It was only a matter of time, but now it seems everybody’s got the memo: Portugal is fabulous. Not only that, it’s cooler, quieter and cheaper than Spain, making it an ideal destination for memorable summer holidays, without breaking the bank.
Lisbon – Portugal’s capital and one of Europe’s sunniest cities – packs a mini-break punch with its dusk-till-dawn bar scene, hip fleamarkets, and beautiful beaches.
Porto, too, wins unexpected ‘wows’ from visitors amazed by the city’s riverfront dining, design boutiques, and old-meets-new architecture. Then you’ve got the cool coastlines of Cascais and Comporta, near Lisbon, and the sun-drenched Algarve, which is an all-time favourite with holidaymakers.
So, now you’ve got an idea of where to go, you just need to decide where to check in. Whether you’re in search of family-friendly digs, great views, foodie havens, stylish spas or relaxing beach breaks, we’ve rounded up our pick of the best hotels in Portugal.
From hotel rooms to mega-villas, Martinhal hotel offers a range of stays
On the left-hand lounger you might clock Ben Fogle and his brood, on the right a BBC broadcaster with baby – that’s the clientele at this family-focused hotel on the wilder, windier end of the Algarve. Being a haven for posh parents doesn’t equal stuffy, though. Think of Martinhal more like a beach hotel for families who don’t do caravans and kids’ clubs, but instead want contemporary architecture, designer Scandi furniture, trendy restaurants and a surf scene. Accommodation runs from hotel rooms with a cot to mega-villas with private pool and, if you dodge school holidays, there are bargains to be had.
Neighbourhood: Quinta do Lago
Whether its a hen do or reunion, these villas are ideal for larger groups
Hen weekend, multi-gen reunion, big birthday – whatever the reason to celebrate, often a hotel doesn’t cut it (too cramped), but nor does a villa (too much housework). Fairways Four Seasons plugs the gap with cottages, apartments and houses scattered among tropical grounds, all of which get to use the hotel-style facilities: breakfast bar; fine dining for grown-ups; pools; gym and spa; bars; even a kids’ club. You’re a meander from the beach, or a short cycle, which is within the Ria Formosa Nature Reserve, so you can expect deserted sand spits, pristine lakes, and incredible bird life, rather than the Algarve high rises you might have been expecting.
Price: Seven nights in a two-bed apartment with Jacuzzi from £1,400, shorter stays possible
This gorgeous seaside hotel has a fish restaurant, beach café, champagne bar and more
Sometimes you just need a beachfront hotel, where you check in, lounge by the pool for a long weekend, cocktail in hand, before flying home again, heavier and happier. Pine Cliffs is the place: a gorgeous, white-and terracotta clutch of seaside spaces – fish restaurant, beach café, champagne bar, spa, endless pools, tennis courts – that mean you never need to leave. That’s not to say this isn’t authentic Portugal; gorgeous gardens of umbrella pines, cork trees and eucalyptus could only be the Algarve, framing that perfect Atlantic shoreline, where O Pescador awaits with a plate of sardines and Alentejo white wine. No surprise, then, that the Portuguese love this place just as much as the international crowd.
Neighbourhood: Vila Nova de Gaia
The gourmet destination hotel hosts a stunning breakfast view
Owned by a family in the Port trade since 1838, The Yeatman takes its food and drink so seriously, the outdoor swimming pool has been built in the shape of a decanter. Spa treatments involve merlot, honey, or cabernet grape skins, while the best suites have beds built within giant wine barrels. Believe us: you will not go hungry here. The design of the sprawling building is more modern than you might predict for a gourmet destination hotel, but this means Douro River views for all from its position on the hillside among Porto’s old port houses and wharves. This also means reaching Porto centre requires crossing the bridge by foot or shuttle.
Neighbourhood: Centro Porto
Infante Sagres is within walking distance of the cultural district
Porto’s not the biggest of cities, but it is hilly and cut in two by the River Douro – so the location of Infante Sagres, right in the walkable cultural district, is priceless. Two streets away you have Livraria Lello, an Insta-tastic bookstore and Hogwart’s inspiration to JK Rowling who once lived in Porto. One street closer, you have Rua de Galeria de Paris, a cobbled lane of famed fado bars and drinking dens; and around the corner is Igreja do Carmo church with the most photographed blue tiles in town. The hotel itself is a hub too, with traditional but spacious rooms that make you feel like a Porto resident, and a buzzing courtyard bar that lures locals. There’s a little rooftop plunge pool for sweltering summer days.
The rooftop pool is stylish yet unpretentious, and dare we say the best hotel pool in the capital
The One Palácio da Anunciada has the best hotel pool in the capital, in our opinion, and we’ve done our due diligence (we’ve even got pruney pool fingers to prove it). The classic limestone-tiled number is long enough for lengths, yet still intimate; it’s on the rooftop, but not intimidatingly high; and it’s stylish as hell, yet utterly unpretentious. Quite an achievement when you consider it’s built within a protected 16th-century Portuguese palace.
However, this does mean rooms within the original palace can be small or a little dark, though the restaurant, bar and lounges – with original azulejo tiles, sky-high ceilings, chandeliers and ballroom floors – are majestic spots you won’t want to leave anyway.
Surf, cycle, do yoga or simply embrace beach life
Cascais is to Lisbon what Brighton is to London – which means lots of second-homers and creatives who’ve chosen beach life over the rat race. Everyone either surfs, cycles, does yoga or golfs – at The Oitavos, you can do all of the above, while staying in hyper-modern digs. The building looks like a sleek tech HQ on the cliffside, and rooms feel futuristic too, with wall-to-ceiling glass and touch-close everything. Serious spa-goers will love the brilliant balneotherapy (seawater treatments) and spa circuit of jets, pools, and fountains.
Best hotels in Comporta
This stylish boutique resort offers a relaxing spa experience
Comporta is already as photogenic as coastlines come – a stretch of untouched dunes south of Lisbon, where fish restaurants and chic holiday homes hide in the pine forests behind. Quinta da Comporta matches its location on style: there’s a clear glass-walled swimming pool; thatched whitewashed cottages among long grasses; hand-made baskets designed to be light shades in one suite, or a beach towel receptacle in another. Put it this way: it’s one of those hotels where you don’t want to unpack until you’ve taken a photo of every single vase and scatter cushion. It’s very scene-y, so pack your coolest cossie, though surrounding Carvalhal village is laid-back and lovely, where you can have a night off being ‘seen’ and devour beef patties at Sal Burger.