Bairro Alto Hotel

Bairro Alto, Lisbon, Portugal Book from

Reviewed by Tom Bell
Lisbon’s loveliest luxury hotel, on the arty side of town with a gorgeous roof terrace giving long views over the river
The 6th-floor terraced bar is reason enough to check into Lisbon’s loveliest hotel. You can sink into sofas or wicker armchairs, order a cocktail or a glass of champagne, then gaze down over terracotta rooftops on the mighty Tejo passing serenely below. This is a seriously spoiling place: a proper hotel in the grand tradition, it was fully revamped in 2012 and comes with a tiled entrance hall, a funky bar, an upscale restaurant and porters who swoop on your luggage. If the design is modern, then the inspiration is classical - and the architecture of the 1845 building is on show as much as its décor. The hotel started life as the Grand Hotel of Europe (Sarah Bernhardt once stayed). It became a favourite haunt for writers and artists and the district remains Lisbon’s artistic soul.

Step out into the square and you dive into the groovy heart of town. Jump on the Number 28 tram and rattle up to the castle, stroll into town past the coffee shops of Rua Garrett. After a hard day’s fun, come back to find super-comfy rooms that pack a punch: high ceilings, rich fabrics, half-panelled walls and exceptional bathrooms. Don’t miss it.

Highs

  • Bedrooms and bathrooms deliver the luxury their price demands
  • You’re nicely central in a neighbourhood that’s bursting with life, wander the district’s backstreets and do a bit of window shopping
  • Friendly staff are terrifically helpful and go the extra mile
  • Delicious modern Portuguese food in the restaurant
  • At weekends, DJs in the bar filled with lightboxes bring in the cool crowd

Lows

  • The terrace, bar and restaurant are open to outside guests and can fill up quickly; best to book a table
  • As you'd expect, it's pretty expensive
  • Lacks a big central sitting room, a place to watch hotel life go by
  • We found construction next door on our 2016 revisit (the hotel is set to expand in 2018), although we didn't hear anything; rooms nearest the works are not offered consequently

Best time to go

Lisbon is a fabulous place to visit at any time of year. Proximity to the sea means that even at the height of summer temperatures are bearable, though it does get very busy in July and August. Carnaval in February is always a riot whilst for bibliophiles. The Lisbon Book Fair is a must, held every year between April and May. The Alkantara and Almada performing arts festivals take place a little later, between May and July, whilst the May-time Rock in Rio Lisboa has become an established annual event.

Our top tips

For the best shops in town, head to Avenida Liberdada, the capital’s main street. The Fashion Clinic is the place to go for all the designer names.

Great for...

City Style
Family
Foodie
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 55
  • Restaurant and bar open daily
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
Room: Deluxe

Rooms

Rooms are spread over five floors: all rooms (except Mansard) have French windows onto the square or street; floors 1-3 have Juliet balconies, those on the 4th floor are larger. Inspired by Lisbon, colour schemes alternate between red (rooftiles), yellow (trams), ivory white (cobblestones) and duck-egg blue (river); all have hand-painted frescoes of birds.

Expect the full spec: shiny wood floors, incredibly comfortable beds, crisp white linen, air-con, double glazing, minibars and good storage; top categories benefit from coffee machines.

Airy bathrooms aren’t huge, but are delightful: heated towel rails, deep baths that fill fast, deluge showers, bathrobes and Miller Harris potions.

Singles have room for a small desk and armchair; Mansard rooms in the 5th floor eaves have lower ceilings. Both are wallpapered with Ralph Lauren stripes that match the silk curtains and bathroom tiles.

Superior rooms have high ceilings and half-panelled walls. Corner-sited Deluxe rooms are larger with double-aspect windows and a wardobe area. Prestige rooms are bigger still with sofas, slipper baths and walk-in showers.

Super-king Suites are enormous, warmly grand. Open the double doors for one extra-large room or keep them closed for a separate sitting room. Expect all the trimmings: bathrooms for two, gold silk curtains, Portuguese art, a chaise longue. Double-aspect windows face the centre of town.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Cd player
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Internet access
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Pillow menu
  • Radio
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • Tv
  • WiFi

Eating

Rates include an excellent buffet breakfast served in the dining room. Coffee, tea, freshly-squeezed orange juice and baskets of patisserie are brought to you. There are plates of fruit, yoghurts, cold cuts and cheese, cakes, cereals, and bacon and eggs.

