The Hotels of Porto (and Gaia)

This page is written for Port Wine lovers that have decided to have an unforgettable time in Portugal – especially in the north of the country.

You can either read the article below – in which I walk you through the hotels – or you can jump directly to the list of recommended hotels. For full disclosure: While I have visited each of the recommended hotels and recommend them from the deepest bottom of my heart and with full conviction, I’m attaching also links to – if you book a hotelroom through this webpage I will get a commission – but this commission isn’t the reason why I recommend these hotels!

Click here for the List of recommended hotels

The first and very important question is of course: When in Porto, where are you going to sleep? To answer this, we have to understand the city a little bit better… and we have to go back in history. Over many centuries the wine from the Douro Valley was transported by boat to Porto and Gaia. As the wine barrels are quite heavy (they contain 550 liters of wine – plus the weight of the wood – so each barrel weighs more than half a ton) it was a necessity to build the storage facilities close to the river, to keep the transport distances as short as possible.

This does still apply today … and it will impact massively our hotel decision. There are many great hotels in Porto – but as we are mainly interested in Port Wine we try to stay as close as possible to the part of the town where the Port trade is “happening”. However, we do have to watch our expenses (so that we still have some money left to buy some Port…).

Most Port Wine companies have their storage facilities in Gaia. These are the so-called “Caves” or “Lodges”; not only are they used to store and age wine, but also to receive visitors and to introduce them to Port and their brands. As far as I know, there was never a hotel in this historic Port Wine district – however. this has changed – the Yeatman Hotel is located in the heart of this area.

Everything in this hotel screams “Wine” and “Port Wine”. It starts with the name “Yeatman”. In 1826 Morgan Yeatman founded – together with John Fladgate – die company Taylor, Fladgate & Yeatman, which still exists, being famous for brands like Taylor’s, Croft and Fonseca. The hotel is located right next to the lodge of Taylor’s. The”Chief Executive Officer” of the hotel is Adrian Bridge – who is also the CEO of Taylor, Fladgate & Yeatman.

The hotel opened in August 2010 and received already the Michelin-Star for its restaurant in November 2011. It’s a member of the Relais & Châteaux chain of boutique hotels. But, much more important for us: The hotel calls itself the Wine Hotel. And this is definitely true. You can clearly see it in many details in the hotel. It starts with the rooms… each hotel room is sponsored by one Portuguese wine producer.Next to the door is the name of the producer – which makes it already a special feeling.

The wine cellar contains more than 1000 different Portuguese wines – of course also nearly all of the best Port and Douro Wines.

It’s a 5-star-hotel, not inexpensive – but it’s a great experience, fantastic service, nice stuff. However, the best feature of this hotel is the view towards Porto. While all other hotels that I recommend here are located in Porto and look towards Gaia, the Yeatman-Hotel is the only place where you have a perfect view towards the skyline of Porto and the colorful houses of medieval Ribeira. I have spent many hours during the night on the terrace in front of my room, trying to take the perfect photo of the illuminated Porto. When I looked for a place to celebrate my 50th birthday, it was a no-brainer to do it in this hotel, which is so closely associated with my beloved Port Wine. And, what can I say – it was an amazing event.

However, as always, nothing is perfect… every Rose has it’s thorn, as my mother always says. One thing we should remember: Gaia consists of hills, hills and more hills. Down by the river you find all the tourist-attractions and most of the wine lodges – and the way back to your hotel is not necessary a walk in the park. In the summer, Porto and Gaia can be quite hot – and if you try to get back to the hotel when it’s 35 degrees in the shadow, the walk suddenly turns into a cardio training. Luckily I have always my camera with me – so I can stop easily from time to time and pretend that I’m taking photos, while in reality I just wait for the imminent heart-attack to go away and for my pulse to go back to a survivable level, while sweat flows like a river into my eyes.

If you had dinner in one of the many restaurants at the waterfront in Gaia (which I wouldn’t really recommend, as they are of course a little bit of tourist traps and Porto has so many nicer restaurants) and you decide to walk back uphill to the hotel… well, it’s of course nice to walk in the cooler air of the night, but… Gaia can be a very lonesome place in the night. You can hear the echo of your steps on the cobblestone; high walls on the right and on the left; dark small alleys on the right and on the left… this all can make you feel quite uncomfortable. Memories of Orson Welles and “The Third Man” go through my mind. I must confess that In have never heard about attacks against tourists in Gaia, but I can imagine that especially single ladies on their own will not like this walk very much.

