1872 River House

Porto, Douro & Minho, Portugal Book from

Reviewed by Abi Dare
An intimate and beautifully renovated B&B, set by the water’s edge in Porto’s UNESCO-listed old town
Tumbling down towards the Douro, the historic Ribeira district is a beguiling jumble of sun-dappled squares, crumbling townhouses and laundry-strung lanes. At its very heart, right on the riverbank, sits this sophisticated little B&B - a tall, skinny mansion in salmon pink, reached via a stained-glass walkway that casts colourful reflections over the cobbles outside.

Born in 2014 from the ashes of a 19th-century building damaged by fire, it ticks all the boxes for an easy break in Portugal’s buzzing second city. The 8 rooms (some facing the water, others the rooftops) are impeccably restored, with sleek furniture, sink-into beds and swish rain showers alongside exposed stone walls and heavy wooden shutters. The friendly team will point you in the direction of museums, galleries and restaurants, and the famous port lodges of Vila Nova de Gaia are just across the river. And when you tire of sightseeing, feasting and wine-tasting, you can amble back to the lounge and relax with a drink as barges chug slowly past.

Highs

  • An unbeatable location near restaurants and sights - and Tram No.1, which rattles along to the beach, stops right outside
  • We loved the views over the Douro from the lounge and many rooms
  • Breakfast is served until a lazy 1pm - perfect for indulgent holiday lie-ins
  • Smiling staff who are passionate about their city and keen to make you feel at home
  • You’ll get a handy code providing free WiFi across Porto

Lows

  • A couple of rooms have open-plan ensuites (not for those who like their privacy), though toilets are enclosed
  • Not ideal for kids, with no extra beds or baby cots and a serene atmosphere that's best suited to couples or friends
  • Some street noise, particularly from side-facing City View Rooms
  • Don't expect a full-service hotel; this is very much a B&B and it's not staffed around the clock

Best time to go

The B&B is open year-round. Come between April and September for balmy weather, or choose autumn if you want to catch the grape harvest in the nearby Douro Valley. June sees Porto come alive with fireworks, music and street parties thanks to the annual Festival of São João - it’s a fascinating time to visit, but don’t count on getting much sleep!

Our top tips

  • Hop aboard the wood-panelled Tram No.1, which stops right outside the B&B, and clatter along the river to the former fishing village of Foz do Douro. Once there, head for the glam beach bars on Praia da Luz, sip cocktails, and watch the sun set over the Atlantic
  • Wander up to São Bento, the city’s main station, which is covered in tiled panels depicting Portuguese history. It’s worth a look even if you’re not taking a train

Great for...

City Style
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique B&B
  • 8
  • Breakfast only (restaurants nearby)
  • All ages welcome but not ideal
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room: River View Room

Rooms

The 8 rooms are packed with original features - smart shutters, exposed stone walls, swathes of ornate azulejos; one even has a bed nestled beneath a huge hearth. Furniture is a carefully chosen blend of old and new, the ensuite shower rooms are clad in elegant black and white tiling, and vintage jugs filled with fresh flowers are dotted here and there. Wonderfully comfy double or twin beds are piled with pillows and cushions, and snazzy TVs pop up from discreet boxes at their feet at the touch of a button.

We were lucky enough to stay in a River View Room, and it’s definitely worth paying a little more for one of these. They look out over the Douro and a couple open onto narrow balconies. The cheaper City View Rooms lack the watery vista and aren't quite as spacious, but they're lovely nonetheless. Two rooms (one a River View, the other a City View) are set into the eaves at the top of the building and come in gleaming white, with sparkling chandeliers and open-plan showers behind glass panels. These are the only rooms with wardrobes; others have small hanging rails.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Central heating
  • Hairdryer
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

Breakfast is included in the rates and available anytime between 8.30am and 1pm. It's served in the stone-walled lounge, which gazes out across the river, and there's no better start to the day than munching croissants as boats pootle by. The simple but tasty spread includes the normal pastries, cheese, fruit and cereals, plus eggs cooked to order and freshly brewed coffee; the frothy cappuccinos are particularly good.

No other meals are available, but you can ask for hot drinks and wines (including port, of course); there's also a bar with a waterside terrace just next door. And when it comes to dining out, Porto’s burgeoning culinary scene means there’s plenty of choice, from contemporary sushi joints to traditional family-run restaurants built into the old city walls. There’s also a string of eateries along the nearby Cais da Ribeira, where tables spill out onto the bustling quayside.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Restaurants nearby
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Explore Ribeira, a World Heritage site where soaring bell towers, Baroque churches and peeling townhouses are seemingly piled on top of each other. Don’t miss the views from the 19th-century Funicular dos Guindais, which swoops up from the quayside
  • Head across the river to the port lodges of Vila Nova de Gaia (almost all offer tastings and tours), then float along the Douro on a boat trip under its famous bridges, including the iconic Ponte Dom Luís
  • Catch a jazz, classical or pop performance at the striking Casa de Música
  • Soak up the sights, sounds and smells of Porto’s most authentic market, the Mercado do Bolhão, which has barely changed in a century. You'll find dangling pigs’ hooves, barnacles, live roosters and seasonal fruit
  • Browse Lello, a beautifully ornate bookshop in the university quarter
  • Nibble sugary pastries served by white-jacketed waiters at the wood-panelled, chandeliered Café Majestic

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Music and theatre
  • Nightlife
  • Private guided tours
  • Shopping / markets
  • Wine tasting

Kids

Children of all ages are welcome, but we feel this intimate and serene B&B is best suited to couples. No extra beds or baby cots are available.

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
9/
Food
10/
Service
9/
Value
9/
Overall

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