Review: A Superior Room at the Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon
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To The Point
The Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon is one of the most regal hotels in the city. Pros: Unbeatable service, private terraces, elegant restaurants and a giant gym on the roof with a wraparound view. Cons: It’s a hike from the city center down a hill, some rooms have an unpleasant odor.
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When I decided to stay at the swanky Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon, I didn’t realize that I was effectively prioritizing luxury accommodations with white-glove service over immersion in an authentic Portuguese setting. Sure, the hotel is just a 15-minute walk from the old town center, but it’s in a radically different neighborhood. And no one wants to walk back up the hill after they’ve spent the day navigating the narrow alleyways and cobblestone roads in high heat. So expect to take a lot of taxis.
I arranged for a four-night stay using the concierge service that comes with my Citi Prestige card, which offers a fabulous fourth night free perk if you book directly. I booked a “Superior Room with one queen bed” for a total of $1,848.79. After subtracting the fourth-night rate ($462.19), the total came to $1,386.60, or $346.65 per night (and I earned 4,160 Citi ThankYou points). I paid for virtually everything else during my stay with my Chase Sapphire Reserve card since there were no foreign transaction fees and I earned 3x points on all my travel and dining purchases.
Note that Amex Platinum cardholders can also book this hotel through Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts, which gives you access to exclusive perks like guaranteed 4:00pm checkout, noon check-in and room upgrades (both are based on availability), daily breakfast for two, complimentary Wi-Fi and at this particular property, an 85 euro (~$90) credit toward spa services to use during your stay.
The room naming here is not intuitive. A “superior room,” for example, is actually the (relative) bottom of the barrel and gets you a 452-square-foot room with a view of the city (could be on floors 1 to 10) and a marble bathroom. One level up from this would be a “deluxe” (527-square-foot room on the 1st to 7th floor), while a “premier” gets you a room of 527-square feet on floors 8, 9 or 10. At the top is the presidential suite, with 2,655 square feet on the 10th floor. Translation: do your homework before you get on the phone so you know what you’re booking.
The building’s façade has a kind of minimalist/brutalist appeal — it does not look fancy until you spot valets in top hats opening the doors. The entrance is located at the top of a hill (the Intercontinental Hotel is across the street). Cabs stand by at all hours to whisk passengers away to the Alfama or Belém neighborhoods. Palm trees and flowers line the street-side entrance.
The inside is unequivocally stunning. Exotic vines dangle from a skylight and barely brush the floor below, a real work of art and not something you see every day in a lobby. The reception desk usually has two people ready to help customers so I never had to wait to talk to someone.
The attendant who checked me in explained all the amenities — the pool, spa and gym, among others — and made it very clear that free breakfast did not come with the package/rates I paid. I hadn’t counted on the free meal, but honestly, I was slightly disappointed. A quick call to my Citi Prestige concierge confirmed that what I purchased did not guarantee any meals. Not a big deal — better to find out now and not after gorging on the buffet.
One reason I didn’t care so much was that I was told I’d be on the 10th floor — the top — which meant I’d have great views. So my wife and I hopped into the elevator to see what kind of experience we’d been granted. The hallways were extra wide, with potted orchids, which lends an air of elegance. No narrow corridors in this place.
It seemed to be a little on the small side when we entered, but there was a private terrace, a killer view of the nearby park and in the distance, the buildings and town squares of Old Lisbon.
There was also one problem: The room smelled bad. My wife was much more sensitive to this odor than I was; she described it as if someone had just sprayed insect killer and then tried to cover that smell up with some room deodorizer.
I suggested we open the terrace door (note white curtains above), leave for a few hours and come back and see if we still detected the smell. Sadly, the room was no better three hours later. We called the front desk and they said they would send housekeeping.
We waited a while and then heard a knock. The housekeeper had arrived but she didn’t seem to know what she was coming in for, so we had to explain it using gesticulations and facial expressions due to the language barrier. She agreed something was off and summoned the head of housekeeping, who could only communicate to us in French, since we don’t speak Portuguese and she didn’t speak English. She, too, admitted there was a smell — we were glad no one was denying it — but when I pointed at the carpet, she just shrugged.
Having hit a wall, I decided to step up my level of concern with a polite chat back down at reception. All I wanted was to move to a non-smelly room, or to know that we could move the following day, at the very least.
Management acted swiftly, saying this was no problem at all and immediately upgrading us to a deluxe room on the 5th floor. We went up to inspect the new room — praying that the smell was not an institutional problem — and found ourselves in a much better place.
The new room was more spacious and smelled of roses instead of Raid. The decor was more subtle — solid beige and blue, from the carpet to the curtains and from the chairs to the bed sheets to the lamp design.
The closet situation was much improved as well: we could access our clothes without having to walk into the entrance hallway, and there were two full-length mirrors behind the doors. Most important, we now had our own single-cup coffee machine.
Though located on a lower floor now (5), the view was virtually the same: We overlooked the park, a sea of trees and older districts of Lisbon in the distance toward the water. It was very quiet throughout our stay.
The terrace, though spartan, had two chairs and a table, just enough space for us to bring back some snacks to eat outside and to dry some hand-washed clothes.
