When one hears the word ''hostel'' various images come to mind based upon travel experience – which tend on the whole not to be all that enjoyable. And yet, over the last few years, hostels have improved greatly, not just in cleanliness and amenities but aesthetically speaking in the way they are designed as a public space for many to share. Hostels can be an interesting canvas upon which to explore playful concepts.
This is also the case with this 100-year-old residence which has been transformed into The Independente Hostel & Suites in Lisbon, Portugal, located in the center of the Bairro Alto and Principe Real districts in front of the most picturesque square of the city. A total renovation in July 2011 has turned this palace - originally built to become the Swiss ambassador’s official residence at the start of the previous century- into a hip hostel with 108 beds within 13 dorm rooms. Additionally there are four private suites for the traveler who may want to enjoy the communal vibe and big friendly dinners – but just with a bit more privacy. Each suite has a balcony that overlooks the Tagus River, a stunning view upon which guests can enjoy their coffee each morning.
Regardless of where you rest your head at the Independente you are spoiled by high ceilings and huge, spacious rooms and common areas including a private lounge in each hostel dorm room that invites guests to sit together and share their travel stories on vintage rockers, reclaimed chairs, and other ''flea market'' finds. The ''high / low'' interior design has rich Art Deco floors mixed with bunk wooden beds and original ornate moldings on the walls and ceilings mixed with a found lamp and the distressed leather of a vintage couch. However, somehow the mismatched pieces come together harmoniously. The space is quite real, charmingly weathered by time and filled with stories - much like the very travelers that pass through the hallways and sleep in these beds.
Keeping along with the general theme of ''togetherness'', the Independente has within it a bar and a restaurant called 'The Decadente'. Much like the hostel/private suite options there are choices of large communal tables for family style dining or smaller tables for a more intimate dining experience. Portuguese cuisine is served here with a modern spin. The Art Deco influence inherent to the 100-year-old building is apparent in the restaurant (as it was in the hostel and suites), but here too you have found treasures and furniture choices that modernize the space and extend a certain ''welcome to my kitchen'' comfort that cannot be faked.
'The Decadente' is the area of the hotel where Portuguese culture comes to life through food and drink! Locals and guests join together here to share tales and create new memories. Locally sourced food, thoughtful seasonal cocktails, and a secluded beer garden… the Decadente seems to be the heart and soul of this establishment. As the Portuguese believe, ''a lot of life’s best memories are created around a dinner table with friends and family alike''; an element the Decadente is sure to provide for visitors over many years to come