Vila Foz Hotel & Spa, a 19th-century manor house overlooking the Atlantic, is the sort of place where oysters and champagne are encouraged…at breakfast. This is a palatial pad just 20 minutes from Porto, with pistachio greens, soft pinks and stucco ceilings in its main building; a newer extension sports eclectic patterns and onyx accents – a fine example of Old World meeting modern-day design. Stepping out of the hotel and crossing the leafy boulevard takes you to the sandy beach and lull of the ocean, where you’ll find the neighbourhood of Foz dancing to its own relaxed beach-side beat.
68, including three suites – many of which are west-facing, making the balconies perfect for private sundowners.
12 noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £262.31 (€285), 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-in.
Rates include a continental breakfast – a rainbow of fruits, fresh pastries and jams – and à la carte dishes: the showstopper of which is the oysters and champagne. You can have your breakfast delivered to your room for no extra cost.
The villa’s transformation from bourgeois villa to breezy manor hotel was led by architect Gabinete Miguel Cardoso Arquieto, and the interiors were meticulously designed by Nini Andrade Silva – a dynamic duo who’ve balanced an opulent space with comforting features and warming colorways.
At the hotel
WiFi, bikes to borrow, free transfers to Porto city centre, spa with sauna, steam room, heated pool, hammam and fitness room. In rooms: TV, WiFi, hairdryer, tea- and coffee-making facilities, walk-in shower, safe, minibar, bottled water, robes and slippers, Maison Codage Paris toiletries
Our favourite rooms
Rooms in the main villa follow the traditional Portuguese manor style, with wooden floors and stucco ceilings; rooms in the recent extension have wave-like flowing headboards and onyx features.
The spa’s sparkling indoor pool, with floor-to-ceiling glass windows, is both hidden away and flooded with light. Portuguese marble floors run uninterrupted from the laidback loungers to the base of the heated pool. The pool is open daily between 10am and 8pm.
Wind down at the hotel spa, which has a sauna, steam room, hammam, and fitness room (open 10am to 8am daily, or earlier upon request). Treatments – such as the Prêt-a-porter massages – use Maison Codage Paris and Elemental Herbology products. The detoxifying treatments tend to work best when paired with copious amounts of port – preferably imbibed the previous evening – or so we hear.
A palette for port and a love of seafood. We hate to be that person, but sensible shoes are advised for tackling the rocky outcroppings along the coast, or pedalling down the leafy boulevards.
All ages are welcome, but children under 16 will not be able to use the spa, and those under ten will need to dine in the Flor de Lis restaurant, rather than the more formal Vila Foz restaurant. Babysitting can be arranged for an extra cost.
Solar panels heat the water used throughout the hotel and plastic is reduced as much as possible in rooms, in favour of sustainably-packaged products. The restaurant works with local suppliers to reduce its carbon footprint, and to get the very best quality produce.
If cooking is your thing, opt for the two intimate kitchen seats where chef Arnaldo Azevedo talks you through each dish while you sit at the bar looking into the open kitchen.
Old-world opulence but with a breezy beachfront edge.
There are two restaurants within the hotel's palatial walls. The Vila Foz restaurant, in the former ballroom, is dedicated to fine dining under the excellent eye of chef Arnaldo Azevedo. It's Michelin star is but a side note to the sea bass with veal sweetbreads or lobster with salsify, all to be enjoyed under gilded ceilings. The Flor de Lis restaurant offers all-day dining in a slightly cosier (and child-friendly) setting of exposed stone walls, low ceilings and Portuguese parquetry and tiling. Specialities include grilled market fish of the day, octopus with olive oil, garlic and oregano and clams bulhão pato, finished with layers of a Natas do Céu.
The interiors of vintage-style Vila Foz bar are scattered with living-room worthy armchairs and low tables, encouraging intimate conversations over bottles of Port. Its Porto Tónico could be the best in town – a dry white port with tonic, strawberries, lime and mint.
Breakfast is served in Flor de Lis between 7.30–11am, opening again at 12.30pm for all-day dining. Dinner is 7.30–10.30pm in the Vila Foz restaurant (closed Mondays). The bar calls for last orders around midnight, extended to 1am on Fridays and Saturdays.
