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Accomodations

Talldungen Gårdshotell

Have you ever heard so many wonderful things about a place that you begin to think it is too good to be true? I have received many travel recommendations over the years – and read many glowing reviews – only to be a bit disappointed because the experience was not the same as I imagined it to be. Before visiting Talldungen Gårdshotell Österlen, I had heard the most wonderful things about this hidden gem. That it has some of the best food in Sweden. And that the hotel and service and surroundings would blow you away. And, admittedly, I was skeptical. Can this bed-and-breakfast tucked away in the Österlen countryside really be that perfect? Well, I am here to tell you that Talldungen Gårdshotell is – in fact – that perfect.

Dare I say that this is my favourite spot I have visited in Sweden to date (or, at least among the top). I am going to share with you all the reasons why our little overnight getaway to Talldungen Gårdshotell blew me away.

Talldungen Gårdshotell
Talldungen Gårdshotell

Please note: This post is not sponsored in any way. We simply loved our experience here so much that I wanted to share the details (and the beautiful photos) of it with you.

See Also: My great big travel guide to Skåne.

WHAT MAKES TALLDUNGAN GÅRDSHOTELL ÖSTERLEN SO SPECIAL?

Have you ever just had that feeling when travelling? The feeling of being at ease. And just genuinely, wholeheartedly happy. This is the feeling I had while we stayed at Talldungen.

Talldungen Gårdshotell Österlen – located in the town of Brösarp – will make you feel like you have been transported to the Italian countryside. The hotel owners, Emma and David, moved from the big city to Österlen to pursue their dream of living in the countryside. They used their culinary skills to open this full service Österlen gårdshotell (farm hotel) with a world-class dining experience that attracts visitors from all over Sweden – and the world.

the hotel facilities

Talldungen Gårdshotell view

The decor at Talldungen is cosy and retro, with many unique elements that appear to be sourced from local antique shops. Everything about the esthetic is a bit mismatched, a bit eclectic, a bit imperfect. And yet, so charming. I said to Sebastian at least twenty times that I wanted my entire apartment to look like the interior of Talldungen.

Outside, you’ll find a huge patio with views of the surrounding hills and farm life. While we didn’t have an opportunity to sit outside as it rained throughout most of our stay, it gives us a good reason to come back soon to sit on the terrace and enjoy the sunshine with a glass of wine.

Our room was huge, and the bed comfy, with a beautiful window overlooking the hills. We opted to save a bit of money and booked a room that had a private bathroom down the hall, which we didn’t mind at all. The bathroom was brand new and stocked with lovely personal care products.

Talldungen offers a variety of room types suitable for every budget – ranging from rooms with shared bathrooms, to modern ensuites.

talldungen restaurant

As I mentioned above, the owners of Talldungen are experienced chefs, and the hotel offers a rustic five course tasting menu experience that is perfect in every way. Using locally-sourced seasonal ingredients, the dishes blend Italian, French, and Swedish influences. Full disclosure: This is one of my absolute favourite meals that I have had in Sweden.

Our meal started off with fresh bread from their onsite bakery, paired with cured ham and rooster liver pate (I normally do not like pate, but this was so good). Next up was a sweet pepper and mozzarella appetizer, followed by the main course, which offered a pork, fish or vegetarian option. The main course was followed up with some fresh local cheese and three different desserts to share: A meringue with fresh wild strawberries, a lemon curd, and homemade stracciatella ice cream.

The restaurant also has possibly the largest natural wine selection I have ever seen. While many visitors opt for the wine pairing, we decided to share a bottle of red wine instead. Our waiter listened to our requests and suggested the most perfect, unique natural wine catered to our tastebuds.

In the morning, you’ll be welcomed to an expansive breakfast with many homemade and locally-sourced options – including some of the best bread I have ever tasted that had just come straight from their bakery, homemade apple juice, and a delicious yogurt parfait with the fresh perfectly paired seasonal toppings.

The staff went above and beyond the entire weekend to offer a premium culinary experience, and were eager to help us navigate Sebastian’s food allergies. This included whipping him up some homemade bread on a whim when he was allergic to the standard option.

surrounding nature

Brösarps backar cows

Talldungen is located right in the centre of Brösarps Backer (Brösarp’s hills). This region offers beautiful nature and many hiking trails. While it rained most of the weekend, we were able to find a two hour window after we checked out to explore the region – and WOW. It is beautiful.

