“Classic architecture and chic design in a fantastic vantage point over Valparaíso, Chile's most important seaport”
The high ceilings and long windows in each of Zerohotel's 9 rooms provide a sense of light, space and calm, a welcome relief from the buzz of the city streets. All have duck-egg blue walls and minimal furniture - anglepoise lamps, a luggage rack and possibly a bright armchair. Colourful alpaca blankets and sheepskin rugs provide a homely touch and give the rooms an authentic feel.
These fall into 2 categories - the standard Colores Rooms (with a kingsize or twins beds) which look out to the hilly streets, and the larger Puerto Rooms situated at the back of the house, with fabulous views overlooking Valparaíso bay and harbour.
Ours room was a Colores Room - we were unlucky to be overlooking a corrugated iron warehouse, but this didn't stop us opening the French windows to take in the early evening sea air.
Other rooms at this side of the building give a better panorama of local architecture, with external hues perfectly picked out by their bold colour scheme. A leather-topped antique writing desk and tan stretch leather chairs complement coving on the ceiling, stripped pine flooring and metalwork on the French windows to create an authentic, classic feel. But there's nothing fusty about it - the light blue walls contrast perfectly with crisp white 400-thread Egyptian cotton sheets and lemon yellow throws on the 2 queensize beds for a fresh effect.
The firm beds with cosy duvets for chilly evenings invite you to chill out, or switch on the Samsung flat-screen TV and flick through the 50 channels. Anglepoise lamps at either side of the bed provide subtle lighting as required. An interesting print, brightly but haphazardly coloured, of a local scene, decorates one wall.
In the ensuite bathroom, there's a powerful shower over the sunken bath, tiled with dark slate. A selection of indulgent Zerohotel-branded cosmetics - soap, shampoo, conditioner and moisturising cream - is supplied in a little vanity basket on the marble basin-top, and an extendable magnifying mirror supplements the full-size mirror. The shelf under the sink houses towelling robes, slippers and tissues. Everything - towels, robes, sheets, pillowcases - is monogrammed with the Zerohotel logo. The overall effect is cosy and luxurious.
The breakfast room (the Winter Garden), at the bottom of the house, is beautifully light, with pink tablecloths and fresh flowers from the garden picking out the bougainvillea from the terrace outside. Picture panoramic windows show the city below waking up as breakfast is served, from 9-11am.
Eggs (with bacon if you like), tea and coffee are served to order at the table; everything else is laid out to entice in the breakfast room. There are cereals, fruit salads, fresh breads, a leg of ham and cold cuts. The juices are freshly squeezed - and the management insists that you sample the delicious chirimoya juice. A beautiful berry cheesecake is the pièce de resistance, but the homemade apple pies are also very tempting.
Pick up today's edition of the local paper and eat out on the sunny terrace for a lovely leisurely start to the day, amidst almond trees, roses and bird of paradise flowers. It can be difficult to draw yourself away - if you really can't, ask one of the hotel staff to pull out the cleverly designed parasol to provide ample shade from the hot sun without obscuring the views.
Lunch and dinner can be prepared on special request, and Sunday lunch is always an event, but at other times there's no restaurant as such. Instead, enjoy some complimentary tasty canapés - such as dainty pumpernickel bread with beef carpaccio or prawns, feta cubes, olives and roasted nuts - before checking out one of Valparaíso's top eateries nearby.
On the hotel's recommendation, we went to the charming Montealegre, a 3-minute walk away, which has equally breathtaking views. The service was attentive, the wine spot on, the lighting romantic and the fresh fish dishes creative and appetising, if not outstanding. Elsewhere, Portofino is recommended for great seafood, Apollo 77 receives rave reviews for its cosy setting and top desserts, and La Colombina has all of the above.
Children are welcome, and extra beds and cots can be provided as necessary for kids up to the age of 12 (free for under 5s). It's not, however, a family-oriented place - the idea is to get away from it all and revel in the hotel's calm - so there are usually few children staying. No babysitting service is offered and the hotel is spread over 5 floors, with no lift.
Cots Available, Extra Beds Available