Vendors selling roasted chestnuts (a dozen for two euro) are the only indication that it is November in Lisbon.
Puffs of smoke billow into clear blue skies as the yellow carriage trundles downhill. A crowd is gathering at the bottom of Restauradores Square ready to climb aboard the historic Gloria funicular tram. Nearby, a digital street thermometer says it’s 19 degrees.
Dating back to 1885, the Elevador da Gloria is one of Lisbon’s top tourist attractions, but on this sunny afternoon we’re just looking for the easiest way to carry our bags up the vertical hill. Our hostel lies just across the street.
In a former life, The Independente Hostel and Suites was the Swiss ambassador’s official residence in Lisbon.
Located in the heart of the Bairro Alto, close to the Principe Real district, it markets itself as a ’boutique hostel’ , a status confirmed by Decadente, its very own restaurant, bar and beer garden.
Suites are bright and airy with eclectic decor that includes a mix of antique and designer furniture. In true loft-apartment styling, exposed wooden beams add character, as do the second-hand books that are wedged in crevices in the posts and pillars around the room – certainly an interesting feature.
The interior design is something that definitely sets the Independente apart from other hostels or indeed carbon-copy hotel chains in Lisbon.
The vintage look can be seen everywhere in the hostel, from the battered typewriter on the reception desk to the old fashioned weighing scales and painted tin cans stuffed with flowers in the Decadente restaurant.
Meanwhile, in the common areas, furniture is stylishly retro, with polished floors and royal blue trimmings befitting the one-time palace.
The Decadente offers more than just cheap hostel dinners, it is a proper restaurant, with chefs who have stern principles about using organic, sustainable produce. The menu is seasonal, with most ingredients sourced locally or from Portugal in any case. If you get the chance, be sure to try out a dish called “Portugal on a plate” – prawns, monkfish and rice with a white wine and coriander sauce. Delicious! Meanwhile, a three-course lunch will set you back just €10.
As hostels go, breakfast is generous and includes: muesli, breads, yoghurts, fruit, jams, cheeses as well as scrambled eggs and bacon and fresh orange juice.
The latte is almost too pretty to drink!
Possibly the poshest hostel you’ll ever encounter. With cheap flights to Lisbon and hostels of this calibre on offer, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy a stylish city break on a shoestring budget. It was just a shame that the stay wasn’t longer, but flights to Dublin called…