Travel Review: Porto, Portugal


Taste the good life in Porto

Pick Porto for a weekend of indulgence in the most picturesque of surroundings

Words by Penny Clements

Perched on the banks of the Douro river, Portugal’s second biggest city offers an edgy and enticing spot for a short break

M.Ou.Co. Hotel Porto Portugal pool and bedroom

Porto is a total charmer; I’ve yet to meet a soul who has anything but amazing things to say about it. So, what makes it so special? Well, where to begin… For starters, it’s a visual feast – an incredible hodgepodge of steep criss-crossing streets, intricate architecture, colourful paintwork and beautifully ornate tiling. Then there’s the historic rattling trams that screech around, seemingly with a mind of their own, presenting a photo opportunity around every corner. And don’t even get me started on the food and drinks – white port and tonic over ice? I don’t mind if I do! And, brilliantly, it’s small enough to wander on foot, making this a place to truly feel at home in.

To sample this characterful city, my partner and I set our sights on Bonfim, a quiet residential area to the east of the city, just 15 minutes’ walk from the downtown area. Boasting a relaxed and effortlessly cool atmosphere, with delightful coffee shops and quirky bars at every turn, it’s easy to see why this area, on the edge of the city, has blossomed into a hub for a new wave of lifestyle hotels. It is the ideal base camp for urban explorers. Among these hip hotels is M.Ou.Co, which proudly calls the neighbourhood home.

Seamlessly blending concept and design-led interiors with vibrant social spaces and work areas, M.Ou.Co isn’t your average hotel. Set in a former electrical component factory, with its sleek minimalist architecture, it is part of a meticulous urban redevelopment project. Clean lines, organic textures, minimalist shapes and a neutral palette provide a soothing contrast to the colours of Porto. From the inviting subterranean breakfast area (serving some of the city’s finest coffee), to the plant-bedecked, exposed brick bar on the upper floor, and the rooftop swimming pool, everything here is utterly stylish. Social areas have a laidback, vintage California-cool vibe, furnished with giant leather chairs, midcentury furniture, and retro glass lamps. The 62 boutique bedrooms feature minimalist bathrooms, ambient lighting, embroidered bed linens, and, in some cases, personal turntables. Ours has a spacious and airy feeling, thanks to its high ceilings, polished concrete surfaces and large floor-to-ceiling windows that open onto a sunlit terrace.The rest of the hotel cleverly marries post-industrial leanings and soft edges, juxtaposing concrete elements with natural wood accents.

M.Ou.Co. Hotel Porto Portugal music room

But M.Ou.Co offers much more than just Palm Springs-styled interiors. Music is taken very seriously here, and a ‘Stay. Listen. Play.’ motto is hard-wired into the hotel’s DNA. Indeed, it is born from a passion for music, even the name M.Ou.Co (M: Música; Ou: Outras; Co: Coisas – translating as ‘music and other things’) emphasises how music is EVERYTHING at this hip hideaway. Music loving guests are encouraged to curate their own soundtrack for their stay by borrowing (for free) up to five records from the hotel’s extensive and carefully curated music library, or selecting a guitar from the front desk menu to strum in their room.

Whatever your musical leaning, they’ve got your tastes covered here, and – as you’d expect – the soundproof ng is impeccable, so you can rock out without fear of disturbing your neighbours. Moreover, M.Ou.Co boasts a music and wellness room and its very own underground concert venue with a capacity of 180 seated and 300 standing guests, adding yet another layer to the musical experience on offer.

When you’re ready to unwind, the sun-drenched rooftop oasis, equipped with secluded corners, comfortable loungers, and a saltwater swimming pool affording views over Porto’s rooftops, provides the perfect spot to soak up some rays, sip on a cocktail and relax. This laid-back theme continues in the other public spaces, too; lounge chairs, and white umbrellas flank the sandstone courtyard garden alongside the hotel’s bar and restaurant. Breakfast is a highlight here – expect a continental buffet-style spread, featuring an array of delectable options that offer something for every appetite. We tuck into a wide variety of hot and cold delights, from freshly baked pastries and bread to a selection of cheeses and cold cuts. Fresh fruits, yoghurt, and cereals are available for those seeking lighter fare, while hearty options like scrambled eggs, sausages and bacon provide a more substantial start to the day, all complemented by M.Ou.Co’s signature coffee blend, which is roasted to perfection.

After a hearty hotel breakfast, our daily dilemma revolves around where to dine next. We spend our time in Porto navigating through our tastebuds, immersing ourselves in the city’s many culinary delights. And we meet some wonderful people along the way, like husband-and-wife team Cátia and Tiago at Tia Tia – get it? (@tiatia.porto) Sharing M.Ou.Co’s passion for music and art, Tia Tia is so much more than simply a restaurant; it embodies a way of life. Tables are arranged so that people can mingle, talk to each other, share the fun and forge friendships, and the vibe here is like nowhere we’ve ever been before. The kitchen serves up a variety of small sharing plates alongside local natural wines, with each new day bringing a slight variation to the thoughtfully crafted, seasonal, and sustainable menu.

The playlist, too, changes to reflect the mood and time of day. All of the food is exquisite, but a standout is a delicious bowl of fresh asparagus tips and walnuts atop a warm and creamy carrot purée, sprinkled with seasonal spices and accompanied by soft, flame-grilled naan bread, and roasted cauliflower in a delectable coconut sauce – it is an utterly addictive combination! Tiago also surprises us with unique creations like his two-year cured banana mousse paired with São Jorge cheese, which is divine. Tia Tia is just one of the many marvellous places we discover during our stay; Porto is a city that’s as vibrant as it is delicious, with surprises around every corner, whether you’re a music lover, a foodie, or just looking for a good time. And there’s nowhere better to stay than M.Ou.Co.