Finding a suitable hotel location is always a daunting experience. Do you want something close to the main sights? Somewhere close to the shopping streets? Somewhere quiet? Somewhere lively? Then throw into the mix other people’s reviews, from a plethora of different sources, and before you know it that quick job of booking somewhere to stay takes, what seems like, forever.
With over 200 hotels, a 150 or so B&Bs and numerous holiday rentals spread across the city, Lisbon is not short of a place to stay.
So why should you stay at the Inspira Hotel Santa Marta?
Set just off of the Avenida da Liberdade, one of the most expensive shopping streets in Europe, this hotel is in a prime location. With Burberry, Armani, Hugh Boss, to name just a few, on the doorstep, any serious shopper would be wandering into their idea of heaven each time they left the foyer.
Tucked slightly out of sight, in a peaceful street predominately used by locals, you will begin to feel like you are experiencing a true taste of the city. Walk down Rua de Santa Marta and you will see numerous patisseries serving the famed pasteis de natas (custard tarts), which should be enjoyed with a strong Portuguese coffee, tiny fish restaurants offering up a medley of seafood delights and an occasional wine bar where you can submerge yourself fully into local life with a glass of port or a delicious wine.
Just off Rua de Santa Marta, on Rua de Sāo José, you will find the Lavra funicular, the oldest in the city. This iconic yellow monument, a cross between an elevator and a tram, has been taking people up the steep hillside since 1884. Out of the three spread across the city this is by-far the quietest meaning that not only can you enjoy a trip in relative peace, when you exit at the top you find yourself surrounded by homes rather than tourist attractions. Head for Jardim do Torel, a beautiful, peaceful garden with stunning views looking back across the city.
If you opt to walk a little further, within moments you will be in the Baixa district, one of the busiest in the city. Here you will find numerous, eye-catching buildings, magnificent palaces and open squares to wander around. Pavement cafes fill the wide side-streets of this district making it the perfect place for a bit of people watching after a morning exploring the history of the area.
At one time this stylish, spacious hotel was a disused factory with a palace façade. Lovingly restored, this once rundown building is now an eco-conscious hotel with hints of individuality.
Walking through the doors of the rejuvenated exterior, the space opens up into a large, airy reception area designed with relaxation in mind. This calming environment leads to the illusion that you are not in the heart of a city but perhaps enjoying a rural retreat with a spa treatment or two thrown in – which you can also indulge in during your stay.
Feng-shui is an important concept in this hotel, not only in the communal areas but also in each room. Deciding whether to stay in either the water, wood, fire, earth or metal inspired rooms could simply come down to a matter of colour preference, or, if you so wish you could complete a simple questionnaire to find out what your personal Luo Shu is and how this relates to which room would be best for you.
Which room should you choose?
The water rooms are freshly decorated in soft blue tones to appeal to those seeking a restful stay and the opportunity to regain energy whilst the wood rooms are coloured in forest greens to create an energetic and adventurous environment.
Fire rooms are strongly coloured in purple and red offering a warm and dynamic environment for those seeking a room that exudes active energy whilst at the opposing end of the spectrum the earth rooms are softly coloured and full of textiles offering those that stay there an intimate and cozy atmosphere. Finally, the metal rooms are a contrast of vivid, bright pieces and warm tones which would suit those preferring a minimalist feel.
Whether you choose a cozy city double or a large suite complete with its own spa bath the concept of feng-shui remains.
Why is feng-shui important?
Feng-shui is an ancient art developed over 3,000 years ago in China. It concentrates on balancing the energies of a space to assure health and good fortune for those inhabiting it. To avoid bad fortune getting this balance right is vital.
The Retreat Spa
If you are after even more relaxation after a day of wandering the heavily cobbled streets of the city then perhaps a well-deserved trip to the spa is in order. The spa has yet again been designed with feng-shui in mind, meaning that this will be a further treat for both your mind and body. Why not indulge in a signature treatment or a deep-cleansing facial. Perhaps your legs are struggling after the miles wandered and a heavy leg massage will help to revitalise them.
If you are an individual that would prefer to simply relax in a jacuzzi for a while then this is also possible, and a treat open to all guests at no extra charge, along with the option of having a sauna or steam bath to wipe away the stresses of the day.
