Inside Mama Shelter Lisboa, the cheeky new Lisbon hotel that sells sex toys in the lobby


‘I think we compete with the sex shops here,’ a staff member on the front desk tells me.

It’s not something you’d expect to hear in a hotel lobby, but then Mama Shelter Lisboa isn’t your typical hotel. He’s referring to the adult toys on display in the glass cases by the check-in desk, which have been selling very well since the 130-room hotel opened in Lisbon earlier this year.

The hotel is based right around the corner from the buzzy, bar-heavy Principe Real district – one of Lisbon’s most vibrant neighbourhoods. It’s among the latest additions to the Parisian Mama Shelter chain, established by Serge Trigano – whose father co-founded Club Med, the brand behind all-inclusive resort villages around the world – and his sons Jeremie and Benjamin in 2008.

Ailbhe MacMahon checks in to Mama Shelter Lisboa, a new hotel set beside Lisbon’s Principe Real district, one of the city’s most vibrant neighbourhoods

The display cases in the hotel lobby display adult toys (above) that are up for sale

Above is the hotel's exterior. Mama Shelter hotels are said to be known for 'generosity, nurturing hospitality and just a sprinkling of cheekiness'

The display cases in the hotel lobby display adult toys (left) that are up for sale. Mama Shelter hotels are said to be known for ‘generosity, nurturing hospitality and just a sprinkling of cheekiness’. On the right is the hotel’s exterior 

But Club Med this is not. ”Mama’ quickly became synonymous with generosity, nurturing hospitality and just a sprinkling of cheekiness,’ the brand explains.

The adult toys aren’t the only things for sale in the lobby – you can also buy the contents of your bedroom, from your pillow down to your toothbrush holder. 

The mattress and bed frame can also be bought online.

Another thing for sale is the plastic masks in the room – mine, a ‘Medium Mama’ on the sixth floor, comes equipped with a Batman mask and a Star Wars stormtrooper mask.

A Large Mama guest room. The hotel is part of the Parisian Mama Shelter chain, established by Serge Trigano - whose father co-founded Club Med - and his sons Jeremie and Benjamin in 2008

A Large Mama guest room. The hotel is part of the Parisian Mama Shelter chain, established by Serge Trigano – whose father co-founded Club Med – and his sons Jeremie and Benjamin in 2008

The masks are in keeping with the room’s decor – it’s playful, painted in punchy colours and prints, with bedside tables that look like drafts and backgammon board games and a giant ceramic leaf over the headboard. 

It sets out to be sustainable too – a bar of soap stamped with the words ‘mama says have it all’ doubles up as shampoo to cut down on waste.

On the downside, the room is lacking in storage space, but with rates starting from around £70 a night, it’s serious value for money.

Plus, it’s an easy walk to some of the Portuguese capital’s hidden gems. 

Ailbhe's Medium Mama guest room (pictured) is 'playful' and 'painted in punchy colours and prints'

Ailbhe’s Medium Mama guest room (pictured) is ‘playful’ and ‘painted in punchy colours and prints’

Bedrooms come equipped with plastic masks, such as Batman masks, that guests can purchase 

Above is one of the stylish ensuite bathrooms. You can buy the contents of your bedroom in the lobby, down to your toothbrush holder, Ailbhe reveals

Rooms have bedside tables that look like drafts and backgammon boards

On the left is one of the stylish ensuite bathrooms. You can buy the contents of your bedroom in the lobby, down to your toothbrush holder, Ailbhe reveals. Rooms have bedside tables that look like drafts and backgammon boards, such as the one pictured right 

Ailbhe visits Pavilhao Chines, pictured, a former grocery shop that's been transformed into a peculiar cocktail bar. You need to ring a doorbell to enter, she reveals. Picture courtesy of Creative Commons

Ailbhe visits Pavilhao Chines, pictured, a former grocery shop that’s been transformed into a peculiar cocktail bar. You need to ring a doorbell to enter, she reveals. Picture courtesy of Creative Commons

Pictured above is the Arpad Szenes-Vieira da Silva Foundation, a silk-factory-turned-art-gallery near the hotel

Pictured above is the Arpad Szenes-Vieira da Silva Foundation, a silk-factory-turned-art-gallery near the hotel 

I spend an afternoon mooching from painting to painting at the Arpad Szenes-Vieira da Silva Foundation, a nearby art gallery in a former silk factory, before checking out the bars of Principe Reale. 

