Art, Adventure and Plenty of Relaxation at the Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon

total immersion

The journey into Lisbon ostensibly serves up a sighting of the majestic edifice that is known locally as Castelo de Sao Jorge (otherwise the St George’s castle), standing sentry over the river Targus and commanding a lofty perch atop a hill. Beyond the churches, plazas, parks and red-tiled roofs, you find yourself at the expansive grounds of the Edward VII park, with its tennis club, pavilions and a botanic gardens with hundreds of exotic plants in a greenhouse. Just next door to this oasis of green, one finds the Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon.

The historic Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon was the brainchild of Antonio Salazar – who served as Prime Minister of Portugal for 36 years in wartime and peace. He dreamt of an iconic hotel in Lisbon that could do luxury as well as any other European capital. With burgeoning international tourism after the Second World War, his vision was to showcase Lisbon by creating a modern legacy that would offer first-class hospitality and, bear testament to the cultural heart and soul of Portugal. With the help of 10 Portuguese entrepreneurs, led by Queiroz Pereira, Salazar’s vision turned into reality in 1959 and the Hotel Ritz Lisbon was born. Managed by Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts since 1997, the personality of the Hotel today is as profoundly acute as when it was but a kernel of an idea in the minds of its creators.

The hotel is situated at the summit of a hill overlooking the Edward VII Park, with its deceptively austere modernist structure concealing its breath-taking interiors. Guests stepping into the property will be greeted with a vision of art deco, melded with an updated Louis XVI style. Despite undergoing two full-scale renovations since its inauguration in 1959, the Hotel’s original spirit has been uniquely immortalised. Huge crystal chandeliers, over 40,000 square metres of rare marble and gilded furniture showcase Portuguese materials and craftsmanship, combining for an aura of refined luxury.

Nothing exemplifies this better than the eclectic mix of sculptures, paintings and tapestry adorning the hotel. The combination of these works form one of the country’s largest and most important privately-owned collections of mid-twentieth century Portuguese art in loco. Created by notable local painters and sculptors – with the likes of Almada Negreiros, Pedro Leitao and Estrela Faria – the art pieces embody Portugal’s artistic and cultural heritage.

The hotel’s 241 rooms and 41 suites all open to breath-taking vistas – be that of the hotel’s lush manicured gardens, the Eduardo VII Park or Lisbon’s enigmatic old town; filled secret alleyways, cultural discovery and some of the best restaurants on the Iberian Peninsula. Its spacious rooms are stylishly decorated with modern conveniences with all but 10 having private balconies to soak in wonderful views of the city. At the 175 square metre Royal Suite (€13,100/RM62,625 per night), a total of three private balconies means you can have the best of all views.

Located off the lobby of the hotel is the fashionable and plush Ritz Bar. Designed along the artistic style of contemporary artist Pedro Leitao, the bar is a bold and yet cozy space, with glossy marble and cherry red ottomans and chairs providing a wondrously artistic setting for libation. The adjoining terrace, adorned with soft white chairs and a striking wall mural by Salvador Barata Feyo, provides the perfect escape – with a Porto Tonic in hand – during the summer months.

Nestled at the back of the hotel is the Varanda restaurant. The dining room is just as opulent as the hotel lobby with large floral centrepieces, a large rolling mignardises cart filled with jewel-like sweets, and chandeliers. Manned by renowned French chef Pascal Maynard, the menu reads French but with heavily inspired Portuguese influences. It is here that the most indulgent weekend brunch in town is served, a smashing success with Lisbon’s locals and hotel guests alike. And for those who want a more intimate and cozy setting, O Japones serves excellent sushi by the Ritz Bar.

For those after a workout, there is the visually stunning rooftop fitness centre, with 7,500 square feet of state-of-art equipment and a pilates studio. Its crowning glory is a 400-metre outdoor rooftop running track with panoramas of Lisbon and the Tagus River.

Of course, for the traveller who prefers to go off the beaten path, the hotel is more than ready with its Unique Experience; a vintage motor sidecar tour. On my journey, I was accompanied by Joao Soares (“John”) the CEO of the Side Car touring, as my driver and guide. Armed with a helmet and a vintage-style motorbike, we embark on an exhilarating ride through the city’s cobbled streets. Whizzing by mosaic sidewalks and walls adorned with intricate tiles, Joao points out hidden gems like the iconic Café A Brasliera and Barberia Campos, the oldest barber shop in Lisbon. And, to finish off the tour, he makes the requisite stop at the Pastis de Belem for a treat of the original egg tarts which has made Lisbon famous throughout the world.

Back at the Hotel Ritz, the familiar white-gloved service resumes, calming the senses with its discreet luxury and impeccable service. The Ritz Spa, one of the best in town, is popular not only with guests but with locals alike. Its signature Seven Hills of Lisbon treatment is the perfect answer to hill weary legs and bodies after a day of exploring the undulating landscape of Lisbon. All its indulgent treatments feature essential oils that honour the fruits and fragrances of Lisbon whilst guaranteeing an uplifting sensory revitalisation for both body and soul, amid the soulful tunes of fado and delightful offering of madeleines to the session.

Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon

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