Experiencing Hotel Nirvana: A Review of the Holiday Inn Porto Gaia

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When we left France and headed to Porto, Portugal  we were looking forward to some relaxed days of sightseeing in Porto and tasting some great port wine.

What we were definitely not expecting was the opportunity to stay in a hotel that would truly become one of the highlights of our time in Portugal.

Walking into the lobby of the Holiday Inn Porto Gaia a little thrill ran down my spine.  Was this really where we were staying for the next three nights?  Beautiful chandeliers, a swanky looking bar inviting me to come and linger, sharply dressed front desk staff that looked like they belonged in a high end, luxury hotel.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I love the Holiday Inn brand, and we have never stayed at a shabby Holiday Inn, but I could tell immediately that this hotel was a different animal entirely from its Holiday Inn siblings.  The hotel is sharp looking with a modern European design.  It is easily the level of quality that I would expect from a more “luxury” brand, such as a Crowne Plaza or even Intercontinental.

The ease and grace of the service offered to us at the Holiday Inn Porto Gaia set a wonderful tone for our entire visit and made a warm and extremely memorable impression.  From check in to check out, we were treated as honored guests.

After checking in to our room and being completely delighted with what we found there, we were excited to continue our exploration of the hotel’s offerings by experiencing dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, ‘Food & Friends’.  We were offered enlightened service from an extremely attentive staff who possessed in depth knowledge of all of the food and wine offerings.  Dinner was a delicious work of art.

Do expect a memorable meal of variations on Portuguese favorites served with the highest level of service and finesse.  Don’t expect to get in and out in anything resembling a hurry.  As typical for restaurants in much of Europe, dinner required a minimum two hour commitment each night, so if you and aren’t feeling up to that, you might want to try room service.

The hotel bar offers another option for a faster, lighter meal.  We enjoyed dinner, drink and live music here one night when we were just tired and wanted to get to bed early.  The food, while simpler fare than we had enjoyed on previous nights, was well prepared and creative and just the quick meal we needed after a long day.

The hotel stands on top of the hill in Villa Nova de Gaia, making it visible from many points in the city-a bonus for easy navigation.  It is located one half mile from the São João de Deus metro stop (there is a grocery store conveniently located in the mall right next to this metro stop.)

Add in free wifi and a 22nd floor fitness room with awesome views of the city and it all adds up to one of the nicest hotel stays that we have enjoyed in a long time!


Shanna is a longtime hospitality and tourism industry employee and a prolific world traveler who has stayed at hotels all over the world.  Her background makes her uniquely qualified to offer reliable opinions about the pros and cons of various lodging choices.  She is currently employed for Holiday Inn (but in no way does this affect the objectivity of her reviews or opinions.)



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