Occupying a neoclassical building in the heart of Porto, Le Monumental Palace channels Thirties Paris with its dazzling art-deco design, modish brasserie and rakish cocktail lounge. Stepping inside this decadent grande dame feels akin to finding the Lost Generation – as soon as you pass through the art-nouveau entrance, you’re surrounded by Portugese marble, golden lamps and carpets embellished with bold patterns. Upstairs, you’ll bed down in rooms dressed with lacquered furniture, pastel fabrics and vast decorative-edged mirrors. Downstairs, choose from an elegant all-day brasserie or Francophile fine-dining restaurant, where choice Portugese ingredients are prepared with Gallic flair. After dark, find your poison at low-lit Bar Americain, confident that rejuvenation can be found at the luxurious Nuxe spa.
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Welcome basket with fresh fruit and pastries, plus a 10% discount on facial treatments in the spa
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £210.69 (€252), including tax at 6 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €2.00 per person per night on check-out.
Rates include a breakfast of muesli and fresh fruit, French and Portuguese viennoiseries, cold cuts and cooked-to-order items like eggs, bacon, pancakes and chia pudding.
The hotel’s interiors and layout may be new, but the café first opened its doors in 1923, making it the historic heart. If its early 20th-century styling has you hungering for more, stop for a drink at the Majestic Café on Rua Santa Catarina, where the interiors have been painstakingly restored.
Even the entry-level rooms have sumptuous art-deco furnishings and bathrooms decked in gleaming marble. If no expense is to be spared, book Le Suite Monumentale, spread over several rooms and styled like a lavish apartment. For something marginally less indulgent, try one of the Suites Audacieuses, each of which has a spacious bedroom and an adjoining lounge, both sporting polished furniture and striking prints.
There’s an indoor pool in the spa area, surrounded by walls clad in trompe l’oeil tiles and milky white marble. The loungers look more like chaises longues than pool furniture, and the lights are shaped like oversized seashells, adding a final art-deco flourish to this decadent grotto.
The spa is run by Parisian beauty brand Nuxe, so you know you’re in very good hands. Limber up in the Vichy shower, sauna or hammam before sampling one of a signature Nuxe massage, luxurious body scrub or glow-giving facials, all of which involve liberal use of the brand’s high-end products.
Tote a novel by a Lost Generation writer – who knows, perhaps you’ll get a literary salon going among a few fellow enthusiasts in the lobby.
All of the common areas are wheelchair accessible, and there are adapted rooms with larger bathrooms.
All ages are welcome, but under-16s won’t be able to use the spa or pool.
In the café, go for a table by the floor-to-ceiling windows.
As you like for Monumental Café; Le Monument calls for a slightly sharper silhouette.
Trading since 1923, the Monumental Café is the hotel’s heart and soul. Recalling the elegant brasseries of Paris, this casual all-day restaurant is flooded with light thanks to its vast windows, mirror-clad walls and floor of gleaming tiles. The kitchen is helmed by French chef Julien Montbabut, who has created a classic brasserie menu that works as well for lunch as it does for late dinners. There are plenty of Gallic classics – Bourgogne snails, foie gras marinated in port, slow-cooked chicken breast with asparagus and aged beef entrecôte, best paired with the handmade French fries. Open for dinner, fine-dining restaurant Le Monument is a dressier affair, with cloth-covered tables arranged in and around the hotel’s central atrium. Here, Montbabut serves five or seven-course set menus, uniting French cooking with Portugese ingredients like suckling pig, Ria de Aveiro eel and aged Barrosã rib-eye steak.
Echoing the clandestine cocktail bars found in prohibition-era New York, Bar Americain is a rakish lounge with plush velvet booths and a soft jazz soundtrack. There’s a fine range of gins, whiskeys and wines, but it’s the shaken and stirred offerings that steal the show.
Monumental Café serves from 9am to midnight; Le Monument is open for dinner from 7.30pm to 10pm Tuesday to Saturday. Bar Americain serves from 3pm to 1am (2am from Thursday to Saturday).
The room service menu includes light bites like smoked salmon, foie gras and bísaro ham, and heartier dishes like beef tenderloin, cod and burgers. There’s also a kids’ menu.
Le Monumental Palace occupies an impressive neoclassical building on a broad, leafy boulevard in the centre of Porto. The Douro River and city’s historic quarters are within walking distance.
