The best hotels at Avenida da Liberdade
Behind its 19th century facade Valverde is a boutique hotel whose distinguishing features are its artistic side and its immaculate service. Let's start from the beginning. Right upon arrival you will notice how seriously the building's renovation works were taken. The hotel has a bold aesthetic that brings out its classic features. That might have resulted in a schizophrenic style but instead it became Valverde's calling card, a non-dull history lesson. The 25 rooms and suites vary in size and type – the building's original structure did not allow for any major alterations. However, even the smaller rooms (a little bigger than 20 square meters) make up for their size with large bathrooms including a shower and a tub.
For more than eight decades in business (the hotel was built in 1933), the Tivoli's group grew and expanded within and outside the city. Its Avenida da Liberdade firstborn remains one the city's classics. Lisbon is not New York but if you had to draw a comparison, you'd say the Tivoli is Lisbon's version of the Big Apple's Plaza when it comes to fame, recognition and location. The Avenida da Liberdade, with its designer shops and international brands such as Cartier, Gucci and Louis Vuitton is not far behind Manhattan's 5th. In 2016, its Thai owners invested 15 million euros in a total makeover of the rooms and common areas. You don't want to mess with perfection, though: no changes were made to the top floor terrace, proud host of the Sky Bar, one of Lisbon's hippest rooftops, nor to the botanic garden with a swimming pool.
Its 72 rooms come with a choice of view, according to how much peace and quiet you require. There is the front of the hotel, overlooking the busy Avenida da Liberdade, a lovely boulevard with its share of heavy traffic and nervous honking; or you can face the backyard patio, where the bar's outdoors tables are placed, which offers a rare commodity in the city centre: silence. Conceived by and for young people, in Fontecruz the leisure areas share an open space with the lobby. After checking in we felt tempted to immediately take a detour towards the bar before going up to the room, but we're well behaved and waited patiently until 2pm. At the Bar Small and Delicious (also a restaurant), the gin menu has scores of choices, which connaisseurs will appreciate.
Miguel Câncio Martins, the same architect that designed the famous Buddha Bar in Paris or the Pacha in Marrakesh, created this stylish hotel from a Pombaline-style 18th century building. The original outline remains unchanged, with its cast-iron balconies, stonework and tile walls. But the makeover made it fresh-faced, urbane and cosmopolitan, mixing the young and the old – an alchemy that earned it international recognition as one of Portugal's most successful restoration projects. You will see why right on your way in, with an old apothecary counter converted into a tea station, and the mezzanine turned into a library. It is a small hotel, 41 rooms, with a range of amenities you wouldn't expect from a location merely six storeys tall.
Designed in 1940 by modernist architect Cassiano Branco, Hotel Britania remains genuine and true to itself, and that's what makes it so special. Ignoring the competition and thoroughly uninterested in adapting to 21st century trends, its calling card is simplicity – not everyone needs state of the art technology or contemporary furniture to feel home. Perennially voted as one of the hotels with the nicer staff, its team is devoted to turning every stay into a guided tour through the golden age of European architecture. There are 32 rooms (and a suite) decorated in grey and wooden tones, and they are both comfortable and spacious. Some of them have balconies and cork floors, but most have classic marble floors, the same material used in the lobby.
The rooms are great, large and comfy, both classic and relaxed, but it's the rest of the Plaza that truly sings. The original decoration mixes the old and the new with a delightful zest: old furniture and designer pieces, brightly painted walls and marble rooms with armchairs and rocking chairs. Some traces remains of the 1950s, when the hotel opened for business as a meeting point for the artists that drew crowds to the nearby Parque Mayer. It has been managed ever since by the same family, who remained committed throughout the years to the hotel's informal and bohemian style.
Porto Bay Liberdade offers the best of both worlds: a five-star city hotel's luxury, the relaxation and friendliness of a vacation resort. The location, just a couple of minutes from the Avenida da Liberdade, is an added bonus for tourists: in fifteen minutes, you can get to the traditional shops of the city centre or the Chiado. The hotel's name is a bit deceiving. You'd assume it has something to do with Portugal's second city, but actually it comes from Porto Santo, in the Madeira islands, where this group already has 11 other properties. This is their first in Lisbon. The 98 rooms on offer are utilitarian rather than dazzling, but they all have a choice of pillows, a tiny detail that can make or break your hotel stay. To make up for the lack of a spectacular panorama there is a rooftop lounge bar and jacuzzi.
The hotel might look a bit conceited at first, but that self-confidence is justified. Its 113 rooms are simultaneously chic, vintage and practical (some of them have a balcony facing the street). Bathrooms are luxurious, pristinely white and they have an integrated Bluetooth sound system. Everything else is about living the good life. The hotel restaurant tries to innovate, with a contemporary menu with dashes of traditional cuisine to go along with a good selection of Portuguese wines. Any other food emergency can be settled at the front desk, any time of the day. As for the pool, we regret not having spent more time there: its warm water felt great while outside it was rainy and windy. We didn't check the temperature outside, but as we left the pool our skin was steaming.
Hotel Alegria (“joy”) is one of those timeless classics guaranteed never to go out of style. Its decoration successfully meshes the young and the new, with vintage restored furniture next to design pieces. Everything is rather classic, but there are some bold dashes of colour (for instance, in the same room you will find a blue sofa right in front of a pink one) that will make you smile and nod in agreement. Joy, right? Hotel Alegria might as well be an early 20th century bourgeois family manor, a home full of happy people with a contagious joie de vivre. The hotel is not particularly big but its 30 rooms are all quite spacious and well designed to take maximum advantage of the available sunlight. That extra space in the rooms conquered at the expense of common areas: there is just a breakfast room (no restaurant at the hotel) and the bar, whose cocktail menu is worth looking into.