I haven’t stayed at many 5* hotels in my time living abroad, but the ones I have been lucky to experience are a world of their own, each with an impeccable caliber of service, amenities, food, and design catering to a savvy traveler; the kind of traveler who wants a sublime experience, anything but ‘standard’ corporate hotel chains offer up.
My latest press trip took me back to Porto, Portugal to see the city’s new 5* hotel for myself. French hotel group Maison Albar’s first foray into Portugal with Monumental Palace is fittingly majestic and monumental and has been met with a great buzz. The company revived a historic building from the 1920s on what locals call the Champs Elysee of Porto. Five* Monumental Palace is situated on the wide Avenida dos Aliados, one of the prettiest avenues in the city and home to Porto’s early-twentieth-century grandeur. Porto’s growth as a travel destination has meant more investment and exciting growth by international companies like Maison Albar.
Disclaimer: my trip to Monumental Palace was part of a collaboration for this blog; all thoughts and opinions are my own.
ART DECO AND BELLE EPOQUE REDESIGNED FOR THE 21ST CENTURY
To me, the most fascinating hotels have history, a rich context that serves as a fitting backdrop to their beauty and place in a city. This particular building was built in 1923 and was restored and revitalized keeping French art de vivre alive and well as well as the colorful and spirited Portuguese flair. The facade was kept and restored, and the interior design reflects what the hotel would’ve looked like in its heyday. It’s worth mentioning all furniture and design elements were custom made for Monumental Palace, creating a one of a kind world.
The design duo of Oitoemponto worked tirelessly to create a bespoke world unique to the hotel. The neo-classical elements of the past hotel are still apparent, but the Art Deco and Art Nouveau elements are done to perfection no matter where in the hotel you are. The aesthetic is reminiscent of romantic train travel on the Orient Express. From graphic patterns, rich fabrics, to lacquered wood, all furniture was custom made to create this Art Deco vision. The subdued lighting, soft textures, marble, and sensuous shapes reflect the spirit of the Belle Epoque and the original building that experienced such a prosperous time in Europe. Something worth noting is that if you head to their site, you’ll read ‘Casually Luxurious’ front and center on the homepage. It’s true; the luxury at the hotel is inviting and comfortable, not stuffy in any way.
welcome to your room
Simply put, every room at Monumental Palace is breathtaking. With 63 rooms in total, 13 are grand suites ranging from 45-87 m². Each room is different in its design and color schemes, but no matter which one you get the details are flawless with immaculate materials in all.
Each room’s personality is enhanced thanks to natural light and materials; walking into the hallway of my Superior Room has a dark and sophisticated feel thanks to dark lacquered wood cabinets and closets. The pristine marble and tile bathroom sparkles in white, and while walking into the spacious bedroom, I felt a surge of warmth thanks to the massive windows and high ceilings. The brown hue of the suede textured walls changes throughout the day, and I particularly loved the lively blue retro carpets with cool teals and whites.
A special touch? The flatscreen TV is disguised behind the massive mirror. When it comes time to retreat to your room and sleep, one push of a button shuts the blackout curtains.
In the room itself, I had a view on the Avenida dos Aliados, facing the heart of Porto. It was breathtaking. To my left, I had a view of the towering town hall. To my right, I had views onto gorgeous neo-classical buildings that have made this avenue famous.
FRENCH GASTRONOMIC EXCELLENCE
It’s no surprise that this five-star hotel has a Michel-starred chef at the helm of its three French-inspired restaurants. Due to the French influence of Maison Albar hotel group, the three restaurants at the hotel all offer something French, incorporating fresh Portuguese ingredients like seafood with a refined French touch.
All three restaurants are helmed by Michelin starred chef Julien Montbabut, the previous head chef of Le Restaurant in Paris. In a big move, he brought his family to take on the opening of the hotel’s restaurant and to start a new life abroad where his wife works as the pastry chef at the hotel. In a setting as decadent as Le Monument, it’s impressive to experience food that lives up to its elegant yet relaxed ambiance. Haute cuisine is imaginatively done from amuse bouche to dessert making for a top-notch dining experience. The chef and his team prepared a six-course tasting menu complete with extensive Portuguese wine pairings. The marrying of French and Portuguese ingredients resulted in a creative and delicious dinner, really in sync with the spirit of the place and the chef. I had a fabulous time! The tasting menu included marinated tuna belly, seared squid with puntarelle, sweetbreads, tempura oysters, foie gras, potato waffle, and more.
Portugal’s only nuxe SPA
As a massage and spa lover, I was instantly relaxed at the Monumental Nuxe Spa. Walking in feels like an oasis in a dynamic city experience that is Porto. The sexy lighting and scent of Nuxe essentials oils permeate the entire spa and lounge chairs flank the dreamy indoor pool. Monumental’s Nuxe spa is the only one in all of Portugal.
The Art Deco elements extend to the spa with geometric and textured accents. It was amazing to dip into the pool where light refracts off the water with dreamy blue tints. I released the tension in my neck with the wall of water cascading down and then checked out the sauna and hammam after my massage treatment.
I experienced the 45-minute relaxation massage with the spa’s manager, Rita Carvalho. Her treatment took me on a journey of scents and sensations; I left feeling transformed and super re-energized after. Some massage can do the opposite, but I liked the effect this one had on me. She used Prodigieux oils, with seven beautifying natural oils (Camelia, Argan, Tsubaki, Sweet Almond, Nuts, Macadamia) and the aromas of Mandarine, Orange Flower, Rose, Gardenia and Magnolia which helped enhance the relaxation and invigoration effects.
Through continuous and enveloping fluid movements, intensifying, this massage relieves the deepest tensions. And it is the return to the complete harmony of body and mind.
Porto is an enticing city for anyone who loves food, wine, architecture, and history. Monumental Palace has all of these elements, enveloping its guests in the finest service and facilities. Staying in the hotel could be the vacation itself, but luckily for visitors, Monumental Palace is a stone’s throw from Clérigos Church, Bolhão Market, São Bento Station, Dom Luis I Bridge, and Livraria Lello. As luxurious as it is, the price point isn’t as steep as you’d think and there’s a casual charm that feels less stuffy and more like home.
Rooms starting at 300€
MONUMENTAL PALACE HOTEL PORTO*****
Avenida dos Aliados, 151 – Porto
Metro Access: Aliados, Trindade