Spa Review: The Spa @ Sheraton Porto Hotel, Portugal

Stepping off the elevator, we’re greeted by the minimalistic lobby of The Spa (aptly named). In case we’ve forgotten which floor you’re on, the words are engraved onto a bronze plaque on the floor.

The Spa Sheraton Porto Hotel and spaA friendly face at the reception desk takes our room number and then shows us the dressing rooms (separate male and female).

The spa at the Sheraton Porto Hotel is a sprawling level, consisting of various water and heat therapies. The dressing room was elegantly appointed with wonderfully lit vanities and digital lockers. I slipped into a soft, creamy toweling robe and donned the rather strange looking rubber slippers. The main room, also the largest relaxation area, contains a wonderful heated vitality pool, big enough to still feel spacious when at capacity. In front of the ample pool are arranged several ergonomic loungers covered in bright orange towels.

The Spa Sheraton Porto Hotel and spa

We choose two loungers at the far end and settle into them, adjusting the backrest to our perfect specifications via the handy remote.

The Spa Sheraton Porto Hotel and spaBut it isn’t long before the lure of the tranquil swimming pool calls out. Slipping into the warm waters is heaven. The pool is virtually deserted, and perfect for lap swimming, if you’re so inclined.

The Spa Sheraton Porto Hotel and spa

I much rather preferred to try the hot tub. The hot tub was very popular, and several people lazed inside; some applying the traditional jet therapy to their backs and necks, whilst others preferred the more efficient hydromassage from the gushing showerheads at the center of the jacuzzi.

As the crowds in the jacuzzi swelled, we decided to try some of the heat therapies. We made our way to the herbal sauna. The room was dimmed to perfection and eerily quiet. The only sounds appeared, like clockwork, when the wooden bucket tilted to release a burst of water onto the hot stones below creating a hiss of herbal steam.

The Spa Sheraton Porto Hotel and spa

There is also the option to enjoy a more traditional steam room, but much preferring dry saunas to steam rooms; we quickly showered and opted to try the salt inhalation laconium next. This was by far my favorite heat experience at The Spa.

Much cooler than the other saunas, the room gave off an oriental feel, and the dim lighting and red mosaic tiled couches welcomed us. Breathing deeply into the salty air, I felt myself totally relax. When too hot, we hosed off with cool water and continued in our meditative state. After 20 minutes in the laconium, I felt completely rejuvenated, and the niggling muscle aches I’d been carrying around that week evaporated.

The Spa Sheraton Porto Hotel and spaThe Spa Sheraton Porto Hotel and spa

Apart from these wonderful water and heat experience The Spa at the Sheraton Porto Hotel also features a fully functional gym with state of the art workout machines. Our time at the hotel did not permit us to try the gym, but I would have loved to have tried one of their Fitness by Core Performance classes.

There is also a yoga room, and a small but beautiful Zen Garden – complete with soft wicker couches and a trickling waterfall to totally relax your mind and soul.

The Spa Sheraton Porto Hotel and spaThe Spa Sheraton Porto Hotel and spaThe spa treatments at the Sheraton Porto Hotel are reasonably and wonderfully priced, so we booked massages for the next day. Being a huge fan of the ESPA range we opted to try their ESPA body treatment – an hour long aromatherapy massage.

We arrived at the spa the next afternoon after a very long day of sightseeing around Porto, and we were really looking forward to a relaxing afternoon at The Spa. My legs were sore from walking endlessly around the city, and I felt in desperate need of a good massage. My therapist was simply fantastic. Welcoming and extremely friendly, she led me to the treatment room where I prepared for my massage.

The next hour went by in a blur, but to be honest, as a person who has had her fair share of massages in her lifetime – I can truthfully say this was by far the best massage I had ever experienced. From the perfect pressure to the quick responsiveness of my therapist, I felt complete and utter bliss for a full hour as she worked on my tired muscles. Afterwards I felt like a new person, deeply relaxed and completely peaceful as I sipped on green cinnamon tea. We were shown to the relaxation room were we spent a good half hour, eyes closed, reveling in the wonder of The Spa.

