In the creative heart of very-much-arrived Porto lies Rosa Et Al Townhouse: an imaginative blend of traditional architecture and mid-century design. Hand-crocheted throws and an artful assembly of antiques give the six light-filled rooms personality, there's a courtyard garden out back to catch some rays and brunch is the stuff of local legend – teetering stacks of pancakes and just-baked loaves among its highlights. Brother-and-sister owners, Patricia and Emanuel, ensure the warmest of welcomes – and you'll soon feel like one of the family, too.
Get this when you book through us:
A glass of wine each and a side of spiced nuts; guests also get 10 per cent off in-room spa treatments
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 4pm, unless otherwise agreed.
Double rooms from £79.11 (€89), including tax at 6 per cent.
Rates generally exclude breakfast (for €15 a person you’ll get a sweet dish, a savoury dish and two drinks).
Co-owner Emanuel is an architect by trade, and his delicate renovation of Rosa Et Al Townhouse picked up a Respect for Architecture gong in 2012. Nowadays, he’s the celebrated house chef and has written a recipe book, Life on a Plate, to share his wisdom. Some kids get all the talent. Apart from the ever-present Patricia and Emanuel, the hotel staff are all part-time – a lovely, relaxed-yet-efficient mixture of artists, models, teachers et al. In-room massages, aromatherapy treatments and reflexology sessions are available on request, from €40 a treatment.
24 and 25 December, and two weeks in January (dates change annually).
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout. In rooms: digital radio with iPod dock; minibar and fridge; free water; a small bottle of Fonseca tawny port; tea and coffee and the kit to make it; robes and slippers; Castelbel bath products; and beach bags.
Our favourite rooms
Top of the pile is the Suite Club, under the eaves of a double-height ceiling in the attic. Scan Porto’s terracotta roofscape from the lofty windows, or sink into the claw-foot bath tub and stare up at the wise old beams above. It’s an open-plan set up, with the bath just a few steps from the bed. Provided you can exit your soak with dignity, that can only be a good thing. For maximum seclusion, go for the Garden Pavilion. It’s separate from the main building and tucked away at the end of a garden, with all the benefits of a private residence but still almost within a fork’s length of brunch.
Pack a sketchpad and pencils; the hotel's in the arty part of town after all. Flat shoes are required for the steep cobbled streets of the old town, and remember to leave enough space in your suitcase for townhouse-made deli goodies from the Bed and Brunch Collection.
Brunch only on Saturday and Sunday. The only room with wheelchair access is the Garden Pavilion Suite. There’s no lift in the main house, but no shortage of helping hands for lugging bags up the staircase.
All welcome; the hotel's best suited for ages 6–12. Extra beds and cots can be added to any room.
Small ones who take up least room, larger ones with good appetites.
For most space and a separate bathroom, go for a King Deluxe on the garden side of the house.
While fortified wines and scary-looking seafood arguably make Porto best suited to grown-ups, there’s still plenty for kids to enjoy. For mini explorers, Porto Rent-a-Bike have tandems, child bikes and baby trailers.
Kids menu available. Just ask for a highchair.
English-speaking babysitters available on request.
No need to pack
Leave the travel cot at home, and ask in advance for a non-travel one in your room.
Be aware, there's no baby-listening service.
The hotel's food is a mixture of organic, fair trade and locally sourced produce, some grown in the on-site garden. Sustainable, energy-efficient building materials were used in the refurbishment, and some pieces of furniture are made from recycled wood. Low-energy light bulbs and low-flow taps to conserve water are used, and overflow sink and shower water is recycled for the garden. Pedal power is encouraged: just ask to borrow a bike.
Don Fifties haute couture to fit in; but it’s not as though you have to in Porto’s indie art district. Step out in your own New Look instead.
