Built as a remote royal palace in 1910, Vidago Palace hotel is an opulent retreat located in a small spa town near the northern border of Portugal. In picturesque Tras-os-Montes (literally, 'beyond the mountains'), this salmon pink property with the façade of a grand English country estate overlooks a distinctly Iberian landscape. The lavish main building – where the grandiose former ballroom is now a restaurant – is complemented by a golf course and sleek spa.
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A wine tasting for two in the cellar; reserve your desired time on arrival
Double rooms from $182.39 (€164), excluding tax at 6 per cent.
Rates usually include buffet or à la carte breakfast.
The star attraction at the gleaming spa is the water: book a three-, seven- or 14-day programme of water therapy if you’re interested in traditional treatments.
At the hotel
18-hole golf course; tennis courts; spa; gym; yoga; library of books and DVDs; free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV; DVD/CD player; radio.
Our favourite rooms
Room 109 – a Junior Suite – has exceptional views of the lake as well as the hotel’s entrance. The soothing mint-green walls make soaking in the roll-top bath a particularly relaxing experience.
Outside, there's a square 25m pool surrounded by lawns and loungers. There's also a smaller (15m) pool indoors and a paddling pool for the kids.
The town of Vidago is known for its natural springs, so leave room in your case to take home a few bottles of the local spring water, said to have healing properties (you’ll find some in your minibar.)
The 18-hole, par-72 golf course in the grounds was originally built in 1936, but has more recently been transformed in line with USGA specs.
Baby cots can be added to parents’ rooms for free. Extra beds are €40 a night for 3–12 year olds, €75 a night for kids aged 13 and over. There's a programme of activities for smaller Smiths, including nature walks, face painting and art classes.
Grab a table near the piano to best hear the live music; or, head out on to the terrace.
Old-fashioned glamour is the way to go – imagine the grand guests waltzing through the ballroom when the palace first opened in 1910, and be inspired.
In the Salão Nobre Dining Room, the hotel’s vast and gilded one-time ballroom, Portuguese chef Josu Sedanu-Martin (who previously delighted London diners at Quaglino’s and the Ivy) serves up a gourmet take on local favourites, such as octopus carpaccio and quail eggs. Meals are also served in the Winter Garden, the hotel’s bright conservatory, and at the laid-back Poolside Bar.
Sip your tipple of choice in the dark, masculine Smoke Room – think dark wood and darker leather – or the bright Four Seasons Room, with its walls covered in pale silk. Try one of the signature cocktails: the Palace Velvet is a chocoholic’s fantasy, and the Ruby Vidago is a creative concoction involving rose port and crème de menthe.
Breakfast is served in the Winter Garden 7am–10am every weekday and 7am–11am on weekends.
Order snacks and drinks to your room any time you like.
Vidago Palace is in Tràs-os-Montes, just north of the Douro Valley near Portugal’s northern border with Spain.
Touch down at Francisco de Sà Carneiro Airport – often just called Porto Airport (www.porto-airport.com) – about an hour and a half from Vidago Palace. Ryanair (http://www.ryanair.com) flies to Porto from London Stansted and Liverpool airport. TAP (http://www.flytap.com) flies from London Heathrow.
Vidago is about 90 minutes' drive from Porto along the A7, and five hours from Lisbon. A car will be handy for exploring the towns and villages along Portugal’s northern border. There’s free parking at the hotel.
Worth getting out of bed for
Northern Portugal has plenty to explore. Once you’ve exhausted yourself on the tennis courts, conquered the golf course, tasted the spring waters and lounge in Vidago Palace’s meditation room, it’s time to head out and discover the natural beauty and fascinating culture of the region. Borrow a bike from reception and explore the rolling hills or ask the concierge to arrange some daytrips for you: wine tasting in the Douro Valley is a must. Pay a visit to the interactive Enoteca Douro Museum in Favaios. History buffs and landscape lovers, head to the Parque Arqueológico de Tresminas and explore the site of one of the Roman Empire's largest gold mines, as well as getting some impressive countryside views, or discover the Unesco-protected town and castle of Guimarães, considered the Cidade Berço – 'cradle city' – of the Portuguese nation.
Enjoy delicious Portuguese traditional dishes cooked by passionate staff at Quinta dos Carvalhosin Vidago; try to sit by the window and soak up the landscape. Casa de Souto-Velho is a family-run restaurant on Praia do Vidago in Chaves that's worth booking ahead for (+351 (0)276 99 92 50). Osvaldo greets you on arrival, while his wife Eufrásia and son, Chef Mauro, take charge in the kitchen, serving dishes made from home-grown ingredients with locally produced wine.
Led Zeppelin famously said they knew a lady who, given half a chance, could actually buy a stairway to heaven. I would now like to formally propose that the grand steps leading up to the entrance of the Vidago Palace in Northern Portugal are added to the whole stairs/heaven canon, because the Vidago Palace is, frankly, heaven in a hotel.
As we approach its vast pink façade for the first time, we can see a uniformed man gliding down said steps to greet us. He is still descending when we pull up in our car, which either means he was moving in slow motion or there are hundreds of steps. Either way, this building was designed for people who like to make an entrance.
The Palace was originally commissioned by King Carlos I of Portugal in 1908, the aim being to host and entertain his inner circle of lords and ladies with fine food, curative spring water and ballroom dancing; but Carlos was assassinated before the Palace was completed. Undeterred by the downfall of the monarchy, the Portuguese aristocracy partied like it was 1899 and Vidago became the place to be seen from the roaring Twenties to the swinging Sixties. In 2008, a lavish restoration not only returned the hotel to its palatial beauty, but they, like, totally modernised it.