A separate room service menu is available for duvet dining.
Vila Foz Hotel & Spa is steps from the Atlantic, and a 15-minute drive from Porto city centre.
Porto airport is a 30-minute drive from the hotel. Contact the hotel directly to arrange a transfer.
Campanhã station is Porto’s main hub for long-distance travel, welcoming trains from Lisbon, Faro and Spain. If you’re travelling from elsewhere in Portugal, the historic São Bento station is right in the city centre, with trains arriving from Braga, Guimarães and other parts of northern Portugal. From the centre, you can easily hop on tram 1 (from Infante to Passeio Alegre) down to Foz, or arrange a taxi.
If you’ve got your sights set on local exploration, you’ll find no real need for a car – particularly with the bikes to borrow at the hotel, the free transfer into the centre of Porto, and the easy-access city trams. But, if you do want to drive, there’s a private car park at the hotel – well equipped with CCTV and valet parking – that will keep your wheels safe and sound (for €25,00 per vehicle, per day).
Worth getting out of bed for
The beach right on your doorstep, for starters. The waves are great for windsurfers, and beach bars are filled with bronzed locals. Once you have your dose of sandy toes and vitamin D, there’s plenty else to check off nearby. The hotel has bikes to borrow, great for exploration of Foz’s leafy boulevards, or pedal across to the nearby town of Matosinhos, famed for its long white sand beaches and streets upon streets of seafood restaurants. Across the Douro river is Afurada, a charming fishing village filled with colourful houses. The smell of fresh fish is always in the air, with it being served up around the clock in the picturesque restaurants. You can arrive by boat – just head to the Arrábida Bridge area near to Vila Foz and set sail on the short crossing to the heart of Afurada. The hotel runs a free shuttle to Porto city centre, which means you can dip into the Port Wine Museum, Casa de Música, Porto Cathedral and Ribeira Square with ease.
Foz is a wealthy enclave, and is home to Pedro Lemos – one of Porto’s two Michelin-starred restaurants – with tasting menus (and wine pairings) focusing on seasonal produce and bold flavours. But we also love the tapas-style dishes at cosy Casa Vasco, like the plates of cod cakes and tuna tataki. Matosinhos and its many fish restaurants are a short stroll away: try Cafeína’s stuffed squid (and excellent chocolate tart), or beachfront Praia da Luz for spicy sardines, grilled tiger prawns and ceviche. If you’re seeking a break from seafood, head to Portarossa pizzeria (the fungi and truffle pizza is delectable). In Porto itself, former pharmacy Traça serves Portuguese cuisine with Iberian influences, such as salted codfish, deer-loin carpaccio, and caramelised pineapples for dessert.
Época Café is a Porto brunch institution, and great for vegetarians. Enjoy leisurely late mornings over homemade pastries, craft coffee and spicy Turkish eggs in garlicky yogurt. Mitsu – housed in a renovated locksmith workshop – experiments with Asian and South American cuisine: stop by for the sea bass, steak tartare and picanha.
Many a lazy lunchtime could be spent at wine bar Reitoria, along with some fresh focaccia to line the stomach. Enjoy urban garden bar Base, a very sociable spot for an aperitivo. Back in Foz, Irish-style Bonaparte is one of the oldest bars in Porto, filled with eclectic antiques, and an even more eclectic gaggle of customers. Try the caprioskas and prego no pão (Portuguese steak sandwich).
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 Hotel in Foz and unpacked their bottles of local port, a full account of their coastal break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Vila Foz Hotel & Spa in Porto…
You don’t need to go far to bask in that coastal feeling – the waves of the Atlantic are mimicked in the design of the undulating corridors (don’t worry, you won’t get seasick) and flowing wooden headboards – but part of the charm of Vila Foz is its proximity to both Porto and the sea. The sand of Foz’s beaches is golden, and punctuated by rocky outcroppings. Seafood lovers will be in their element here: nearby Matosinhos is famed for its fish, paired perfectly with local wine. Foz gives you all of the benefits of Porto (being just a 20 minute drive or short tram ride away), but with the addition of ample space in a neighbourhood known for its beach bars and botanical gardens.