At Monverde Hotel, old ruins provide the foundation for a carbon-neutral design – by architect Fernando Coelho and interior designer Paulo Lobo – amid 20 hectares of vineyards.
Arriving at the Monverde Hotel is a bit like visiting a billionaire’s private complex, or even a Bond villain’s impossibly extravagant lair. The hotel is located on the grounds of the Quinta da Lixa winery, roughly 60 kilometres east of Porto, and close to the historical town of Amarante, on the banks of the Tâmega River. Deep within this idyll, behind high stone walls and surrounded by rows of vines, the gates slide open to reveal a world of spa pampering and fine wines, snugly wrapped in design-conscious luxury.
The chic four-star hotel, which opened its doors this past August, offers 30 rooms divided among three separate buildings, all immaculately furnished by local interior designer and rising star Paulo Lobo. There is something profoundly liberating about Lobo’s Scandinavian minimalist interiors of pinewood and mirrors.
The hotel is decked out in comfy bright green sofas, and Arne Jacobsen–style chairs upholstered with natural wool in Harris Tweed–inspired plaids that seem to reflect the cool microclimate and the rich local history. Lobo’s designs draw on many sources of inspiration; handmade craft and textile traditions are mixed with contemporary art in softly lit corners to create cozy, intimate spaces for guests.
The Monverde’s structures were designed by Portuguese architect Fernando Coelho. Balancing old and new, he turned a 1950s manor house into a central hub that contains the hotel’s reception area, a wine bar and a restaurant. Coelho’s brief was to create a low-impact, carbon-neutral design where old ruins would provide the foundation for cutting-edge interventions, and in so doing convert a cluster of tumbledown farm buildings into a sleek, modern hotel.
The existing structures benefited from considerable exposure to natural light, and their mountains of high-quality stone became the building blocks for the new additions. Coelho has completely transformed these rugged foundations by adding strikingly orthogonal volumes wrapped in screens of narrow vertical slats, punctuated by accents of Corten steel. The results expertly marry Lobo’s soft green fabric and pine interiors with Coelho’s geometric exteriors, linking inside and out with glass walls that offer exceptional views of the surrounding landscape.
The central building’s shape is clean and simple, with an unobtrusive presence, broken down into several low, interconnected natural stone and wooden volumes. In the lobby, guests can enjoy a variety of amenities, including Restaurant Monverde, a regional gourmet dining spot run by chef Agostinho Martins, along with a well-stocked wine and spirits bar.
Down a flight of granite steps, the vinotherapy spa is defined by spare concrete lines and American pine interiors, with indoor and outdoor pools divided by mirrored glass. Here, guests can enjoy a 90-minute massage that uses essential oil made from citrus and spices, or the spa’s signature Red Vine Leaf treatment, known for its antioxidant properties.
Of course, the main draw is the property’s wines. The Quinta da Lixa brand operates six vineyards, totalling 52 hectares spread across the region. The local specialty is vinho verde, or green wine, a classic dry white that uses a blend of three indigenous grapes: Alvarinho, Loureiro and Trajadura.
These and other wines from every part of Portugal (as well as Champagne) can be sampled in the hotel restaurant. For those looking to delve deeper into the vineyard’s operations, the Monverde gives complimentary tours of the facilities, while a tasting of three wines produced on site can be added for a modest $10.
If you go
How to Get There
From Porto Airport, Guimarães station is a 40-minute taxi ride away (roughly $90). Train service to Guimarães runs almost hourly from Porto’s São Bento metro station in the city centre; at less than $5, the hour-long train ride provides a more economical alternative to a taxi, and also boasts excellent views of the lower Minho River en route. Alternatively, GetBus (getbus.eu) operates a direct service between Porto Airport and Guimarães, costing $12 each way or $18 return.
Things to do
There’s plenty to see around the Monverde Hotel, including the local town of Amarante, about 10 kilometres down the road. Head to the riverside in the historical town centre, where a bustling café and restaurant scene attracts visitors. North of the Tâmega River lie the centuries-old Travanca and Freixo de Baixo monasteries, as well as the Gatão Church. The Amarante bus station is principally served by Rodonorte, which provides trips to the south side of the river. Winding through town in a perpen-dicular direction, the nine-kilometre-long Tâmega Line Ecotrack cycle path offers the best views of the picturesque riverbanks.
Driving about 50 kilometres from the hotel into the centre of Guimarães – a UNESCO World Heritage site proudly referred to as the cradle of the nation – you’ll quickly realize that it’s like no other city in Portugal. Guimarães has remained virtually unchanged since the 15th century, and it remains something of a design hub, having been designated as a European Capital of Culture in 2012.
→ Rooms from $175.