There’s a super minimalist health spa bolted on the back, where everything is white; the staff uniforms, the walls, even the flip-flops are fifty shades of branco. And, get this: hair mousse for men in the changing rooms. Mrs Smith undertook to test the spa (someone had to – and she’s very good at volunteering) and returned from a 75-minute massage looking ready for anything, even me.
The relaxation room and the gym have floor-to-ceiling windows that run at an angle to the wild woodland outside, so be careful if you’re on the treadmill, you might think you’re going up when you’re going down. The water in the indoor pool is said to have healing properties and, if followed by the menthol-infused sauna, steam room and ice-rubbing (yes, this is encouraged) could possibly revive the most sluggish constitution. There’s also an outdoor pool surrounded by grass and a Jacuzzi set into the hillside. Nice.
Just yards from the utterly contemporary spa, you can experience the Victorian equivalent housed in a Moorish domed folly. Here we partook in the famous magnesium-soaked Vidago waters (not sure if magnesium’s an aphrodisiac, I’ll take it anyway). Beyond the spring, there’s a Cameron-Powell-designed 18-hole golf course (not stuffy at all, very cool pro-shop and laidback members).
Inside the main body of the hotel, tradition courses through the long hallways and arterial rooms that back onto balconies overlooking lakes and the trees of Tràs-os-Montes which means ‘beyond the mountains’. If you weren’t already a gentleman, the polite but confident charm of Vidago makes you feel that it’s OK to open doors for ladies and to light their cigarettes (the library/bar is also a smoking room which made me want to start smoking again – almost), but equally OK to whisper a slightly smutty remark in your partner’s ear over a vermouth-based cocktail.
Smart staff are everywhere and have a way of looking after you that is not overly deferential like in some grand hotels, but completely helpful and courteous. The bar is brilliant for an early evening glass of bastardo rosé (a local grape, so called because it’s a right bastard to pick) and the sweeping oak staircase in the central hallway is a magnificent opportunity to watch your favourite person (assuming it’s not yourself) come down to dinner in the huge converted ballroom. Here we sampled an amazing taster menu of foie gras, lobster and shellfish brûlée, John Dory and a rack of lamb with peas and chorizo – oh and more bastardo, because I found ordering it hilarious, obviously.
It’s not all la-di-da fine dining though, and we also enjoyed low-key tapas for two in the hotel’s well-stocked wine cellar. Breakfast takes place on the crispest of crisp linen, with silverware set on tables that sit on a sparkling black and white-tiled floor – so appealing was the locally sourced food that Mrs Smith would be waiting for me to leave the room in the morning, lured as she was by succulent vine tomatoes and scrambled eggs. And by the way, the home-made granola in the Vidago Palace is itself worth the trip to Portugal.
Atmosphere wise, it’s not just the luscious, long drapes and the dark wood and the Bloomsbury-esque wallpaper that wafts memories of devil-may-care affluence and gay (in a 1920s way) abandon through every room of the Vidago, it’s the details in the surrounding walks and forest as well: there’s an amphitheatre with seats carved into rocks by the side of a lily-strewn lake, where nieces and nephews might have performed a play in front of a bastardo-addled aunt.
Our bedroom was huge and housed a bathroom of green glazed tiles and fresh roses where we would happily spend an hour soaking and talking together. Windows opened out onto a terrace with sun loungers and room service came under huge silver salvers, just like the old days, but with superfast internet and digital TV.
Leaving the Vidago Palace hotel has its own rituals; if I remember correctly, after coming back down the steps to earth, tradition has it that you circle the roundabout in front of the hotel three times; once to say thank you for having me, once for luck and once to say you will one day return. Needless to say we circled three times and waved goodbye
Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel or villa, we’ll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in Vidago Palace’s Guestbook below.
Everything! It is one of our favourite hotels globally. The location is off the beaten track and the surrounding nature is beautiful. The service is excellent as well — all the staff are super friendly and helpful. In particular we would like to give special thanks to Elisabete, Jessica, Tiago and Vitor (for the great wine and spirits recommendations). The food was superb with great breakfast variety (in particular being able to cater for my wife who is intolerant to gluten) and the steak at the Tapas restaurant (which I had twice :). The pool/spa facilities are also fantastic and very relaxing. I enjoyed the Vidago water (both bottled and directly from the fountain). We love it so much we're returning in May 2019 for a longer stay. In addition, I am planning my father's 60th birthday next year and I want to celebrate it at Vidago Palace which he and my family/friends would love.
Nothing negative to highlight.
Stayed on 1 Feb 2019
The spa, our suite, the bar. Our suite was perfect, well finished and simply decorated. The hotel staff were very polite and efficient. We had wonderful service our entire stay.
A lot of activity.
Stayed on 26 Aug 2018
The hotel is absolutely beautiful. Everything looks perfect and the food was great when we ate in the main restaurant and excellent breakfast buffet. Service was excellent. Comfortable beds and nice bathroom. The fitness and spa facilities were good and nice pool area and loungers. We didn't get a chance in the end to do the walks around the grounds but the scenery looked nice. Quinta dos Carvalhos was a great local restaurant.
It was very quiet, which we found nice for a break from London! At the weekend, more guests arrived but still nice and peaceful. The surrounding village is also quiet but there are few places to eat.
Stayed on 19 Jul 2018
Amazing hotel and atmosphere. Classic stay with all modern conveniences. The spa is one of the best I've ever been to. Perfect place for a city escape and relaxation.