The Ritz Four Seasons has for decades been the doyenne of Lisbon’s hotel scene. The imposing modernist 1950’s building atop the hill over Eduardo VII Park, dominates the view from the Marquess of Pombal Square almost dwarfing the monument to the revered statesmen. Commissioned by Portuguese dictator Salazar himself, who came to the conclusion that the city was in dire need of a luxury hotel of international standard, the investors negotiated the Ritz brand with Charles Ritz, becoming the fourth and last hotel bearing the historical name. Four Seasons has been managing the Ritz since 1997.
The lavish interiors are quintessentially 1950’s modernist, and a fine example of Portuguese architectural prowess, highlighted by works of mid-century Portuguese artists, who contributed with stunning tapestries, sculptures and paintings. The renovation led by Pierre Yves Rochon during the 1990’s while playing along those same classic lines, did however loose some of the fifties modernity in favour of a plumper brand of luxury. The rooms, large and comfortable as they are, do need a bold revamp. The presidential suite, spectacular in size and vistas, is designed to resemble a 18th century Lisbon palace, which is not only unfitting, but unnecessarily fussy. And at 15.000 Euros per night, it does come across as overrated.
Bringing the hotel closer to its roots wouldn’t be a bad idea, but it remains to be seen if the projected renovation is heading in the right direction. Some of the recent changes seem a bit out of place. The new sushi bar with zebra chairs seems a tad out of place, and the dining room, which now sports parakeet yellow walls, was probably better left untouched.
The food is of the highest standard though and the daily lunch buffet is legendary among Lisbon power-brokers. For those more inclined for somewhat simpler fare, the bar also serves meals together with wonderful cocktails. I tried one of the house creations, the “Pedro Leitão”, named after one of the artists featured in the hotel. Combining eucalyptus syrup, vodka, St. Germain liqueur, egg white, lime and grapefruit juice, and finished with dehydrated violets, it was wonderfully balanced, very fresh, and somehow very Portuguese. Portuguese cocktail making hasn’t been a priority in a country much to focused on port wine, but it’s starting to evolve and the Ritz bar is definitely a place to watch.
Among the hotels’ most prized features is the stunning basement spa, indoor pool and the show stopping, jaw dropping gym. Set in a glass pavilion on the hotels rooftop and surrounded by an outdoors running track, it’s exquisitely equipped and boasts astonishing 360.º views over the city.
As far as large grand hotels go, the Ritz is still the address of choice, though competition is quickly tightening. While it offers a smooth and luxurious stay with unrivalled service, I still believe this Four Seasons needs to be more in season.
Rua Rodrigo da Fonseca, 88, 1099-039 Lisboa, Portugal
Tel. 351 (21) 381-1400
Fax. 351 (21) 383-1783
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