Sign Up for Our Monthly Europe Newsletter
It did not take long for me to realize that Pestana Palacio do Freixo has little in common with a typical city hotel.
While I was checking in, the sight of two red velvet chairs through a doorway to my left caught my eye. I walked into the room and realized it was certainly not a restroom or a business center — it was a private chapel, complete with a sculpture of Jesus Christ mounted on the wall.
Indeed, Pestana is not just another hotel in uber-hot Porto, Portugal. A former palace built by architect Nicolau Nasoni and a member of The Leading Hotels of the World, the property was declared a National Monument in 1910 and is renowned as an example of baroque architecture. That’s no small feat for a city teeming with world-class examples of the architectural style, such as the Torre dos Clerigos complex and the Igreja do Carmo church.
In order to win the hearts of the couples and families who visit, Pestana walks a fine line between showcasing authentic charm and meeting modern-day demands.
For instance, adjacent to a riverfront promenade filled with manicured gardens and a centerpiece fountain is the chic infinity pool. Sleek and adjoined by a glass-enclosed pool house, the outdoor oasis — located along a quiet stretch of the Douro River — certainly fits the bill for travelers looking for a property that plays double duty as a retreat.
The hotel’s location, about 15 minutes from the city center, means that the property is a welcome respite from the throngs of tourists who roam Porto’s streets. (However, when visitors want to head to the top attractions, Pestana offers a free shuttle service to Ribeira several times per day.)
The 87 larger-than-average guestrooms — such as the 753-square-foot Suite River View King — offer separate spaces for working and sleeping; contemporary decor; and modern amenities such as flat-screen televisions, bathroom products by local company Castelbel and Nespresso machines. Both the guestrooms and the spa, which includes an indoor pool and a Turkish bath, are located in an adjacent building — the site of a former flour mill — so don’t expect the same regal architectural details and splendid decor as what’s found in the former palace.
One especially lovely part of the hotel is the sun-dappled living room — a green-and-gold waiting area with tiled floors, gold-trimmed paintings, a frescoed ceiling and antique furniture.
Dining areas, such as the gourmet Palatium restaurant and the riverfront bar, are intimate spaces filled with the same period details, plus traditional food, attentive service and Douro Valley wines.
After a glass of wine or two, the ambiance feels especially transporting.
The Details Pestana Palacio do Freixo www.pestanacollection.com