The best boutique stays know it’s the little kindnesses guests will look back on fondly, perhaps even more so than the grand designs. But inviting hideaway Canto de Luz – in Porto’s Old Town – offers both in memorable style. Enter a humble townhouse on a street of Azulejo-tiled beauties, and you’ll find yourself in a modern cathedral to design, with a vaulted glass roof to let the sun shine, and plants, objets d’art and vintage pieces in every nook. Suites – and a villa with a pool – follow stylish suit, and a hidden garden is a welcome city escape. And, to really nail that first (and last) impression, speciality coffees and pasteis de nata on arrival, a breakfast with clout, and fresh-cut flowers in your room are tokens to treasure.
10am, but very flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £121.78 (€138), including tax at 6 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €2.00 per person per night prior to arrival.
Rates include breakfast, one that’s slowly gaining cult status thanks to its fresh produce and unique treats. A two-night minimum stay applies for exclusive-use bookings, and a cleaning fee applies for retreats, duplexes, villas and whole-house bookings.
One of the City View Suites and one of the Urban Retreat Suites are accessible for guests with mobility issues, and there are elevators to each floor and a ramp for the entrance steps.
At the hotel
Lounge with a fireplace, communal kitchen, orangery, garden with a terrace, honesty bar, charged laundry and ironing service, free WiFi. In rooms: Samsung TV with streaming services (Netflix and Disney+), Amazon Echo with music streaming, Nespresso machine, kettle with teas, plugs for different regions, Rituals bath products. Some of the Urban Retreat Suites and Villa Almada have an X-Box too, and the latter has a private pool.
Our favourite rooms
Rooms have all been curated with care, whether it’s the art on the walls, the contemporary furnishings or the selection of makes-it-feel-like-home trinkets, plants and books. The garden-view rooms feel the most restful. If you’re staying with a family or partying about Porto with a group – or you really want to feel like a local – the Urban Retreats have more knockabout room, plus a full kitchen and laundry facilities. And, with Villa Almada you can have your own private townhouse, dressed to the nines and with a private pool to play in.
There’s no spa onsite, but the hotel has partnered with talented pamperers Mirra Spa Porto, who have massages, facials, mani-pedis and some more decadent and weighty treatments: caviar facials, body sculpting… And for keep-fitters, the hotel’s also partnered with Holmes Place gym.
Bring flats for this fetching yet treacherously cobbled part of the city, and swimsuits if you’re checking into Villa Almada.
You can reach the owners on Whatsapp if you need their local insight (or anything else).
The hotel’s ideal for families. Rooms either have a sofa bed or enough bedrooms for the fullest of broods. Babysitting can be arranged (€15 an hour minimum three hours), and there are scooters to borrow and a basket of toys.
Luz is lighting the way – in some ways quite literally – in eco-friendliness: they can produce around eight megawatts of solar energy a year. Plus, they use bio-mass heating, and harvest and purify grey water for repurposing in the garden and laundry; LED lighting and motion sensors throughout ensure power is used sparingly; the building has double the insulation to help temperature control; and single-use plastics have been eliminated. And most produce for the hotel’s generous breakfast spread is gathered locally at Bolhão market.
Hidden away, the garden is a picturesque leafy perk.
It depends on how shy you feel about the other guests seeing you in your PJs.
The hotel’s main serve is breakfast, but that’s like saying ‘football is just a game’ here – it’s passion that makes it truly great, and the owners put a lot of love into this most important meal. Most ingredients come from Bolhão market, but bread and pastries are brought in from Padaria Ribeira – one of the city’s oldest bakeries – and the owners like to mix things up with different dishes each day. You might have pasteis de nata and a selection of home bakes, waffles or pancakes, French toast, tropical fruit salads, eggs as you like them, platters of local hams and cheeses, granola and more. Otherwise, pick at the petiscos and ham- and cheese-laden tablas offered till evening.
The hotel serves bottles from Portugal’s top appellations, Porto gins and – well – port, Douro wines, and local craft brews (try the Nortada artisan lager).
Drinks are poured from 12 noon to 9pm.
In keeping with the hotel’s homey feel, the owners will bring small plates to your room from 12 noon till 8pm.
Canto de Luz is tucked into Porto’s picturesque Old Town, among the beautifully Azulejo-tiled buildings of cobbled Rua do Almada. All the important palaces and cathedrals, museums and miradors are about a 10-minute walk away.
Porto Airport is a 25-minute drive from the hotel. Transfers in a four-seater can be arranged for €45 one-way (€65 for a seven-seater) and the driver will be the one holding a sign with your name on it at arrivals. If you catch an Uber, you’ll find it in the lane behind the taxis. Or, you could hop on the purple E-line and ride it to Trindade station, just a few steps from the hotel.
Set in a grand 19th-century building, main station Porto-Campanhã is about a 15-minute drive away. It’ll connect you to Lisbon, Faro, Braga and other parts of the country, and it’s also a Metro stop. However, for zipping across the city, Metro stop Trindade is handier, connected to all lines.
Porto is compact enough to explore on foot – after all, the city was laid out before cars were conceived. If you need a car because you’ll be hopping to another city or along the coast, then watch out for trams as you drive; the hotel has a secure garage that you can use for €15 a night.