As there are no many social or cultural actives in the close vicinity of the Yeatman-Hotel (other than of course within the hotel) – you will be anyhow be quickly the best friend of the taxi-drivers, as you will need them constantly to go back between Porto and the hotel. Luckily are the taxi-fares in Portugal quite reasonable.

The next hotel on our list of possible places to stay is the “Pestana”. It’s located in the middle of Ribeira, at the central square that could be considered as the Mekka of Porto-tourism. This location is the big plus and also the big minus of the hotel. The hotel has 48 rooms, 33 of them have river view, the other 15 unfortunately not. A room with the view towards the Douro is of course a marvelous place to sleep, and there is nothing cooler than waking up with a view towards the bridge D. Luis. Some people say that room 204 is the best room in the hotel… bridge view and a cute little balcony… however, in the past this very balcony was a few times used by burglars to get into the room… therefore never sleep with an open window. The hotel has 5 stars and is therefore not cheap. The service is good, the staff friendly. There is no real restaurant – only a room to take the breakfast. No facilities for lunch or dinner. But very close to the hotel you can find many restaurants. The central location makes it very easy for pedestrians to reach it… but not for cars. The “Pestana” is located in a pedestrian area and only taxis are allowed to drive to the hotel – private cars are only allowed for a short period in the morning and in the late afternoon. And this doesn’t make it easy to reach the hotel if you are coming in your own car. You will have to park quite a long stretch away and then you have to carry your suitcases down the hill… and when you leave the hotel, you have to carry them up the hill… not easy. But you get compensated by the great view – at least if you have booked a room on the riverside.  I would always chose a room with a view of the river – yes, they are more expensive but they also quieter. The rooms that are on the street side are facing the lively small roads where locals and tourists make quite some noise until the early morning hours… Don’t forget your ear-plugs… The hotel is very photogenic – the facade looks very nice and it is very iconic in the middle of Ribeira. The furniture and bathrooms however look a little bit worn and tired and could use some TLC.

As mentioned, the location is what makes this hotel so special – yes, to reach it by car is difficult – but on the other side you find within 100 meters everything that a tourist might desire.

If we go from the “Pestana” a hundred meters up the hill we reach the “Porto Ribeira”, belonging to the Hoteles-Carris-Group. Like the “Pestana” also this hotel has an old facade – but on the inside everything else is different. The owners have bought several buildings within this street-block and  got rid of everything but the most important walls, just to build a very special hotel. Old stone walls and modern furniture. A well-done, elegant partnership of old and new. The hotel consists of 90 rooms – but only 5 have a view towards the river. The other rooms are either facing the street or the patio. Modern bathrooms, elegant furniture, everything looks good.

The hotel has 4 stars and was opened in 2012. In my opinion this hotel makes a lot of things quite well – but also a lot of things quite wrong… First: The rooms are too small. If two people can’t pass each other in a double-room and don’t know where to put the suitcases, then the room is just too small. Also this hotel is located in the party- and tourism-zone of Porto and you have to expect a certain noise coming from the street. Yes, some rooms qre quitere than others – but when you book you will not know which room you are getting. Everybody says that he or she wants a quiet room… but they might or might not get it. The rooms have wooden floors – which is beautiful – however, there is a side-effect to it: You can hear when people move suitcases or chairs in their rooms above or next to your’s. In addition to the noise from the street you will get also some noise caused by the other hotel-guests. Another reason never to forget the ear-plugs when you book a hotel in Portugal in a central location.

As several houses were combined to create this hotel, it’s sometimes difficult to navigate withing the building. When I was staying there I took first an elevator, had then to walk through to another part of the hotel and take a second elevator to get to my room. But as the building is quite interesting to look at I didn’t mind this…

The hotel hosts a restaurant “Forno Veljo”, quite good food, but slightly expensive. Also here is the architecture the most prominet feature: the restaurant is located in an old stone chamber with pillars and a nearly medieval feeling to it.

