Fly direct to Lisbon with Emirates and enjoy this hip hotel in a historic building.
Hotel insider: Hotel Figueira, Lisbon
The smart olive-green façade of the Figueira, the first of the Beautique Hotels collection, stands out from the crumbling, romantic-looking buildings around Praça da Figueira (Fig Tree Square). The 18th century structure has been completely renovated and it shows - outside and in. As I walk through glass doors, the first thing I notice is the staff: they all look like models. Two handsome men in grey suits, and a woman with glossy black hair and thick-rimmed glasses greet me. Looking dishevelled after my early flight, I worry they may be too cool to be kind. Luckily, I couldn't be more wrong, and I am quickly escorted straight to my room, assured every whim will be catered to.
One of many boutique hotels springing up in Lisbon, this one - its interior conceived as a tree with 50 rooms at its branches - is surely one of the best located. Next to Rossio Square, most sites are within walking distance. These include the magnificent hilltop Castelo de São Jorge, the seafront and the high-end Avenida da Liberdade shopping boulevard. For everything else there's the yellow tram, which goes from right outside the hotel and is itself an attraction.
Floorspace is at a premium; standard rooms are only 19 square metres but it's the thoughtful touches by the award-winning designer Nini Andrade Silva, inspired by the fig tree (the hotel's namesake) and the 1950s, which make it work. A black rotary telephone sits alongside an iPod dock, signifying the hotel's balance between old and new, and the room's earthy tones are a nod to nature. In keeping with Silva's mission statement, "I don't follow trends, I seek to create them", the bed is a futon on a wooden plinth, looking right onto the square. At night, the lighting gives the impression the statue of King John I is going to gallop on his bronze horse right through the giant open windows.
The Beautique is little over a month old and service isn't yet slick but what staff lack in efficiency, they make up with good humour and a willingness to help.
Thanks to the adjacent bar and restaurant, business travellers, couples and glam young hipsters ensure a lively vibe. Light projections of fig fruits and leaves along the hotel's curving corridors add to the impression that not only is this a fun sort of treehouse, it's also a treehouse to don your Prada sunglasses, stilettos and be seen in.
The hotel's restaurant, Honra, is run by Nathalie Costa, the sister of Michelin-star winning Olivier da Costa and the restaurant prides itself in Portuguese home cooking from the recipes of the Costas' grandmother.Tapas-style dishes emerge, including a fresh octopus salad(€9; Dh42) that is wonderfully tender and salty. Pandering to my sweet tooth, the warm custard tart (€1.50; Dh7) with fig and tangerine ice cream for dessert is my highlight - the delicate pastry gives way to a soft, immaculately creamy filling. To my delight, the breakfast buffet includes liquid chocolate.
The spa. As I enter, I'm greeted with tea and a seat with a porthole looking out to the Castelo. I'm treated to a blissful detox massage (€45; Dh215), starting with acupressure on my feet, leading up to an invigorating honey and crushed cinnamon exfoliation on my back.
The bathroom - far too small and standard for a hotel which in most other categories is one-of-a-kind.
Locals love it - for a view into hip, urban Portugal, this place has all the elements for success.
The bottom line
A double room costs from €125 (Dh596) per night, including taxes. Hotel Figueira, Praça da Figueira No 16 (www.thebeautiquehotels.com; 00 351 210 492 940).
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