Design-forward with a few flaws: A review of Hilton’s Boeira Garden Hotel Porto Gaia in Portugal
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Porto, on the shores of the Douro River in Portugal, is a charismatic city famous for its port wine, one of the country’s most famous exports. But a majority of those port wine cellars aren’t actually located in Porto itself; instead, they’re across the river, in a town called Gaia.
And not far from those cellars is Hilton’s Boeira Garden Hotel Porto Gaia, part of the mega-chain’s Curio Collection. The hotel is located amid historical gardens and a winery from the beginning of the 20th century.
Boeira Garden Hotel has a dose of old-world charm mixed with modern sensibilities and minimalist design. While the hotel has a few major design quirks, my two-night stay provided everything that I needed on a Portugal trip earlier this year.
Here’s what you should know about Boeira Garden Hotel Porto Gaia:
Right off the bat, there’s something positive about the Boeira Garden Hotel: Price. As a four-star property, the hotel strikes an ideal balance of affordability, a solid location and desired amenities.
Cash prices are in the $125 to $200 range per night for a base-level King Deluxe room. Alternatively, you can use Hilton Honors points. Since Hilton has a dynamic pricing scheme, the number of points per night can vary significantly. For my dates in mid-July, I needed about 40,000 points per night.
TPG values a single Hilton point at about 0.6 cents, so in many cases, it may be a better deal to pay outright in cash. (Consider 40,000 Hilton points to be worth approximately $240.) That’s exactly what I did with my own booking, using cash to book my two-night stay.
Boeira Garden Hotel is close to the heart of the action without being totally immersed in it.
It’s across from the historic center of Porto, but the views that you’re likely accustomed to seeing of that charming city are actually from this side of the Douro River, in Gaia. Walking from the property to the heart of Porto will take about 30 minutes (with spectacular views along the way) or is a quick Uber ride costing several euros.
Overall, Porto and the surrounding area is postcard-perfect, and this Hilton property feels like a mini-refuge after a long day of visiting sights.
Upon first arriving, there’s a grand entrance to the Boeira Garden Hotel. You’ll turn into a long driveway flanked by lush greenery and art pieces, just part of the overall design aesthetic of the property.
You’ll also notice the architectural elements, which stand out with clean, modern lines and ample use of bare concrete, giving a nearly Brutalist, austere look.
I really liked the overall design of the structure, but I had to admit that the style also felt a bit cold at the same time. The exterior of the hotel contrasts significantly with how most of Gaia appears. This appearance continued inside, too.
Directly across from the main building was the outdoor pool area, including a gorgeous yellow house with flowers blooming beside it. The structure was actually an administrative building for the hotel, so no guests stayed there.
Adjacent to check-in was a small water feature and nature area that made for a perfect spot to sit with a cup of coffee in the morning.
The actual check-in process was a breeze, with a friendly front desk agent recognizing my Hilton Diamond status and even providing an unprompted complimentary upgrade to a suite.
The reception area was nicely appointed, but it wasn’t the most inviting environment considering the all-white flooring and lighting. More carpeting and less harsh lighting would have done wonders to make the space a bit more welcoming.
After getting my room keys, I parked my car in the underground garage, which offers complimentary parking for all guests, and proceeded to check out the room itself.
On the way to the room, I noted the hotel’s bare walls. I’m not sure why the walls were so empty, but some decor would have done a lot to liven the space up.
Once I arrived at and explored the room itself, however, I noticed it was well-appointed, with warmer tones than the rest of the hotel and features that made me feel more at ease.
First, there was a decent-sized living room that opened onto the outdoor balcony. I loved the use of carpeting and red upholstery to give the space some flair.
Outside, on the balcony, there were two seats and retractable sunshades, providing views of rooms across the way and a peek of the pool.
The weather was picture-perfect during my stay, so I spent a lot of time on the balcony in the mornings.
Back inside, I scanned the rest of the living room.
