by Ron Bernthal
I arrived at the Jerónimos 8 hotel by foot, walking a few minutes from the Belém train station through a leafy park, then along a pleasant suburban street filled with cafes and shops, to a rather nondescript three-story building, without any exterior signs indicating it was a hotel. I was on Rua dos Jerónimos, however, and directly across the street was the magnificently ornate, 16th-century Jerónimos Monastery. Obviously, this new design hotel has cleverly hidden its modern 21st century design behind a plain, 16th century façade.
The glass doors slid open automatically when I approached the entrance and any doubts about where I was evaporated immediately at the sight of the reception desk, a large, dark wenge wood cube table with two computer screens built into the surface. Not your usual hotel front desk. A friendly young man checked me in, and pointed out the hotel’s Bussaco Wine Bar just off the lobby, with its floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Monastery. The hotel’s 65 rooms (including four suites) are all, I would find out later, individually decorated in shades of chestnut, burnt sienna, and cream, with lots of natural light flowing into the bedroom and marble bath from oversize windows. Room numbers are imbedded into the striped brown and red hall carpeting, which leaves the doors and corridor walls looking clean and spare, like the rest of the property.
The hotel opened in August, 2007, and is part of Design Hotels AG, a German firm that represents and markets more than 150 properties around the world, with the common element being savvy and innovative design themes, often by the best local architectural firms, incorporated into the structures. At Jerónimos 8, an appetizing buffet breakfast is included in the rates, and even the breakfast room on the second floor is a stunning environment, with dark walls, white tables and chairs, and eclectic ceiling lighting. There is free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel and two small meeting rooms, named Jasmim (jasmine) and Chocolate, handle corporate gatherings.
The Belém district, ten minutes by bus or train to downtown Lisbon, has museums, embassies, fine restaurants, upscale residential housing, and corporate offices. Located along the Tagus River, it was here that Vasco da Gama set sail in 1497 on his two-year exploration that would open a sea route to India (the Jerónimos Monastery, completed in 1541 to honor da Gama’s voyage, is a UNESCO World Heritage site). Just a block from the hotel is Pastéis de Belém, a pastry shop founded in 1837 that sells the traditional Belém pastéis (custard tart), served warm with a sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar. I took a bag of them back to my “designed” room, where I sat in front of the open jalousie doors basking in the warm Portuguese sun, feeling like I had been dropped into a slice of heaven.
Rua dos Jerónimos, 8
8 1400 211 Lisbon
Phone: 351-213-600 900; FAX 351-213-600-908
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