Porto is on that side of the river," the bellhop at The Yeatman Hotel told me, gesturing through my room's floor-to-ceiling windows to the sweeping view of the city across the Douro. "But the port ages on this side of the river, in Vila Nova de Gaia. We're happier where we are."
Taking in a spectacular view with a drink in hand is a frequent highlight no matter where you're traveling, but at The Yeatman it's the central attraction. The five-story, terraced property stretches down the Vila Nova de Gaia hillside such that the hotel’s restaurants, bar, pools, and 82 guestrooms (each with its own private balcony) all look straight onto the Douro River and the red-roofed Porto skyline; the city’s steep vertical rises and intricate patterns of bridges, funiculars, and cable cars provide enough entertainment for hours of contented gazing.
The property's location on the "port side" of the river is no accident. Owned by the Fladgate Partnership—the company behind the three famous port houses Taylor Fladgate, Fonseca, and Croft—the hotel is just steps from Taylor's cellars. The Relais & Châteaux hotel, housing one of just three Michelin one-star restaurants in the region (and two in the city itself), has reigned, uncontested, as the top property in the Porto area since opening in 2010. The Yeatman can boast one of the country's deepest cellars, housing over 1,300 types of wine and over 26,000 bottles in total—and every intention of showing them off: To encourage exploration, the hotel offers a rotating selection of 82 wines by the glass and hosts frequent wine dinners and tastings that bring in top Portuguese winemakers. Even visitors with just a passing interest should make a trip to the Taylor cellars, just outside the property's gates, for a crash course in port's history and production.
Beyond the hotel’s comforts lie the many attractions of Porto and its UNESCO World Heritage old town, best experienced—as so many small European cities are—by wandering the winding roads and sipping wine while observing passersby. Almost San Francisco-like with its foggy mornings and precipitous hills, navigating Porto's heights is an adventure in itself. And though it's an ideal base for port-lovers, the hotel’s true selling point is the access it provides to the vibrancy of Porto itself, whether in the city's impressive restaurants, acclaimed museums, or historic sites. Below, an itinerary for how to spend three days in the area.
The Yeatman; From $250; Rua do Choupelo 88; 351-22/013-3100; the-yeatman-hotel.com
Shake off any residual travel tension at The Yeatman's Caudalie Vinothérapie Spa, where treatments incorporate the brand’s line of all-natural products made from French vines and grapes. Allot extra time to explore the spa's extensive network of relaxation rooms, including the Roman bath, hammam, and indoor infinity pool.
Begin your Portuguese wine education with a pre-dinner glass at Dick's Bar at The Yeatman. Like every other part of the hotel, the space is oriented to maximize views over Porto. Pro tip: schedule your drinks for sunset.
Out in the Douro Valley, chef Rui Paula's restaurant DOC—named for the Denominação de Origem Controlad of the Douro—honors the region's rich agricultural history. In Porto, his DOP does the same for the city, presenting familiar Portuguese elements (salt cod bacalhau, for instance) in novel, inventive ways. Largo São Domingos 18; 351-22/201-4313.
The Spanish obsession with the "Gin Tonic" has crossed the border into Portugal, where bars like the elegant Gin House have more than 150 bottles on offer. The bar area and terrace are ideally suited for a thorough gin survey, while the separate dance floor heats up later in the evening. By 11 P.M., the entire surrounding area (especially near Rua Galerias de Paris) comes alive with open-air bars. Rua Cândido dos Reis 70; 351-962/448-739.
Well upstream from Porto, the Douro Valley makes an ideal day trip. While the wines are a strong draw, simply witnessing the stunning terraced vineyards, built into green hills that ripple up from either side of the river, is worth the journey alone. Go by boat, train, or car (roughly a 90-minutes drive)—all guarantee spectacular views.
After a day out of the city, arrange for dinner at The Yeatman's Michelin-starred restaurant. Chef Ricardo Costa's tasting menus combine the influence of molecular gastronomy with traditional, bold Portuguese flavors, and the hotel's stellar wine reserves, under wine director Beatriz Machado, make for another highlight.
Start the day with a stroll along the Douro to the arched, double-decker Dom Luís I Bridge—designed by Téophile Seyrig, the partner of Gustave Eiffel—and cross into Porto proper. From there, it's a straight uphill climb (or, for the less athletically inclined, a two-minute funicular ride) to the city's heights.
A morning walk around the old city should include the Sé Cathedral, Romanesque in style and dating to the 13th century (Terreiro da Sé, 351-22/205-9028); the nearby São Bento Train Station, a 1916 Beaux-Arts structure whose front hall depicts the history of Portugal in 20,000 painted blue-and-white tiles (at Praça da Liberdade and Praça de Almeida Garrett); and the beyond-ornate Majestic Café, an iconic locale that once hosted the literary, cultural, and political elite when it was first established in the 1920s (Rua Santa Catarina 112; 351-22/200-3887).
Hail a cab to Serralves, whose grounds include the city's contemporary art museum; extensive landscaped gardens; and Casa de Serralves, an Art Deco building originally built as a private residence that now houses many of the foundation's exhibitions. Rua Dom João de Castro 210; 351-808/200-543.
Back in Vila Nova de Gaia, let the affable waiters at Adega e Presuntaria Transmontana ply your table with plates of local sausages, cheeses, cured meats, olives, anchovies, octopus, fresh bread, and glasses of freely poured wine for lunch. Rua Cândido Dos Reis 132; 351-22/375-8380.
Just up the hill and adjacent to The Yeatman rest Taylor Fladgate's Port Cellars, home of the storied producer. Standard tours include a trip through the cellar, a great deal of information about the fortified wine, and a tasting. Private tours for enthusiasts (or just interested novices) can be arranged through The Yeatman upon request. Rua do Choupelo 250; 351-223/772-956.