If its name has you picturing wrought-iron, sweeping staircases, parquet floors and an elaborate façade, you’re in luck at this Grand House in the edge-of-the-Atlantic Algarve town of Vila Real de Santo António. The 1920s building has a (more modern) beach club down the road, with transfers to shuttle guests back and forth for swims in your choice of the river or ocean. And on hand to ensure this palatial pad really feels like home is the hotel’s canine ambassador: resident Portuguese water dog, Grand – by name and by nature.
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A gift of embroidered local linen. GoldSmiths will also receive late check-out and a free upgrade (both subject to availability), as well as a cocktail masterclass
Double rooms from £131.32 (€151), including tax at 6 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €1.00 per person per night on check-out.
Rates usually include breakfast.
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout, library, bicycles, board games and beach towels to borrow, and transfers to the Grand Beach Club in high season. In rooms: TV, Bluetooth speaker, air-conditioning, minibar, free water and locally made, organic bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Unsurprisingly, the Small Rooms are a little on the diminutive side, which was fine for a Twenties traveller with just one trunk in tow – if your luggage is a little more super-sized, spread out in a Grand House Suite.
There are no shortage of wilder places to swim, including the Atlantic and a river – but the beach club has an outdoor pool, which is open year-round, but closes at 6pm in low season.
Save suitcase space for the area’s artisanal wares, which include baskets, pottery, cork goods, fit-for-guests towels, linens and (if your bags are especially capacious) wooden chairs.
One of the rooms has been adapted for wheelchair users and the communal areas are all accessible.
Pets are welcome in all of the rooms – there’s a charge of €25 a night, which includes a bed, bowls and a chance to befriend the hotel’s resident Portuguese water dog, Grand. See more pet-friendly hotels in Algarve.
All ages are welcome at Grand House; families will especially enjoy the nearby beach. Cots can be added and the Grand rooms can have an extra bed for under-12s.
The romantic round table in the middle of the Grand Salon has the best views in the house.
As the name suggests, the Grand Salon is a little more formal than its laid-back, beach-club counterpart.
There are two: the Grand Salon and the Grand Beach Club. The former serves a daily degustation menu for fine-dining with a view of the River Guadiana and the marina – the town’s seafood output includes tuna, of course, along with mussels, clams and oysters from a neighbouring lagoon. At the beach club, post-swim appetites can be sated with pizzas, super-fresh grilled fish and vegetarian-friendly, pure-health bowls. Breakfast can be served either in your room or the Grand Salon.
There’s a bar at the hotel for classic cocktails and old-school elegance, as well as a bar at the beach club, where you can sink sangria all day. The other tipple of choice around here is Medronho, the source of which helpfully grows nearby – for the uninitiated, the Portuguese brandy can be sweetened with honey.
The Grand Salon is open for breakfast (7am to 11am) and dinner (7pm to 11pm). The Grand Beach Club serves food all afternoon from noon until 5pm, with coffee (or cocktails) served from 10am.
Meals and snacks from the room-service menu can be ordered to your room 24 hours a day.
Just across the river from Spain in south-eastern Portugal, Grand House is in the Algarve town of Vila Real de Santo António.
The nearest airports are the Algarve’s main hub, Faro, and Seville over the border. The former is your best bet – transfers can be arranged for the 50-minute drive on request.
Vila Real de Santo António has a rail station and the hotel can fetch you from here if you ask nicely.
You won’t need a car to get around town, but if you want to explore the Algarve and its Atlantic-facing beaches, a set of wheels will come in handy – there’s valet parking at the hotel.
A ferry crosses the River Guadiana to Ayamonte in Spain; the journey takes 15 minutes.
Worth getting out of bed for
The wide, sandy Grand Beach is a few kilometres away from Grand House (there’s a transfer service available) and the hotel’s beach club is on hand to ensure you’re cooled and hydrated. Once you’ve explored the peaceful centre of Vila Real, which was rebuilt in the 18th century by the man behind downtown Lisbon, head out to other, equally charming villages, such as hilltop Caçela Velha, cobblestoned Alcoutim and Castro Marim (especially worth visiting if you’re a fan of the bath products in your room, since this is where they’re made). The team can also point you in the direction of a nearby tennis court or a flamingo-frequented nature reserve, arrange cocktail-making classes with an obliging bartender and help you locate more golden stretches of sand for surfing and swimming.
For dinner in another country, hop on the ferry and cross the river to Ayamonte in Spain for tapas with a twist at LPA The Culinary Bar. Closer to home, you’ll be able to try the region’s cuisine (which does still involve a lot of tuna) at both Cuca and 3 Marias, both of which are half a kilometre away.
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 boutique hotel in Portugal and unpacked their linens and lethal Medronho, a full account of their beach break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Grand House in the Algarve…
A former hub for tinned-tuna production may not be top of your holiday wishlist, but this fishing town in southern Portugal is that and so much more. In fact, this eastern corner of the Algarve is giving us early Puglia feels, before everyone decided the birthplace of burrata was Italy's hottest new thing. Bafflingly, Vila Real Santo António gets much less footfall than the rest of the Algarve, but this can only be a good thing (so you have the terracotta-topped buildings, and wide, golden beaches all to yourself). As well as cans of tuna, the region is famous for its salt marshes (a hotspot for twitchers, since the reserves are home to more than 150 species, from flamingos to storks and sandpipers), and its bivalves, harvested in its coastal lagoon networks.
At the marina-facing Grand House, close to the banks of the border-forming River Guadiana, high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, porcelain Chinese vases, Louis Vuitton textiles and opulent chandeliers ensure it lives up to its expectations. The lavish locale is also home to a fine-dining restaurant, with a sangria-dispensing beach club a swift shuttle ride away. A grand slam, indeed.