Lisbon hotels offer king's-eye view of capital

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LISBON, Portugal -- After recapturing this port from Moorish troops in 1147, Afonso Henriques, Portugal's first king, built his castle on the ruins of a hilltop citadel here, in Alfama.

Successive rulers enjoyed the bird's-eye views of Lisbon from the Castelo de Sao Jorge, or St. George's Castle, for 364 years until Manuel I moved to newer digs downtown, in Baixa.

Today, visitors can share King Afonso's perspective on the city now that a handful of small boutique hotels have begun to open within the rebuilt castle walls.

The four-star Solar do Castelo, which opened in April as the fourth city property of Hotels Heritage Lisbon, occupies the Palacete das Cozinhas, an 18th century mansion built on the site of old royal kitchens.

The hotel's 14 guest rooms are individually decorated in contemporary style and boast modern comforts such as modem jacks and satellite TV.

Large-hotel amenities available at this intimate hideaway include a concierge, room service, Internet access, bed turndowns and same-day laundry.

Perched atop a warren of steep, cobblestone lanes, the hotel even sends a golf cart to collect guests below, a concession to U.S. patrons who travel with a lot of luggage, said assistant manager Ana Beatriz.

Nightly rates at Solar do Castelo -- which pays 10% commission -- are about $148 for a standard double and $182 for a superior double through Dec. 27; single and triple rates also are available.

If October's occupancy of 45% -- down from 70% in September, said Beatriz -- is any indication, the off-season is ideal to secure rooms at this hotel.

Around the corner, the smaller but equally stylish eight-room Solar dos Mouros was opened last year by local painter Luis Lemos on the site of an ancient Moorish gate.

With sweeping views of the Tagus River and Baixa, rooms feature air conditioning, CD players and safes. At press time, rates ranged from $100 to $175 per night, double, and up to $240, triple, with reduced rates from the fourth night; the hotel does not pay commission.

On the eastern side of the castle hill, the exclusive Palacio Belmonte -- which debuted last year in a 1449 palace after a six-year, $16 million renovation -- pays agents 10% on eight deluxe suites priced from about $300 to $900 per night.

"As our rates are very high, agents can earn a lot more," said manager Maria Mendonca, adding that Americans comprise the bulk of regular guests.

Each suite is individually decorated in antique furnishings; the hotel also has a lap pool and garden.

To contact the Palacio Belmonte, call (011) 35-1 21 886-2582 or visit www.portugalvirtual.pt/_lodging/costadelisboa/lisbon/palacio.belmonte. To book Solar do Castelo, call (011) 35-1 21 321-8200 or visit www.heritage.pt on line. For Solar dos Mouros, call (011) 35-1 21 885-4940 or visit www.solardosmouros.pt.

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