The Skåneleden Trail, which is over 1250 kilometres of hiking trails scattered through southern Sweden, runs through this area. While many people head straight for this path, the staff at Talldungen recommended an alternative walking path for us that combined parts of the Skåneleden Trail (orange trail markers) and Backaleden (yellow trail markers). The Skåneleden portion was mostly through the forest, whereas the Backaleden portion led up the hills through valleys and fields. One of the best things about Sweden is the “right to roam” rule, which gives you permission to hike or camp anywhere as long as you aren’t disturbing nature. This also means many of these trails navigate through private property including animal pastures – so you can count on dodging cow and horse poo through many of the trails. But hiking alongside the animals and beautiful surroundings makes it worth it.

Talldungen Gårdshotell will pack you a picnic or coffee to bring on your hike if you’d like! Make sure you talk to them and plan this for a sunny day.

See Also: The Best Beaches in Skåne.

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Looking for other inspiration to visit Sweden? You can find all my Sweden content here.
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Halong Bay Doris Cruise Review

It should come as no surprise that Halong Bay is a little slice of heaven on earth. You’ve surely seen the photos of this popular spot, that draws as many as 8 million people to the region every single year. And it’s easy to see why – the region is natural spectacle (it’s even been considered on the 7 Natural Wonders of the World).

Due to this popularity, it should also come as no surprise that there are hundreds of cruise operators all claiming to be the “best Halong Bay cruise” and trying to convince you to book with them. They range in price from affordable to luxury, and each have their own marketing angles – traditional junk boats, small 10-room cruises, sustainability-minded cruises, and so on.

So how do you possibly pick the best Halong Bay cruise? It’s overwhelming, I know. And I’m hoping this article can bring you a bit of clarity. Because I am convinced that Doris Cruise really offers one of the best Halong Bay cruise experiences.

Visiting Halong Bay

want to know more about doris cruise: a halong bay luxury cruise
read on to find out more!

but first...
how to choose a halong bay cruise?

When choosing the right Halong Bay cruise, there are a few things to consider:

How many days in Halong Bay? We opted for a 3 day, 2 night cruise because we wanted to get the full Halong Bay experience. But I understand that seeing this landmark may not be your top priority, or your itinerary may not allow for three days allocated to Halong Bay. With that being said, I do recommend spending at least one night on Halong Bay. Halong Bay town isn’t that nice to stay overnight in, and getting from Hanoi to Halong Bay takes at least 3 hours each way (depending on traffic). If you only stay for one day, it would make for a very long and tiring day. Plus, day trips stay close to the harbor surrounded by hundreds of other ships. This makes it difficult to truly grasp the beauty of this region.

What is your Halong Bay budget? The cost of visiting Halong Bay can vary greatly, depending on the length of your stay and the type of ship. We opted for a luxury Halong Bay cruise, but I understand that this isn’t for everyone. Compared to everything else in Vietnam, the prices of visiting Halong Bay will seem inflated (even for the cheap options). Keep this in mind when booking. For myself, instead of comparing the price tag to hotel/food prices in Vietnam, I compared it to the prices of similar experiences at home and was easily able to justify this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. If you look at it from this perspective, any Halong Bay cruise would be considered a very good value.

How do you feel about crowds? This one is important. You’ll want to consider where your cruise is sailing to avoid being surrounded by hundreds of other boats (especially during peak season). Opt for cruises that visit Lan Ha Bay or Bai Tu Long Bay instead of just staying in Halong Bay. Coincidentally, these will have a higher price tag. But it will be worth it to be able to experience this beautiful region crowd-free. 

Visiting Halong Bay with DORIS CRUISE

Doris Cruise is part of a brand new family of luxury 5-star Halong Bay cruises that began sailing in late 2019. The cruise offers two itineraries to choose from (1 night or 2 nights) and takes you out to the serene Lan Ha Bay, off the coast of Cat Ba island. We loved sailing out to this part of the region because there are very few Lan Ha Bay cruise operators, which means we rarely saw any other boats!

on board amenities

Doris cruise was filled with all the amenities you’d expect from a luxury Halong Bay cruise line – and the best part was that the entire ship was BRAND NEW.

The rooms were immaculate and spacious with huge bathrooms and one of the comfiest beds I have ever slept on. They were stocked with premium towels and linens, coffee and water, and toiletries. Walk into the bathroom and you’ll be greeted by a bath tub with views of the surrounding Halong Bay. And when you’re done, you can throw on a robe and continue to take in the views from your own private balcony. 

If I can offer one piece of advice … If your budget allows for it, choose a Halong Bay cruise with a private balcony. This was a game changer!