‘Open Brasserie’ offers a varied Mediterranean menu mixing Portuguese dishes with seasonal flavours. The well-being of each diner is important and so only organic foods are used so the menu changes frequently, working with the seasons. Everyone, whether vegan, vegetarian or a meat-eater, is well catered for and if you have any dietary requirements highlight these to the chef at the open kitchen as you wander in and they will create an eye-popping dish specifically for your needs.
The carrot and hazelnut soup, the bonito with mussel and lime risotto and the stewed guinea fowl with mushroom risotto were particular favourites during our stay. All flavours mixing together to create special, palate-appetizing combinations that would not be found anywhere else in Lisbon.
To compliment your meal, the wine list is extensive and reasonably priced to suit all budgets and tastes. Also, consider purchasing a bottle of ‘Inspira’ water as all funds go to supporting those in countries where clean water is a rarity.
Location is key for us when searching for a place in any city we visit and the Inspira Santa Marta is in a key, central location close to the Rossio Train Station, several metro stops and a five minute walk from Marquês de Pombal, one of the stops on the airport bus run.
Whilst shopping isn’t something that personally attracts us to a city it was nice to be so close to the street that was designed with the Champs-Élysées in mind and to be able to wander down the wide streets occasionally window-shopping was something we would not normally do.
For us, we really liked the fact that it felt like we were slightly further away from the main tourist hubs. To be able to wander the side-streets around our hotel and see locals rather than large groups holding maps in their hands was something that really appeals. When we wanted to return to the rat-race once again, we had three main districts within walking distance; Alfama, Baxia and Barrio. Each one has its own appeal but all hold some cultural or historical significance for Lisbon and all are must-visit locations when in the city.
Our room, one designed with fire principles in mind, was both relaxing and vibrant. The walk-in rain shower was always hot no matter what time of day and the large open-style bathroom only added to the luxury feeling you gained when wandering through the door.
For the techies, there is a complete media system where you can activate your own devices to play through the TV and a sound system linked up to the bathroom so that you could still listen to your favourite band or TV programme whilst getting ready for an evening out and rather than having just one light switch, there were several setting to choose from. Whether reading, watching TV or just wanting to relax with the lights turned down low, the option was available.
Occasionally, with the need to work, we moved down to the bar area which was always quiet and comfortable. It also helps that the bar is extremely reasonable priced with a glass of wine costing just 3 Euros.
Breakfast was a continental, buffet affair with a wide choice of breads, pastries, hams and cheeses, fruit, yoghurt and even quiche. Should you want a warm breakfast there were sausages, bacon, scrambled egg and beans. Should you prefer your eggs boiled or poached – all you have to do is ask the team and they will cook some to your specific requirements.
Food wise though, dinner stood out for us. The carrot and hazelnut soup was a combination we have never tried before, but ate twice during our stay. It was thick and creamy with the flavours complimenting each other perfectly. The mains were plentiful and tasty and always left us completely full meaning that we were unable to sample any of the moreish, calorie packed desserts.
Finally the spa was a welcome addition. We tend to walk around a city rather than use the metro systems and so have a tendency to wander miles without realising each day. Lisbon is known as a city of seven hills and on this occasion we felt every single slope. Being able to relax in a jacuzzi and reinvigorate our weary, tired legs was a treat we both thoroughly enjoyed before having a cleansing session in both the steam bath and the sauna. Copious fresh, fluffy white towels where available to use throughout the spa along with chilling water to help rehydrate you. Being a female, with longer hair, I especially loved the added touch of free hair bands, individually wrapped for people to take.
It’s the small details that appeal to people when choosing a hotel and the Inspira Santa Marta definitely delivers on these.
Would we return to this hotel? Yes. Would we recommend it to others? Absolutely. If you prefer boutique hotels, with all the amenities offered by a large corporate establishment but with an added personal touch then this is one for you.
Exclusive offer: Thinking of travelling to Lisbon and need a place to stay. We have teamed up with Inspira Santa Marta to offer an exclusive discount to our readers.
We are offering our a readers a 10% discount on all room bookings for stays booked up until the end of April 2015. All you need to do is click here to see up-to-date discounted rates, or add the code 10%OFF when booking directly through the hotel’s website.
Want to see more? Check out our YouTube Video featuring the Inspira Santa Marta here.
We would like to thank all of the staff at the Inspira Santa Marta in Lisbon for their fantastic hospitality during our stay. We did receive a complimentary stay courtesy of Inspira Hotels, but all words and opinions are our own.