The hotel's Restaurante Flores do Bairro offers delicious modern Portuguese food. Sharing starter plates include mussels in onion stew, grouper ceviche and duck croquettes with green mango chutney; for main, you might choose pork cheeks or truffle linguine. When we revisited in 2016, we tried codfish and chickpea salad followed by a turbot and Iberian pork combo. Dessert was a decadent chocolate 'Jubileu'. Be sure to kick off your meal with a visit to the BA Terrace for cocktails (sublime red berry mojitos) with a view. Room service is available 24 hours daily, and the BA Café-Bar has a Nano Bites menu of lighter dishes including breaded quail eggs with parsley and codfish fritters with remoulade.

If you want to eat out, you’re spoilt for choice from 2* Michelin restaurants to hole-in-the-wall joints, fado singers to ethnic cuisines; the concierges can make recommendations.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Children meals
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • You’re on the border between Bairro Alto and Chiado, two trendy districts with bars, shops, cafés, museums. Rua Garrett takes you into the centre of town
  • Stop for a pastéis de nata (traditional Portuguese custard tart - watch them being made at the pasteleria across Luís de Camões square) with a hot bica (similar to an espresso)
  • Ascend the 30m-high iconic Arco da Rua for panoramic views of the Terreiro do Paço square and Tejo River; only 35 people are allowed at a time, so you won’t battle for space but may have to queue
  • Lisbon’s trams are a treat: old, yellow and gorgeous. The iconic Number 28 tram starts from here. Or take a tuk-tuk around the city
  • The hotel arranges 2-hour free English-speaking walking tours of the neighbourhood
  • Seek out the Crono project's large-scale graffiti art works from huge crocodiles to catapults (try Avenue Fontes Pereira de Melo and Bairro Alto)
  • Castle of St George is high across town, home to Portugal’s kings from 1147. Entrance costs; the stupendous city views are free
  • Ponte 25 de Abril, the huge bridge spanning the Tejo has a span of over 1km - see it from the roof terrace

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Nightlife
  • Shopping / markets
  • Traditional cultures

Kids

Although the emphasis is on a refined hotel experience, the useful central location (steps away from both the Number 28 tram, shopping and a Metro stop) plus the genuine warmth of the staff towards children mean this is a surprisingly good place to stay for families as we found when revisiting the hotel with kids in 2016. Children under 12 stay for free and baby cots, extra beds and babysitting are available.

Best for:

All ages

Family friendly accommodation:

Superior rooms can interconnect, as can Suites with Single rooms. Deluxe and Superior Rooms have space for a baby cot or an extra bed; Prestige rooms and Suites have space for a baby cot and rollaway bed

Babysitting:

Available on request, with multi-lingual nannies

Baby listening:

Baby monitors available from reception

Baby equipment:

  • Baby cot
  • High chair

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

The breakfast buffet has options for all. We found the restaurant menu a little grown-up but they are happy to whip up simple dishes on request such as pasta and grilled fish with chips. Families get a plate of Portuguese custard tarts and house-made fruit sweets on arrival

Kids Activities on site:

  • Younger children are welcomed with a teddy bear
  • Children's DVDs at reception
  • Satellite TV in rooms with a couple of kids channels

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Watch Portuguese custard tarts being created in the bakery across the square
  • Number 28 tram terminus is in Luís de Camões square
  • Shopping mall
  • Castle
  • Tuk tuk tours of the city
  • Natural History Museum
  • Time Out market

Families Should Know:

If you're coming to Lisbon with a baby or toddler, resist the urge to bring the stroller if you can still use the carrier, as Portuguese pavement isn't conducive to pushchairs (as we found to our cost!)

Distances:

  • Airport: 15 minutes (taxi), 35 minutes (coach or Metro)
  • Hospital: 10 minutes
  • Shops: 1 minute
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
9/
Food
9/
Service
9/
Value
9/
Overall

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Rates for Bairro Alto Hotel