Travel Guide to Portugal

Guest Houses: The Perfect Accommodation in Spain and Portugal!

By Gabriella Opaz

Despite the address on our mail, our soles rarely touch Barcelona soil. Have a conversation with us in Spanish, or Catalan, and you’re quick to learn that we’re not from around these parts. Instead, we can be found in any given wine region, around the world, often per the request of a client or new event. The byproduct of this dreamy little adventure is that we’ve become “experts” in choosing accommodations.

If you’re a frequent traveler, you’ve unexpectedly become very well versed in describing poorly designed shower fixtures, overly designed bedding complete with 5,000 pillows and scant outlet availability for the tech-obsessed among us (tip: bring a power strip). Consequently, on the rare occasion that I can choose my lodgings, I tend to search within a very limited set of parameters. Free wifi is no longer a nice perk, it’s a necessity. For those few hotels who are still clinging to greedy and unreliable providers like Swisscom, you can kiss my booking goodbye. I, and millions of others, require wifi for both business and pleasure, and the mere thought of over-paying for it is an immediate dismissal for your hotel.

A free, or reasonably priced, quality breakfast isn’t too much to ask, is it? A decent cup of coffee that doesn’t come from a vending machine, and an appetizing assortment of cheeses, meats, fruit and breads cost you pennies but means the world to the rest of us. Breakfast is the very first meal of the day, and typically, the only meal a hotel is judged upon. Wouldn’t you love to make a fabulous first impression? It takes so little to have fresh produce that actually contains real flavor and quality charcuterie that doesn’t come from a plastic wrapped container, so why not take that extra step?!

I realize that this is rather obvious, but a hotel should spend the majority of their budget on one item, the bed. I don’t need luxurious with silk spun 500 thread count sheets. But I do need a comfortable mattress that won’t leave me begging for a chiropractor the following morning.

I bring this topic to mind because recently began opting for the affordable accomadation called a guest house of which Portugal seems to offer quite a few. Mind you, these aren’t the super swanky hotels like the Yeatman in Oporto, or Aquapura in the Douro, nor are they cheap lodgings such as hostels where you’re sharing a room with a cast of millions. Depending on where you are in the world, guest houses have an amorphous meaning to embody something between a bed & breakfast, hostel and an apartment. What remains constant is that the owner of the guest house  most often lives in an entirely separate location, unlike in a B&B where the owner tends to be on site.

Guest houses are known to display exceptional customer service, a cozy ambiance and a price to entice the most stingy among us. During recent stays in Oporto, I enjoyed 2 great guest houses that are worthy of your attention. First, Alvares Cabral Guest House, a quaint guesthouse not that far from Casa de Musica. Remodeled by a father and his son duo, the house couldn’t be more welcoming. I had opted for the shared bathroom experience, to save a few bucks. Granted, this is not something I would typically choose, but the bathroom was clean and free most of the time, making the experiment a success. The other slightly trying aspect was lugging my bags up several flights of stairs, as the house didn’t have an elevator. The perk being that I could order breakfast in bed the following  morning, complete with a smiling face and a tray of juice, coffee (to order) along with cheese, ham and bread. Perfect. And for only 20€ + a small fee for breakfast, I had a wonderful stay with free wifi to boot!

If you’re looking for a mind-blowing semi-luxurious deal, head to Oporto Seven, referring to their 7 individually designed rooms. Recently opened, and owned by a family who was very eager to please, it would be difficult not to fall in love. Depending on your budget and availability, rooms vary in lavishness, from a simple wood frame bed to a suite accentuated with a whirlpool tub. Lovely breakfast, double-paned windows to keep traffic noises at bay, a comfortable bed, free wifi, centrally located and priced around 40€/night, you really can’t ask for more. Located in the same area as the Alvares Cabral Guest House, you are near 2 metro’s and Casa de Musica. I know we’ll return.

Take a moment to research various guest houses throughout Iberia during your next visit. Dotted across Spain and Portugal they are a fabulous option should you want something centrally located, quaint and affordable. If you’re outside of a main city, do look at casa rurales (Spain) and aldeias (Portugal) – cozy and comfortable cottages that can enhance your countryside adventures.

If you’re interested in more information on food and wine travel experiences throughout Portugal, check out our suggestions!

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Since 2005, Catavino has been exploring the Iberian Peninsula
looking for the very best food and wine experiences.

Since 2005, Catavino has been exploring the Iberian Peninsula looking for the very best food and wine experiences.

Catavino is the best place to learn about travel, food
and wine in Portugal and Spain.

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