The on-site Doris Cruise spa offers services that include nail care and massages. After a day of activities, I opted for an on-board pre-dinner massage and I can easily say it was one of the best massages I have ever had. 

Upstairs in the common areas you’ll find a massive sundeck on the roof, with chairs for lounging. An outdoor hot tub. A fully-stacked bar and dining area. And all kinds of other on board activities like fishing, cooking classes, and more.

Doris Cruise Hot Tub
Doris Cruise Sundeck

And above all else, what made the experience extra special was the staff, who were true professionals. They went above and beyond to make our stay perfect, were extremely engaging and helpful. It was a pleasure getting to know them during our time on board. A special shout out to our server, Hero, who went above and beyond to make sure Sebastian’s peanut and sesame allergies were minded.

doris cruise itinerary

As I mentioned before, you have two itinerary options on Doris Cruise. We opted for the two night option, but if you only choose the one night itinerary, you can remove the second day of activities. 

day 1

8:00-9:00 AM : Luxury Limousine Pickup and Transfer to Halong Bay

The transfer was on time, comfortable, and smooth, with in-car amenities including water and free wifi. We made a pit stop half way to Halong Bay for a bathroom break and snacks.

12:30 PM : Check In, Welcome Drink & Lunch

When you arrive to the port, you’ll board a boat that takes you out to the cruise ship, which is docked outside of the harbor. The staff was helpful in making what could have been a very chaotic situation go smoothly. Once you arrive, you are warmly greeted by the staff and offered a welcome drink. From there, you go through a safety demonstration, and are served your first lunch (a delicious five course meal, perfectly catered to all allergy and food preferences). From there, you head to your room to get unpacked.

Doris Cruise Food

Mid-Afternoon : Kayaking & Swimming

After lunch, head to the back of the boat for kayaking and swimming. It was a bit cold for swimming when we visited in January, but it would have been fantastic during the warmer months. The kayaking is a lot of fun and the views are surreal. You can kayak up to the small inlet beaches and take in the views of Ba Trai Dao Islet with very few other ships around.

Halong Bay Beach

5:00-7:00 PM : Sunset Party

The bar opens up and it’s time to mingle with other cruise guests before dinner. During this time, the ship also hosts a happy hour (buy 2, get 1 free) and around 6:00 they host a cooking demonstration and teach you how to make spring rolls.

7:00 PM : Dinner

Dinner begins and it is served buffet-style. The options were plentiful, with food options ranging from Vietnamese to Western. And lots of delicious dessert and fresh fruits. 

9:00 PM : Squid Fishing, Games, and more

Choose from a variety of games to play, or try your luck at squid fishing. Or, if you’re like us, take the party back to your private balcony and have a glass of wine together.

Tip: Drinks on board are not included, so I’d suggest packing some beers or a bottle of wine. But, if you forget to bring along something like us, keep an eye out for these ladies rowing alongside the boat selling beer, wine, and snacks. We took full advantage and bought a bottle of local wine, which was delivered to us by fishing net (the local hussle is reeeaal).

Wine Halong Bay Cruise

day 2

6:30 AM : Tai Chi on the Sundeck

If you’re an early riser, get up and get movin’. Tai Chi is a great way to wake up at sunrise and enjoy the beautiful Halong Bay surroundings. I mean, it really doesn’t get more peaceful than that.

7:00 AM : Early Breakfast

Even if you decided to “sleep in,” day two starts early (although this is ok if you’re like Sebastian and I who fell asleep at 9:00 pm with the lights on because the bed was SO comfy and the jet lag was REAL). Breakfast is buffet-style and has loads of options: pastries, fruit, eggs, noodle dishes, and more.

8:15 AM : Head Out for a Day Trip

Board a smaller boat and you’re off for the day. First stop: Viet Hai Village. This small local village lies on Cat Ba island. While many others visit the village by car, you’ll get the unique option of biking to the village – and taking in spectacular sights along the way. In the village we saw what day-to-day life was like for locals, tasted some local wines (with with 40% alcohol content so I’ll use the term “wine” loosely) and learned about the history of the Viet Hai community.

Next, we biked back to the harbor and boarded the boat where we enjoyed a massive (5-7 course??) meal.

Our final stop was a floating fish farm near Van Boi Beach where we got to see the locals fishing. These floating villages used to scatter Halong Bay, however many of them have since been given opportunities job on land by the government as tourism has grown in the region. This may seem a bit sad, that this tradition is being extinguished – however, guides said that the alternative jobs have provided a better quality of life for these locals, and that in many cases the change in welcome.

