Lisbon is a vibrant city with authentic history, lesser tourists and it's Europe's sunniest capital. Those are enough reasons to make it a very attractive destination.
I love to stay at sustainable hotels and I believe we can all contribute to a better world with our everyday choices. So when Inspira Santa Marta, listed on Green Pearls, invited me to stay with them, I took the chance and booked the next flight for the end of October. A perfect fall break with warm temperatures was exactly what we needed.
We decided to go via public transport to the hotel. From the subway station, Marques do Pombal the hotel is just a short walk away. Behind the famous and exclusive shopping street, Avenida da Liberdade, quietly hidden close to a little supermarket, a café and some local shops, lies Inspira Santa Marta. As we walked around the corner and saw the sign, we were surprised, that the entrance was rather modest. It made the impression it was meant to be that way, so it doesn't attract too much attention compared to its neighbors.
We opened the door and from there an automatic door opened and a whole little own world was unfolding in front of our eyes. This hotel is truly something else! It's designed in a way that you have the feeling you could walk for a very long time. There are a few couches, comfy chairs and also some working stations. On the left side is the restaurant located with an open kitchen that leads to the restaurant's name - OPEN.
Our welcome at the hotel was warm, and the staff was very friendly. The lady from the check-in even accompanied us to the elevator. As we walked past the reception desk, this huge space continues to a reading area on the left side, more chairs, and couches and to the right side a bar. Straight ahead I found one of the many architectural highlights, but maybe the highlight for me was the staircase that leads up to the spa area.
The architecture is inviting and the height of the ceiling and the materials that were used create so much space for everyone that you can look for a seating area which is a little bit hidden, while you grab a book or get some work done if you need some privacy. If you travel with your family, give them time to get ready in the room while you get some work done and still can enjoy the warm ambiance of the hotel at the same time. Inspira Santa Marta accomplished to create a warm and welcoming space through the materials they used, rather than the typical image of a reception area.
Entering the room, I saw the best surprise ever in a hotel room. Inspira Santa Marta welcomed me with a beautiful plate of macarons. Those were so, so delicious. Pure heaven!
Located on the 4th floor, our room was spacious, with a lovely design (again a lot of wooden elements). Inspira Santa Marta designed all rooms according to Feng Shui. The TV, as well as the phone, are personalized with your name on it. The hotel is sustainable and one action they take in this direction is to reduce paper. You can click yourself through the hotel's own channel and read more about the spa and all of their other programs. There's no paper information in the room except a brochure about the spa and the explanation for the lighting concept.
We had to laugh so hard when we finally saw the brochure. It was obviously placed on the desk but we were so busy trying to figure out how the light works on our own that we didn't see it right away. This brings me back to the lights. Yes, that's quite unique! There are many different kinds of lamps in the room and for different moods or needs, you can find the perfect light setting.
I was a bit surprised about the open bathroom concept at first. The shower separates the room (which is by itself no room) and the bedroom. Just at the entrance, it gives you the feeling that the room is much bigger and wider and I actually really liked it. Just next to the door at the entrance there is a wardrobe with a sliding door which still allows you to close the 'bathroom' if you feel like it. Although you can see through the glass a bit, it has a pattern so you don't feel completely watched. The toilet has a little room on its own on the right side of the mirror.
This concept makes the rooms very unique and it gave the room a very personal touch. Together with the bathroom, I enjoyed it every evening to come 'home'. Our room was much more than just a place to sleep. It felt roomy, gave us enough space to rest and feel at ease. Through the principles of Feng-Shui, the boutique hotel serves as an oasis of peace and harmony, allowing body and mind to revitalize. The decoration was carefully selected and most rooms are located according to the Feng-Shui energies.
As you all know from our latest stay in Vienna, I am a big breakfast lover. Oh don't get me wrong, I love food in general but I have this thing with breakfast... Whenever I'm on vacation or abroad I just enjoy to taking my time for breakfast.
In the morning we made it to the gym to do a little work-out. The gym provides mats and some other gym equipment. Nothing big, but just perfect to do something before you're out the entire day (all the walking is an extra work-out anyway). From there, we headed straight to our room, showered and went to the breakfast area.
Here, you find everything that you're craving for. Fresh fruits, different kinds of cheese, different kinds of ham (as a Veggie I don't take any ham pictures, sorry!) and a whole buffet with warm delicacies. As you can see at the bar the hotel staff provided fresh orange juice in recycled glass bottles, as well as water. There was a bowl of dried herbs to make those scrambled eggs taste even better.
Of course, being in Lisbon, there was more than enough provided for the sweet tooth that I am. I didn't leave the breakfast area without having Pasteis de Nata, those mouth-watering Portuguese custard tarts. Never heard of them before? Don't miss out on them while you're in Lisbon.
What I truly loved about this breakfast area?
It had more of a café character rather than a hotel breakfast area. It was calm, everyone was walking slowly to the buffet, smiling at each other, and there was not much noise at all. It felt like a laid-back Sunday brunch, but in fact, every day felt like that.
