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Intercontinental Porto: A palatial hotel stay in Porto

October 2, 2016
Modern piece of art in the lobby, part of an exhibition by Pedro Guimaraes

The guest room corridors of the Intercontinental Porto are lined with black and white photographs of the ancient city; each one is captioned and illuminated with a small picture lamp overhead. As a group, they reflect the rich history of Porto and the seminal role it played in fostering international trade and commerce. These hallways could easily be mistaken for wings of a museum.

Gracious lobby of the Intercontinental Porto

Gracious lobby of the Intercontinental Porto

Backstory

History buffs will love staying at this five-star hotel. Now beautifully renovated and restored by the Intercontinental Hotels Group, the 18th-century building is known to locals as the Palacio das Cardosas, the house of the Cardosas sisters.

Originally built as a monastery in the 15th century, it was later sold to a wealthy businessman, Manuel Cardoso dos Santos, who turned it into a palace while maintaining its stunning neoclassical façade. He planned to live at the Palacio with his family but tragically died only a few years later, leaving it to his wife and three daughters.

The Intercontinental group purchased the property and hired Russian architect Alex Kravetz to spearhead the building’s restoration before it opened as a luxury hotel in July 2011. The hotel is intimate in scale with only 89 rooms and 16 suites. But its elegant interior décor with high ceilings, chandeliers, and plush carpets make it feel palatial.

View of passageway to hotel shops from the lobby

View of passageway to hotel shops from the lobby

Location, location, location

For those hoping to explore the city, no hotel is better situated. The Intercontinental Porto is located in the city’s historic center, which was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. It sits at the base of Freedom or Liberty Square (Praca da Liberdade) that stretches to the municipal building at the far end of Avenida dos Aiados (Street of the Allies), one of the widest and most important streets in the city.

View of Avenida dos Aiados

View of Avenida dos Aiados from our window

From the front door of the hotel, it’s only a short walk to the Porto Cathedral (Se do Porto), the oldest structure in the city; the breathtaking Sao Bento train station whose walls are covered with more than 20,000 ceramic tiles; the iconic Clerigos Tower, a baroque bell tower on a hill that overlooks the city; the celebrated Livrario Lello bookstore; Mercado do Bolhao, the old city market; the Ribeira riverfront, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Porto; other monuments and museums; and a wide array of restaurants, cafes, night clubs, and shops. Although you’ll be able to walk everywhere, the square is also a major public transportation hub.

Public spaces

Mirror images of the crystal chandeliers hanging above the hotel lobby shine on the polished marble floors. Public spaces are beautifully maintained and tastefully furnished with a blend of contemporary and period pieces, impressive moldings and a gracious turned staircase.

Modern piece of art in the lobby, part of an exhibition by Pedro Guimaraes

Modern piece of art in the lobby, part of an exhibition by Pedro Guimaraes

Our room rate included breakfast from a sumptuous buffet table in the airy breakfast room laden with fresh local products and wonderful home-baked breads and pastries. In case you are wondering…Yes, freshly-baked pasteis de nata were available each morning. We only had time to peek at the menu of the more formal Astoria Restaurant (once called the Astoria Café) at the corner of the building.

Buffet table in the breakfast room at Intercontinental Porto

Buffet table in the breakfast room at Intercontinental Porto

Even if you are a teetotaler in a city that built its reputation on port wines, you’ll want to stop by the Cardosas bar off the lobby to admire the plasterwork on the curved ceiling, the ebony baby grand piano, and beautiful mahogany bookcases with faux books. Small tables and congenial bartenders make it a comfortable spot to unwind.

Doors to the Cardosas Bar off the hotel lobby

Doors to the Cardosas Bar off the hotel lobby

Classic bar off the hotel lobby

Inside of the classic bar

Our room 

We stayed in Room 309, an Executive guest room on the third floor of the four-story building.

Room 309, Intercontinental Porto

Room 309, Intercontinental Porto

Our spacious, light-filled room had a high ceiling, impressive moldings and two sets of windowed French doors opening to wrought iron French balconies overlooking the square. The very comfortable king bed sat on a herringbone patterned wood parquet floor with an armchair, desk, and large armoire closet. Twice-a-day housekeeping services were impeccable.