At the fishing village you’re also able to enjoy more swimming and kayaking. Afterwards, you’ll head back to Doris Cruise, arriving around 3-3:30 PM.

Here’s a few highlights from this awesome day:

Halong Bay Daytrip
Cat Ba Island Day Trip
Halong Bay Fishing Village
Cat Ba Island
Cat Ba Island
Fisherman in Halong Bay village

5:00-9:00 PM : Sunset Party, Dinner & Activities

Evening activities are the same as they were on night one. You can reference the “Day 1” section for these details.

day 3

6:30-7:45 AM : Tai Chi & Early Breakfast

These activities will be the same as day two.

8:00 AM : Bamboo Boat Ride to Hang Sang & Toi

You’ll leave the boat and head out on your last excursion, where you’ll get on a bamboo boat and explore Hand Sang & Toi – which was used as a filming location for the most recent King Kong movie. The region was breathtaking and you could hear a pin drop… it was so serene and quiet. There wasn’t a single boat or tour group around. Locals rowed us around the inlets, as we were able to take in the beautiful surrounding area.

Bamboo Boat Ride Halong Bay
James Bond Island

9:30 AM : Checkout & Early Lunch

Head back to your room, finishing packing, and complete the check out process. From there, to you’ll head up to the dining room to enjoy one last early lunch, and take in the beautiful surrounding scenery one last time.

11:30 AM : Back to the Harbor

You’ll say your goodbyes, disembark Doris Cruise, and head back to the harbor by transfer boat. From here, you’ll be greeted by your luxury limousine driver and will make your way back to Hanoi (if applicable).

Halong Bay Cruise Luxury

Ready to Book?

I would highly recommend emailing them directly versus booking with a search engine. If you book directly, they are more likely to include added perks, such as a free shuttle to/from Hanoi.

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And don’t forget to check out my very detailed Hanoi Travel Guide (complete with map!) to use while you’re visiting Hanoi.

The Best Luxury Halong Bay Cruise
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Coffee at Hotel Tegnérlunden

Earlier in December, we decided to plan a quick little getaway up to Stockholm for a cozy weekend of Christmas markets, good eats, and wandering through the historic city streets. The days here in Malmö have been SHORT – and they were about to get even shorter in Stockholm (I’m talking 2:30 pm sunsets). And while I knew the Christmas lights that sparkled all over the city would keep us keen on wandering around the city despite the darkness, it was equally important that we had the perfect little city oasis to retreat to, unwind, and catch some shut eye. Cue the best hotel in Stockholm: Hotel Tegnérlunden.

See Also: My Full City Guide to Stockholm – What to Do, See and Eat

planning a trip to Stockholm?

Here's what makes Hotel Tegnérlunden the best hotel in Stockholm.

central Location... And the views!

I have stayed in A LOT of hotels. I mean, a lot… And Hotel Tegnérlunden is one of my favourite hotel locations, ever.

Reason being? It’s centrally located, about 10-15 minutes walking distance north of the central station. And also five minutes away from the Rådmansgatan station (although I would argue the best way to explore Stockholm is by foot). However, despite being central, it is away from the hustle and bustle of Gamla Stan and the main downtown shopping district which are quite literally flooded with people. 

It’s located across the street from the most charming park, Tegnérlunden, which the hotel is named after. One of my favourite parts of staying here was waking up in the morning and being greeted by the most beautiful views of the park. I mean, just LOOK at this morning coffee view. This neighbourhood set the scene for the perfect city retreat, which was welcome after busy days exploring the streets of Stockholm.

Pro Tip: When booking at Hotel Tegnérlunden, make sure you opt for a “Park View” room. I swear it will be the best investment you’ll make during your time in Stockholm

cozy, clean & modern rooms

I loved our room at Hotel Tegnérlunden. Not only did it have the most perfect views, but the room itself was perfection. We were hosted in a Suite which was spacious and modernly decorated. The living space provided the perfect spot to sip our coffees in the morning, give our tired feet a midday break, or enjoy a pre-dinner aperitif.

I especially loved how comfortable the bed was, and how big the bathroom was – two things that I have learned are never guaranteed (photos can be REALLY deceiving).

While the Suite was really lovely, a Double Room (ideally with Park View) would still serve as a perfect resting place if you’re looking to save a bit of money or re-allocate your budget to other fun activities in Stockholm.

