Porto Palácio Congress Hotel & Spa*****
The Palácio is located in Porto’s upmarket area of Boavista, around two miles (three kilometres) from the city’s main square, Aliados. Therefore, accessing Porto’s key attractions requires a bit of legwork or transportation by taxi or public transport. The Casa da Música metro stop is a 12-minute walk away, however and buses to the city centre stop outside the building. Many cafés and shops can be found in the area, including the trendy indoor market Mercado Bom Sucesso.
Style & character
The 251-room Palácio is first and foremost a business hotel and thus lacks the historic charisma of some of Porto’s other accommodation options. Nevertheless, it has a sleek and sophisticated feel that will appeal to those who enjoy travelling in style. Porters in chauffeur hats wait at the hotel entrance to whisk luggage through the revolving glass doors, and inside, mirrored lifts and gold chandeliers decorate the expansive lobby.
Service & facilities
They don’t call this a spa hotel for nothing; the Palácio’s wellness and beauty centre is impressive. Facilities include a whirlpool tub, Swiss shower, hammam, sauna, contoured waterbeds and a heated pool with massage fountains. With dim lighting and soft music playing throughout, it’s the perfect recipe for relaxation. Entry is €15 (£13.40) per person, or free with any spa treatment. The hotel is also attached to a full-scale public gym and pool, which guests can access for 1.5 hours per day at no extra cost. Service throughout the hotel is polite and professional and a dedicated guest relations representative is available to coordinate tours, transfers and other activities.
A colour palette of brown, burgundy and beige complemented by dark wood trimmings gives rooms a corporate yet lavish feel. Large windows overlook the leafy suburb of Boavista and some rooms offer sea views. The big marbled bathrooms feature a combined bath/shower and separate toilet, as well as speakers connecting to the television audio. (Deluxe rooms include a TV in the bathroom.) Heated floors add extra comfort during the cooler months.
Food & drink
The hotel’s Nautilus restaurant, which serves a standard hot and cold breakfast buffet and à la carte dinner menu, sits beside the lobby and feels rather business-like. We opted to dine at the hotel’s beerhouse, Portobeer, which serves traditional Portuguese cuisine and a disappointingly limited range of beer. While the food is tasty enough, the cheap and cheerful concept feels at odds with the hotel’s otherwise classy vibe. The hotel’s 19th floor VIP Lounge is the star of the show though, with floor-to-ceiling windows affording spectacular views. Reserve a table here for Sunday brunch (which is for the most part a fairly basic hotel-style buffet), or swing by for a nightcap when the lounge turns into a swanky bar.