What's so special
Situated in the middle of Lisbon's ancient quarter lies Palcio Belmonte. It attracts "those looking for somewhere unique with a little, magic, elegance and history", says The Daily Telegraph. Complete with turrets and many other original features, the hotel is a conversion of one of Lisbon's oldest palaces.
How they rate it
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The hotel's ten suites are "still fit for European nobility as well as modern-day glitterati shoe designer Christian Louboutin names this among his favourite hotels in the world". It has some of the best views in the city, looking out "over the terracotta roof-tops of Lisbon's ancient quarters and onto the ever-blue Atlantic".
Each room is "plucked straight from the pages of a fairy tale. If the budget allows, plump for the three-storey Bartolomeu Gusmo suite, where a winding staircase which once led to the minaret in the palace's Moorish incarnation leads up to a private rooftop terrace."
The hotel doesn't have a restaurant, but breakfast is served in your room each day and the "capable chef can fix up almost anything, within reason, to order".
Doubles cost from €245, room only. For more, visit www.palaciobelmonte.com, or call 00 351 21 881 6600.
Altis Belm Hotel & Spa
What's so special
From the ancient Palcio Belmonte to the modern: Altis Belm Hotel & Spa, one of the city's modernist gems, is located in Lisbon's refurbished docks area.
How they rate it
"This place is a boxy modern beauty, rising on the Tagus River between the Monument of the Discoveries and the Torre de Belm," says Guyan Mitra in The Sunday Times Travel Magazine. "In the rooms, virgin-white linens contrast starkly with darkwood interiors. Full-length glass walls create risqu zero-privacy bathrooms take one portside and you get mast-forested views of the marina from your loo."
The hotel may be "at the vanguard of Lisbon's contemporary hotel scene", with "cool marble and granite interiors", but its "vivid murals of Portugal's outposts (Goa, Macau, Mauritania and the Maldives) pay homage to its historic location". The hotel bar attracts "slick-haired Euro types who neck Caipirinhas", and the spa is a luxurious haven.
The hotel restaurant, Feitoria, received the only new Michelin star awarded in Lisbon in 2012. It's a "mod-Portuguese pioneer", with dishes such as pears cooked in white wine with black-truffle ice cream.
Doubles cost from €155, including breakfast. Find out more at www.altishotels.com, or call 00 351 21 310 6019.
Britain's best historic and scenic railways
The Inverness-Thurso-Wick line is the northernmost in the country "and arguably its wildest", says Robin McKie in The Guardian. The journey along the whole line takes about four hours and winds through some of the remotest landscape in Britain.
The line was earmarked for closure by Dr Richard Beeching the author of reports in the 1960s that recommended the closure of many unprofitable railway lines but a protest campaign saved it. And a good job too: it is "one of the nation's grandest railways".
The Dingwall-Kyle of Lochalsh line (pictured) was completed in 1897 and was the most expensive rail project of the time, with 29 tunnels. "The result is a gem of a railway passing over deserted beaches and through fishing villages, and offering views of mountains and wildlife such as otters if you are lucky."
The Carlisle-Carnforth or Cumbrian coast line loops round the Lake District and has views the great peaks inland. Stop at Ravenglass and take a tiny narrow-gauge line that heads inland to Dalegarth, and some of the best mountain walks in England.
The shortest great railway trip in Britain, and probably in Europe, says McKie, is the St Erth to St Ives line. It was built in 1877 to serve the then small pilchard-fishing village of St Ives. These days it brings tourists to a thriving resort, with many arriving in St Erth on the Night Riviera from London, the last remaining sleeper service running in England.
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