The Spa Sheraton Porto Hotel and spa

Modern Luxury in the Heart of Porto

Hotel Review : Sheraton Porto Hotel and Spa, Porto – Portugal

The Sheraton Porto Hotel and Spa is a 5-star oasis of tranquility in Porto, a short metro/taxi ride from the city’s attractions. The modern steel and glass structure sits in the heart of Porto’s business district, and from the moment you set foot onto the red carpet, you know you’re on to something special.

SONY DSC Sheraton Porto Hotel and Spa

We arrived earlier than anticipated, and of course, check in was not for hours yet, but the very accommodating reception staff ensured that our luggage was whisked away, we were given temporary room cards and shown to the club lounge on the 12th floor. Here we enjoyed a drink and caught up on emails thanks to the high-speed, complimentary wi-fi.

Sheraton Porto Hotel and Spa

The club lounge is an access-limited feature of the Sheraton hotels, giving club member (or guests staying at the club floors) some additional perks such as complimentary internet access, and the privilege of using the club lounge.  In the lounge, you find a little relaxation space, with comfy couches, a computer with printing facilities, and a large screen TV. There are complimentary snacks throughout the day, and we enjoyed an aperitif each evening before dinner of Porto’s signature drink; Port wine.  The club rooms are also typically positioned on higher floors, ensuring sweeping views over the city.

Sheraton Porto Hotel and SpaSheraton Porto Hotel and Spa

Club members can also choose to have breakfast in the lounge, although I wouldn’t recommend it if your stay already includes breakfast, as the Porto Novo restaurant, in my opinion is a far superior option. But more on that later.

After spending about an hour and a half in the lounge, I went back to the reception to enquire about the availability of our room. I must add at this point, the elevators in this hotel are truly amazing. So speedy, and so silent, I often got the buoyant feeling of being on a Disneyworld ride each time I went up to the room. By this time, our room was ready, and we headed up to the 10th floor, to find our luggage had already been placed inside. The room was large, airy and bright. Faultlessly clean with white linens, and plenty of soft towels. I found delicious smelling toiletries, the same ones we’ve had at previous stays at Sheraton. However, there was no little bottle of mouthwash this time – I am not sure if they have decided not to leave these in the rooms anymore?

Sheraton Porto Hotel and SpaSheraton Porto Hotel and SpaSheraton Porto Hotel and Spa

There was plenty of closet space, and we quickly unpacked the essentials, getting the suitcases out of the way. It had been a long week, and seeing as the weather was grey and dull, we headed to The Spa to enjoy the heated pools and saunas.  (I’ll be writing a post on our amazing spa experiences soon).

We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing on the comfy day beds in the spa, before heading into the historic city centre (UNESCO World Heritage site) for dinner.

The Sheraton Porto Hotel and Spa is not a small hotel – with 12 floors and over 260 rooms, but the level of service we experienced at the hotel was second to none.  I loved the décor, from the use of modern glass and steel that merges effortlessly with the more traditional wood and marble.

Our room was quite large and the king size bed was super comfy. We found enough plug sockets for 2 iPads, both our phones, and a camera, all conveniently located – without having to move a couch or unplug a lamp.

Sheraton Porto Hotel and Spa

The bathroom was big and wonderfully lit – not the type of hotel where you needed to squint around in a dimly lit space to apply your makeup. His and hers sinks was convenient, and the ample-sized bathtub was a draw card which faced the room via a glass wall. But if you’re not travelling as a couple, fear not, there are blinds that can section off the bathroom to ensure privacy. There is also a separate shower and a separate toilet –which I appreciate.

Sheraton Porto Hotel and SpaSheraton Porto Hotel and SpaSheraton Porto Hotel and Spa

The next morning we enjoyed a spectacular breakfast at the Porto Novo restaurant on the lobby level. I loved the breakfast at this restaurant because the food choices were so vast (both hot and cold options) with everything from fresh fruit to made-to-order eggs and omelets. I enjoyed pancakes one morning topped with fresh berries and drizzled in maple syrup. A mimosa added to the relaxing feeling of being on holiday.