The Rosa Et Al weekend brunch is fast becoming a local institution, and that’s just the way the owners like it. They taught themselves to cook, and did a darn good job of it too. The three-course menu has dishes as delicious on the eye as they are on the ‘buds – and many feature garden produce so local you can see it from your table. The daily bread is variously flavoured with paprika or pomegranate, and everything in between, and the tartines and frittatas make eggmen go googoo-g’joob. Special mention goes to the signature ‘chipancakes’: a towering masterpiece of sweet potato patties, passionfruit and kiwi, topped with cream, chia seeds and eucalyptus honey. At weekends, locals flock to join guests in the Fifties-feel Brunch Room, clustering around the smooth-edged tables inside if all the seats in the sun are snaffled. On weekdays, breakfast is a satisfactory tribute act. Eggs are made to order, and there’s home-made yoghurt and granola with fresh fruit. Every day there’s an afternoon tea of scones, sarnies and other treats. Lunch and dinner aren’t scheduled sittings, but ask ahead to book in and then take your pick of à la carte options or go big on a three-, six- or nine-course tasting menu. Need a souvenir? The Bed and Brunch Collection includes home-made jams, limoncello and other things you might be tempted to smuggle out in your suitcase, all for sale at reception.
Handily part of the restaurant, the bar serves beers and wines, four colours of sangria (red, white, rose and green) and cocktails and mocktails to order. Softs include just-squeezed juices, coffee as you please, and a tea list that’d stretch to China and back again, all served with a soundtrack of jazz piano, or something comparably laid back.
Breakfast is from 9am to noon. Brunch is on Saturdays and Sundays only, from noon. Lunch and dinner only available on request, with at least eight hours’ notice. Dinner is served at 7.30pm. Afternoon tea is at 4pm, snacks available throughout the day.
Anything and everything on the restaurant menu can be brought to the room.
Rosa Et Al Townhouse half a mile from Porto’s historic centre and 15 minutes’ walk from the riverfront. At the crossroads of Rua do Rosário and Rua de Miguel Bombarda, there's an artistic hub with galleries, boutiques and hipster hangouts.
Porto Airport is 15 kilometres away. There are direct flights from London Gatwick with British Airways, Easyjet and TAP Portugal, and from London Stansted and Liverpool with Ryanair. TAP also has routes across Europe and from several major cities in North and South America. To get from and to the airport, ask the hotel for a transfer (€35 each way), or take metro line E.
Apart from on two feet, the best way to get around the city is with an Andante ticket (€15 for three days, see www.stcp.pt) for buses, metros or trains. Campanhã is Porto’s chief rail hub for long-distance travel, with trains to Lisbon (under three hours on the Alfa Pendular express) and into Spain. It’s a little out of the way, but can easily be reached by taxi or metro from the historic São Bento station in the city centre. São Bento is also the place to go for services to Braga, Guimares and other parts of northern Portugal - just be sure to leave enough time to ogle at the ornate tiled walls; check www.cp.pt for timetables. From the hotel, São Bento is a 15-minute walk or a short taxi ride (a transfer costs €15).
If you need a designated driver to visit the surrounding area, hire a car from any one of the major companies at the airport. There’s a car park next to the hotel; it costs €20 a day and to be sure of a space, reserve in advance.
For a place called Porto it’s surprising difficult to arrive by boat. For the determined and sea-legged, there’s the ferry from Plymouth to Santander in Spain, followed by a lengthy drive. River cruises up the Douro typically sail from and back to Porto.
Worth getting out of bed for
Get barely out of bed for an in-room massage, or venture downstairs for a cooking class with Patricia and Emanuel (Thursdays and Sundays only, classes are in English). They’ll give you the inside line on modern Portuguese cuisine, but beware, the classes sell like hot custard tarts, so book ahead. In the local area, gallery hop (Ap’arte and O! are good places to start) and shop in Centro Commercial Bombarda, which houses independent fashion and home boutiques such as Storytailors and Piurra. Or to delve a little deeper, ask at reception for an art, food or photography tour. The storied Lello is the grandest of bookshops, magic enough to inspire JK Rowling and many a muggle before and since. For a day out, take a trip up the Douro Valley to explore the port vineyards, and tour the riverside cellars back in the city to sample the end product. Or, explore the city with an architecture tour, taking in Gustave Eiffel’s bridge over the Douro and countless crumblier relics. To work off brunch try a bike tour up and down the hilly streets, or a gentler riverside ride along some of the 70 kilometres of cycle paths. After dark, hit the theatre district for a show, or head to the angular Casa da Música concert hall for proof that good acoustics don’t always come in domes. The hotel staff are on hand to advise and book any of the above and more.