Suite at Hotel Tegnérlunden

The Most IMportant Meal Of the Day

Breakfast at Hotel Tegnérlunden was one of the better breakfasts I’ve had recently. The spread was expansive! I’m talking an assortment of breads, cheeses, meats, yogurt (with all the fixings!!), sausages, bacon, eggs, traditional Swedish delicacies (pâté, herring), sweets, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, juices…

I could go on and on.

And as a bonus, the breakfast room is located on the top (6th) floor. It’s filled with windows and tons of natural light. And offers incredible rooftop views of the surrounding neighbourhood. 

The point is, I couldn’t think of a better way to start my day. 

it's all in the details...

The real reason why I loved my stay a Hotel Tegnérlunden is all in the details.

Let’s start with the staff. From the warm welcome we received when we arrived, to the the ladies shouting “tack så mycket” (thank you so much) from the kitchen as we left breakfast, and the cheerful “god morgon” (good morning) from staff in the hallways, the staff went out of their way to make our stay special.

The hotel premises were welcoming, with a lovely main lobby area complete with full-service bar, snacks, and 24-hour front desk reception staff to answer all of our questions.

Hotel Tegnérlunden Lobby

And let’s not forget these added in-room amenities…

It's time to get cozy at the best hotel in stockholm

I love visiting Stockholm… This trip absolutely will not be my last (although next time it’ll hopefully be a bit warmer and the days, a bit longer). And next time, I know exactly where I’ll be choosing to rest my head: Hotel Tegnérlunden.

In the meanwhile, if you’re planning a Scandinavian adventure, check out all of my Denmark and Sweden content, including a list detailing all the best things about living in Sweden

And if you’re headed to Stockholm, don’t forget to check out my Stockholm City Guide.

Disclosure: A special thanks to Hotel Tegnérlunden for inviting me to be a guest at their property. As always, all opinions reflected in this article are my own

Ready to Book A room?

You can find the cheapest Hotel Tegnérlunden rates by booking on their website here. AND, as an added bonus, when you book directly on their website, breakfast is always included in the price.

LIKE WHAT YOU READ? PIN IT BELOW.

And if you’re visiting Stockholm, make sure you check out my Stockholm City Guide.

The Best Hotel in Stockholm
Where to Stay in Stockholm
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Douro Valley Views

Before I started developing my itinerary for Portugal, I knew there was one activity that belonged at the top of my list: visiting a port winery (or two, or three…).

One of my favourite summer activities is wine tasting. Back in Canada, this was an easy afternoon outing, with my hometown quite literally surrounded by dozens of wineries. However, Sweden and wine don’t really go hand-in-hand. This means I’ll be spending a lot less time sipping wine in vineyards this summer. For this reason, I knew that I wanted to take full advantage of Portuguese wine country while I had the opportunity.

When I began researching the best way to visit the Douro Valley, most itineraries only detailed day trips from Porto and I really struggled to find the information I was looking for. After lots and lots of research, I’ve put together this two day guide to visiting the Douro Valley that will guarantee you the best visit.

Seriously, prepare to be amazed by one of the most drop dead gorgeous locations I’ve ever visited.


WHERE TO STAY IN THE DOURO VALLEY

The first choice you need to make when considering visiting the Douro Valley is which towns to visit. And where to stay in the Douro Valley to make sure you’re close to everything you want to see.

After doing lots of research, we settled on staying near the town of Pinhão. We ultimately made this decision based on its distance from Porto, and its location within the Douro region.

Pinhão is a lovely little town, surrounded by vineyards and offers plenty to do. Additionally, the drive from Peso da Régua to Pinhão along the N-222 has be voted the be drive in the world! Based on this, we knew Pinhão would make the perfect resting point.

Douro Valley

THE BEST DOURO VALLEY WINE HOTEL

Looking for the best Douro Valley wine hotel. Two words: Casa Cimeira.

Once we settled on a town, we began scouring surrounding properties for the perfect place to rest our heads. We wanted to stay at a popular ‘homestay’ [often affectionately referred to as a wine hotel, because these family-owned properties often also make their own wine]. When I came across Casa Cimeira, I knew I had found the spot.

Casa Cimeria is located just outside of Pinhão in Valença do Douro, a small village located amidst the rolling hills of wineries. Casa Cimeira is an immaculate family-owned property. It features spacious rooms, a pool, and the most spectacular views of the Douro Valley.

The owner and host Miguel is very welcoming and helpful. He offered us lots of tips to help you make the most of your time in the region.

And perhaps the most special part of the Casa Cimeira experience are the family dinners each night. We enjoyed an amazing home cooked Portuguese meal on the property of the wine hotel amongst other guests from around the world, sharing stories and bottles of Miguel’s homemade wine. This experience only costs 20 euros per person and was a highlight of our time here.