A slightly weak spot in this hotel: the breakfast. It was nothing special when I visited and presented in a way which I would call “love-less”. Every cafe in Porto offers a better alternative for a few Euros.

Uf we walk roughly 200 yards up the hill from here, we pass first the historical stock exchange building and then the Port Wine Institute and then we reach the “Hotel da Bolsa”. This hotel consists of 34 rooms, spread over 6 floors. It’s a modest hotel, simple and humble. It has only 3 stars and therefore a lower category then all the previously mentioned hotels. But this also means that it is much more reasonably priced. The rooms are quite small and quite frigal, but very clean. The bathrooms are not as modern as I would like to see them… but also clean. The hotel offers the usual hotel-tv-channels with the usual unsatisfactory number of tv-stations. As the hotel is located quite a distance from the Ribeira-Party-Zone it’s not so loud in the night – but in the morning seagulls tend to be quite loud and they just love to fly around the higher floors of the hotel.

However, even with all these weak points, I’m admitting that this hotel is my preferred choice in Porto. Whenever I plan a trip to Porto, I go for hotel-hunt in the internet. I check all the offers, compare hotels, prices and locations, think a little bit, compare again – and then most of the times I book the “Hotel da Bolsa”.

It’s a solid compromise. The location is good. So close to Ribeira that I’m within 5 minutes walking at the river. But far enough away that the noise can’t bother me. As I come to Porto to indulge in Port Wine, I’m glad that there are a few very good Port bars near the hotel; so close that I can walk back to the hotel after my tastings. However, the fact that Porto is a very hilly city means that I feel like running a half-marathon when  I arrive sweaty and exhausted at the hotel and I feel uncomfortably sober after the way up the hill…

The big plus in the hotel is the staff. During the last years I had a ton of questions and problems, and the friendly people at the reception were able to help me each and every time. Be it forgotten chargers, be it ideas for sightseeing or concerts – normally 2 or 3 employees are near the reception, eager to help.

The elevators of the hotel are my nemesis. There are two tiny elevators – really small. I fit in together with my suitcase. But, when I travel, I travel also with a carry-on and my camera bag. The funny thing that the doors of the elevator close with warp 8 – a speed previously unknown to mankind. I don’t even remember how often the doors hit me while I tried to get all my things into the elevator. I’m sure that the stuff members at the reception have learned a lot of German swearing over the last few years from me…

The breakfast is quite simple and normal – I normally chose to book my room without breakfast and then go out to venture to one of the many great cafes in Porto. Just a few yards from the hotel, slightly up the hill, we get to one of my favorite streets of Porto: “Rua das Flores”. This street has been transformed dramatically over the last few years and is now the epicenter of tourism… For me no other street represents the changes of the last years as dramatically as this street. My favorite antiquarian bookstore is located here: “Chaminé da Mota”. A visit is worthwhile – sometimes I don’t know if it is a bookstore or a museum… Another building in this street has had also some meaning for the Port Wine trade: “Casa da Companhia” (house number 69) was for a long time the head quarter of the “Companhia Geral da Agricultura das Vinhas do Alto Douro”.

All the hotels mentioned so far are near the river – and that’s why I just like to stay near to the Port Wine. But there are of course dozens of hotels in Porto and if you don’t want to spend every minute around the Port Wine you don’t need to stay in Ribeira but have many other options.

One of my favorite hotels is the 5-star “Hotel de Infante de Sagres”, centrally located near the townhall and at Praça D. Filipa De Lencastre. The hotel is full of “old-world-charm” and you have the feeling that the time went much slower inside this hotel then for the rest of the world. You just feel good here – service is very good. Sometimes I must say that I feel that this hotel shpould rather be a 4-star than a 5-star… It was for sure a fantastic place when it was inaugurated in the 1950s – and you pay for the luster and charm of those gone-by days. Even when the hotel was opened, it tried already to look “old-fashioned”, to look like you would have expected a hotel from the late 19th century to look. The eyes have still a lot to see in this hotel – but after so many decades the bathrooms are not up to modern standard, the rooms are a little bit too dark and worn. The hotel suffers a little bit from the recent fashion to meet especially on weekend nights in the old streets of Porto and to have a few drinks with friends outside of the bars. It’s fun for everybody that has a good time out in the streets – but not so much for the people in the houses and hotels nearby… But my solution is always the same…: Join them, have a few drinks, and then go to bed with ear-plugs… works amazingly well…. (only exception was the longest night of my life, in Nazare, when my bed was located 12 yards from a techno-club that played music until 6 o’clock in the morning with more decibels than a group of starting F-16 fighter jets).

