Schoolhouse Rock: Historic School Serves as Theme for Lisbon Hotel
The students never had it this good! The theme of “school” is uncommon in the world of luxury hotels, but The Thema Hotels & Resorts group has creatively taken up the challenge to transform an historic school building into a lovely boutique hotel. Once the “Condes de Paraty Palace” which was also, until recently, a school, the Hotel da Estrela is now a unique hotel with many of the trappings of an educational institution. Conveniently located in the heart of historic Lisbon, the hotel is also situated—somewhat ironically—next to two of the most iconic schools in Lisbon, the Liceu Pedro Nunes and the former school Machado de Castro—currently the School of Hospitality and Tourism of Lisbon—the best tourism education institution in Portugal. Indeed, some of the student staff members working at the Hotel da Estrela are students of the School of Hospitality. What better way to get on-the-job training? Hotel da Estrela takes its commitment to social responsibility seriously and uses this hotel as a training opportunity for young people seeking entrance into the hospitality industry. We were escorted to our room by two students after we checked in. They were eager to please and wanted to make sure we were comfortable in our new surroundings. Students are also employed in the hotel’s restaurant where they are trained as servers. In all, there is a youthful buoyancy about the place, a feeling of freshness, liveliness, and anticipation.
The school-theme is in use consistently throughout the entire hotel—one might say, from floor to ceiling. Carpeting throughout the Hotel da Estrela is a print pattern of words and math symbols written in white (representing chalk) on black (representing a blackboard). In the restaurant and in the halls of the hotel, chalkboards with words and symbols on them are frequently found. Books, pencils, maps—all the tools of the trade, so to speak—are found in abundance. The feeling evoked here is one of nostalgia, of the time when childhood dreams are just beginning to take root, and hope for a bright future is palpable. While this school setting may not resemble your particular school, within this environment you will be able to take note of certain images and impressions that may prod—if only for a moment—your own memories of gaiety and laughter. It’s a trip back in time, down memory lane.
Miguel Cancio Martins, world famous architect and designer of such well-known creations as the Buddha Bar in Paris, Strictly Hush in London and the Man Ray in New York, masterminded the schoolhouse furnishings and décor for Hotel da Estrela’s 13 rooms and 6 suites. Two of the suites have Hästens beds, considered the “best in the world.” The Swedish firm has been making beds by hand, not machine, since 1852, and uses only the finest pure flax, wool and cotton, the highest quality pine from Sweden, and genuine, hypoallergenic horsehair to create their beds.
The hotel, located near the Portuguese Estrela and Campo de Ourique parishes of the municipality of Lisbon, has a lovely garden area from which views of Lisbon may be seen. I walked down to the pond, just outside the downstairs restaurant and patio where a pair of ducks welcomed me. There I also found a large, well-manicured lawn amidst an array of lush plants, suggesting a fine area for an outdoor wedding. Nearby were the voices of children from the local park and in the distance a church bell rang. Back in the hotel, I walked through the restaurant where the staff was busy getting ready for the evening meal. We would visit the Cantina da Estrela later on. You can read the review of our lovely meal, (elsewhere in our feature section on travel in Portugal), featuring the local Portuguese favorites of octopus and tuna. It was an outstanding experience!
In several rooms of the hotel, magnificent views of the city and the Tagus River are available. Our room was comfortably appointed with a large upholstered headboard dividing our room from an oversized bathroom. The artistry of tilework around the bathtub was enthralling, and small glass portals beside the tub allowed two-way visibility to both rooms, although a mirrored effect was found in the bedroom. Maps on walls reminded one of the ubiquitous school-theme, though the features of the room’s modern lighting, minibar, and other conveniences helped give the hotel its four-star rating. Schoolhouse humor pervaded even the slightest of touches. The two-sided paper door-hanger offered “Studying Hard: Please Do Not Disturb,” on one side and “Out Playing: You May Clean the Room,” on the other.
Just steps away from the hotel are a host of traditional Portuguese shops, a park, and the basilica of Estrela, as well as a tram that will take you to 28 stops. Just ten minutes away are neighborhoods such as the Avenida da Liberdade, the 35th most expensive avenue in the world, featuring such luxury brands as Dior, Chanel, Versace, Gucci, Prada, and many more. I took a short walk up the hill from the hotel and discovered a large shopping mall where I found a number of ATMs for obtaining Euros, since I arrived after 4 pm when the banks closed. There were lots of restaurants and shops along my journey providing ample variety for shopping and dining.
The Hotel da Estrela is just one of the collection of nine hotels and resorts in the Thema Hotels & Resorts Group, a unique hospitality entity since 1917, which also features several fine dining establishments. Six of the hotels are considered “historic,” while the remaining three, of which Hotel da Estrela is one, are “contemporary.” These hotels are strategically located in Portugal’s top three cities of Porto, Coimbra and Lisbon. (Please see our reviews of Quinta das Lagrimas in Coimbra and The Hotel Infante Sagres in Porto.) The four-star Hotel da Estrela is a member of the prestigious Small Luxury Hotels of the World and has been recognized by many reviewers as a worthy candidate for your next visit to Lisbon.
Hotel Da Estrela
Rua Saraiva de Carvalho 35
Lisboa 1250-242 Portugal
Phone. (+351) 21.190.0100
Fax (+351) 21.190.0199