With its polished industrial chic, artsy groove and collection of vintage furnishings to rival most retro stores, a stay at Raw Culture Bairro Alto gives you instant access to the heart of Lisbon’s so-very-hip scene. This former printworks is a living gallery, mixing iconic modern design with rotating art shows throughout its carefully crafted spaces. Each of its dozen loft-style apartments is also home to a unique assortment of pieces (from Illum Wikkelso chairs to De Sede sofas) to explore and experience at your leisure. It’s enough to excite even the most discerning of design devotees, and in one of the city’s most banging of bairros.
12 noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £159.23 (€184), including tax at 6 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €2.00 per person per night on check-out.
Rates include breakfast, which can also be ordered up to your room for a small fee.
Many of the hotel's pieces of vintage furniture and artworks are available to buy, so if a piece particularly catches your eye you can check whether it's for sale via the online catalogue.
At the hotel
Free WiFi, breakfast room, bar, concierge service. In rooms: Cable TV, well-stocked minibar, free bottled water, fully equipped kitchen with Smeg appliances, Nespresso coffee machine, free daily tea and coffee, air-conditioning, robes and slippers, Prija toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
All of the apartments are certainly special in their own way, with each named according to a subtle material or stylistic theme. We particularly love the Terracotta room with its earthy ceramic touches adding cosier warmth to the smart industrial-tinged interior.
Bring your dancing shoes. Though with all those steep cobbles, nothing with heels.
A ramp provides wheelchair access and one of the apartments has been fitted with wider doors and an adapted bathroom facilities.
Much of the accommodation is big enough to sleep families with kids, plus cribs can be arranged free of charge. However, the abundance of retro curios and classic design pieces doesn’t make this the most child-friendly of stays.
A decent effort has been made. Efficient lighting systems, excellent insulation, and solar panelling for warmth all reduce energy consumption, plus they’re sticklers for recycling as much of the hotel waste as possible.
You have a beguiling choice of retro-classic lovelies to park yourself on in the snazzy bar-cum-lounge. The late-Fifties, lipstick-red Heart Cone Chair by Verner Panton set our vintage-loving pulses aflutter.
Break out your best retro threads and you’ll fit right in.
There’s no restaurant, but a breakfast room continues the hotel’s gallery-quality feel with a vintage motoring theme. Each morning they serve up a spread of breads, pastries, cereal, charcuterie and cheeses. Juices are freshly squeezed and eggs whipped up to order. For the rest of the day, you can fuel up on hot snacks like falafel and French fries.
Come evening the breakfast room transforms into a buzzy neon-lit bar, where guests can rub shoulders with hip locals sipping Appletini cocktails and nibbling on mozzarella sticks. Expect regular live shows too from area musicians who often play into the night.
Midnight (and 2:30am at weekends).
Most of the breakfast items and bar snacks can be ordered up to your digs until midnight.
Raw Culture sits within Bairro Alto, one of Lisbon’s most buzzing and bohemian neighbourhoods known for its nightlife, street art and hilltop cityscape vistas.
Lisbon International Airport is the closest at around a 25-minute drive away – though expect to double that during rush hour. You can arrange a transfer through the hotel, starting at €40 each way.
Santa Apolónia station is three kilometres from the hotel, with rail services connecting to the city of Porto. The Cais do Sodré combines train and metro stations with a commuter ferry terminal, just 300 metres from the hotel. Pre-booked transfers cost €10.
If you’re arriving with your own wheels, there’s private parking around 200 metres away and the hotel is happy to help with luggage. Bear in mind streets around here can be steep and narrow, so hairy to navigate by car.
Ferries from nearby Cais do Sodré connect regularly to Seixal and Barreiro on the other side of the Tagus estuary.
Worth getting out of bed for
You can easily spend much of your day just wandering around the meandering cobbled lanes and pretty plazas in and around the Bairro Alto neighbourhood. A good place to start, however, is pointing yourself uphill and aiming towards the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara for some spectacular cityscape panoramas. From here it’s a short stroll to the Lisbon Botanical Gardens, complete with butterfly garden and adjoining Natural History Museum. To delve deeper into the city’s past, head to neighbouring Alfama, with its clutch of mediaeval landmarks that includes the mighty São Jorge Castle, its nearby bell tower and the city’s 11th-century many-times-rebuilt cathedral. The steep streets will start to tire even the most hardened rambler, but do provide the perfect excuse for frequent café stops for galãos and pastéis de nata (milky coffee and velvety custard tarts). Of course ascending on one of the city’s iconic trams is also a great leg-saver – the graffiti-adorned Elevador da Gloria is a popular ride that runs through Bairro Alto.
Raw Culture may not have a restaurant of its own, but you have some seriously good dining options just cobbles away. One such top-notch nearby spot is 100 Maneiras, an intimate Michelin-garnered restaurant with exotic tasting menus that more than justify the splurge. They also have a bistro a short stroll from here, offering a more casual à la carte experience. For a taste of old-world Portuguese cooking, you won’t find much better than Gambrinus. They’ve been serving up hearty regional fine-dining for almost 80 years with daily specials that include lobster pie and roasted salt cod. For dinner with vistas, La Paparucha combines a more breezy atmosphere with Argentine flame-grilled cuisine and terrace with superb cityscape panoramas.