I believe the Feng-Shui had an impact on all of the guests, there are not many hotels that manage to create such peaceful and relaxing spaces.
There was one thing, that left me puzzled. The quality of the breakfast was very good and I do believe that they give their best to use local and organic ingredients. But, next to the cereals I saw a bowl full of Nestlé yogurts. Okay, let's say it a bit differently. I was shocked. Even if you don't really care about the environment, you probably might have heard of some scandals of this big corporation. Anyway, being a green and sustainable hotel, I was very surprised and to be honest with you, I don't want to pretend that everything is perfect. We all make mistakes, day by day and I believe it's better to talk about things and to learn from each other instead of pointing with our fingers to someone, looking for mistakes.
Having said that, I contacted the manager of the hotel, to ask him why they use Nestlé yogurts. His answer was, that they had used another producer, Danone, but changed due to the price and he wasn't aware of Nestlé being unsustainable besides the chocolate production. He told me that he will consider changing the brand. Instead of buying a big international brand, I'd love to read soon that they support a local milk farm.
Let's get back to the hotel's efforts in becoming more sustainable. Inspira won the "Green Hotel of The Year" in 2016. Sustainability, therefore is not something that is just stated on Inspira Santa Marta's website, it is truly lived and part of the hotel's identity.
How do they implement it in their daily operations?
The hotel only purchases 100% renewable energy, is equipped with solar panels and uses water saving devices in all taps and showers. Furthermore, recycling systems are well implemented as well as paperless procedures. Inspira invests a lot in training of human resources and they value fair compensation, a healthy work environment and respect for diversity. Everyone in this hotel was super friendly. Our safe didn't work for one day and a man came to fix it. He was so sweet and helped us immediately. Also, we left the cleaning lady a notice on a piece of paper as we asked for something and she was so sweet to write us back.
The hotel also provides a few sustainability tips in each room like not to shower too long in order to safe water, or, obviously try to use your towel for longer. I think nobody throws their towel into the laundry after using it once in their own house.
The hotel sends its employees to various volunteering programs and every month the hotel takes part in several initiatives.
Here are a few other projects they support:
- Rui Osório de Castro Foundation: A local NGO with the aim of informing and enlighting parents, childre, and friends about issues related to pediatric oncology, helping them to better live with the disease. Inspira sells its mascot "Xi-coracao". The revenues are fully donated to the institution.
- APPDA: The ceramic or recycled handmade pieces are sold with a price range between € 2 and € 15 and the total revenue goes back to the NGO. The association's purpose is to provide services to people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and to improve their life quality. During our stay, unfortunately I didn't see any items of APPDA to buy.
BIO+SINTRA - "Reduction of carbon footprint, a contribution to value biodiversity in Sintra": This is a project that is co-financed halfway
through the European Commission. The pilot project is in the Cultural Landscape of Sintra.
- Amara: Inspira supports Amara, a non-profit association (monitoring of people in the end of life and their families), in several volunteer training initiatives.
- OPEN: The hotel's restaurant is the only one that is certificated in Lisbon who is trained to prepare gluten-free meals. It has a partnership together with APC (Portuguese Association of Celiac) and Biotrab (HAACP consulting company).
- ABRACO: The boutique hotel sponsors fundraising events for this NGO which supports people affected by HIV / AIDS and promotes its prevention and LACO, the Association for Breast Cancer.
Water at Inspira
No plastic bottles! Halleluja! I was so happy to see that Inspira Boutique Hotel chose not to provide plastic bottles in their rooms. Instead, the hotel offers filtered water served in recycled glass bottles.
The water is for free in the room and in common areas, but in the restaurant, they charge € 2.50 per bottle. Revenues are used to support the projects of Pump Aid - Water for Life (constructing water pumps and sanitation infrastructures in Africa). Inspira was able so far to co-finance and install five pumps in villages of Malawi.
Inspira Santa Marta is everything that I was looking for. A sustainable, yet very beautiful and stylish 4* hotel in one of the best locations in Lisbon. It was our oasis in the middle of the city, close to everything, yet a safe haven to relax and unwind after a long day being out and exploring the city. After a long day out, the spa area was highly appreciated. There's a steam bath, a sauna, and a whirlpool. Unfortunately there was not enough time to get a treatment in the spa. This stay was extraordinary and made our city trip to Lisbon just perfect.
The morning we had to leave, we were not able to have breakfast, as our plane was leaving so early. The staff was so cute and prepared a breakfast bag for us filled with apples, muffins, sandwiches, milk and fruit juices. Thank you once again for going that extra step to make your customers happy.
A blog post about Lisbon will soon be on the blog. In the meantime, you can read a love story of Lisbon or another story about Portugal's doors. Have you been to Lisbon? What was your highlight and where did you stay? Let me know in the comments, I hope to go back soon again.
Although I was invited by Inspira Santa Marta to stay at their hotel, my opinion is as always my own and based on my experiences. A big thank you goes to the entire team who does a great job.