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Take a bright, crisp décor, add some 20,000 bottles of the best Portuguese wine and fold it into a hotel with stunning views across a wide river to an ancient city on a hill, and there you have The Yeatman. Portugal’s first and only “luxury wine hotel” opened in September in Porto, the little country’s second biggest city that’s most famous, of course, for Port wine. The property so lovingly acknowledges Portuguese history while single-handedly propelling the city’s hospitality scene into the future that it’s entirely appropriate to agree with its website’s assertion that, “a great classic hotel defines a destination, providing an authentic and memorable sense of place,” and that moreover Porto, a UNESCO World Heritage City, is defined by The Yeatman.
Part of the reason comes down to location: The hotel is just across the River Douro from Porto proper, in an area called Vila Nova de Gaia. This is where for some three centuries British wine shippers and their families warehoused Port wine, and The Yeatman (whose name refers to one such family) actually overlooks the warehouse district. The hotel’s own cellars contain one of the world’s most extensive collections of Portuguese wines, including wood-aged and vintage Ports. The hotel itself is structured in a manner that evokes the terraced vineyards that flank the Douro further east from Porto, with each of the 82 rooms opening onto a private balcony with views across the river to the old city.
In their sunny hues and surprising spaciousness, there’s something very “West Coast” about the guestrooms, too – fittingly, for a city on the edge of a country that could rightly be considered Europe’s West Coast. And very British: contemporary, cool and instead of Old World froufrou, appreciative Continental flourishes like the use of traditional Portuguese ceramic tiles in the showers. There are books on wine for your perusal, but you might get less hooked on those than you will on the phenomenal array of antique Spanish and Portuguese maps and prints that adorn the hotel’s corridors. Just walking to your room feels like a breezy dash through a brand-new museum in which you’ve got automatic VIP admission.
That fine feeling extends to the Yeatman’s gourmet restaurant, where the suave and accommodating service sets the tone for Chef Ricardo Costa’s inventive Portuguese cuisine. Plenty’s the choice of deftly prepared fish dishes, but frankly, Costa makes a simple green salad with a subtle mango component that is worth crossing the Atlantic for. Like Costa, pastry chef José Bastos worked previously at the more conventionally luxurious Casa da Calçada outside Porto, and together they’re a formidable culinary pair.
The only problem with staying in a hotel like The Yeatman is that it can be tough to leave. But not only is Porto a worthy city in its own right – and living proof that Portugal offers far more than Lisbon for the urban explorer – but it sits at the doorstep of one of Europe’s great wine-growing regions, the Douro River Valley. It may be getting late in the season to linger in the countryside, but there’s an easy way to drink up the river’s scenic splendor, and that’s simply to walk across the iconic Dom Luís iron bridge and up to the São Bento train station. There, you can buy a very reasonable ticket (around ten euros) on the Douro line train which straddles the river as it wends past pretty villages like Pinhão and Regua. You can craft your own day-trip with about six hours, allowing for extra time for lunch or glass of Port at hip Castas Pratos in Regua (it’s right next to the train tracks!). Then back to the Yeatman where you can revel in November rates as low as 154 euros per night – breakfast and gorgeous views included.