A highlight is Pavilhao Chines, a former grocery shop that’s been transformed into a peculiar cocktail bar filled with wartime figurines – you need to ring the doorbell to enter. One of the old-school waiters, dressed in a red waistcoat, brings me a pisco sour with a flourish.

Down the road, there’s Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara, a lookout that offers a beautiful panorama of Lisbon’s hills. 

Evening has fallen when I stop by, and there’s a DJ playing a set before a crowd, the pinpricks of lights all over the city making for an atmospheric backdrop.

The hottest contender for offering the best views in Lisbon, however, has got to be the rooftop of Mama Shelter. 

Enrique Garcia’s 1980s hit Dr Beat is playing as I climb the stairs to the open-air bar, which is heaving with stylish revellers. 

Above is Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara, a lookout that offers a beautiful panorama of Lisbon's hills. Ailbhe writes: 'Evening has fallen when I stop by, and there's a DJ playing a set before a crowd, the pinpricks of lights all over the city making for an atmospheric backdrop'

Above is Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara, a lookout that offers a beautiful panorama of Lisbon’s hills. Ailbhe writes: ‘Evening has fallen when I stop by, and there’s a DJ playing a set before a crowd, the pinpricks of lights all over the city making for an atmospheric backdrop’

Mama Shelter's rooftop, pictured, is the 'hottest contender for offering the best views in Lisbon', according to Ailbhe

Mama Shelter’s rooftop, pictured, is the ‘hottest contender for offering the best views in Lisbon’, according to Ailbhe 

The rooftop bar comes complete with striped parasols, fuzzball tables, and an impressive 360-degree vista

The rooftop bar comes complete with striped parasols, fuzzball tables, and an impressive 360-degree vista 

Mama Shelter's rooftop offers a view of the 25 de Abril Bridge (silhouetted in the background), which, at a glance, looks near identical to San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge

Mama Shelter’s rooftop offers a view of the 25 de Abril Bridge (silhouetted in the background), which, at a glance, looks near identical to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge

I’m faced by striped parasols, fuzzball tables, and an impressive 360-degree vista that takes in everything from the expanse of the sea to the ketchup-red 25 de Abril Bridge, which, at a glance, looks near identical to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.

I finish the night downstairs, slotting into a table at the Mama Shelter restaurant. The lights are dimmed and the place is humming. 

As for the interiors, it’s a minimalist’s nightmare – patterns and textures cover every surface, one wall is coated in a pink shell pattern, models of multicoloured fish hang from the ceiling, and old Betty Boop cartoons play on TV screens.

Patterns and textures cover every surface in Mama Shelter's ground-floor bar-restaurant (pictured)

Patterns and textures cover every surface in Mama Shelter’s ground-floor bar-restaurant (pictured)

Ailbhe dines on tangy salmon ceviche and tries a flaming Pedro Alvares Cabral cocktail in the Mama Shelter restaurant

Ailbhe dines on tangy salmon ceviche and tries a flaming Pedro Alvares Cabral cocktail in the Mama Shelter restaurant

One of the colourful dishes at Mama Shelter Lisboa 

The food is colourful to match, with dishes such as milky burrata splashed with pesto and tangy salmon ceviche topped with lime and avocado cream. 

I take our Brazilian waiter Hugo’s advice and order the Pedro Alvares Cabral cocktail, a heady medley of rum, agave syrup and mint. 

When the drink is delivered to our table, it’s alight, with flames bursting out of a halved passion fruit. It seems a fitting drink to enjoy at Mama Shelter – rather than offering an escape from the firecracker energy of Lisbon, it’s a hotel that blazes bright enough to match it.

TRAVEL FACTS  

Ailbhe was hosted by Mama Shelter Lisboa. Double rooms are priced from £70. For more information visit mamashelter.com/lisboa.

Rating:

Pros: Prime location for exploring Lisbon’s nightlife, decor that’s fun and full of character, a rooftop with spectacular views, and rooms that are very reasonably priced.

Cons: Rooms are lacking in storage space. Prices in the restaurant are a little off-kilter compared to the bargain room rates – main courses are around the €20 (£17) to €25 (£21) mark.

 

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