Zigzag through Portugal on a virtual tour

Cais da Ribeira in Porto
Porto: Cais da Ribeira

Holidaying may not be possible at the moment, but there’s nothing to stop us taking you on a virtual journey. With that in mind, first up is Portugal, a country filled with landscapes galore, cultural treasures, and a vast coastline. Not to mention an awesome selection of places to stay – the array of boutique hotels in Portugal range from family-friendly farmhouses to city centre boltholes. Read on to explore the territory, and be sure to take mental notes of the boutique hotels in Portugal you’d like to stay at in the future.

We begin our tour in the Minho region at the coastal city of Viana do Castelo. Sitting in the north of the country where the Limia River reaches the Atlantic, Praça da República and the Old Town lie at its heart. Wander the architecturally diverse streets then head up to the Santa Luzia viewpoint, before enjoying some downtime at Cabedelo beach, where first-rate FeelViana is ideally located.

Boutique hotels in Portugal: the exterior of FeelViana
Beachside Hotel FeelViana

The hotel’s spacious bedrooms are bathed in natural light, dotted within the woodland, and activities galore are on offer: surfing (all of the various types you can think of), wakeboarding, biking and stand up paddling to name just a few. But for something altogether more relaxing, lounge by the pool overlooking the pine forest or get pampered at the spa.

Out and about, the sandy shores of Afife and Carreço are worth a visit if you fancy checking out a different beach, golf enthusiasts can get a fix at Estela, Axis, or slightly further afield at Clube Golfe Brag, and oenophiles should take a day trip to the vineyards of Quinta De Paços for a tour and tasting.

A chic room at Quinta da Bouca d'Arques
Farmhouse chic: Quinta da Bouca d’Arques

If you’d like to stay slightly out of the city, 300-year-old manor house cum luxury hideaway Quinta da Bouca d’Arques is a top option.

We continue our trip by heading southwards. If you’re not short on days and fancy an overnight pit stop along the way, design hotel Villa C can be found by the banks of Rio Ave, just a stone’s throw from Vila do Conde. Another option is Quinta São Miguel de Arcos: a short drive inland, it’s a tranquil spot surrounded by natural beauty.

Boutique hotels in Portugal: the stylish bar area at Villa C
Slick: Villa C Boutique Hotel

Otherwise, drive an hour straight down to Porto, Portugal’s hilly second city: spend a few days strolling the cobbled roads, admiring azulejos-covered buildings – the vibrant and intricately patterned ceramic tiles the nation is famed for – and people-watching along Cais da Ribeira.

The pool at Quinta São Miguel de Arcos
Lounge by the pool at Quinta São Miguel de Arcos

Cross the meandering Douro River over the iconic double-decker Dom Luis bridge and stop in at a port house for a tour – we recommend Quinta dos Corvos, a small family-run operation producing around 30,000 bottles a year.

Oh, and while you’re over that side of the water, street art lovers should take a quick detour off Vila Nova de Gaia to Bordalo II’s Half Rabbit, a dramatic 3D installation created using rubbish.

Food-wise, must trys are bacalao (salted cod), petiscos (tapas) and francesinha (a gut-busting sarnie filled with meats, melted cheese and a beer-based sauce). And of course, the famous pastéis de nata (custard tart) – Nata Lisboa is our top choice.

Porto: street art, the Dom Luis bridge, the Douro Valley and an azulejos tile
The sights of Porto and the surrounding area

At the end of a busy day, check into Porto 1829 Hotel, a restored 19th-century stationery shop, or welcoming Rosa Et Al Townhouse. Those not keen on city centre stays should head eastwards 30 minutes: nestled in the rolling hills of Penafiel is charming Solar Egas Moniz, where expert hospitality will greet you, as well as stylish rooms inspired by Portuguese folk art, and a decked pool area.

An arty bedroom at Solar Egas Moniz
Arty Solar Egas Moniz

If you have the time, be sure to take a day trip out to the Douro Valley for wine tastings and glorious scenery. Alight at Pinhão, indulge in a lazy lunch at Writer’s Place where the picturesque terraced vineyards act as a backdrop, and then take a tour – we suggest using open-top bus company Quinta das Carvalhas.

Boutique hotels in Portugal: a light and airy room and bathroom at the Bohemian Place
Contemporary decor at the Bohemian Place

Where’s the next stop? Further down the coast less than an hour away by car is Aveiro and its network of charming canals. Well-positioned just two minutes from the train station, the Bohemian Place is a quirky 17-room boutique hotel owned by two friends Salome and Silvia.

Take a ride on a gondola-like boat (moliceiro) traditionally used for gathering seaweed, or catch a few rays at Costa Nova beach. Easily reachable by public transport, the area is known for its palheiros – eye-catching striped houses once used by fishermen to store nets – now beautifully restored into holiday homes. Back at the hotel soak up the city views from the panoramic terrace, complete with a Jacuzzi to relax in.

A stylish room at convento-do-seixo with a bath at the end of the bed
Super stylish: Convento do Seixo

Into the central region we journey next: Beiras, the land of wineries, sleepy villages, and fortress towns. Drive just over two hours to the outskirts of Fundão and check into boutique Convento do Seixo. Lovingly converted since its monastic days, the property now houses a spa and swimming pool.

Boutique hotels in Portugal: an elegant room at Quinta da Palmeira
Elegant Quinta da Palmeira

Slightly closer to Aveiro are Quinta da Palmeira and Palácio da Lousã, 90 and 60 minutes  respectively: the former is tucked away in the countryside village of Cerdeira, and the latter can be found in an 18th-century palace with fine dining restaurant A Viscondessa attached. Take your pick

The regal dining room at Palácio da Lousã
Regal dining room: Palácio da Lousã

A road trip through Portugal wouldn’t be complete without stopping at the capital. But prior to that, how about a night en route at Herdade da Rocha? Located in the Alentejo region on the edge of Crato, the intimate boutique lodge is surrounded by olive groves and vineyards. Learn all about the estate’s production, as well as tasting the end products – on their own or complemented by a selection of dishes.

Boutique hotels in Portugal: the inviting pool at Herdade da Rocha
Take a dip at Herdade da Rocha

And now further southwards, to the coast and hilly city of Lisbon. Easily navigated on foot, it benefits from a whopping 290 days of sun annually, making it the perfect all-year-round destination.

Accommodation-wise, Hermitage Castelo-Casa Chafariz offers stylish serviced apartments in the design neighbourhood of Santos, while 1908 Lisboa in the Intendente district is housed in an Art Nouveau building and features contemporary design.

The lounge and bedroom of an apartment at Hermitage Castelo - Casa Chafariz
Apartment living: Hermitage Castelo – Casa Chafariz

Spend your days ambling the attractive city taking in points of interest such as Belém’s Art, Architecture and Technology Museum, Time Out’s indoor market, street art in Graça, and the National Azulejo centre.

For dinner, join the queue at Taberna da Rua das Flores, a popular tavern with a daily changing menu written on a board and spot on service, before bar hopping through the grid of streets that make up bohemian Bairro Alto.

Boutique hotels in Portugal: a modern bedroom at Modern 1908 Lisboa
Modern 1908 Lisboa

Five-floor Pensão Amor, a sumptuous drinking den once home to a brothel, is also worth pencilling in. And for a cocktail with a view head to Park, the alfresco bar atop a multi-storey.

We’ll leave our Portuguese travels there for now, but keep an eye out for part II, where we highlight our favourite places in the south, and throw a few curveballs too…

Click here for more boutique hotels in Portugal and elsewhere…

Main image: Photo by Nick Karvounis on Unsplash.