Palacio das Cardosas in a Nutshell:
Overlooking the Douro River estuary, the hilltop city Porto
(or Oporto) is famed for that nectar known as port wine. Despite the country’s financial woes, Portugal’s second city is undergoing a shift from shabby to chic with major urban upgrades worthy of its status as a UNESCO World Heritage
site. Leading the way, the Porto Palacio das Cardosas opened in city center in late 2011 on the vast Liberty Square. The InterContinental group's first Portugal property is a $43 million-dollar project built behind the landmark-protected façade of a ruined 18th century palace.
Guest Rooms at Palacio das Cardosas:
Including the rooms facing the busy square, Palacio das Cardosas’ 105 rooms are silent (well, you might hear an echo off the eleven-foot ceilings). Floors are a mix of marble and dark wood, with throw rugs in the bed area. Marble bathrooms have a separate bath and shower, and feature Floris
brand products. Executive rooms have a small balcony; from there one can watch the historic trams passing in front. Among the property’s sixteen suites, the Duplex category feels like a swank apartment and come with a bathroom on the two floors. There is free wi-fi throughout the hotel.
Dining at Palacio das Cardosas:
By day sunlight pours into Square Restaurant through a glass ceiling and glass walls. The breakfast buffet spread is rich in Portuguese cured meats and fish and naturally flavored yogurts. Come evening, dark wood floors and slim glass chandeliers in the sunken dining room off the lobby set a more urbane mood. Couples dine on updates of traditional Portuguese cuisine
served on white Vista Alegre china. As the sommeliers guide you in fluent English through Portuguese wines, their funky-shaped decanters make for a bit of theater.
Activities at Palacio das Cardosas:
The spacious lobby-level Astoria café opens to the street and draws guests and locals for pastries like creamy custard cups. Down the hallway, luxury boutiques Arcino and AquaVerdi specialize respectively in silver, and Montblanc and Rolex. Wooden floors give the fitness room a soft touch; it also has a sauna and steam room, while massages can be booked in advance. Black/white photos of old Porto make a stroll through the upper hallways like a gallery visit. The Cardosas Bar is the spot to sink into a plush chair with a glass of port to peruse books on the city’s restoration.
Honeymoons and Romance at Palacio das Cardosas:
Couples on the Celebration package lodge in executive rooms, are served a champagne brunch, and enjoy late check-out until 4 pm, with free parking thrown in. Specific packages can be customized per request, including helicopter, boat, and car tours based on couples’ wishes. At press time, the new Palacio das Cardosas is projecting hosting wedding receptions in the restaurant with parties up to eighty guests.
Nearby Palacio das Cardosas:
Couples can stroll the cobblestoned Santa Catarina street lined with small shops and stop for coffee in the art-nouveau Majestic Café, followed by lunch on the river boardwalk. The city’s hot new dining scene includes intimate restaurants Traça and Book, while Galeria de Paris street is lined with boutiques and lounges. The gorgeous blue azulejo tiles
in the São Bento train station next to the hotel are not to be missed. Further afield the hotel can arrange train, private car, boat, or helicopter visits to Douro wine estates like Quinta do Crasto whose terraced vineyards sit high over the river.
Drawbacks at Palacio das Cardosas:
Plugging in your laptop or reader at bedside requires pulling out the nightstand and having to reach down to low sockets. A few more sockets around the room would make for much more convenience. The small desk lamp’s soft light is not particularly conducive for long work periods. The bathroom’s single sink could use a companion for couples.
Vibe at Palacio das Cardosas:
Russian architect Alex Kravetz created a bright, airy lobby with a stunning Italian chandelier in the middle, making for a very welcoming conversation area. All furniture is locally made following his design. Among the international guests one hears plenty of American English in the common areas. Architecture lovers come for the city’s stunning tiled buildings at every turn and fine Art Nouveau touches; wine lovers exchange tips on their vineyard experiences in the northern Portugal surroundings.
Palacio das Cardosas Info and Reservations:
InterContinental Porto Palacio das Cardosas
Pra a da la Liberdade N. 25
Porto, 4000-322, Portugal
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Search for a Flight to Francisco de Sa Carneiro, a twenty-minute drive from the hotel.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary accommodation and meals for the purpose of reviewing those services. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy .