For interior designer Alexandra Champalimaud, every room tells a story. As the owner of her New York–based firm, Champalimaud (which was founded more than 30 years ago in Montreal), she has become known for her bespoke designs in grand dame hotels and properties across the globe, including the Legacy Suites at the Plaza Hotel, the Topping Rose House, the Carlyle, the Waldorf Astoria, and the Pierre. Champalimaud, who has a penchant for all things art and architecture, is a member of the Interior Design Hall of Fame and counts traveling as a main source of inspiration. Born and raised in Portugal, she ventures back to her homeland at least three times a year. In particular, the city of Lisbon holds a special place in her heart—here’s why.
Home sweet home
Portugal is an incredibly romantic place, layered in stories and not overcrowded. When I travel to Lisbon, I always stay at my pied-à-terre, which is located on the fifth floor of an 18th-century building and has the most breathtaking views in the world. When I arrive, it puts a smile on my face every time I open the windows and look out over the tiled roofs down to the incredible Tagus River, which is one of the most stunning sights for anyone to look at. It is my version of heaven.
One of the most beautiful workshops in the world is located in the heart of Lisbon within an ancient building in the Portas Do Sol. Inside the workshop, you will find 18th-century hand tools, and craftsmen who create the most exquisite furniture; I’ve had pieces custom-made here. This place is also very special to me because I went to school in the same building to study fine arts, the Espírito Santo Institute.
One of a kind
Old Lisbon is the most enchanting place. You can listen to fados, which are traditional local songs composed on guitars and mandolins that can be heard in old taverns into the early hours of the morning. You can visit the churches and monuments that line the cobblestone streets. Lisbon also has shops that sell silver, porcelain and linens. Take an old tram or drive along the coast to the westernmost point of continental Europe, where you can see the wild Atlantic.
17th-century embroidered fabrics and heavy velvet brocade pieces. I love to collect old fabrics.
Never stop exploring
I’m a person who observes and also loves to have a good time, and able to do both of those when traveling. I come back culturally and emotionally richer.
Take as little as possible, but always pack a sweater and a jacket for unexpected rain. I also always bring comfortable sneakers for walking around and exercise. Additionally, I pack things in small individual storage compartments to help keep organized, because I don’t like to unpack into drawers when I stay at hotels.
Wise words of wisdom
When traveling, have a wallet for each currency and different-colored covers for each passport if you have more than one.