Pousada do Porto - Beautiful 18th-century palace on the Douro
This beautiful Pousada is situated just upstream from the historical old town of Porto - or Oporto, as we usually refer to it - on the north bank of the Douro river. Built around 1742, the Palácio do Freixo (Freixo Palace) is one of the most remarkable examples of Portuguese baroque architecture in Porto. Designed by the well-known architect Nasoni (who also designed the Baroque palace of Mateus) the emblematic Freixo Palace was built on the orders of the Dean of Oporto Cathedral - also a wealthy nobleman - who was responsible for bringing the famous Italian architect to the city of Oporto.
You can clearly see why the site for the palace was chosen here. Set slightly above the river’s edge, the palace enjoys views along the Douro and of the very attractive rural aspect of the opposing river bank, with the valley and hills a colourful backdrop.
The Pousada has preserved the entire façade of the palace building, which became a National Monument in 1910. The interior has been meticulously restored to preserve the original features such as beautiful painted ceilings, mirrored drawing rooms and a small chapel. Some aspects of contemporary design and furniture have been carefully blended in to maximise the aesthetic beauty of the building.
The property consists of two interconnected buildings: the 18th century Freixo Palace, which houses the restaurant, bar, lounges and meeting rooms; and the former 'Harmonia' Flour Factory - dating back to the 19th century - where the rooms and suites are found, of which the superior rooms and suites boast magnificent river and garden views, and there is also a state of the art spa in this building.
Good-sized bedrooms and suites are all well appointed, and the suites are luxurious whilst the superior rooms trade a slight reduction in size for the advantage of river and valley views. Strong colours, typically dark olive green, are used throughout the flour factory where the rooms are found, while the original metal structure of the factory has been blended in to the design, to add style and a sense of history to the new interior.
The spa consists of a wonderful indoor pool and relaxation area, a sauna and several treatment rooms. The garden areas beyond include a glass-enclosed cafe which makes the most of the river and countryside views, and an infinity pool at the end of the gardens - most appealing in the warm summer months when it is open. Different aspects from the gardens and terraces provide you with privileged views of the Douro valley and the river traffic passing by, and in early spring and late autumn, the glass-enclosed garden cafe comes into its own.
Romantics can enjoy the jetty with its covered seating, soaking up the atmosphere and the therapeutic sounds of the fountain in the very pretty main garden alongside.
Its charming setting, original buildings and easy access to the centre of Porto make this Pousada perfect for discovering what the historical city has to offer. This is the largest Pousada of the group and the location, cuisine and the considerable on-site capacity make this the ideal choice as a venue for celebratory events and corporate meetings.
Parking is available free of charge in several parking areas within the grounds of the Pousada. Opened October 2009.
Porto is the second largest city in Portugal and, in recent years, has given Lisbon stiff competition for its popularity amongst tourists. The city is split into two by the Douro River with the South side known as Vila Nova de Gaia, and the North side the main city of Porto. You can move between the two areas via the impressive metal arch Dom Luis I Bridge.
From Vila Nova de Gaia you are treated to spectacular views of Porto and the historic centre, with special designated viewing platforms ideal for any budding photographers. This is also where you will find a majority of the famous Porto wine cellars where you can organise tastings and buy some of the fabulous Port to take home. There are also many restaurants and cafes along the riverside where you can relax and take in the views.
In Porto itself you will find a variety of activities and sights. The Clerigos Tower and Church are set at the top of the city and work as a great reference point to identify whereabouts you are in the city as it can be spotted from most locations. Close to the tower you will find the magnificent Lello & Irmão bookshop with its ornate staircase and packed bookshelves, a must-see for any booklovers. Other fantastic sights around the city include the São Bento train station, whose entrance hall is decorated in the typical blue Portuguese tiles (azuelejos), and the Palácio de Bolsa, a 19th century neoclassical building which was commissioned by the Commercial Association. There are many of these historical treasures that can be found in Porto and the city itself gained UNESCO World Heritage status in 1996 thanks to its historic centre.