Sheraton Porto Hotel and Spa

The reception staff were ever-willing to hand out maps and point us in the right direction for all the city’s major sights. And after a long day of sightseeing, battling the famous Porto winds a little bit, we welcomed the opportunity to return to our luxurious room ach afternoon, slip into our swimsuits and decompress in the Jacuzzi.

The New Yorker bar located in the lobby is the ideal spot to enjoy a cocktail or three, as the soothing sounds of the grand piano envelopes the room. Plush carpeting, richly textured couches and expertly mixed drinks all add to the feeling of glamour.

SONY DSC SONY DSC Sheraton Porto Hotel and Spa

All in all, I found the Sheraton Porto Hotel and Spa to be the perfect hotel in Porto, whether you’re travelling for business or leisure. The location may not suit everyone, particularly those wishing to stay in the historical centre itself, but I found the location perfect for sightseeing, and enough removed from the city hub to give a sense of calm.

SONY DSC Sheraton Porto Hotel and Spa

The level of service is what one would come to expect from a 5 star establishment: courteous and highly efficient.

The design of the hotel itself is impressive, and the imposing all glass façade is a feast on the eyes.

Sheraton Porto Hotel and Spa

I would not certainly hesitate, for a second, to stay the Sheraton Porto Hotel and Spa when in Porto again.

SONY DSCRates from 90€ for a deluxe room, to 2000€ for the presidential suite. Club rooms rates begin at 156€. 1 Night spa packages from 190€ pp sharing. For more information and specials, please go to the hotel’s official website.

Disclaimer: We received a complimentary upgrade to club level at the Sheraton Porto Hotel and spa. All opinions expressed in this review however, remain completely my own.

The Devil’s in the Design

Hotel Review: Farol Design Hotel – Cascais, Portugal

I heard about Farol Design Hotel from the Design Hotels (designhotels.com) online newsletter.

The first thing that struck me was the mysterious moniker: “On the Water”. I was enticed.

Further research was required. My sleuthing led me to extraordinary online images of delirious waves crashing violently over jagged rocks. Those pictures oozed mystery and wild abandon. I was in love. I read traveller reviews, scoured a few airline fares, and viola, a trip to Cascais was born.

Crashing waves, Farol Design Hotel

Wild and Mysterious

The hotel is situated approximately 40 minutes by car from Lisbon airport, on the Estoril Coast. The drive can be a bit tricky if you’re not a local, so I’d recommend employing a GPS navigator. The town of Cascais itself is a pretty little fishing village complete with a sleepy marina and a proud lighthouse. We found that is was relatively easy to make day trips to nearby Sintra and Lisbon by car.

Lighthouse cascais, Farol Design

Marina

Upon arrival, we found plenty of parking space. I particularly loved the huge sculpture at the entrance with the bent-over man proffering a flower. These savvy sculptural details could be found throughout the hotel, and added to the quirky, design feel of the property.

Design Farol Design Hotel

Quirky

Design 2 Farol Design Hotel

The hotel itself, a renovated 19th century mansion handsomely married to a new, modern wing which had been added to house the restaurant and some additional guest rooms. The breathtaking blinding white exterior with space-age loungers certainly fed my taste for contemporary and modern design.

Farol Design Hotel

Old and New

The hotel comprises of 20 guest rooms, 3 suites, and a penthouse. 9 additional ‘designer’ rooms (fashioned by different designers) offered guests the chance to experience a unique haven.

We had booked a sea view room, and were expecting some of the stunning views that are showcased on the hotel’s website. However we were hugely disappointed to find that ‘sea view’ meant only a small window that one could peer out of onto pool and sea. There was no balcony from which we could enjoy the views.