View of Sant Antonio Church from our window

View of Sant Antonio Church from our window

The well-appointed room had every modern comfort including a minibar, self-serve coffee bar, complimentary bottled water and wide-screen TV with several English-language stations. The free wireless Internet connection was as fast as any we’ve experienced in a hotel.

Contemporary bathroom

Contemporary bathroom

The modern marble bathroom had a separate water closet, walk-in glass-enclosed stall shower with rain shower head, and large bathtub. There was always a fresh supply of fluffy towels and lemon verbena toiletries from Agraria of San Francisco.

Comfy robes and slippers

Comfy robes and slippers

The only limitation of the room was that at night, lighting wasn’t bright enough for aging eyes like ours, a problem common in many hotels.

Service 

Of course, a fine hotel is defined by the quality of its service. Here, it was virtually flawless.

The multilingual front desk reception staff, housekeeping staff and phone operators were great but we were bowled over by the knowledge and attentiveness of the Clefs d’or concierges, Rogerio and Goncalo. They gave us terrific ideas about what to see, do and eat. When we asked about the length of the line to visit Libraria Lello several block away, one of them sent a bellman to purchase tickets for us. Everyone seemed to work together as a cohesive team.

Concierge Goncaldo

Concierge Goncaldo

Bottom line

After our stay, we learned that the hotel is currently rated #1 of 101 hotels in Porto on TripAdvisor. That’s not surprising.

The setting, location and service make it truly difficult to leave. Yet, we are confident we’ll return. After all, we still haven’t checked out the spa or restaurant!


IF YOU GO 

Intercontinental Porto hotel website

Praça da Liberdade 25, 4000-322 Porto, Portugal

  • Unless you are skittish about any street noise (which was minimal), request a room facing the square.
  • Two lovely jewelry shops off the lobby, one specialized in silver and the other in fine jewelry, have a selection of pieces at different price points that make a perfect keepsake of Porto.
Display window at Alcino Silversmiths in the hotel lobby

Display window at Alcino Silversmiths in the hotel lobby


Disclosure: The property extended a media rate to us for our four-day stay at the property. Any opinions expressed in this post are our own.

  • Reply
    Julie Dawn Fox
    October 3, 2016 at 3:00 am

    It\’s the inlaid marble and wooden floors that do it for me. I always get a kick out of staying in palaces and the like and this one is about as convenient as could be for exploring Porto.

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      October 3, 2016 at 9:02 am

      The restoration was a very loving one, preserving the grace and ambiance of the Palacio.

  • Reply
    Marilyn Jones
    October 3, 2016 at 5:55 am

    I always enjoy reading your hotel reviews. I so appreciate elegant accommodations and Intercontinental Porto certainly is elegant!! And, as always, the photos are brilliant!

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      October 3, 2016 at 9:02 am

      Thanks, Marilyn. The hotel was very photogenic, of course:-)

  • Reply
    Rebecca
    October 3, 2016 at 6:12 am

    Oh I loved, loved, LOVED Porto when I went and stayed. I never had the money to stay in the Intercontinental though ;0) but I am so pleased to see it hasn’t gone like so many other Intercontinental’s and depersonalised and kept its charm and splendour!
    Art Exhibitions, the works! I shall have to go back just to wander the Reception and take photos!

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      October 3, 2016 at 9:01 am

      Even if you can’t stay, I would step into the Cardosas bar for a drink. It’s quite a setting!

  • Reply
    Michelle da Silva Richmond
    October 3, 2016 at 8:17 am

    I grew up in Porto, yet haven’t been back in many years. You brought it back to life for me. Thank you! I need to go back ASAP!

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      October 3, 2016 at 8:58 am

      Wow! You must return. I’d love to hear your perspective on things have changed.

  • Reply
    Doreen Pendgracs
    October 3, 2016 at 8:38 am

    Man, Irene. That hotel looks amazing. Would love to stay there when I visit Porto. I’ve not yet been to Portugal, but it’s on my list!

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      October 3, 2016 at 8:56 am

      I’d move Porto to the top for so many reasons! It’s relatively safe and relatively inexpensive—and still feels quite authentic.

