Palacio Belmonte is possibly the most interesting of Lisbon's hotels, and easily the most expensive. Built in 1449, the palace survived the devastating 1755 earthquake and remained in the Belmonte family for over five centuries. Sadly the property fell into disrepair and the final occupants, two old ladies, were restricted to living in one of the towers. Four years ago Frederic P. Coustols, the French architectural philanthropist, stepped in to restore the building. Regarded by many as a genius, this eccentric collector of houses had already purchased and rebuilt a village in southern France.
All eight rooms of the palace were restored using traditional Portuguese techniques. The project is also an experiment in ecology: a natural ventilation system has been used in place of electrical air-conditioning and even materials used to clean the complex are biodegradable. The result is breathtaking and a work of art, not to mention architectural mastery.
Coustols has combined painstaking attention to detail with his own irreverent style of interior design: fantastical Tim Burton-esque candelabras jut out from walls covered in 38,000 carefully restored azulejos. Definitely worth a visit, even if you can't afford a stay. A dream property, with an otherworldly price tag to match.