To see: The Serralves Foundation ____ If you happen upon a gray gentleman chain-smoking at the Serralves Foundation, do not alert the docents. He is most likely Alvaro Siza, the Pritzker Prize-winning architect, whose unofficial stance is: “I designed the building, so I ought to be able to smoke in it.” The museum is an architectural feast: narrow stairwells open out onto expansive rooms with vaulted ceilings. Light floods in via floor-to-ceiling windows, through which you can glimpse the foundation’s lush grounds (there are more than 200 plant species over 44 acres). Yet the building can be challenging for a curator. “The architecture is part of the permanent collection,” says Suzanne Cotter, who has been the museum’s director since 2012. To celebrate Serralves’s 15th anniversary, she put on Histories: Works from the Serralves Collection, a show of work by Dahn Vo, Claes Oldenburg, and On Kawara, meticulously installed to celebrate (rather than fight) the idiosyncrasies of Siza’s vision for a world-class contemporary art museum.
To eat: Boa Nova Tea House The Boa Nova Tea House, located in another Siza building, is pure Instagram bait. Perched atop a cliff, the restaurant offers expansive views of the Atlantic, and dishes so appetizing to the eye they need no filter. Recently placed in the hands of chef Rui Paula (pro tip: his name doubles as the Wi-Fi password), the experience is sure to incite numerous “likes.” And the food tastes as good as it looks, which is saying something (the suckling pig, in particular).
To play: Passos Manuel The Porto nightlife is certainly lively. Rowdy partiers spill onto the streets, smoking cigarettes, playing guitar, and imbibing obscene amounts of booze. If you’re looking for something beyond the typical fare, we suggest drinks at Passos Manuel. (Gin-and-tonic seems to be the drink of the moment.) Once a decadent movie theater, Passos Manuel is where the local art scene convenes after gallery hours. Tucked away behind the bar are several secluded seating areas, ideal for your more illicit inclinations. ____
To drink: Sandeman Vineyard As the city’s name suggests, Portugal is the land of port, and most of the country’s vineyards are located in the beautiful Douro Valley. If the sweet fortified wine is your thing, a visit to the Sandeman vineyard is a must. An O.G. of port, George Sandeman founded the company in 1790—its cape-wearing mascot, The Don, was the world’s first recognizable winery logo. These days, Sandeman’s great-great-great-great-grandson, who is also named George, acts as managing director. (Asked if his children have shown any interest in perpetuating the family business, he replies, a little forlornly, “No.”) A tasting overlooking the valley is the reward for a Sandeman history lesson. The 10-year-old Tawny can turn any objector into a port enthusiast.
To stay: The Vidalgo Palace Hand your designated driver the keys for the short drive from the Douro Valley to the Vidago Palace, an opulent hotel whose grandiosity evokes the fictional Grand Budapest Hotel of Wes Anderson’s film. Although there was no Bill Murray sighting, it’s the kind of place that turns every activity—descending the master staircase, lighting a cigarette in the book-lined smoking room, taking a bath in the clawed tubs —into a cinematic tableau. (There’s also a golf course, Bill.) A recent remodel of the hotel, which was built in 1910, yielded a new spa designed by—who else?—Alvaro Siza. A glass of port in the jacuzzi is just the thing to end your trip.
Photos: Porto Call
The Serralves Foundation. Courtesy photo.
Boa Nova Tea House. Courtesy photo.
Passos Manuel. Courtesy photo.
Sandeman Vineyard. Courtesy photo.
The Vidalgo Palace. Courtesy photo.