Background and Concept
Located in a 17th-century building next to Praça da Ribeira on Porto’s beautiful riverfront with views of the famous Dom Luís I Bridge, the building has had many faces over the centuries; from a private residence, coffee and chocolate warehouse, and even a football club – Clube Futebol Os Ribeirenses.
A substantial renovation process in 2018 transformed the building into Gran Cruz House a beautifully restored boutique heritage hotel. Perfectly sized with just seven rooms and an intimate hotel restaurant, it doesn’t get any more quintessentially Porto than a stay here.
If you want to be right in the heart of Porto this property ticks all the boxes. Located on Porto’s historic riverfront, you are surrounded by lively bars and restaurants, Porto’s beautiful Dom Luís I Bridge is a two minute walk from the hotel, it’s a five minute walk up the hill into central Porto and the historical Number 1 tram line to the beach is close by too. Not to mention Sao Bento train and metro station are a seven-minute walk away providing fast and frequent access to Porto’s airport.
Look and Feel
If you want to immerse yourself in the world or Port, then this is the ideal hotel to stay, from the decorative details throughout the building and in each of the guest rooms, to the cute bar in the reception and the restaurant’s wine cellar with over 60 leading vintages. Or the gift of a bottle of Porto Cruz left in each room for you to enjoy during your stay, careful thought has been given to the whole guest experience.
After finding the hotel reception, it is discreetly tucked away, we were given a warm welcome, bags taken for us and we sat down at the bar. A glass of Port was offered to us (how can you say no!) and the manager took the time to go through a map of the city highlighting all the must-do attractions, which was super helpful! Armed with maps and new-found local knowledge, we made out way to our bedroom.
Small, but perfectly formed, the hotel is boutique in size with just seven rooms over four floors – all with views looking out to the river.
No two rooms are alike and each one has been named after a different Port (Pink , White, Ruby, Tawny, Reserve, LBV and Vintage). Interiors take inspiration from the colour palette of the Porto Cruz promotional campaign whose slogan is “The Country where Black is Colour”. The central figure is the “Woman in Black, a brand icon that has existed for almost four decades. Seven contemporary artists (Ângela Ferreira (Kruella D’Enfer), Albuquerque Mendes, João Jales, Jorge Curval, José Emídio, Rui Anahory and Tamara Alves.) were then given the challenge of reinterpreting the Woman in Black and the results are wonderful.
Each room is finished differently and the bathroom door on each room has been turned into an artwork highlighting architecture, drawing, illustration and fashion exhibitions that have been the focus of Espaço Porto Cruz (Gran Cruz visitor centre) on the other side of the river.
Worth noting that there are two types of rooms: front-facing and side-facing. The front-facing rooms are larger and have views of the bridge, while the side rooms are smaller and don’t have a view of the bridge, but you can still see the river. The sixth-floor room on the roof is, painted white and includes exposed ceiling beams and if you want a room with a balcony then head to the fourth floor.
All rooms have a minibar (that includes a free bottle of Gran Cruz and complimentary water) air conditioning and television as standard – Bathrooms are large and well-appointed, with powerful showers, marble and beautiful brass fittings and bidet with amenities by Portus Cale a beautiful Portuguese brand.
I loved our room, its crisp fresh almost nautical theme made the space feel airy and bright.
View during the day
View in the evening
I was in awe of the view and sat by the bedroom window sipping a cocktail for a good half an hour just looking out towards the horizon. One point to highlight, being right in the centre of town, does mean there is a constant buzz of noise throughout the day. We did wonder if this would continue into the night, but things quietened down and by midnight the centre was deserted so there was no issue with getting to sleep.
Food and Drink
A highlight of the hotel is the in-house restaurant Casario, whose name is inspired by the historic jumble of houses surrounding the hotel. The restaurant is led by chefs Chef Miguel Castro Silva and Chef José Guedes a partnership which has stemmed from their work together over several years at the restaurant De Castro Gaia at Espaço Porto Cruz.
The menu is built around the idea of sharing with three or four small plates suggested being eaten between two people. Dishes such as the Lula and Shrimp Lollipop, the Roasted Pumpkin Ravioli with Almond, the Sea Bass Rice with Saffron and Lemon or the Bísaro Pork, Savoy Cabbage and Portuguese Sauce are examples of the dynamism of the Casario menu.
If you want to be guided by the chef their five-course tasting menu will take you on a journey through the menu with smaller portions off the a la carte menu. Food is expertly paired with wine from their portfolio of 60 port and Douro wine offerings from Dalva, Porto Cruz and Quinta de Ventozelo.
Here is a selection of dishes that we tried, one thing to mention is if you don’t really know your wines or what goes best with what let the staff help you out – they really know their stuff and are able to pair up the perfect wine for each course or dish.
An à la carte breakfast, which is included in the room price, is served between 8 am and 11 am, featuring local breads and pastries, fruit and yogurt, ham and cheese, pancakes and eggs cooked to your liking, it’s a great breakfast! We dined inside in the evening and decided to sit outside for breakfast and catch the morning sun.
Gran Cruz is a real find, it’s so small that you feel like you have the whole place to yourself, the staff are wonderful and the price point for a stay is very reasonable in terms of the whole experience. We highly recommend it. The property is featured on our guide to the best hotel in Porto.