I’d been wanting to stay at Vidago Palace Hotel for a long time but felt it warranted a special occasion. Our 10th wedding anniversary seemed the perfect justification for heading to this luxury historical hotel in the north of Portugal. It turned out to be absolutely the right combination of romantic, restful and delightful.
Vidago Palace Hotel
King Carlos I and his family regularly visited Vidago to reap the benefits of its curative waters in the late 19th and early 20th century.
The majestic pink palace, which is now the Vidago Palace Hotel was built to provide fitting accommodations and facilities for the Portuguese royal family and other elites. The irony is that this jewel of the Belle Epoque era didn’t open its doors until 6th October 1910, the day after the Portuguese monarchy was overthrown.
100 years later, the palace reopened after extensive renovations and refurbishment as a 5-star luxury hotel that has rightfully earned its place among the Leading Hotels of the World.
Our experience at Vidago Palace Hotel
Mike and I drove up the cobbled driveway in our somewhat battered old car to be greeted at the base of the steps by a valet parking attendant. I instantly regretted not having cleaned out the rubbish from the front seats but he didn’t bat an eyelid and gave us 5-star treatment as he unloaded our bags and handed them to the porter.
We had a Classic Room, which overlooked the driveway and fountain. I loved the decor, and the bathroom, and the bed was the most comfortable I think I’ve ever slept on.
My only niggle was that there’s not much shelf or drawer space so if you need to unpack clothes for more than a couple of nights, I would recommend booking an upgraded room with better closet facilities and more space.
The first thing I fell utterly in love with upon entering the palace is the swirling double staircase. I lost count of how many times I walked up and down it but I never stopped feeling the glamour.
To the right of the staircase is a long corridor that leads to the spa, bar and lounge. This, too is gorgeous, papered with tropical flowers and landscape. The long, narrow bar is elegant and overlooks the drive and woods but I preferred the sumptuous lounge, especially the lampshades.
Food at the hotel – Vidago Palace restaurants
Breakfast is served in the exquisite Salão Nobre, which must have originally been the ballroom, to a background of gentle classical music. I was impressed by the range of fresh fruit juices – try the beetroot, carrot and ginger if they have it – and fresh fruits, seeds and yogurts. Note that if you want eggs cooked to order, the onus is on you to ask for them.
We treated ourselves to Chef Vitor Matos’ Salão Nobre tasting menu for our anniversary dinner, along with the paired wines. That was a 3-hour taste explosion neither of us will forget in a hurry, especially the crab and the pigeon starters and the veal dish.
For more informal dining, the Wine Cellar looks more like a posh pub and has an appealing menu, although we didn’t get chance to try it.
The building for Vidago’s luxurious Clarins spa was designed by renowned Portuguese architect, Álvaro Siza Viera and is all sleek lines, smooth marble and tranquility. The spa menu is extensive and there’s a gymnasium if you really feel the need.
Having already had some water therapy at the nearby Balneário Pedagógico de Vidago, Mike and I only made use of the pools at the hotel. We both loved the heated outdoor Vitality Pool, which has all manner of jets and bubbles to pummel and pound every inch of your body. We went before breakfast and had the entire pool to ourselves.
We weren’t in the mood for lounging beside the outdoor pool during the day but I spotted some tented gazebos in the trees above it and they turned out to be perfect for relaxing away from the other hotel guests.
Walking trails around the palace
There are three hiking trails you can follow within the palace grounds – ask for a leaflet at reception. We initially considered one that we saw on a board near the driveway but the August heat, plus the fact that we were supposed to be there to relax, put us off climbing the hill.
Instead, we opted for a very leisurely and flat walk around the lake and the golf course.
There is also a marked trail that explores Vidago village and surrounds (PR1CHV) – you can pick up a leaflet for this circular walk at the tourist information centre just up the hill from the palace hotel.
Vidago Palace Golf
Since neither of us are golfers, the renowned golf course at Vidago was somewhat wasted on us, although we did admire its holes and putting green on a leisurely walk.
Portugal golfing expert, Andy Waple, has more to say about playing golf at Vidago in this post.
Vidago Palace on the television
After publishing this article, one of my readers contacted me to tell me that there is a whole television series (in Portuguese but being streamed with English subtitles in the US) set in the palace. Thanks, Richard Wexler, for the tip – I have already started watching it on RTP Play!
Vidago’s curative mineral water aka Termas de Vidago
The naturally carbonated, mineral-rich waters of Vidago have been bottled since 1886 but you can still drink it almost directly from the spring at the beautiful Art Nouveau buvete near the entrance to the palace hotel. You can’t just help yourself, mind you – there’s a lady on duty who will pour you a cupful (unfortunately in disposable plastic) as long as you sign for it.
In the past, those under treatment for various medical conditions would be prescribed a specific dosage of Vidago water and you can still see the numbered shelf for storing individual glasses on the wall behind the spring.
At this particular buvete, the spring water is relatively cold – other thermal springs in the Chaves-Verín spa route produce much warmer water – and is quite fizzy with an Alka Seltzer taste to it. This isn’t surprising, given that it contains sodium bicarbonate and is high in saline, iron and alkaline levels. Such properties render it helpful in the treatment of various health issues including rheumatism, musculoskeletal and skin disorders as well as respiratory and digestive ailments.
After two cupfuls (on separate days) I can’t report any noticeable improvements but the overall effects of a 2-day stay in this luxurious oasis definitely made us both feel reinvigorated.
Getting to Vidago
The train station closed down a long time ago so unless you want to take a bus from Porto, you’ll need a private transfer or a rental car to get there.
Possible day trips from Vidago
Given its location at the very north of Portugal, Vidago makes a great base for exploring the surrounding areas including the wonderful wine region of the Douro Valley.
You can also get to Portugal’s only national park, the Peneda-Gerês, from here. You’re on the right side of the park to visit the authentic village and haunting monastery at Pitões das Junias, although the driving is challenging.
The closest town of interest is Chaves, adored by Romans for its waters, and you can also pop across the Spanish border to visit the spa town of Verín. If you want to visit all the spas and fountains in this area, pick up a ‘passport’ from the tourist information centre.
An hour’s drive gets you to the UNESCO World Heritage city of Guimarães, filled with charming medieval squares.