It is not an exaggeration to describe Frédéric Coustols and his wife Maria as the ‘creators’ of Palácio Belmonte, rather than simply its owners. Palácio Belmonte is their work of art, fashioned around a maze of ancient passages. Despite its grandeur it is studiously unassuming. The entrance is a stately red door in a quiet courtyard, only metres from the crowds of tourists heading for São Jorge Castle. Our suite, Bartolomeu de Gusmão, is modestly marketed as split across three levels, but I counted five, all arranged around a spiral staircase hewn from grey stone. At the top of the staircase a door opens out onto a sun-drenched private terrace overlooking the rest of Lisbon. We took breakfast out there one morning and were treated to the pleasant peals of bells from the churches nearby. If you would prefer to eat elsewhere, then why not relax on the terrace near the garden and swimming pool? Every part of the hotel, whether public or private, feels unequivocally private. From the cosy Red Library and White Library to the imposing ballroom, the whole hotel feels like your own personal palace. If you want to add to the decadence, give the staff some notice and they can arrange for you to dine in your room on the creations of a Michelin-starred chef. We instead asked for them to make reservations in town at vegetarian-friendly restaurants: despite the short notice they set to work and had everything arranged by the time we returned from an afternoon stroll. Rarely does the centre of a capital city seem so tranquil.