The only surviving 1940s Art Deco hotel in Lisbon, the Hotel Britânia is a classified Historic Building and a member of the Heritage Lisbon group of well-preserved lodgings. The building was designed by renowned modernist architect Cassiano Branco, and original features have been preserved throughout its many renovations and refurbishments. Today, the hotel impresses not only with its architectural flair, but also with its friendly service, near-perfect location on a quiet street off the famous Avenida da Liberdade (famed for its upscale shopping), and some lovely touches such as complimentary afternoon tea and cakes, decanters of Port in each room, and breakfasts until noon.
The hotel website has some good deals, including special offers for couples.
The 32 rooms and one suite at this elegant former townhouse are all spacious, and decorated in period style, with lots of cream, brown, and gold. Each room is individually furnished with Art Deco pieces, adding to the feeling of stepping back in time to the 1940s. Some rooms have terraces--an ideal spot for enjoying a glass of the complimentary Port found in each room. Some rooms have cork flooring, others parquet tiles.
YOU SHOULD KNOW The hotel's downtown location means access is easy, but views from the rooms aren't as dramatic as those perched on Lisbon's hills.
The period detail continues into the bathrooms, with marble surfaces, retro-chic tubs, and bidets. Molton Brown amenities are a nice touch. Hair dryers and comfy robes come as standard.
Visitors step through a grand arched door into a lobby in keeping with the hotel's Art Deco style--every detail harks back to that era, from the lights to the uniforms worn by the very friendly staff. The two porthole windows by the door are interesting design details that reflect the reflect Lisbon's seafaring history. There's a small library with English language books, and an afternoon tea of pastries, tea, and port is served here each day.
Breakfast, an impressive spread of hot and cold treats, is served until noon, so guests can enjoy it as brunch. There's no restaurant for lunch or dinner, but the free late-afternoon pastries and port are a treat.
With late breakfasts and afternoon pastries on offer, guests might find that lunch is surplus to requirements.
The hotel has a small bar serving some excellent Portuguese wines and spirits, as well as cocktails, and there's a comfortable lounge to enjoy them in.
There's a metro close to the hotel, and tuk tuks whisk visitors from this lower part of the city up the seven steep hills. This flatter part of Lisbon is pleasant to explore on foot, and many sights lie within walking distance. Taxis are easily available, and trams are close at hand for those who don't want to make the ascent to hillier areas on foot . Principe Real, whose shops are even more upscale than those of the Avenida, is a few minutes' walk away. The Avenida da Liberdade will appeal to shoppers--there's an emphasis on high-end stores, but there are some more down-to-earth clothes stores too--and it's well-placed for sightseeing too. Stroll along the leafy street--it's been compared to the Champs Elysee in Paris, but in reality it's not quite as grand--past some appealing vintage-chic drinks kiosks, and easily reach the historic Rossio square in one direction, and the grand Principe Real (home to even more upscale shopping) in the other. The castle, cathedral, and other big attractions are within walking distance, too. The hotel is just a few miles from the airport, and transfers can be arranged.
At the upper end of the Avenida, the Michelin-starred Eleven (20-minute walk or 5-10 minute cab ride) serves immaculately presented contemporary versions of classic Portuguese dishes and has some impressive city views. No sweet-toothed visitor should miss the chance to try the self-proclaimed Best Chocolate Cake in the World at the kiosk of the same name (O Melhor Bolo do Chocolate no Mundo, 6-minute walk). Gluten-avoiders take note, it's a flourless cake, so feel free to dig in.
A good place to start is a drink at one of the quiosques de refresco 'refeshment kiosks' that are dotted along the avenue, before heading to Sky Bar (summer only, 5-minute walk). Perched on top of the Tivoli Avenida da Liberdade Hotel and open to non-guests, it has wonderful cocktails and, thanks to its spectacular panoramic views, is one of the hottest places to sip a drink during the summer months. When the weather's cooler, the fascinating Pavilhão Chinês (14-minute walk) is a unique spot where drinks are served in a former grocery store filled with antique toys, costumes, and other curiosities.
WHY WE LIKE IT
As Lisbon's only Art Deco hotel, the Britania appeals to architecture buffs, but it's the super-friendly service, the great location and the nice extra touches (the late breakfasts and the free port and pastries among them) that get rave reviews from guests. The hotel's location is as close to perfect as it's possible to get. It's located on a quiet side street just off the Avenida da Liberdade--a wide, tree-lined avenue famed for its boutique stores (indeed, Louis Vuitton is close by, for those really looking to treat themselves). It's close enough to the busy street to be convenient, but without street or traffic noise.