Portugal’s New Douro 41 Luxury Hotel Is Changing The Douro Travel Experience

It was the office that made me fall desperately in love with Douro 41, a modern hotel in northern Portugal. (I’ve been in hotels for nearly two decades, long before it became popular, so let me humor.) In many places, the desk is pushed into the corner of a pretty hotel room, facing a boring white wall instead of Stunning room view.

At Douro 41 it was the opposite. The desk – big enough to spread my notes and papers – was in front of a solid glass wall, one of them in the room. Beyond this glass is the magnificent landscape of the Douro River and Douro Valley. Sometimes I would watch river cruises drift by our side. Others, I just appreciate the glint of sunlight and twinkle. My boyfriend had all these ideas about going hiking and swimming, but mostly I just wanted to sit at the desk and look at my computer and watch the world out the window.

Granted, I’m a nerd. And in fact, my job is to write in hotel rooms. Most people who check in at a hotel like Douro 41 will be there to relax rather than work. But I walk around the office because it is an example of how important landscape views are, and how clever the hotel design is to take advantage of it.

The hotel is a project of Discovery Hotel Management, part of an investment fund that buys distressed properties across Portugal and brings them back to life. In 2019 they completed a complete renovation of the resort hotel which is only about an hour away from Porto. The oldest parts date back to the 1700s, when it was a riverside farmhouse and trading port for wine and firewood.

Discovery also expanded the hotel, adding a series of rooms built on the hillside and with the best views. They are reached by a rugged funicular, something they roll in as part of the adventure and experience.

Or perhaps one could see it as a precursor to a greater adventure and experience, the Paiva Walkways, a 5.4-mile circuit on elevated walkways about an hour in the Arouca District, and the area’s newest attraction, the 516 Arouca Bridge. It is 516 meters (about 1,700 m) high. feet), the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the world.

Of course, if the funicular is too much, one can always stay at the bottom of the hotel, or go up the stairs. After all, the experience is meant to relax.

This relaxation often takes the form of contemplating nature, its calm and serenity, whether from the guest rooms, one of the three swimming pools, or along the riverside walking paths that leave the hotel. The landscape is more woodland than vineyard, as the hotel is closer to the Atlantic coast than to the terraced vineyards for which the Douro Valley is famous. (It’s not actually in the Douro wine region, but rather in the Vinho Verde region, which doesn’t really mean anything going for guests, other than explaining the origin of the house wine.)

General Manager Duarte Gonçalves da Cunha assured me that this was not a liability. “We are just different from quinta (The winery),” he says, noting that guests usually combine a stay at one of those who spend time on his property. “There is no visual impact of the vineyards, so we don’t sell ourselves as a wine experience.

“But,” he continues, “we have 83 or 84 Port wine references. This is the most you can see outside of Yeatman,” the famous luxury wine-themed hotel and two-Michelin-star restaurant in the port’s warehouse district of Vila Nova de Gaia, across from The river from Porto.

They also have a knowledgeable and enthusiastic sommelier, Bernardo Pinho, who leads on-demand wine tastings and oversees pairings and an impressive wine list at Riva Restaurant (named after a nearby town). Chef Dárcio Henriques grew up on a farm and developed a deep love for the land and the things it produces.

Between his childhood and now, he has worked with Joël Robuchon in Paris, opened the first Portuguese restaurant in Shanghai, and earned a Michelin star as team captain at Céleste at the Lanesborough Hotel in London. (The only Portuguese to win a star abroad that year.) But for this project closer to home (he signed on as executive chef in September), it’s still local produce that inspires him.

The number 41 in the hotel’s name refers to its location on the river, at kilo 41. Each dish on the menu in Raiva includes a number associated with its location, both in Portugal and deep in Spain. Atlantic sea bass, served with broccoli puree and velouté, comes from kilometer 1, while the wonderful autumnal mushrooms served with crunchy, low-temperature eggs come from kilometer 48.

There are a few extensions, such as 123 that refer to the accompanying chard rather than the salmon that is the star of this dish, but it’s still a worthwhile dish. I was a particular fan of the cheese platter at 897, which contains cheeses from the length of the river valley. And in a nod to the times and international hotel guests, there’s an all-vegetarian version of the five-course menu, which is still closely associated with the river.

Also connected to the river is the perfect way to get in and out of the hotel. Douro 41 has partnered with Invictus Cruises to take guests by boat from Vila Nova de Gaia, past Porto’s most colorful neighborhoods and architectural bridges, and upstream to the hotel’s private jetty. It’s better than looking out the window of my hotel room.

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