Porto’s Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport is closest, and can be reached directly from London Gatwick and most European hubs. It takes around 20 minutes to drive to the hotel; transfers for up to two people can be arranged for €40 each way.
Trains from Lisbon, Guimarães and Aveiro arrive at Porto’s São Bento station, 2km from the hotel.
You won’t need a car if you’re sticking within the city – there’s a comprehensive public transport network. If you do want to drive, the Smith24 team can arrange it for you. Valet parking is €25 a day.
Worth getting out of bed for
Many of Porto’s best pockets – including its historic neighbourhoods – are within walking distance, so you’ll likely want to make the most of the hotel’s enviable location. That said, it has stayed true to the spirit of Jazz Age excess by ensuring you could spend hours within its walls – not least in the historic café, an ode to the French capital that stays open until midnight. Those looking to find their inner Hemingway should make a beeline for Bar Americain, though you’re equally likely to hit your creative zenith after a few hours in the sumptuous Nuxe spa.
The hotel sets the bar high when it comes to transportive interiors, but century-old bookshop Livreria Lello is just as capable of whisking you from one world to the next. Founded in 1906 by José and Antonio Lello, this art-nouveau landmark looks like it sprang from the page of a fanciful novel, regularly making it onto lists of the world’s most beautiful bookshops. The neo-gothic façade gives way to the cavernous shop floor, flanked by ornate shelving and capped by a stained glass ceiling. The pièce de résistance is the ornate staircase, which swoops from either side of the atrium down to the ground floor. For more feats of engineering, consider a stroll across the Dom Luís I Bridge, designed by a student of Gustav Eiffel. Arching over the River Douro, this double-deck bridge not only affords some of the best views of the city limits, it also leads to Vila Nova de Gaia, home to Graham’s Lodge. Overlooking the old city and the bridge, the lodge has been producing W&J Grahams port since 1890, and now runs tours and tastings by appointment. If you’re looking to cool off after a morning’s sightseeing, try the Marés Swimming Pool in Leça da Palmeira. Designed by Pritzker-winner architect Álvaro Siza Vieira, this set of concrete tidal pools are set into a stretch of rocky coast, uniting man-made shapes with rugged nature.
If your after a second breakfast, swing by Época Café, serving homemade pastries, cakes, brunch classics and craft coffee. For lunch, try Mistu, which has taken up residence in an old locksmith’s workshop behind the Stock Exchange Palace. The circular marble tables, rattan chairs, tiled floors and potted palms give the dining room a worldy lean, which suits the globe-trotting menu to a T – expect dishes influenced by Asian and South American cuisine (but still retaining classic Portugese roots). Italian eatery Puro 4050 doubles as Portugal’s first mozarella bar – the idea is to mix or match various varieties with vegetables and Italian delicatessen. There’s a proper menu too, of course – some of the standout dishes are the octopus risotto and moreish mushroom pasta. Former pharmacy Traça is the place for a traditional Portugese dinner, served in a charming dining room with a tiled floor and wood-beam ceiling. If you’re stuck for choice, try one of the game dishes – stewed partridge, boar loin and venison are among the offerings.
Open-air bar Base is surrounded by clipped lawns and manicured greenery, making it a choice spot for an afternoon tipple or sundowner.
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 hotel in Porto and unpacked their box of bonbons from local chocolatiers Cacao Ecuador, a full account of their luxury Portuguese city break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside in Le Monumental Palace in Porto…
Lined with some of Porto’s most imposing buildings, Avenue Aliados could be said to be the city’s reception room. A monument to Porto’s mercantile success, this wide boulevard is overlooked by the towering city hall, and is where residents gather to celebrate important national events. What better place, then, to open Le Monumental Palace, a hotel that looks to the past for inspiration, embodying the indulgence of the Twenties and Thirties.
Sidestepping the trend for understated interiors, the designers have created a monument to modernist glamour instead: lacquered furniture, bold patterned carpets and gleaming marble are standard even in the entry-level rooms. In the Monumental Café, a vast mirror reflects the light streaming through the windows, making the gilded fireplace and brass lamps burn even brighter in the sun. Gourmets will delight in fine-dining restaurant Le Monument, where the tasting menus showcase the best of Portugal's farms and shores, and the Nuxe spa will work wonders if you’ve been sampling the creations at Bar Americain.
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