Bairro Alto Hotel – Lisbon, Portugal: The Bairro Alto area in Lisbon is a fashionable district with a plethora of swanky bars, restaurants and shops. It is a cultural and bohemian center that dates back to the 16th century and has since been frequented by artists and writers. Incidentally, one of Portugal’s finest hotels can be found in this area and carries its namesake—the Bairro Alto Hotel, a restored 18th century building that offers 21st century five star luxury and is a member of The Leading Small Hotels of the World.
First Impression/Lobby: The exterior of the hotel remains true to its original 18th century structure but inside is a wholly different world—somehow minimal and surprisingly small but warm and friendly. From the moment we pulled up, it was evident that this was a hotel that prided itself in its service. Upon our arrival, the finely dressed bellhops gave us a warm welcome, assisted us with our luggage and escorted us to the lobby for check-in. The lobby was small and almost barren, but the attractive and friendly staff more than compensated for the lack of décor.
Reception: The gentleman behind the desk was quick to check us in and before we knew it, we were shown to our room. Our escort explained all the features of the room to us in a simple yet thorough manner. Easily said, this was one of the most thorough check-ins I’ve ever had; no details were left out.
The Suite: Our suite, Suite 406, was just as chic and trendy as the staff. The predominantly wood and upholstered furniture gave the room a warm and relaxed feeling. The dark leather and bright-colored fabrics used in the interiors were a fabulous contrast; it added vibrancy, which was especially refreshing in the morning, complemented by the beautiful view of Luis de Camoes Square.
While the bathroom was on the small side, it was elegantly designed, mixing old luxury with the latest bath technologies. The bathtub, an iron claw deep soaking tub, was reminiscent of the antique tubs from years gone by. The bathroom was also equipped with an oversized rain shower, private toilet and bidet, dual sinks, plush towels, and luxurious bath supplies.
Room Service: With so many great restaurants that were just a minute’s walk from the hotel, we did not take the opportunity to try the hotel’s room service, but with the food coming from the same kitchen as their bar/lounge (which we sampled) I am confident we would not have been disappointed.
Housekeeping: Their housekeeping service was surprisingly lax compared to the remarkable service we had so far experienced throughout the hotel. It was obvious to me that the housekeeping staff did the bare minimum—they straightened up the room but left the clothes and shoes pretty much where they lay, and failed to replace the drinking water as promised.
Concierge: As it was a small hotel, their concierge service was handled by the front desk staff. In my experience with other hotels that had a similar arrangement, most receptionists were inadequately prepared for the job of a real concierge. At Bairro Alto Hotel, however, the front desk staff was not only knowledgeable of the best restaurants in town but they were also thorough in making plans, not missing a single detail. As with what I found throughout Bairro Alto Hotel, service was of the highest standard.
Restaurant: The hotel’s only restaurant, Flores Restaurant, is a contemporary café that serves three meals a day of innovative Portuguese fusion cuisine. Many locals frequent this restaurant and seats can fill up fast, thus reservations are a must. The Garret bar is a three-level bar with each level having a unique ambiance and interesting views of the area.
Pool/Spa/Activities:Bairro Alto Hotel has a Fitness and Wellness Center that offers beauty treatments, massages, and relaxation techniques, as well as basic exercise machines. Small conference areas are also provided for business use.
Overall Impression The location of the Bairro Alto Hotel has its pros and cons. In terms of being at the center of nightlife and culture, you can’t hope for a better location—the best restaurants, bars and shops in town are found here. The negative part, however, is that peace and quiet is not possible at 4 AM in the morning. Even with the double doors and windows, we could hear the rancorous party goers at the end of their night. For this reason, plus the lax housekeeping, we rate the Bairro Alto Hotel Bombastic. Had it not been for these two issues, the Bairro Alto Hotel would have gotten our highest ranking of Fantastic Bombastic.