A playful yet puzzling design: What it’s like staying at the super-affordable Moxy Lisbon City
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As a 20-something-year-old, I’m a bit of an old soul.
Instead of a wild night out, you often will see me having a quiet night in. And I splurge on candles more than any other item (besides airfare).
So it would be a bit out of my element to stay at a Moxy, a younger-skewing, limited-service hotel chain within the Marriott portfolio. But I was excited to check my first one out.
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Moxy is squarely targeted at travelers with “a playful hotel experience for the young — and young at heart.” Essentially, they’re trendy leisure hotels at budget (or near budget) prices.
Currently, the brand is one of the fastest-growing in the world. How would my first-ever Moxy stay go during my summer trip to a reopened Portugal?
While the hotel was easy on the wallet, the Moxy Lisbon City just wasn’t quite for me. Here’s why — and who it might actually be a better fit for.
Right off the bat, there’s something going for the Moxy Lisbon City: Price. Cash prices range from an affordable $70 per night to about $150 per night during peak season for a base-level room.
If you want to use points, the Moxy is a Category 4 Marriott Bonvoy property. That means it’ll set you back between 20,000 to 30,000 points per night, depending on whether it’s an off-peak, standard or peak award.
TPG values a single Marriott Bonvoy point at about 0.8 cents apiece, so in many cases, it may be a better deal to pay outright in cash. (Consider 20,000 Marriott points to be worth approximately $160.)
That’s exactly what I did with my own booking, using cash to book my two-night stay.
There is actually another Moxy in Lisbon that was recently opened, so don’t get the two confused.
First, the Moxy Lisbon City is closer to the downtown corridor in the Santa Cruz and Saldanha neighborhoods. This area is part of the central business district but has a residential component as well.
However, most tourists that come to Lisbon will likely spend more of their time in the old part of the city near the water, in neighborhoods such as Barrio Alto and Chiado. Those areas are about a 10-15 minute (affordable) Uber ride away.
And just around the corner is Principal Real, an upscale district with a tree-lined promenade with high-end shops, galleries and bars.
The other Moxy is called the Moxy Lisbon Oriente, and is much further away from the actual city center. In fact, it’s just a few minutes from Lisbon Airport (LIS).
Before staying at this Moxy, I knew who the hotel’s demographic was, but I had personally not seen many photos of the brand’s lobbies before.
Naturally, I was a bit taken aback when I first walked in and noticed the bright neon lights, a foosball table, signage in all shapes and sizes and a large bar-like set-up that doubled as a front desk.
It was sensory overload. Welcome to the Moxy.
While I was getting acclimated to the brash decor and hashtags galore, the front desk associate checked me in.
She was incredibly friendly and set the tone for service for the rest of my stay. Every staff member at the hotel that I encountered exuded warmth and hospitality. It was more befitting of a four- or five-star hotel; I was impressed.
While checking us in, she noted my Marriott Bonvoy Gold status, thanked me for my loyalty and upgraded us to a more spacious “family room.”
In my experience, Bonvoy Gold doesn’t get you much in the U.S., but outside of it, upgrades such as this aren’t that uncommon.
At check-in, every guest also receives a complimentary cocktail.
When I first walked into the room, I was simply puzzled.
First, I was expecting a space that was much smaller. Moxys are known for their small rooms, with the idea that there is everything that you need in a compact layout. After all, if you need more space, there are social areas throughout the hotel.
However, because of the upgrade, this room wasn’t like most others in the hotel. In fact, it was massive by Moxy standards.
But big is not always better.
The room had very little in the way of furniture or decor and for a moment, I actually thought someone had mistakenly taken pieces out. But nope — the design was incredibly minimalist to a fault.
Besides a mirror, there was no decor on any of the walls, and the lack of furniture just created an incredibly spartan appearance. The room also lacked a desk or any type of surface to work from.
In addition, there was no closet and instead, there was a hanging metal rack was on the wall next to the 49″ television.
A red telephone and aqua sofa gave a dose of much-needed color in a room of varying shades of grey.
However, the sofa was just as uncomfortable as it looked, and oddly, the phone could not reach the front desk. If you needed anything, you would have to go down to the lobby.
The bed was on the firmer side, but it was comfortable overall.
I noticed how the “do not disturb” sign was jazzed up in true, over-the-top Moxy fashion.
Thankfully, the switchgear that was present in the room was thoughtfully placed and functional, including the outlets, bedside table and lamps.
And the room was immaculately clean, too.
Things were less bleak over in the bathroom. It was well-designed, bright and the shower pressure was excellent. That’s all you could really ask for of a limited-service hotel.
However, I did highly question the use of a combined hair and body wash product in the shower.
Food and beverage
The Moxy Lisbon City has a combined bar and cafe in the lobby area that serves as the all-day restaurant, including where the breakfast buffet is served.
On the plus side, there was tons of natural light and a variety of seating options.
The Moxy’s food was affordable, but an overall disappointment.
A self-service continental breakfast costs just 9 euro, but besides a couple of the bakery items — including my personal favorite pastel de nata — everything else lacked flavor or wasn’t great quality.
For instance, the fruit salad wasn’t fresh, the juice was clearly from concentrate (besides being very watered down) and the eggs were powdered and tasteless.
A much better bet would be to go to the breakfast spot next door or visit a local pasteleria and spend just as much (or less) for something way more delicious.
The lobby bar served a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks at all hours of the day and night. There was even a professional barista coffee machine, which is my preference over the self-serve machine variety.
In addition to the buffet breakfast, the lobby cafe also has a limited food menu with salads, sandwiches, pasta and pizza. Unfortunately, there isn’t anything Portuguese or unique about the menu at all.
While my friend’s pizza was clearly just reheated and not freshly made, it did hit the spot. However, the salad and sandwich that I ordered were both a big miss.
Amenities and public spaces are one area that Moxy properties excel in, and this Lisbon property was no exception.
The focus is on social areas, including a workstation (the “Idea Zone”) and other gathering spaces that provide modern ergonomic seating.
While there were a variety of seating options and power outlets to speak of, it did feel a bit like the Moxy raided an Ikea while blindfolded for furniture.
Past the lobby, there’s a small outdoor space with more seating and a picnic-style table.
Taking the elevator up to the roof, you’ll find a narrow infinity pool with views of Lisbon down below. The roof deck had bright colors and decor to match the lobby.
The Moxy has probably the tightest parking garage known in existence. Thankfully, it’s connected to the hotel right downstairs and it’s affordable at 12 euro per day.
Unfortunately, there is no fitness center in the hotel.
On one hand, I applaud the Moxy in its unequivocal commitment to a certain aesthetic. And it appears to be working. There are dozens of Moxys scheduled to open over the next several years, with a big push in Europe.
But personally, I find the overall branding to be too much of an in-your-face experience, and in-room amenities too barebones. The lack of a desk in the room is a major oversight, but this isn’t just a complaint about the Lisbon property. This is standard across all Moxys worldwide.
However, its pricing is very attractive and the service from every staff member I interacted with was incredibly hospitable.
I’ve stayed at many limited-service hotels from Hampton Inns to Fairfield Inns and beyond — and while those chains are blander in comparison, they are also way more functional.
The Moxy Lisbon City is the definition of hotel form over function — and that works for some people. But it doesn’t quite work for me.
Featured photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy.
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