Wine bar Reitoria is known for its steak, but we think its foccacia sandwiches are especially well done. Add a jug of juicy sangria and let a lazy lunchtime happily slip by. Chef José Avillez gives his name and kitchen wizardry to Cantinho do Avillez, where crack-pot dishes include ‘exploding’ olives, liver with port marmalade, and sautéed scallops with trout eggs. For Porto’s finest dining, DOP by star local restaurateur Rui Paula, is sleek and sophisticated in an historic building. The menu matches the setting, with modern makeovers given to traditional classics such as goat, sausage and plenty of seafood.
BB gourmet does a popular brunch buffet, with puffed-up pastries, fruit-laden pancakes and eggs all sorts of ways.
Café Candelbro is an all-in-one arts space with a lively bar and DJs most nights. On the way there or back, cut down the narrow Travessa de Cedofeita and join the locals at former bakery Casa de Ló.
Arriving at the subtle, whitewashed, door of Rosa Et Al Townhouse feels like coming home.
Welcomed with smile, and the smell of that morning’s pastries still lingering, check-in is a pleasant, informal breeze. We sip on espressos and marvel at the display of local wines and modern crafts as our host, Claudia, shares her favourite cultural spots and local restaurants like a friend whose good taste you trust.
But what resonates the most is her passing comment as we climb the winding staircase to our room: ‘Don’t worry if you get lost in the city – just ask someone. Porto is the kind of place where people like to help…’
It turns out such sentiments of warmth, generosity and hospitality are the things that will come to shape the nature of our stay…
With its six perfectly formed rooms, Rosa Et Al artfully balances the traditional with impeccable, modern design features. We hole up in room two (The King Grand Deluxe Garden Suite) which is painted simply in white to make the most of the original wooden floorboards, contemporary grey sofa and intricate cornicing that wraps itself around the ceiling.
But it’s the two full-length doors draped in white linen that make the biggest impression as they flood our room with winter light. They lead out to a balcony (all rooms come complete with a little outside space) wrapped in ivy and overlooking the length of the garden, next door’s persimmon tree and a workshop. The sound of wood being worked, of people making something with their hands, is comforting; a nod to the a bohemian, creative spirit of the city.
The bed is something of a temptress – every time we try and get out of it, we end up getting back in. It must be its luxuriously soft sheets and dreamy pillows, we decide. To avert our thirst, we turn to the bottle of port and two glasses at the side of the bed – which we finish whilst lingering in the claw-foot bath tub.
We decided to throw caution – and potential embarrassment to the wind – and treat ourselves to an in-room couples massage, organised happily by the hotel. Our masseurs are expert and friendly. They use only natural products and are dressed in elegant grey Grecian-wrap dresses – a pleasant change to the all-in-white get up that feels more like you’re being wheeled into surgery than for a restorative massage.
We’re brought a pot of wild rose tea afterwards, which sends me into some kind of blissful, hypnotic state. In fact, the tea selection here is probably the best we’ve ever sampled on our travels. Each night we’d disappear upstairs after too much wine and baccalau with a pot (we’re still daydreaming about the Egyptian camomile and mint) and spend a good 10 minutes extolling its virtues. It always arrives perfectly brewed in a cast-iron teapot atop a contemporary, Portuguese-made cork tray.
The next day, Claudia tells me some of the teas are made by drying plants and herbs from the garden which makes me swoon further and leads wonderfully onto the subject of breakfast.
I am, in every sense, a breakfast person. It is where the joy of the day begins and something that Rosa Et Al understands perfectly. The breakfast room overlooks the garden and is beautiful, bright and airy – like the dining room of your dreams. The menu is thoughtfully organised – the home-baked pastries arrive warm from the oven accompanied by home-churned butter and preserves, such as kiwi and wild strawberry, juices of the day, granola, and eggs every-which-way.
We push the boat out and try it all, alongside a latte and flat white. Cooking classes, with their cook Sonia, are on offer on Thursday and Sundays but they can also, in advance, create a bespoke dinner menu of local produce based on your whims and desires.
The beauty of being here is that while everything is curated, nothing is forced. It marries nicely with the relaxed, hospitable nature of the city. You feel a genuine warmth and familiarity from that moment you walk through the door.
As people who shy away from formal hotel experiences, we love Rosa Et Al’s calm, easy nature. But it’s the quiet, effortless attention to detail that turns a stay here into a little slice of something wonderful.