If there’s a criticism to be made, it’s that the room is definitely not modern in any way. The switches to the lamps, for example, look like something I used to see in my grandparents’ apartment. Classic may be the word. Or perhaps: old-world charm.
Back in the bathroom, I fell in love with the sinks as soon as I saw them. Yes, it’s always nice to see double sinks for couples, but these were super-wide and had plenty of counter space. We could really spread out — a rare and decadent form of luxury.
There was a separate bath and shower — bonus points for couples that like both tubs and showers — and tons of chrome in the faucet handles, towel racks and handle bars.
The toiletries came from L’Occitane.
The only thing I didn’t like: The light switches were on the outside the bathroom and you could accidentally cut all power to the bathroom by flicking a switch as you first enter the room.
When I saw that the bidet and toilet faced one another… I could not stop imagining spouses facing one another while seated on their respective thrones. My wife and I did not try this.
This building, constructed in 1959, houses more than just 282 guest rooms. There are small shops set up on the lobby level for brands like Prada and Cartier, as well as a grand restaurant on the ground floor, Varanda, which serves a range of seafood and several Portuguese dishes (steak, veal, pork) that’ll set you back 29 to 49 euros (~$31 to $52) per entrée. And then there’s the Ritz Bar and nearby sushi lounge, which were the busiest areas of the ground floor. Couples leisurely tossed back a few drinks in this more casual setting and ordered from the sushi chef, who worked his magic from behind a nearby counter.
Also on the ground floor are several lounges — a man played piano creating movie-like ambience when I was traversing the grounds. For the most part, these were totally empty, like a ready ballroom just waiting for guests to arrive.
Think that looks fancy? It gets better: The spa, gym and pool at this particular Four Seasons are equally ravishing. But first, to get to the pool and spa, you have to pass by the unusual chairs formed from an oversized sculpture of feet. This was the only light-hearted, borderline-kitsch touch in the hotel.
A woman overseeing the pool and spa area snapped to attention as soon as she saw me walk through the elevator and offered to take me on a tour. In that time, I took in the 59-foot pool (heated to 80 degrees), which rarely sees more than a few swimmers at one time. Comfy beach chairs line the side of the pool and also overlook the hotel garden.
I didn’t make time for a manicure (155 euros, or about $164), pedicure (175 euros, or about $185) or the “Princess for a Day” treatment (425 euros, or about $449 for four hours), among other services the spa offered. Had I wanted it, the hotel could also have assisted in booking a make-up artist or hairdresser. Good to know.
The gym, located on the roof, is magnificent. Aside from having an exceptionally large selection of equipment — bikes, ellipticals, treadmills, rowing machines, pilates, you name it — spread over more than 7,000 square feet…
…there’s also a track that goes around the periphery of the roof, allowing you to take in 360-degree views of Lisbon as you jog (or gawk, in my case).
I visited the 24-hour business center too, just because I sleep easier knowing that I can leave my hotel room and type loudly somewhere else if need be. Wi-Fi is free throughout the hotel, is not limited to one or two devices and worked well consistently. This office space also offered printers, fax machines, copiers and, best of all, more coffee.
Food and Beverage
To feed the sudden hunger pangs — midnight munchies, post-shopping low-blood sugar moments and so on — there’s an in-room mini-bar that comes stocked with candy bars (like Toblerones) and bottled water, juice, soda and minis (including Absolut Vodka). Free bottled water is also left in the room after every cleaning.
To experience a level of formal service that you may never encounter again, I highly recommend trying room service dinner. My wife and I ordered a salad, a seafood stew, a Portuguese pork-and-clams dish and a dessert and were blown away by the way the server presented our dishes — this was dinner theater and came across almost like a magic act.
First, he wheeled in a table covered in a white tablecloth. The hot dishes were being kept warm in concealed compartments, cold dishes in a portable fridge. The seafood stew came in a copper pot; he lifted the lid like it was some great reveal: voila!
Within seconds he had unveiled mini Tabasco bottles, a butter tray, cute salt and pepper shakers, oil and vinegar and a bread basket filled with crackers, rolls and breadsticks (we saved them and ate them for days). Suddenly, there we were, in a bedroom but sitting at this magnificently decorated table with more silverware than we knew what to do with. The food was impeccable.
The piece de resistance: The dessert was set on top of a shallow bowl filled with ice so the ice cream would not melt too quickly. The cost was not insubstantial, but could have been worse: $143 for the two of us, everything included.
The level of service did not dip for a moment. When we asked the concierge if he could write down the name of a cold medicine we could buy at a local pharmacy, he not only wrote it down, he asked if we wanted him to go get it or if we wanted him to call a doctor for us.
When we asked if there were any grocery stores in the neighborhood (because we like browsing the aisles and bringing home rare goodies for friends), he described two spots, drew the directions on a map, Googled the business to find out their hours and explained which destination offered the more gourmet items.
On the last night, the manager called me at 8:00pm to find out how our experience had been and if we were happy. Yes, they’d gone above and beyond. And finally, when I was checking out, the front desk guy came out from behind the counter and handed me the receipt in an envelope using both hands. Well done.
Have you ever stayed at the Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon? Tell us about your experience in the comments, below.
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