See also: The trendiest hotel in Porto.


GETTING TO & AROUND THE DOURO VALLEY

GETTING THE DOURO VALLEY BY CAR

Driving is easily the best way to get to the Douro Valley. Plus, it is the only way you’ll be able to experience the ‘best road in the world’ from Peso da Régua to Pinhão along the N-222. And let me tell – for this reason alone, the drive is worth it. I must have said “wow, look at that” at least 100 times.

Valenca de Douro Views

To get to Pinhão, we rented a car in Porto. For the most part, the drive was seamless. The roads were well paved, there was very little traffic, and they had two wide lanes. Getting to Pinhão was easy; however, getting to Casa Cimeira in Valença do Douro was not as straightforward. If you choose to stay in a neighbouring village to Pinhão [or any other Douro Valley town] be aware of the very steep, narrow, mountainside roads that you may have to navigate to get there. Sure, there are guard rails. But the roads are VERY narrow, and the locals do not drive slow.

However – I would argue that the ten minutes of white-knuckle driving was absolutely worth these views [although Sebastian might argue otherwise, since he was the one driving LOL]. Plus, I think I have been numb to all risky driving experiences ever since we braved some seriously scary roads in the Greek Islands.

See also: You can read all about our single-lane, cliffside, no-guard-rails driving experience in Naxos here.

TAKING A TRAIN TO THE DOURO VALLEY

The main towns of the Douro Valley, including Pinhão, have train stations, and you can take the train from Porto. I have heard from other people that this is a pleasant experience if you’re hesitant to drive. However, I would argue that it would be difficult to see everything the Douro Valley has to offer without a car, unless you want to hire a car/shuttle service to some of the local sights and wineries once you arrive in Pinhão.


THINGS TO DO IN THE DOURO VALLEY

EXPLORE THE TOWNS & VILLAGES OF THE DOURO

During our time in the Douro Valley, we visited Pinhão and Peso da Régua.

Peso da Régua is a charming town nestled into the mountains, where we stopped for lunch and took in the most beautiful views along the lake. We didn’t spend a lot of time here, but we did have one of my favourite meals in Portugal at Churrasqueira Rio Douro. Here, we were greeted by this fiery little Portuguese women, who was running around the tiny restaurant serving all the diners. We were told to pick a meat, which was served alongside plates of fries, rice, bread, and salad. The food was incredible, and the service was amazing. This massive meal only cost 16 euros!

Lunch at Churrasqueira Rio Douro

Pinhão is a larger town, and a popular hub for visitors to the Douro Valley. We spent an an afternoon wandering around Pinhão, having ice cream by the waterfront, visiting the local shops, and going on a boat ride along the Douro Valley. In town, there are a variety of tour operators that you can walk about to and book a boat ride [it only cost us 10 euros per person]. I really loved this experience because it wasn’t a tour – no history, no stories. It was just a relaxing time where I was able to sit on the bow of a small boat and admire the beauty of the Douro Valley.

DRINK ALL THE WINE

Shocker: we drank lots of wine in one of the world’s most popular wine regions.

A short distance from both Pinhão and Valença do Douro is one of the Douro Valley’s most popular wineries: Sandeman. The wine estate was, simply put, STUNNING. We visited their tasting room where we sampled a few of their wines, and admired the views of their vineyards and gardens. We didn’t book a winery tour at Sandeman; although based on the grandeur of the location I can imagine it would be impressive.

Located a short [very steep] 15 minute walk from our homestay in Valença do Douro was a much smaller, lesser known, winery called Quinta da Côrte. This spot is home to some of my favourite wines I had in Portugal. It also offers a “casa” where you can stay overnight if you are visiting the region. Here, we toured the facilities, learned how port wine is made, and tasted some of their signature wines – I couldn’t recommend this winery, and this experience, enough.

Quinta de Corte Winery

See also: The best food and wine tour in Porto.

ADMIRE THE VIEWS

I don’t know if I have ever been to a place as serene as the village of Valença do Douro. With not a person in sight, we felt as though we had the world to ourselves. We hiked around, took lots of pictures, and sat on benches and just admired the views. I had a few serious “pinch me” moments, feeling so grateful that these locals had welcomed us into their little, tiny community.

If you are planning on visiting the Douro Valley, I highly suggest taking a day or two in your itinerary to slow down and admire this agricultural masterpiece. Far too often travel can feel fast-paced and hectic. Visiting the Douro Valley was the perfect reminder that it doesn’t have to be that way.