Only in Portugal would you have a cafe-bar dedicated entirely to custard tarts, and Manteigaria is just that. Set in an elegant art deco building, this pastéis de nata bakery churns out these iconic bitesize treats all day until midnight. There’s nowhere to sit, so you just have to make your order, stand at the bar and wash your tart (or tarts) down with coffee. If you’d rather take the weight off your feet, Chiado provides the luxury of tables and chairs, as well as a broader choice of baked goods and artisan bread, all handmade in-house.
Come evening time this area transforms into the hub of the city’s after-dark action, with the accompanying abundance of lively nightspots. If you don’t want to stagger too far, Cargo 111 is a rough-and-ready drinkery practically across the road from the hotel, where live bands entertain well-refreshed locals into the night. Previously a brothel, Pensão Amor still packs plenty of bordello-esque ambience. Risqué curios, extravagant decor and air of decadence make this one of Lisbon’s saucier drinking dens.
For the May bank holiday, Mr Smith and I decided on a city jaunt to the Portuguese capital, in giddy anticipation of pasteis de nata-induced carb slumps and meandering mooches along cobbled streets, peppered with plenty of blue-tiled Insta-worthy moments. May is one of the best times of year to visit Lisbon: the city is pretty much sunny all year round but reaches goldilocks celsius (mid-20s) in May, with the added boon that the streets aren’t yet overrun by summer tourists.
We settled on Raw Culture Bairro Alto as our perch for two nights. An unassuming art-gallery-come-aparthotel, this former Portuguese printworks has been transformed into a crashpad for creatives and design lovers by its owners. Tucked into a back street in Bairro Alto, its discreet grey facade means you could easily wander right past and miss its artistic treasures entirely.
Retaining some of the industrial features from the building’s typesetting days, the ground floor is a cool, contemporary space that could just as readily have been transplanted from a cosmopolitan city such as New York: expect plenty of polished concrete surfaces, bold artworks and neon signage, and a sprawling lounge with sculptural furniture that turns into a bar by evening, which is the sunset cue for locals to venture through the doors and join guests.
The hotel’s gallery hosts a calendar of exhibitions that rotate quarterly, meaning each visit, should you decide to return, brings fresh art inspo. Despite being an open door gallery, the hotel is peacefully quiet; this isn’t the kind of place many stumble across – even in such a central spot in Bairro Alto – and frankly, this is just what we liked about it.
Upstairs to the bedrooms, which are luxurious lofts, each radiating from the building’s central spiral staircase. Each loft is generous in size and unique in design. As with the hotel’s communal spaces downstairs, pared-back interiors bring together a simple backdrop of exposed timbers and polished concrete with show-stopping contemporary art and covetable design pieces – some from owner José Oliveira’s private collection.
Our room was easily bigger than most one-bed apartments in London, and thoughtfully kitted out with more polished concrete and grey tones, offset by unique artworks and mid-century furniture. There was even a gleaming kitchen area along with a marble-top dining table, and plenty of earthy tones to bring some colour to the grey. A separate lounge area with squashy leather sofas (ideal for plonking ourselves on, after long days racking up our step count), and a TV were also there for the taking, although the small screen got short shrift from us, its appeal eclipsed by some of Lisbon’s best sights being literally on our doorstep.
Generous windows meant that the apartment was filled with natural light, and having a bathroom each was the ultimate luxury. A stocked minibar and a few free snacks were waiting for us on arrival, and we were also encouraged to claim a free drink at the bar (we didn’t need to be told twice).
It was the perfect start to our first night, but given that the hotel is right in the heart of the buzzy Bairro Alto neighbourhood, it’s a dream base from which to dip into some of the city’s other favoured drinking holes. It’s also a lively base: the street on which the hotel sits transforms into a busy thoroughfare come evening – great for soaking up the atmosphere and good news for night owls; less great if you’re a light sleeper (although there is double glazing and two sets of shutters in all lofts).
Breakfast the next morning was a generous continental spread of meats, cheeses, and pastries – ideal fodder to fuel our on-foot foray around the city. From Bairro Alto, most of the major neighbourhoods are within easy walking distance, so long as you can cope with a little gradient now and again – plus pitstops for syrupy, short coffees and ambrosial pasteis de nata are recommended.
The vibe at Raw Culture is as laid-back and hands off as you want it to be; you won’t be bothered by staff throughout your stay unless you need something from them, but they were all incredibly friendly whenever we spoke to them. It felt more like we were staying in someone’s private home than a hotel – a private home where we had an entire wing of the house to ourselves, and our hosts magically restored our loft to its original spick-and-span state at pleasingly regular intervals.
On our final morning, we had to peel ourselves away from our loft and towards checkout. These apartment-style stays are comfortable enough to prompt considerations of moving in permanently, and we certainly found ourselves wishing that we could call one of these cool, designer pads home. Perhaps it was the total lack of pretension, perhaps it was the hotel’s covetable co-ords in the heart of the city, but two nights at Raw Culture certainly left us wanting more. It turns out that this former printworks was just our type…