Words by Jay Ducker and Nye Longman
For those who have never had the pleasure of visiting, Porto offers curious travellers an enticing blend of ultra-modern and ancient explorations, stunning valley views and a rich, varied local cuisine.
Portugal’s second city, it boasts quiet hillside climbs and slow-paced tours across cobbled streets – as well as all the cosmopolitan hum and excitement you can expect of Paris or London.
Torel Boutiques offers seasoned or first time visitors all of the above and more – or less, if that’s more your style, because their beautifully turned out hotels and apartments have ample room to sit back, relax and enjoy less outgoing pleasures.
It was my second visit to Porto, although thanks to our hosts I experienced the richness of the city afresh, due in no small part to being treated to two of Torel Boutiques’ holiday experiences.
Hotel Torel Avantgarde is a curious and cosy establishment, nestled snugly between Porto’s Ponte Luis I and Ponte da Arrábida bridges and no more than a quick stroll to the city centre.
But everything the five-star hotel had on offer tugged my curiosity gently to explore more within.
Resident manager Bruno Miranda tells me with warm confidence that there is no hotel like this in Portugal or even the world – and I can easily believe him. After all, where else in the world can you find a hotel with each room themed after a different artist?
The hotel celebrates the world’s finest artists, paying special homage to the Avant-garde movement of the 1930s and 40s and making sure to remind visitors there’s plenty of thriving local artistic talent.
As we chatted in reception, my eye was drawn immediately to the hypnotic and striking tree sculpture, whose undulating wooden textures you can almost feel without touching. Tall ranks of deep red port wine watch over a gigantic Portuguese flag sitting amongst sumptuous seating. Where else? I wonder to myself.
I’m told this and many other equally interesting objects de art to be discovered around the hotel are all the creation of local artists Jorje Curval, Frederico Draw, Daniel Eime and Paulo Neves.
It doesn’t take a leap of the mind to realise that artistic expression is so much more than a simple theme at this hotel – guests will see this painstaking vision expressed in every detail, from the artist portraits adorning each of the 47 rooms, through to hand-crafted wooden floor which flows guests from reception through to the curios within.
To say nothing of the hotel’s most striking attraction – what I could only call ‘the flower room’. I was struck by rich colours of the lovingly rendered artificial flowers decorating the walls and ceiling, framing a near-perfect view of a fountain in the hotel grounds and the river beyond.
Past the unique flower room, the Digby bar and restaurant would offer an absolutely unrivalled view of the Douro river and valley as we ate our made to order omelettes the next morning. I even went back to the complementary breakfast bar for a cheeky pastry…. or three.
No less striking was my room, which paid artistic tribute to Ferdinand Porsche with a large, almost imposing portrait of the famed automotive legend. And, while it might be a bit of a cliché to extoll the virtues of the bed in a five-star hotel, its softness and depth really did exceed expectations and I would sleep incredibly well that night.
I was also treated to a tour of some yet more luxurious rooms. The Coco Chanel room in particular offered a mosaic bath overlooking the Douro and even its own little boudoir. Pressed for time, I didn’t have time for an onsite spa treatment but I did get a chance to see the curious living moss wall overlooking a selection of all-natural beauty products. For those who appreciate the blend of inspiration, talent and effort it creates to create a memorable stay, then look no further than Hotel Avantgarde, which I would recommend for anyone in search of that unique experience.
My sadness at having to check out of Torel Avantgarde so soon was quelled after beholding my next night’s stay – the Hotel Torel 1884.
Closer to the city centre, the impressive apartments offer travellers a more traditional stay, harking back to Portugal’s maritime history while offering the very best modern comforts.
I was shown immediately to the study, on the second floor. Awash with light from the vast open ceiling, the room offered bright, comfortable surroundings with a stately touch.
Later, I was compelled to return there, to sit and read, taking in the quiet ambience, reflecting on the tell-tale hints from Portugal’s historical explorations in Asia, America and Africa.
The vastness of my room made me wonder whether the room existed somewhere outside space and time. Alongside a gigantic four-poster bed, the suite also boasted its own private garden and sprawling leather chaise.
I was also delighted to discover a gigantic bathtub in the far corner, overlooked by an equally grand portrait of a chilli pepper – another great piece by Jose Curval.
Exploring the Bartolomeu restaurant, I was shown something truly special beyond. With its original iron safe door fully intact, the vault in which I stood is nowadays used to protect an altogether richer treasure – the hotel’s own hand-selected range of port wines.
I breakfasted there the next morning surrounded by various colonial artefacts. It was only then that I realised I’d overlooked perhaps one of the most fascinating aspects of the hotel – a menagerie of tribal masks and tropic plants adorning its entrance.
Hotel Torel 1884 offers a truly luxurious experience with a generous amount of space to relax in. If you’re looking for a beautiful sanctuary that’s also close to the action – this is surely it.
Hotel Torel Avantgarde
Address: Rua da Restauração 336, 4050-501 Porto, Portugal
Phone: +351 22 011 0082
Hotel Torel 1884
Address: R. de Mouzinho da Silveira N 228, 4050-417 Porto, Portugal
Phone: +351 22 600 1783