David Harfield can’t seem to break free from the grand trappings of Corinthia Hotel Lisbon.
When I set off on my first backpacking adventure through South East Asia back in 2004, I didn’t have the luxury of deciding whether to stay and enjoy my lodgings or head out and explore my surroundings, mainly because the amenities in the ‘hammock & pancake’ shacks that I could afford mainly consisted of, well, the name says it all. Actually, I’m doing a few of them a disservice – some of them had a resident monkey that would steal your breakfast pancake and you had to decide whether to risk giving up your hammock to chase it. Cut forward 12 years and I’m faced with another serious dilemma: should I explore the beautiful city of Lisbon that’s practically on our doorstep or yield to the myriad delights of the 5-star Corinthia Hotel and its array of spa, lounges, bar, restaurant and fully-stocked gym? First world problems, não?
Situated in Lisbon’s uptown district, amongst other hotels, a bunch of banks and, for anyone who fancies it, a zoo, the hotel enjoys close proximity to the airport, which is very appealing for the multitude of business travellers that stay here; one of the Corinthia-branded Mercedes can drop you outside the terminal inside of ten minutes. We stroll through the revolving doors and straight into the expansive lobby where a friendly team are waiting to take us through the executive check-in. Once we’ve enjoyed a refreshing mango juice shot and chatted about where the best places to visit are, we head up to our Junior Executive suite on the 22nd floor, just two floors beneath the Executive Lounge that is the hotel’s crowning amenity.
The room is exactly what you’d want from an executive suite: elegant, spacious and with an excellent view of the city; a welcome basket sits on the coffee table and I pour myself a glass of iced Chardonnay, munch on a couple of grapes and circle our new pad. The natural light afforded by the two floor-to-ceiling windows washes the room in a sepia glow, the writing bureau and upscale Austin Powers-esque sunburst mirror being my two favourite features. The bathroom is decked out in marble furnishings, a bathtub and shower adjacent to ‘his and hers’ (or, as I’m travelling with my father, ‘his and his’ sinks) and there are a couple of plush white robes that we don to head down to the swimming pool.
On the second floor lies the spa, pool and exercise facilities and I hit the gym in order to work up an appetite for tonight’s meal; it’s got everything that you need to give your body a brief and comprehensive workout, so as soon as I’ve broken a sweat, I head straight for the tranquil pool to cool down with a couple of lengths. I’m returning for a spa session in the morning, so it’s back upstairs to change while looking out as dusk settles over the city, neon-lit, Scalextric-type roads winding between each other in the distance. The faraway tableaux elicits a wonderous feeling, fuelled also by another glass of Chardonnay and a gorgeous rendition of Girl From The North Country by Counting Crows echoing from my phone; we could stay and watch the world all night (or at least for the rest of the album), but dinner reservations await.
Típico is a curious restaurant; fine dining patrons eat cheek-by-jowl by guests who are loading up their plates from the buffet table and it’s also the breakfast destination for the majority of patrons. We order à la carte and are impressed with the very friendly and informative service; the food is outstanding, definitely the best meal that we had all trip (our tip: stick to seafood – it’s a port town, after all). After a postprandial glass of Port in the hotel’s Tempus Lounge where a pianist noodles his way through pop classics such as ‘My Way’, we decide to escape our gilded cage and head downtown to the lively Bairro Alto area to challenge some locals at matraquilhos (bar football). Who won, you ask? Hmm? Surely that doesn’t matter: it’s the taking part that counts.
In the morning, I’m booked in for the aforementioned spa treatment and it is quite literally the most pleasant hangover cure that I’ve ever experienced. Seriously, forget about green smoothies, Virgin Marys or ice showers, the next time that you tie one on, try getting a 45-minute full-body massage from a professional masseuse in the calming sanctuary of a wood-panelled, aromatic treatment room and then led to the spa area where a pebble-strewn cooling walk, bubbling Jacuzzi, warm hydrotherapy pool, steam room, sauna and sensory shower are yours for the indulging…oh, and it ends in an ice shower. So maybe remember that one.
Once again, the enticement to chain myself to the rejuvenating spa amenities is so strong that I almost don’t make it to breakfast, but I arrive at the Executive Lounge just in time to have the chef whip me up a delightful omelette as I stroll around the top-floor hideaway, taking in the panoramic views of a city that I’m yet to properly explore. As if I need more temptation, guests who sign up to the Executive experience have full access to this lounge from 7:00am to 10:00pm, with drinks and food replenished throughout.
I may have come a long way since those chimp-riddled bungalows on Koh Samui, but in terms of adventure, I seem to have regressed to a childlike state of comfort-seeking, particularly when faced with such luxurious surroundings as I’ve enjoyed in Corinthia Lisbon. As they say, monkey see, monkey do.
Corinthia Hotel Lisbon, Av Columbano Bordalo Pinheiro, 105, 1099-031 Lisbon, Portugal
Tel: +351 21 7236363
The hotel is located in the centre of Lisbon with views overlooking the 18th Century Aqueduct and Monsanto National Park. The hotel is also just a ten-minute taxi ride from the airport 7 kilometres away. The main metro and train station are both within walking distance of the hotel.
Type of Hotel: 5-Star Hotel, Spa & Restaurant
Number of Rooms: 475 rooms and 43 suites including complimentary Wi-Fi
Insider Tip: The Executive experience is definitely worth it, especially if you’re there for more than one night.
Price Band: High
Reviewer’s Rating: 9/10
David Harfield is the director of PepperStorm Media and writes about his three passions: food, booze and travel.
Photographs courtesy of Corinthia Hotel Lisbon