Window Farol Design Hotel Sea View Room

Sea View, if you’re literal

Furthermore, it seemed our room was situated in the ‘old’ section of the hotel, and the dark wooden beams criss-crossing the ceiling lent a dark and dreary look to the room. I was quickly disenchanted by the huge contrast from the contemporary appearance of the lobby and common areas, to the aged look of our room.

Sea View Room Farol Design Wood Beams

Not my cup of tea

We decided not to let our disappointment over the room ruin our romantic vacation away, and after unpacking we headed out to explore the property a little more. The relatively small grounds lead out onto the magnificent pool area. The sleek rectangular design of the pool flowed perfectly into the rocky backdrop of pounding waves. It was heavenly to sit out there, sun beating down and just enjoy the remarkable views.

Cleverly, the entire perimeter was fenced by clear panes, allowing for uninhibited views of the ocean. Stone and concrete flooring gave the impression of stylishly earthy finishes.

View Farol Design Hotel

View from our room (through the window)

The pool sparkled like a jewel but the water was freezing and made any hope of swimming disappear. Sleek sun loungers lined the wall closest to the pool while comfy day beds lay strewn along the patch of lawn.

Pool Farol Design Hotel

Sparkling

On our first day, we tried the Sushi bar, Sushi Design. The sushi was beautifully presented, and the taste and quality were exceptional. We would have liked to return for another meal, but we quite enjoyed finding local restaurants in the area instead. We never visited the Mix Restaurant, so unfortunately I can’t offer any advice on that. However the stunning décor of the restaurant left me breathless. Huge flower-petal chandeliers hung from the ceiling, and the mixture of chrome, glass, black and white made for a very extravagant setting.

Restaurant Farol Design Hotel

Extravagant

Breakfast was included in our rate, and comprised of the usual hot and cold selections. Several made-to-order items were also available, such as pancakes or omelets, but one had to ask (or read the menu’s fine print). We ate out on the terrace every day, as we could not get enough of the magnificent views. The pancakes were outstanding and we found the patisserie fresh and tasty –not a dried croissant in sight!

Breakfast View Farol Design Hotel

What a view!

The breakfast staff were extremely polite and friendly. We had celebrated Mr Wolf’s birthday on this trip, and I had made mention of this to the waiter during breakfast. And what do you know… as we were finishing our coffees, the exceptionally sweet waiters brought over a birthday cake and two glasses of champagne to our table, on the house. It was a lovely, unexpected gesture and we really enjoyed the moment. Great service really goes a long way in creating lasting memories.

Birthday Surprise Farol Design Hotel

Happy Birthday


What I loved:
  • Bar on the Rocks: The poolside servers were very efficient, and soon after ordering, we had our cocktail of choice in hand. The bar prices are somewhat higher than typical hotels in the area, but the hotel’s 5 stars, and its affiliation to the Design Hotels group would certainly have contributed to that. All in all, for the exceptional views, stunning décor, and efficient services, I did not find the prices prohibitive at all.
  • Views to die for. I finally understood “On the Water”. It was literal.

On the Water farol Design Hotel

On the Water


What I didn’t love:
  • I’ll say it again and again. I hated the wooden beams and the darkness of the room. I wanted a bright, modern space. It’s what sold me on the hotel in the first place!
  • The neon lighting along the pool area at night: Fancy? Yes. Luxurious and fitting for a 5 star hotel? No.

Night lights farol Design Hotel

In summary, once I got over the disappointment of our room, I quite enjoyed my stay at Farol Design Hotel. The staff interact well with guests and are very friendly and helpful in terms of giving directions or suggestions for local activities, restaurants etc. The contemporary design appealed to me, but should extend to all guest rooms to ensure the flow is maintained.

That being said, I probably wouldn’t return to this hotel.

This post was featured in iAfrica Travel on 11 June 2013

Disclaimer: No part of this vacation (travel, accommodation or otherwise) was paid for by Farol Design Hotel. The views expressed in this review are from my own personal experience, and have not been prejudiced in any form.