Worth getting out of bed for
Rua do Almada is known for its…hardware stores. Sexy, right? Well, it’s not all spanners and stopcocks – over the years it’s attracted bohemian and literary sorts and back in the day, young women would flirt with dandies on horseback from their wrought-iron balconies. And now, it’s on the fast track to trendiness, with quirky concept stores like Almada 13 and Almada Em Branco, bookstores like Timtim por Timtim, and vintage shops like Wild at Heart. To the north is leafy Praça da República, but the main action is a 10-minute walk south in the belly of the Old Town. Start with Porto Cathedral and its baroque satellite churches: Igreja Do Carmo, Igreja de Santo Ildefonso, and Torre dos Clérigos, which you can climb for a humdinger of a 360-degree view. And stop to admire the Neoclassical Palácio da Bolsa. The surrounding riverside Ribeira neighbourhood is very photogenic and you can stay awhile to watch traditional Rabelo boats being made, then indulge your inner mariner with a shopping session at La Paz – a menswear store with sea-inspired wares. Get another unique aspect of the city by riding the Elevador da Lada for free, then go muse on Porto’s art scene. Start with the old masters at Museu da Misericórdia, well-composed snaps at the Centro Português de Fotografia, and hop around the smaller contemporary galleries that have given the area the name Bairro das Artes. And follow the hotel owners’ footsteps to Bolhão Market for a sensory overload, stopping by glorious antique grocery Pérola do Bolhão to pick up picnic bits. To be enjoyed in the elegantly landscaped Jardins do Palácio de Cristal.
Set between the Atlantic, Douro’s winelands and abundant countryside, Porto was destined to draw food-lovers. Its two most famous dishes – a rich tripe stew, or francesinha, a sandwich stacked with meat and melted cheese – might divide camps, but there’s very much more to eating here. O Paparico has an olde-timey feel with stone walls, black-and-white photos and cabinets lined with traditional crockery, but the purposefully slight menu seeks to update rustic fare with the likes of king crab in a cabbage cream, red mullet with corn porridge and an elderflower sponge. The Portuense have strong opinions about who makes the best francesinha – you’ll need to do some delicious detective work to form your own, but you could start at Café Santiago, who make the most famous. O Buraco is your downtown go-to for old-school fare (yes, they serve tripe – but more too, for the squeamish), and Michelin-starred Almeja brings things right up to date, pairing asparagus with caviar, cheese and buttermilk; tossing goatling meat in rice with giblets; and punching up dulce de leche with a hit of spicy mole. Flow has East-West fusion fare in a glamorous Neo-Arabic building, and Boa Bao has pan-Asian dishes that zing with flavour.
On Rua dos Bragas, Early looks like a Seventies office, but in a good way, with a lot of wood, plants and industrial lights. True to their name, they cater for the beginning of the day, with fabulous breakfasts and brunches: brioche French toast, pancakes, chia puddings, and a tempting selection of fresh breads and muffins. I Love Nicolau – a cosy joint with neons, mid-century seating and plentiful plants – is also renowned for its banoffee pancakes with dulce de leche, spiced porridge and healthy bowls, plus tacos and tasteful toasts. At number 63 on the hotel’s street is Arcádia, a bakery and chocolatier with an array of delightfully sticky bakes and more for sweet tooths. And for quirreling yourself away in a corner with a good book and a glass of wine, sultry part-bookstore Café Candelabro fits the bill.
Bonaparte Downtown is a well-loved Porto institution. It has the cosiness and friendliness of an Irish pub – largely due to the elbow-jostling space available – albeit owned by a German. Somewhere to go for a beer or whisky if you start to flag on the local wines, its laidback nature keeps pulling in the punters. Set in a cheery yellow block, Aduela has a buzzy terrace that’s popular with the after-work crowd. The interiors are fairly humble, but again, its appeal lies in its unshowiness. Work your way through varying wine regions, a jug of sangria and a few chilled glasses of moscatel. For sundowners, head to the Douro edge, where Ponte Pensil bar perches on a turreted terrace by the Luíz I bridge. The perfect spot to get all moon-eyed over a few vinhos.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this design den in Porto’s cobbled Old Town and unpacked their tin of sardines in retro packaging and bottles of the city’s namesake tipple in varying hues, a full account of their right-at-home break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Canto de Luz in Portugal…
Boutique hotel Canto de Luz is a wonderful surprise in Porto’s Old Town. Not least because its unassuming teal-tiled and balcony-strung façade – one in a row of heavily decorated townhouses – opens up to reveal a soaring modernist interior topped with a vaulted glass ceiling. Rooms are strutted with grey girders and clad in modern artworks, and the nooks by the spiralling concrete and wood staircases are filled with the owners’ vintage treasures (repurposed industrial filing cabinets, mid-century seating, locker-room benches and weathered suitcases), statement plants and local finds (vases, art tomes, decanters). But this is no mere set dressing to turn the heads of Insta snappers – French owners André and Brigitte live here too and affectionately refer to the hotel as ‘La Maison’. They’ve lovingly made it as welcoming as possible since they bought it in 2008, checking in guests with a port and pastei de nata in the flowery back garden, leaving out cakes and fresh fruit to buy in the communal kitchen, and placing fresh-cut bouquets in suites. They expanded in 2020, adding an elegant private villa with a pool, but even as the stay grows, the owners remain in touch – quite literally, as they’re happy for you to quiz them on Whatsapp about local tips, and will send you off into the city with a breakfast that’s fast becoming the stuff of legend. A feast of daily-changing cooked dishes (waffles, omelettes, French toast), breads and pastries from Porto’s oldest bakery and French treats.