The Taylor Fladgate Partnership has acquired this hotel in 2016 – which for sure will be a major boost and make sure that the quality standards of the hotel will increase. Taylor’s is taking advantage of the tremendous tourism that Portugal is experiencing – they built the YEATMAN and bought the “Infante do Sagres” in Porto and the “CS Vintage House” in the Douro Valley. Their name stands for quality.

When you like the charm of old days, then there is another amazing hotel waiting for you: the “Grande Hotel de Paris”. This is one of my absolutely favorite places in Porto. If only it would be closer to Ribeira… then it would be for sure my preferred hotel in Porto. Located in the Rua da Fabrica, a mall street close to the town hall and the São Bento train station. But not easy to find – the first time I stayed there, I walked past the hotel when I looked for it… It’s located in a one-way-street with no parking possibilities – which means that the cars behind you need a lot of patience when you unload your suitcases from your car…

This 3-star hotel was opened in 1877 and is the oldest still functioning hotel in Porto. The building itself is even older – it was built in 1857. You enter the hotel though a modest entrance and have to walk up some stairs to the reception – but then you get the “wow-effect” and you realize that you are in a museum or time-bubble. Gold and marble everywhere; many old and interesting artifacts. This means of course that you have again to deal with old bathrooms and worn rooms – but it’s absolutely worth it. You get compensated by the amazing atmosphere of the hotel. This hotel was in the past knows to be the best place to stay bin Porto, and if you were a celebrity at the end of the 19th century and visiting Porto, then you would have chosen most likely this hotel. Especially famous was the place with writers and intellectuals. The second half of the 20th century however wasn’t easy for the hotel, and it fell off the Olympus and was finally just a “residencial” – more or less a bed-and-breakfast place. Under new management since 1999 the house has improved dramatically and is now again a 3 star hotel. Price-wise you can still see that the place was a “residencial” not too long ago – it’s still surprisingly reasonably priced.

The breakfast is solid and good – and comes with an amazing thing: a very romantic patio where you can take the breakfast and feel good. The perfect way to start a day in Porto.

In a nutshell: great location, very good value for money, very romantic, great for pedestrians, not so great for tourists with cars.

Well, by now we have already an impressive list of great places to stay while we visit Porto. There are of course many more hotels, I just want to mention the “InterContinental Porto Palacio das Cardosas” or the “Hotel Teatro Porto” but also a few very simple and decent small guesthouses (as for example “Cristal Guesthouse”, EUR 26 die Nacht!).

The tourism has changed so much over the last years. Low-cost-airlines like Ryanair are bringing millions of people to Porto – and the hotels were just not prepared for this tsunami. However, the private sector woke up very quickly – and now there is a massive offer of rooms and apartments on web-pages like Airbnb. Parts of Porto were collapsing over decades – but the last few years saw a tremendous influx of money and an incredible amount of restoration projects. The rents in Porto are historically very low when compared with other European countries – and people realized quickly that they can make so much more money if the post their property on Airbnb than if they rent it out to a student or other simple Portuguese long-term-tenant. So people are now making money with their real estate – but the house prices and rents are seeing a dramatic increase. It will be interesting to see the social tensions develop over the next years in Porto and other cities in Portugal.

I stayed also several times at private places – and my experience has been 100% positive. If you are a tourist that wants to do his or her own thing and doesn’t need room service at 3 in the morning… well, I wouldn’t hesitate to stay in these private properties. Just look at the reviews and pick the place with a great location and good reviews… I’m sure you will not be disappointed. But… these are often old buildings that have been beautifully restored… but they have a lot of stairs and no elevator… So if you have heave suitcases these places might not be the right one’s for you… shows 1388 properties in Porto on its web-page… and there are thousands and thousands of private places on other web-pages – but even so you have to book early to make sure to get a decent place for your stay in Porto. Porto is one of the preferred destinations in Europe at the moment and the demand is often larger than the supply of good hotel rooms.