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ON THE SPOTLIGHT

Alentejo: Portugal’s best-kept secret
Between glamour and grit
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The Lowdown | Porto

A River Runs Through It Words by Mary Lussiana

Where Portugal

Quick Quote $700 per day for 2 people including hotels

Best SeasonSeason/s Spring and Autumn

Thinking of Green valleys, wet granite stones, tawny ports and red wines

Best Portrayed in The Strange Case of Angelica (film)

Porto is unexpectedly charming and the people quite friendly and welcoming, and it merits more of a reputation as Portugal’s second largest city. This rather colorful city grows upwards from the impressive Douro River, and has developed an excellent food scene, cool shops, great culture, and an underlying sophistication.

Where to Stay

Created in terraces, just like the vineyards of the neighboring Douro Valley, the Yeatman rolls down to a decanter shaped infinity pool which hangs over the River Douro. It is handsome rather than pretty and is imbued with the history and heritage of the port that its owners are famous for. Located on the bank of the River Douro, 1872 River House is right in the heart of Porto’s UNESCO listed historic center. There are only eight rooms in this quaint hotel, offering either river or city views (request the former!), and all just a stone’s throw away from a plethora of dining options. Settle into a piece of Portuguese architectural history at the 1829 Hotel. Formerly a stationery shop that opened its doors in 1829, this hotel maintains the 19th-century aesthetic charm while providing modern amenities. Opened in September 2017, Torel Avantgarde takes inspiration from the Estado-Novo art movement in the 1940s, creating something completely new. Guests who want a one-of-a-kind hotel experience will feel right at home at this boutique hotel.

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Words by Mary Lussiana Porto Editor

Mary Lussiana is a travel writer contributing to How to Spend It, Conde Nast Traveller, House & Garden, the Daily Telegraph, and the Times. She is passionate about culture and food and loves off-grid destinations which still have a sense of place. She lives with her husband and children in Portugal, which has been home for the last 16 years.

Where to Eat

Recent winner of a Michelin star under Chef Rui Paulo, The Casa de Chá de Boa Nova offers more than just a taste of the bounty from the sea beneath it. It was designed by Pritzker prize winning architect Siza Vieira and remains the most emblematic of his work.

‘The first thing I do upon returning to Porto is have a drink on the terrace of The Yeatman and soak up the views. There is the wide Douro River flowing beneath me, the jumble of coloured medieval houses which form the Ribeira, the city’s oldest quarter, opposite and spanning the river, the landmark 19th century Dom Luis 1 bridge, built by a pupil of Gustave Eiffel.’

Opened in 1933 and known since then as a gathering place for musicians and artists, Café Guarany is a casual, friendly restaurant for lunch or dinner serving traditional favorites with fantastic music. Cantinho de Jose Avillez offers an excellent take on the Portuguese kitchen with highly acclaimed Chef Avillez paying homage to the much-loved flavors and dishes that make up the Portuguese cuisine alongside some 21st century additions. Another Michelin-starred chef who has just opened an outpost in Porto is Henrique Sá Pessoa whose Iberian light bites at Tapisco make a perfect lunch on the run. For a longer, lazier experience head to Oficina, where by a roaring fire you can indulge in one of the country’s many variations on codfish. But those in search of a bold and brilliant take on modern Portuguese cuisine should head to the restaurant in new hotel Pestana Porto –A Brasiliera. Here Chef Rui Martins wows with dishes that dance off brightly colored, contemporary plates.

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What to Do

Book a tour of Taylor’s port lodge, still privately owned and renowned for their excellent port, to immediately put the city in context (about 2 hours with tastings). In the 12th century, this was a fishing village but in the 19th century Foz do Douro was catapulted to popularity by French visitors coming here to bathe at the beach. The promenade here is a favorite walk for the locals. The Palácio da Bolsa (the Stock Exchange Palace) sits in neoclassical splendor in the historic heart of Porto. A glass paneled dome allows light to flood into the Courtyard of Nations but most impressive is the Arab Room, in Moorish Revival style. The Serralves is a must stop in Porto, if not for the world-class art collection and exhibitions featured inside then for the building, designed by Alvaro Siza, as well as the beautiful gardens. Housed in a stunning 19th century building, Lello Bookstore is a beautiful, multi-story bookstore and cultural landmark. Its very high ceilings are topped by an art déco stained glass ceiling, while carved wood shelving, a grand staircase and hardwood floors with original patterning, set the tone for wanting to spend hours browsing the numerous titles available.Dip into one or two of the magnificent churches such as the Capela das Almas (Chapel of Souls) whose exterior tiles are painted with scenes from the lives of the saints or the Church of St. Francisco, with its richly gilded, highly ornate Baroque interiors. For an immersive tile experience visit 20th century São Bento Railway Station where some 20,000 glazed blue and white tiles depict highlights of the nation’s history.

More than a side trip: The Douro Valley

The oldest demarcated wine region in the world is front page news right now. Not only for the outstanding success of its table wines in its previously almost exclusively port-centric portfolio but also for the recent arrival of chic hotels, re-imagined wineries and seriously gourmet restaurants providing a fascinating destination on those rolling, vine-covered river banks. StayVintage House Hotel, a former wine lodge that still retains a unique rustic character where guests can arrive by steam train and walk to hotel, located just steps away from the Douro River.Situated in a beautifully restored 19th century property on the hills overlooking the valley, the Six Senses Douro Valley is a tranquil and ecologically-smart hotel featuring rooms and suites with incredible views and an interior design that is modern and warm. Do— Drive to Pinhão, on the winding, scenic road from Peso da Régua road, considered by many to be one of the world’s best drives and visit the Symington owned, Quinta do Bomfim winery, located in the heart of the world’s oldest demarcated wine region and understand how a winery works. Eat—at Cozinha de Clara in the family owned, Quinta de la Rosa, on the outskirts of Pinhão where the young chef draws on local ingredients to create a variety of simple dishes and a mix of traditional favorites alongside contemporary interpretations.

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