Views of the Douro Valley near Pinhao

ONLY HAVE TIME FOR A DOURO VALLEY DAY TRIP?

Check out some of the best Douro Valley day trip options with Get Your Guide.


FEELING READY TO GET YOU WINE DRINKIN’ ON?

Before visiting the Douro Valley, I knew almost nothing about port wine [aside from the bougie-ness factor]. And I assumed that the highlight of my time in northern Portugal would be spent drinking wine on terraces and roaming through vineyards. Don’t get me wrong, we did a whole lot of that – but the Douro Valley is SO MUCH MORE. And it should be at the top of everyone’s bucket list.


PLANNING ON VISITING THE DOURO VALLEY? PIN THIS FOR LATER!

And check out some of my other Portugal posts, including my guide to all the things to do, see, and eat in Porto!

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The city of Porto is seriously cool. It’s gritty. Charming. Inviting. And perfectly imperfect in every single way.

Coincidently, I would use all these same adjectives to describe one of my favourite hotels, ever: ZERO Box Lodge.

This spot is definitely not your typical hotel, and quickly challenged all my expectations of what I typically expect from a hotel: because it is so much more than just a hotel. A trendy hub in the centre of Porto where you can sleep, eat, drink – and be amazed (seriously, this hotel was definitely designed with Instagram in mind).


ABOUT ZERO BOX LODGE

ZERO Box Lodge describes their hotel design as a new way of sleeping. And suggests that their model could be the future of tourism.

The hotel was the brain child of Gonçalo Carvalho, who had a vision to transform an old t-shirt factory from the 1800s into a revolutionary hotel concept. It was a one-stop-shop where visitors could feel like they have entered a different world.

In short, in every single way this place is the complete opposite of an ordinary hotel. ZERO Box Lodge is…


A PLACE TO REST

The room concept at ZERO Box Lodge was inspired by the Japanese “capsule hotel” and features rows of simple wooden boxes with plenty of room to move around, stand, and sleep. Each of these boxes features it’s own private, very modern bathroom.

Although the rooms were small, we rarely spend time in our hotel room when travelling. And found it was spacious enough to relax after a long day, with a very comfy bed and a large welcoming bathroom and shower (with huge towels, which I find are ALL TOO RARE when travelling – it’s all about the little things, you know?).


A PLACE TO EAT

Would you believe me if I said that the best dinner we had in Porto was at our hotel?

I never eat at hotel restaurants. I typically find them generic, overpriced, and lacking any sort of culinary creativity. O Carniceiro at ZERO Box Lodge challenged every single one of those opinions.

The concept was simple: look inside the glass refrigerator, pick a cut or two of meat, and they will prepare it for you. Pick a side dish (or two or three). And ENJOY.

We opted to share a couple different cuts of beef (they do have veggie/fish options if meat isn’t your thing). Indulged in two sides. And were totally blown away.

I was so full, but the food was SO good I knew I had to get dessert. And the sweet/spicy mix of the blackberry and green pepper chocolate cake was easily one of the best desserts I’ve had in awhile.

And the best part: this meal was so affordable.

See Also: The Best Food Tour in Porto


A PLACE TO DRINK

Why leave the hotel when you have one of the coolest bars in the city onsite? The Big Bad Bank Bar not only looked cool, but the cocktails were so on point. We enjoyed our pre-dinner cocktails so much on our first night in Porto, that we returned for another drink before our dinner at Big Bad Bank Bar the following night.


A PLACE TO BE AMAZED

Bank Vault

Inside Big Bad Bank Bar, they have designed their very own bank vault, complete with thousands of bills behind bars and traditional Portuguese tile patterns. It is easily the most Insta-worthy spot in the hotel.

Free Room

Yes, you heard that right – FREE HOTEL ROOM. This unique feature helps you answer the question: how far would you go for free accommodations?

Located in a highly visible location between the reception and bar is a glass-enclosed “free room.” The catch – zero privacy. And I mean literally zero. In fact, when we were going to breakfast in the morning we walked by the room to witness the occupant passed out in the midst of all the commotion around him. And we came home from a busy day in the city to see him playing video games in the room.

Personally, I’m adventurous, but not THAT adventurous. However, if you are ready to put yourself on display, this is the perfect opportunity to stay in Porto for free!


A PLACE THAT HAS IT ALL

Welcome Beer

Cold beer? Yes please. When I walked into the hotel and was offered a cold beer, I knew were in for a special stay. And the hospitality didn’t stop throughout our stay. The staff was friendly, helpful, and really rounded out the whole experience.

