Palatial elegance with a birds-eye view of Lisbon
Santiago de Alfama combines personalized service with a rich heritage that’s been carefully restored. No wonder it was awarded Luxury Historic Boutique Hotel of 2016 from Luxury Travel Guide.
Located in the hills of Alfama, the oldest district of Lisbon, the site of São Jorge Castle and the home of Fado music. The grand building housing Lisbon’s newest 5-star boutique hotel dates back to the 15th-century and was once the base of Palacio dos Castros.
We are standing on Rua de Santiago (coincidence? I think not), which incidentally also is the location of the church which marks the starting point of Caminho de Santiago de Compostela. And the very same church explorer Christopher Colombus got married in. So whichever direction you go, you are bound to have an encounter with history, or at least find a lookout point where you have a birds-eye view of Lisbon and the Tagus river.
When arriving we are greeted with a smile and handshake by front-office manager Paulo Cunha, who then proceeds to take our bags and asks us to join him in the reception – which is located in a smaller room next to the lobby. The check-in is seamless and relaxed. As we arrive quite early in the day, Paulo informs us that the room is not yet ready but invites us to the terrace for a cup of coffee in the sun while we wait for the finishing touches. Some 20 minutes later, Paulo comes out and informs us that the room is ready and that our luggage has been taken up there already. Definitely a check-in process I could get used to.
We are joined by head of reservations, Julie Smith who takes us up the elevator and to our room, which is their grand signature Santiago Suite on the top floor with a panoramic view of Lisbon. The first impressions are “wow” and more “wow”. Julie proceeds to show us around our new accommodation and where everything is located, a nice touch which adds to the intimate feel of Santiago de Alfama. The suite is big, but not overwhelming. The colors are light and relaxed and many of the details in the room retains some of the building’s historic atmosphere. Julie informs us that this room comes with the best view of the hotel (who am I to argue) – the views are breathtakingly wonderful and makes you feel like you are floating above the rooftops of Lisbon.
The bathroom is open and spacious and comes with his and hers vanity sets, and a separate beauty area for the lady. The toilet and shower are covered by frosted glass doors with Santiago de Alfama’s signature tile-logo decor. The luxurious bathtub can be found just outside the bathroom, next to the bed. Perfect for a long soak before bedtime while looking out on the night sky through the windows. On top of room service, there is also a Nespresso machine and tea if you are planing on staying in (something we could easily end up doing).
Eating and drinking
Breakfast is served between 07:30 until 11 in Audrey’s Café, a petite French inspired bistro with a lovely terrace located next to the hotel entrance. Apart from the continental breakfast, which includes a selection of bread, fruit, cold-cuts and pastry – including the famous egg tart Pastel de Nata – which is one of the best I have ever tasted in Lisbon. You can also order directly from the á la carte breakfast menu. How about a Crème Cheese and Salmon Bagel accompanied by a side of scrambled eggs or pancakes with syrup among many other tasty delights.
The restaurant is located just behind the café and is named after the old shirt factory which once occupied its space – A Fábrica de Santiago. This gourmet restaurant with impeccable service is headed by chef Carlos Robalo who creates seasonal menus with locally sourced produce that present dishes from almost every corner of Portugal. To top off things (and for night caps and “martini madness”), I highly recommend you pay a visit to Manny’s Bar before leaving.
All in all, how does one summarize the experience that Santiago de Alfama is? From the initial friendly, personalized welcome, to the fabulous suite, to owner and interior designer Heleen Uitenbroek’s attention to preserving the history and details of the building. It is hard to put a finger on it, but I still find my self daydreaming about the serenity of Santiago de Alfama and the breathtaking views of Lisbon from the top floor. I guess the only word that seems appropriate is “amazing”.
Delights & Plights
- The panoramic views (and sunrises) of Lisbon and the Tagus River are divine.
- The terrace of Café Audrey next to the quaint cobblestone streets of Alfama. The perfect place to take in the wonderful breakfast. Try their coffee, it's phenomenal.
- As the hotel only has 19 rooms it makes the service and experience very intimate, it feels like coming home to old friends.
- If you are taking a taxi make sure that the driver doesn't drop you off in the hilly cobblestone streets and make you walk because they can't find the hotel.
Date of stay: May, 2016. Disclaimer: Mr Connoisseur was kindly invited by Santiago de Alfama to experience it for review purposes. All views and opinions expressed in this review are the author's own.