  • Reply
    Cindy McCain
    October 3, 2016 at 8:39 am

    I enjoyed Porto. This hotel is STUNNING. I love its classic beauty and the Pedro Guimaraes piece. Thanks for the thorough review.

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      October 3, 2016 at 8:52 am

      We fell in love with the hotel, which is probably obvious from my post:-)

  • Reply
    Jackie Smith
    October 3, 2016 at 9:47 am

    Your post got us so inspired we checked its rates. . .then I knew it was our kind of hotel if I too could get a media rate. Love the looks of this palace-turned-hotel though! Great tour you provided us.

  • Reply
    Rachel Heller
    October 3, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    Portugal is one of the places my husband and I are considering for next summer’s vacation and Porto is definitely on the list. I don’t think our budget will extend to the intercontinental but I’ll take your advice and at least stop in at the Cardosas bar for a drink and a glimpse of the lobby areas!

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      October 8, 2016 at 5:34 pm

      We are already plotting a return to Porto! I’m sure you will find properties at many different price points, Rachel!

  • Reply
    Carole Terwilliger Meyers
    October 3, 2016 at 7:25 pm

    Oh how I would love to stop in Porto to taste some Port wines! And when I do, I’ll be staying, too, at the magnificent Intercontinental Porto hotel. It looks like a gem, and with history, location, and modern luxuries. Wow!

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      October 8, 2016 at 5:36 pm

      The tasting rooms and caves are just across the Douro River. But you can taste Porto everywhere, literally! It also happens to be a welcome amenity in the hotel.

  • Reply
    The GypsyNesters
    October 4, 2016 at 6:33 pm

    Gorgeous place, and the location looks to be great too. Somehow we have missed out on Portugal in all of our travels. Hope we can fix that soon.

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      October 6, 2016 at 9:20 am

      It is definitely a treasure of Europe that often misses the radar of travelers…

  • Reply
    Carol Colborn
    October 5, 2016 at 10:39 am

    Luxury underlined! Have scheduled a trip to Portugal in 2018. Will definitely spend at least a day in this palatial museum hotel!

  • Reply
    Sue Reddel
    October 6, 2016 at 4:54 pm

    The Intercontinental always does a great job. The service and amenities are outstanding. I really loved the artwork that you featured in the post. I’m a big fan of hotel artwork. So much of it goes unnoticed. I’m itching to go to Porto so I’ll definitely keep this lovely hotel in mind.

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      October 8, 2016 at 5:36 pm

      We also enjoyed our stay the Intercontinental in Amsterdam.

  • Reply
    Jane Canapini
    October 7, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    wish we’d had more time in Porto when we went to Portugal for many reasons, and now this hotel is another one!

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      October 8, 2016 at 5:37 pm

      And I read your post about the palace you staying in while you were in Portugal. It’s on my bucket list! Guess there are many beautiful places in this country.

  • Reply
    Donna Janke
    October 8, 2016 at 10:46 am

    Wow, this hotel is definitely palatial. What a wonderful place to relax in between sight-seeing outings. I’d want to make sure I didn’t schedule too full a day of sight-seeing so I can just spend some time relaxing and feeling pampered in the hotel.

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      October 8, 2016 at 5:38 pm

      You make a good point because exploring the city was so compelling that we spent far too little time in our wonderful cocoon!

  • Reply
    Karen Warren
    October 8, 2016 at 11:05 am

    I love hotels that are in historic buildings so the Intercontinental would be great for me. And Porto looks like an interesting city to explore.

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      October 8, 2016 at 5:39 pm

      This is really an incredibly beautiful one-of-a-kind property.

  • Reply
    Anita
    October 10, 2016 at 2:35 am

    Beautiful, informational post about the Intercontinental Porto, Irene! Now that I live here, I’m more likely to stop in at the Cardosas Bar than sleep over, but it would be true luxury, to have someone fetch my tickets to the Livraria Lello. 🙂

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      October 11, 2016 at 10:03 pm

      I did fall in love with the property, Anita, especially the service!

  • Reply
    Sheryl Kraft
    April 15, 2017 at 10:08 pm

    I am going and I can’t wait -but what do I do? Stay in, or explore the city??

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