The first boutique hotel to be awarded five stars in Portugal, this 55-room member of The Leading Hotels Of The World has scooped numerous awards including last year’s Best Leading Boutique Hotel (World Travel Awards).
Bairro Alto Hotel hall
However, its location – straddling the neighbourhoods of bohemian Bairro Alto and chic Chiado – is perhaps its biggest draw. That, and its rooftop bar with views over the old rooftops, river Tagus and its bridge which is reminiscent of San Fran’s Golden Gate Bridge.
We enjoyed a late lunch of super fresh salad on the famous terrace; and breakfast in the contemporary-meets-traditional ground floor Flores do Bairro (the locally-made tableware is gorgeous).
Restaurant Flores do Bairro
Service was wonderful – staff remembered our names and our particular tastes – while the food was a little hit and miss. Our poached eggs were perfect the first morning; muddled the next. There was a good selection from the buffet, including fresh fruit, meat and cheese.
If you plump for a ‘superior’ room, make sure you ask for one on the fourth floor to ensure you get a balcony with a view. Our corner room (412) ensured we had a little bit more space than most, too.
Neither poky nor spacious, our room had the important things right plus some welcome sour cherry liquor, water and monogrammed chocolates. The well-stocked mini bar included Avené goodies and a cheeky Red Pepper intimacy kit.
Bairro Alto Hotel Suite
Turn-down service was excellent except that although I’d requested a twin room, we were still expected to be a heterosexual couple – my friend was presented with men’s flip-flops on her side of the bed. My other quibbles were the lack of hair conditioner from the Miller Harris collection, the sparsely-stocked vanity case and the damp patch marring a corner of the dappled wall of our pretty room.
Who Goes There?
We spied mostly American couples at breakfast. Americans and Brazilians are the hotel’s mainstay – perhaps more a sign of the economic times than national preferences.
Out & About:
The most talked-about restaurant of the moment, Belcanto (El Bulli-inspired dishes include ‘Wave Breaking’ and ‘The garden of the goose that laid the golden egg’), is a short stroll from the hotel. Step back in time at gift emporium A Vida Portuguesa , which is housed in a 19th-century building and crammed with products retaining their original packaging; and at vintage barbershop Figaro’s (women aren’t allowed to enter). Discover more treasures at concept stores Chiado Factory, Chiado Vintage and Arte Assinada.
Golden Egg at Belcanto
Take tram 28 through the seven hills of the city, past La Graça district with its old tiled buildings, and St George’s Castle, the ancient fortification which sits at Lisbon’s highest point, perched right on top of a hill overlooking the Alfama neighbourhood and the river Tagus.
Be thoroughly spoilt at former 18th-century palace Restaurante Clube de Jornalistas, which has a large walled garden. (Afterwards, we snuck into Senhor Vinho for their fado singing and Caipirinhas).
We also spent an afternoon exploring Jerónimos Monastery, a stunning piece of Manueline architecture (you can buy a combined ticket for this and the Tower of Belém); and queued for custard tarts at the famous Pastéis de Belém. If time allows, it’s also worth taking a day trip to the UNESCO-protected town of Sintra.
The Worst Thing:
If space is on your priority list, pick your room carefully.
The Best Thing:
This hotel beats the other five-star hotels for its location. It meant that we shared the roof terrace and ground floor bar (which has its own street entrance) with well-heeled locals.
The Leading Hotels of the World (00800 2888 8882; toll free) offers stays at Barrio Alto Hotel from £179 per room per night based on two people sharing including buffet breakfast and VAT.
Barrio Alto Hotel, 2 Praca Luis De Camoes, Lisbon, Portugal; www.LHW.com/barrio