This Portuguese Boutique Hotel in a 19th-Century Mansion Offers a Respite from Porto’s Busy Historic Center

Portugal’s second-largest city, Porto is a vibrant destination on the banks of the Douro River where you can admire traditional azulejo tiles, stroll through the charming streets of the historic center, sample Portuguese cuisine, and tour the port cellars just across the river in Vila Nova de Gaia. Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean just five miles away from Porto’s bustling center, the Foz neighborhood shows you a different side of the city. In the 19th century, it was the area where Porto’s wealthy families built their summer homes and it’s still a chic residential neighborhood today.

Vila Foz Hotel & Spa occupies one of these 19th-century mansions overlooking the ocean. A member of Design Hotels, it was renovated by Portuguese designer Nini Andrade Silva, who layered in modern elements while keeping the character of the historic home. As soon as you walk in, you’re greeted by one of the receptionists or the charismatic guest relations manager Veronica, and offered a glass of port in the gorgeous bar where the parlor must have been. Here, original wood paneling and coffered ceilings contrast with curvaceous red sofas and armchairs, and modern chandeliers.

Behind a door on the mansion’s main floor is the Michelin-starred Vila Foz Restaurant, where ornate gilded moldings and pale green walls are a stunning backdrop for sleek, modern furniture. Downstairs is the casual bistro Flor de Lis, which serves an indulgent buffet breakfast with pastries like pasteis de nata, savory items like ham and eggs, and even oysters and Champagne. For lunch and dinner, the bistro serves Portuguese dishes such as octopus rice in addition to international dishes like salmon ceviche and mushroom risotto. 

A new building connected to the historic home via a long hallway contains 59 rooms and suites as well as the indoor pool, spa, and gym. There are also a handful of rooms and suites on the mansion’s upper floors. The relaxing atmosphere is certainly a nice respite from Porto’s busy historic center and its crowds of tourists. As soon as you leave the premises, just cross the street and you can walk or bike along the oceanfront promenade lined with bars and restaurants frequented by locals. It’s especially animated in the summer, when people hang out on the beach, but even in the off-season, locals still come here to walk their dogs, ride bikes, and enjoy the views.

Top Takeaways

Location: Porto, Portugal

Rating: Five-star

The Vibe: An intimate, chic hotel in a historic mansion with modern design elements and destination dining.

Food + Drink: The Michelin-starred Vila Foz Restaurant serves tasting menus where Portuguese seafood shines. The Flor de Lis bistro offers a more casual take on Portuguese cuisine with some international flavors. The bar serves cocktails, wine, and beer by the glass as well as afternoon tea.

Property Amenities: indoor swimming pool; spa; bar; 24-hour front desk; bikes; valet parking; room service

Our Favorite Thing About the Hotel: It’s a toss-up between the gorgeous bar and the fabulous breakfast buffet complete with Moët & Chandon and oysters.

Nearby Attractions: Praia do Homem do Leme, Praia do Molhe, Serralves Museum, Porto’s historic center

Any neighborhood recs?: Brasão, which serves craft beer and typical Portuguese food like the francescinha (Porto’s official sandwich), has a handful of locations, but the Foz outpost might be the most beautiful. It also has an ampler menu, with steaks and seafood in addition to francescinhas and fries.

Rooms: 68 rooms and suites

Starting nightly rate: $290

Closest Airport: Porto Airport (officially Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport)

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