Q: What is it? A: A hotel inside the old Castelo that seems quite undecided whether to take the traditional or the modern path and where the staff needs a reminder who they are there for.
So you want to stay in a castle?
Here’s the story: The highest hill in Lisbon, (which incidentally is a city built on hills), was the logical choice for any old ruler who wanted to avoid having his head chopped off; hence the citadel on top of the hill. With time the citadel grew and became St. Jorges Castle, (or Castelo de São Jorge). Within its walls the Alcáçova Palace was built and it needed a kitchen. The hotel building dates back to circa 1765 and is still sometimes referred to as the Palacete das Cozinhas, or the Kitchen Mansion. End of history lesson.
Look, there’s a boutique hotel on top of the hill!
Almost 250 years later, the ambitious Portuguese family behind the Heritage Lisboa Hotels bring in Graca Viterbo, one of Portugal’s leading interior decorators, to transform the old buildings into a boutique hotel with 14 rooms. The result? A flawless design if you happen to like ‘modern’ hotels. Much of the medieval details remain, especially at the entrance and in the inner courtyard, but I personally find it a pity that they didn’t play more on this while furnishing the rooms. Much of the furniture was designed especially for the hotel, but in my opinion it looks more or less like any other modern hotel. Some would call it smart and contemporary. Well, look at the pics, judge for yourself and please keep in mind that personal taste is… personal.
Keeping staff to a minimum.
With only 14 rooms you could, (and should), expect the level of service to be outstanding. It’s not. If you expect hordes of bell boys, waiters and a concierge that holds the key to any secret nightspots, this place is not for you. It has no restaurant, although the breakfast buffet is stellar. There are no bartenders to chat with, although you are free to pour yourself a stiff one in the honesty bar. I’m pretty comfortable with taking care of things myself, so the lack of staff didn’t particularly bother me. Just make a note of it and arrive with realistic expectations. What bothered me more was the non-attentive attitude at check in and check out. Obviously the slow pace is affecting the staff. Make a note of that, Heritage hotels! Solar Do Castelo is a charming place and it wouldn’t cost you many smiles to gain a few more stars…
Solar Do Castelo
Rua Das Cozinhas 2, (Ao Castelo)
+351 218 870 909
Additional note: If you arrive by car, be prepared to carry your luggage quite a distance. Better to order a taxi which are allowed to drive within the walls of the historic district. Plus; no matter what the driver will tell you it is possible to drive all the way to the hotel entrance, (a rather small black and yellow sign hanging above a nondescript blue door).