Savoy Palace, Madeira
A dominant new feature on Madeira’s south coast, Savoy Palace, the island’s only member of Leading Hotels of The World, is set to be a game changer for the destination in terms of contemporary luxury hotel offerings. Sophie Harper was invited to take a look at the grand structure prior to its full opening…
Long thought of as a favoured retirees’ retreat, Portugal’s volcanic island, Madeira, is often overlooked as an exciting holiday destination, but with new investment and development – and a drive to remarket the subtropical isle – it seems an image change is on the horizon. The island’s capital, Funchal, is undergoing a bit of a revamp, and includes Savoy Palace – now the island’s largest hotel. Taking up residence on the rocky coastline, the hotel is a dominant feature in place of its predecessor, the original Classic Savoy. The development, not simply just a hotel unveiling, includes a cluster of shops and eateries, which will soon become a flourishing part of the city. Owned and run by AFA Group, an affluent local family business, Savoy Palace is one of six hotels and resorts under the Savoy Signature umbrella.
Consisting of 352 guest rooms set over 16 floors, six swimming pools, eight restaurants and bars, a gym, conference centre, and a 33,000 square-foot spa, the mammoth structure was designed by Saraiva + Associados architects with the interiors brought to life by renowned designer Nini Andrade Silva in collaboration with RH+ Arquitetos. With an aim of providing unique experiences to a luxury market for both leisure and business
ravellers, the 5-star hotel certainly ticks all the boxes. From first steps through the doors where guests are greeted by an exceptionally large chain chandelier, which sits an impressive 33 vertical feet and is made up of almost four miles of chain, to the exquisite subterranean spa inspired by the island’s UNESCO World Heritage Laurissilva forest, everything in this hotel is designed to inspire and delight its guests, which it does so in abundance.
With a nature-inspired theme running throughout the hotel, part of the brief was to make the hotel feel a part of the landscape. The designers took this instruction on board and ran with it, creating different elements like the beautiful oversized hibiscus and orchid petal chandeliers in the Hibiscus and Orchidaceae restaurants, to the cascading flowers and living walls that incorporate 250 different botanical species across 40,000 plants. Over time, the plants that currently pepper the hotel’s façade will grow and cascade from the platforms they sit on to further merge the building’s exterior into the natural landscape, which will be quite beautiful we’re sure.
The interior design is influenced by the Belle Époque period and incorporates historic styling with contemporary influences. Prior to the Classic Savoy’s demolition in 2008, a number of items were rescued from the building and now sit proudly in the lobby lounge, library, and other public spaces. They are stand-out pieces of furniture, decadent and playful in the luxurious setting of their new home. These pieces are important, as are the colour schemes selected for their reminiscence and connection to the past – and for being part of a much-loved feature of Funchal’s skyline over the last century.
There are plenty of modern features to impress even the most discerning traveller as well. From the utterly fabulous watery playground in the form of the spa’s generously proportioned heated pool, 11 treatment rooms, sauna, Turkish bath, jacuzzi, ice fountain, sensory showers, halo-therapy room, relaxation room, champagne and nails bar, and beauty salon, to the rooftop infinity pool and out-of-this-world Galaxia restaurant, which gives a feeling of dining under the stars.
Guest rooms are all about relaxation, with a soothing neutral colour palette and natural materials informing the design. There are nods to the locale with cork flooring and filigree-like decorative metalwork based on Madeiran lace (which can also be seen coiled around the grand central staircase from the ground to lower ground floor). En suites are generous in size and chic in appearance with glassy entrances into pale marbled and golden bathrooms, many of which include a sumptuous free-standing bathtub. The penthouse suite comes with its own pool, large kitchen, and baby piano, but all suites have their own balcony complete with spectacular garden or Atlantic Ocean views.
Savoy Palace is the epitome of luxury, cleverly designed to separate the space into more intimate pockets, much of the hotel feels like an elaborate boutique offering, despite its huge proportions. Every detail has been thought out with a real sense of bespoke design that tells a story. The themes used throughout the hotel, although quite different in appearance, all play on the beauty of natural elements. The curvature of the architecture is mirrored in the interiors, which feels fluid against its ocean backdrop, and the plant life, both inside and out, has a distinctly Babylonia hanging gardens feel. In short, Madeira’s newest resident is both a mega-star in the limelight and an elegant grande dame with a contemporary outlook and eco credentials. And while she may have taken the place of a much-loved predecessor, there’s a sense of belonging, more akin to a rebirth rather than a replacement.