There was a mini-fridge, coffee maker, and plenty of closet and luggage storage space by the entrance of the suite.
Over in the bedroom, the space featured a king-sized bed, a large, mirrored television mounted to the wall and a shallow desk below the TV. The bed was the perfect balance of plush and supportive, while the blackout blinds obscured even the slightest hint of light.
The bathroom was tastefully designed, with white marble and detailed touches including plush, monogrammed bathrobes and towels with the Boeira logo.
However, I did notice that these bathrobes were very small. In general, I find sizing in Europe to be on the smaller side and not particularly inclusive for all body types.
One aspect of the bathroom experience that I always notice is water pressure, and this hotel shower was excellent.
While not quite at the level of five-star properties, the Boeira Garden hotel had plenty of amenities.
My room was in an area of the hotel connected by an impressive glass walkway to the other facilities.
The pool area was across from the main complex and lobby.
Overall, the hotel impressed me with its gorgeous outdoor spaces that blended nature, art and design together.
There were chaise lounge chairs, high tops and an array of other seating by the pool. Besides the champagne and fruit-infused water available there, you could order any food or drink item inside the main hotel restaurant and have it brought to the pool area.
A fully-equipped gym was on the basement level, near the spa.
Speaking of the spa, I got a 60-minute massage which was excellent. Pricing was very reasonable as well, at 60 euros. However, the overall design of the spa was like a lot of the other public spaces – a bit sterile.
However, the indoor pool area by the spa was gorgeous.
Throughout the property, the landscaping was perfectly manicured. This really stood out to me and made for the perfect ambiance at the end of a busy day.
While there is a kids club and rooftop “Sky Lounge,” neither facility was open at the time of my stay in July.
In addition, there’s a cool-looking building in the shape of a wine bottle next to the pool, typically used for wine tastings. However, those events have been suspended during the pandemic.
Food and beverage
Porto has a wide array of amazing restaurants and is known for seafood and other specialties.
The hotel’s dining options were very limited, however. At the time of my stay, only the lobby-level restaurant, Raizes, was open.
And overall, it was fairly disappointing.
The good news: Raizes served a breakfast buffet with a healthy number of choices, both cold and hot. Breakfast is complimentary for Hilton Gold and Diamond elites, and the design of the restaurant was lovely.
The restaurant branded itself as contemporary Portuguese, but there were only a small number of selections for both lunch and dinner.
I ordered a steak on my first night at the hotel and while it was cooked to my liking (medium rare), it was not a very good cut of meat. The fries were delicious, though.
Meanwhile, the 1850 lobby bar was closed due to a shortage of staff. It did look like it could be a pleasant place to have a drink before going into Porto for dinner.
Room service was not available due to a lack of staffing.
Of course, with such an emphasis on wine, the hotel also had its own wine warehouse and cellar with plenty of local selections.
Overall, the service was polite and well-intentioned, but it was clear that the hotel needed more staff on hand as it ramped back up. While I was a bit disappointed to see the bar and rooftop still closed, I wasn’t that surprised, either, since Portugal had reopened to tourists only a month earlier.
One thing that I found strange was that the in-room phone didn’t have buttons to dial any other location in the hotel, so you couldn’t call the front desk easily with any questions.
A note on accessibility
The Boeira Garden Hotel offers several accessible rooms with mobility features for entry or passage doors that provide 32” of clear width. All public areas of the hotel are also accessible, and there is a swimming pool hoist for pool access.
Porto is one of those cities that has a perfect postcard feel. But it’s more than just a beautiful place. It’s an underrated foodie city surrounded by vineyards and port cellars and is the gateway to one of Portugal’s most beautiful regions, the Douro Valley.
The Boeria Garden Hotel is a semi-hidden getaway to base yourself at while staying in Porto. Its design isn’t for everyone, but overall, its blend of affordability, amenities and location should be suitable for most travelers looking for a premium hotel in the area.
Featured photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy.
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