by Oliver Balch, The Telegraph, May 10, 2019
If you had a time-travelling capsule that allowed you to visit Porto a decade or so ago, you would find much the same: the cobbled streets, the azulejo tiles, Dom Luís’s double-decker bridge across the Douro. But one feature that would send your chronometer crashing between now and then is the rise in the city’s boutique hotels. From bog-all to bountiful, the shift is extraordinary. From converted townhouses and repurposed shops, to family-run hideaways and riverside nooks, here’s our pick of Porto’s classiest little hideaways – ideal for those who like to feel at home when abroad.
Porto A.S. 1829 Hotel
One of Europe’s oldest stationery shops has been converted into a modern yet cosy hotel in the heart of downtown. Artefacts from the former Araujo & Sobrinho store (which still exists in an upmarket, scaled-down form next to the reception) add to the hotel’s stylish interior design and a street terrace provides a pleasant spot to unwind. Staff are laid-back and friendly, offering complimentary port upon arrival and tips about things to do in the area. In the 41 rooms, wooden floorboards merge with vintage tiles, rotary dial telephones add old-school quirkiness, and different furniture and features provide individual style. In Room 309, for example, a shabby-chic look has been created with a distressed bedhead, retro armchair and freestanding pastel pink bathtub.
Read the full review: Porto A.S. 1829 Hotel
M Maison Particulière Porto
A mother and son team has taken the concept of a five-star hotel and applied it on a small scale to create personalised luxury in central Porto. The hotel is a clever redesign of a 16th-century house and located on one of Porto’s most beautiful streets which has a prime selection of cafés and restaurants on the doorstep. After being buzzed into the elegant reception area, where a chandelier hovers above a studded lounge suite, the bustle of the street immediately dissipates, and come nightfall, burning tea lights add to the ambiance. There’s no such thing as a standard room, with each of the 10 suites carrying a unique layout and design - one has a private patio, while another has a magnificent wood-carved ceiling.
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This elegant three-room guesthouse is the kind of house you wish you lived in yourself. A 1930s townhouse has been converted into a charming space with plenty of personal touches, including family heirlooms, personal mementos, large vases brimming with fresh flowers and well-chosen pieces of art. Bedrooms are large, light and tranquil with white walls, stripped wood floors and squashy sofas. The Green Room at the back of the house is the pick of the bunch, with a large bathtub. The pretty garden is a good spot to enjoy generous and homemade breakfasts. Fruit and yogurt, a freshly baked cake, a hot dish that changes daily, fresh bread and home-made jams make it quite the spread.
Read the full review: MyhomeinPorto
Torel 1884 is set in an elegant 19th-century palace which has retained its grandeur – high ceilings, spacious rooms, original staircase, vast windows and an elegant crowning skylight. The décor makes uses of natural colours such as sand, terracotta, olive green and deep blue that let the architectural splendour reign. All of the 12 rooms and suites are large and most have bathtubs. The hotel has a 32-seat wine bar/restaurant, Bartolomeu, which serves tapas-style sharing plates for lunch and dinner. Service is friendly, welcoming and unobtrusive across the hotel.
Read the full review: Torel 1884
Belos Aires Apartments
The Belos Aires concept is apartment-style accommodation and high-quality dining in central Porto, drawing influence from the husband-and-wife team’s home countries of Portugal and Argentina. The five apartments have different themes, such as music, wine and literature. For instance, the Fado & Tango room is ornamented with guitars and records symbolic of the traditional music styles of each country. All rooms are spacious and have fully equipped kitchens, including a coffee machine, fridge, microwave and electric stove. Big windows provide plenty of natural light and each has a balcony with either river or street views. The owners’ buzzy bar and restaurant is located less than 50 yards away and is popular with locals, feasting on Portuguese dishes such as bacalhau (dried codfish) or juicy steaks.
Read the full review: Belos Aires Apartments
InPátio Guest House
This little guesthouse provides peaceful accommodation in central Porto and blends exceptional service with sophisticated design. The use of earthy tones throughout creates a feeling of calm and makes the guesthouse an ideal place to relax and recharge after a day of sightseeing. The five rooms are clean and modern, with stone walls, wooden floors and crisp white linen, while bathrooms are generous in size. Warm owners Olga and Fernando are happy to offer suggestions about things to see and do in the city or just enjoy a friendly chat at the end of the day. Nothing is too much trouble to organise, including breakfast service outside the standard hours if required. The complimentary tea, coffee, fruit and cookies in the small common space on the lower floor is a nice touch.
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Guest House Douro
Guest House Douro might look familiar, as it forms part of a colourful collection of riverside buildings that regularly feature in postcard shots of Porto. As well as being a Unesco World Heritage site, the guesthouse offers warm and relaxed service that unsurprisingly attracts many return visitors. Although located in a historic house, the building has been completely refurbished with a modern and understated design. Each room has its own colour scheme, and simple bedheads, cushions and artwork tastefully decorate the rooms. Staying in this accommodation is akin to staying as a guest in the owners’ home. Husband and wife team Carmen and João treat guests like friends.
Read the full review: Guest House Douro
Malmerendas Boutique Lodging
Those who enjoy living local while travelling will feel at home in this boutique accommodation near Porto’s main shopping area. As a restored townhouse, the five-room hotel carries many features of traditional Portuguese apartments, such as a skylight, central wooden staircase and glass-paned doors. Rooms have been fitted with modern furnishings however, which, paired with high ceilings and white walls, gives a clean, fresh look. The attic room in particular is distinctive, with an A-frame ceiling hanging low over the open-plan bedroom. Continental breakfast baskets are available on request and include a fresh bread roll with ham and cheese, a Portuguese croissant and a crispy pastel de nata (Portuguese custard tart).
Read the full review: Malmerendas Boutique Lodging
Contributions by Emily McAuliffe and Trish Lorenz