walk-in rain shower was luxurious as was the fluffy, soft bathroom waiting for me when I stepped out. I was surprised by the bright yellow toilet paper, a reference to Lisbon’s iconic yellow Number 28 tram and I loved this unique touch!
Within an hour of settling into my room, there was a gentle knock on the door. My eyes lit up when I opened it to find one of the staff members bearing a tray of pastéis de nata and a bottle of port as a welcome gift. They already know me so well, I thought!
Although there is no restaurant at the Memmo Alfama, tapas and bar snacks are served on the magnificent terrace. Order some Portuguese delicacies like fried beans, charcuterie, octopus and cheese.
Breakfast is included in the room rate and is served in the Scandinavian-inspired Living Room. It includes a delicious spread of breads, cheeses, croissants, portuguese tarts, as well as eggs and crepes cooked to order. Unfortunately, I had to check-out of the hotel at the ungodly time of 6:30am to make my early flight so was unable to enjoy the breakfast experience, which is served between 7:30 – 11:00am. To ensure I didn’t go hungry, the staff packed me a breakfast basket to take with me to the airport filled with fresh fruit, croissants and juice, which was a lovely touch.
Room service is available at the hotel, and I enquired about having a mint tee delivered to my room in the evening. The service is a bit pricey, as I was told that a tea would set me back €7.50. The kind staff advised me that a cheaper alternative would be to visit the terrace directly, order the tea up there and bring it down to my room myself, which was about half the price. I really appreciated their honesty and help.
Wine bar and terrace
Located on the hotel’s first floor is the famous wine bar and terrace which offers some of the most spectacular views over Lisbon. It’s a particularly lovely place at golden hour, sipping on a glass of wine. After becoming wonderfully lost in the maze of Alfama’s lanes, I made it back to the hotel just as the sun was casting its golden blanket over the city. I raced up to the terrace and luckily was able to catch this magical time of day!
The terrace is a lively place come sundown, with many visitors flocking here to celebrate another magnificent day in Lisbon against the spectacular backdrop of the rooftops and the River Tagus. The terrace also features a rooftop infinity swimming pool, decorated in a mosaic of red tiles to match Lisbon’s terracotta skyline below. The pool is unheated so swimming is best saved for the warmer months.
Other facilities and services
The Memmo Alfama offers free hour-long walking tours of the surrounding neighbourhood, which come highly recommended. I would have loved to do this, but my early flight meant that I couldn’t. There is a small fitness room in the hotel for guests to use, just in case you feel like you haven’t got enough exercise exploring the steep district surrounding the hotel! There’s also an honesty refrigerator which offers snacks and drinks around the clock.
Book this hotel if…
The Memmo Alfama is ideally suited to couples without children, as the hotel has an adults-only policy. This is the ideal hotel for those who are design-conscious and who are looking to stay in the beating heart of a city to have an authentic experience without sacrificing modern comforts. The staff were warm, professional and extremely helpful at all times and want to go that extra mile to ensure their guests’ satisfaction. The interior design of the hotel creates such a warm and inviting atmosphere and this, combined with the fact that the terrace offers some of the most spectacular views in the district, makes it all that much harder to check-out!
Rooms can be booked through the Memmo Alfama website.
Disclosure: I stayed at the Memmo Alfama as a guest but, as always, this review is an honest reflection of my experience.