Porto, the second largest city in Portugal, was also at the top of our list of places to explore in Portugal. With its magnificent Medieval flavor and rich heritage, the place is simply bursting with delights. We effortlessly hopped on an express train from Lisbon and two and a half hours later we were in Porto!
In keeping with the idea of exploring Portugal’s great houses and palaces via its palace hotels, we chose the splendid Pestana Palacio do Freixo as our base of operations in Porto. The Palacio do Freixo was commissioned by the Dean of Porto’s cathedral in the 18th century and designed by the Italian architect Nasoni, it stands as a marvelous example of Portuguese Baroque. The hotel consists of two buildings: the palace proper where one takes meals and/or enjoys cocktails in the grand sitting room; and a converted factory/mill building where the guests are situated in large well appointed rooms. We, ourselves, were given a really sumptuous suite of rooms with beautiful views of the Douro river.
After quickly settling in, McBee and I dashed off to lunch. As you know we were wild about chef Jose Avillez cuisine in Lisbon, and so we headed to Cantinho Oporto which is his new outpost in Porto. Needless to say, we were not disappointed.
With our bellies full, and despite some rather dreary weather (the saying goes, if you don’t like the weather in Porto, wait five minutes and it will change — thankfully the saying is quite true!), we pushed on to some of truly unforgettable sites!
Igreja de Sao Francisco is an over-the-top indulgent baroque fantasy of a church. The “Tree of Jesse” in the nave is a must see. A visit to the Sao Bento train station with its marvelous monumental azulejo mural panels is just sublime. Nearby, the Se cathedral and its cloisters provide more azulejo inspiration and beauty!
For a quick pick-me-up, the Cafe Majestic a Belle Epoque tea house is a must.
The lavish neoclassical palace, Alacio da Bolsa (the stock exchange), built with absolutely no expense spared is another awe-inspiring creation. Its Salao Arabe is an absolute dream.
The Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis, another Neo-Classical style palace, houses the most exquisite collection of decorative arts and paintings. It is another two for one experiences; not only does it house a marvelous collection, but the palace and grounds (replete with the most enchanting Camellia trees) alone are well worth the visit!
We returned to our accommodations at Pestana Palacio do Freixo for a bit of luxury — and a couple glasses of port! — before heading off to dinner. We highly suggest dining at DOP which serves a fresh and innovative take on the cuisine of Porto and its region — despite a rather minimal setting, the food is fabulous.
I’m captured exploring the palace and gardens (top) at the fabulous Pestana Palacio do Freixo. I’m sporting a Tom Ford era Gucci white,black and saddle leather biker jacket, Etro silk paisley scarf, Turnbull and Asser red tartan cotton shirt with white contrast collar and cuffs, antique Victorian Scottish agate cuff links, uniqlo jean, Ralph Lauren red alligator belt with sterling buckle, Tom Ford era Windsor loafers in black leather, and vintage Rolex, Tom Ford London fragrance and Tom Ford Bronzing Gel.