Breakfast

We also opted for the breakfast, which was served at O Carneceiro in the mornings. For only 8 euros per person, you were given a choice of four breakfast options, which included coffee and freshly squeezed juice. The portions were generous, making this option an incredible value and one I would absolutely opt for so you get up and start exploring early.

Watertank & Sauna

The “watertank,” or rooftop pool, wasn’t opened yet when we visited in April, and it still says that this feature is “coming soon” on the hotel website. But, once it is opened it will be a fantastic amenity with views overlooking Porto; it’s something that I can’t wait to return to try.


LOCATION

ZERO Box Lodge is located in a fabulous location, right in the city centre. Porto is a small city, and virtually everything is accessible by foot. This spot is perfectly situated to help you make the most of your city exploration.


PRICES & BOOKING

ZERO Box Lodge is super affordable, and offers an incredible value for your money. Check out the latest prices and book your stay: click here.


In short: ZERO Box Lodge is JUST PLAIN COOL & if you’re visiting Porto, you NEED TO STAY HERE.

I really couldn’t recommend this spot enough. The concept was so unique, and absolutely contributed to making our stay in Porto that much more special. And if sleeping in a box isn’t your thing, you can still stop by and enjoy the bar and restaurant. Because this spot is so much more than just a hotel.

See Also: The Chicest Boutique Hotel in Lisbon


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Rooftop Pool Lisboa

When travelling, nothing is more important than having a place that I’m excited to relax at after a long day of exploring. A little home away from home where I can take a hot shower, get cosy under the covers, and catch some much-needed ZzZz’s.

That’s why, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of a big city like Lisbon, I was so excited to find my little oasis: Hotel White Lisboa.

Hotel White Lisboa Bed

ABOUT HOTEL WHITE LISBOA

Hotel White Lisboa is a boutique hotel located near the centre of Lisbon, offering 41 rooms, a rooftop pool, and amazing breakfast spread to help you fuel up for your Lisbon adventures. And it’s name is no coincidence – the hotel has a very minimalistic, modern design and is virtually all white.


GETTING TO HOTEL WHITE LISBOA

From Lisbon Airport: The location of the hotel is near Lisbon airport, roughly 15 minutes away by Uber or taxi. We opted to take an Uber to the airport, as this option was a much better value than taking a taxi (cost: ~7 euros).

From the Train Station: When arriving in Lisbon, we took the train to the ‘Entrecampos’ station, and then transferred to the metro system. The closest metro stop is ‘Saldana’ which is located literally right in front of the hotel.


HOTEL HIGHLIGHTS & AMENITIES

Breakfast

Hotel White Lisboa offers a ‘Bed & Breakfast’ rate, which includes a buffet-style breakfast served from 7 until 10 am. We indulged in the breakfast during our stay, which included a wide spread of options including a variety of bread, fruits, Portuguese pasteries (you can never eat enough pastel de natas), juices, coffee, tea, and yogurt. It was the perfect way to begin our day and saved us the hassle of finding a breakfast spot, so that we could get our day started.

Hotel White Lisboa Breakfast
Rooftop Pool

Admittedly, this was my absolute favourite part about my stay at Hotel White Lisboa. The rooftop infinity pool felt so refreshing after a long, hot day wandering around Lisbon, and the lounge chairs offered the perfect vantage point to take in the most beautiful views.

If you’re looking for a hotel with a pool in Lisbon, this is your spot.

Hotel White Lisboa Portugal Sunset

TIP: To avoid the crowds (and expensive drink prices) in the city centre, head up to the rooftop with your favourite drink at sunset and watch the planes glide across the skyline.

See Also: The trendiest hotel in Porto.

Front Desk Staff

The front desk staff was available 24/7, and offered us some great tips on how to make the most of our time in Lisbon. Additionally, they provided an all-day drink service that definitely came in handy (sometimes a girl just needs a pre-dinner espresso pick-me-up).

Spacious, Modern Rooms

I truly can’t saw enough about our hotel room at Hotel White Lisboa. It was incredibly chic and modern. Very spacious (which was so welcomed after staying at a string of small hotel rooms throughout Portugal). And most importantly, SO CLEAN.

It offered all the amenities that I typically look for in a hotel room including a large, modern shower, and toiletries including shampoo, soaps, and other vanity items.

For when you’re looking to unwind before bed, the room also featured a large TV that was mounted to the wall and disguised as a mirror.

And we loved our window views overlooking some of the most beautiful Portuguese architecture.

Personal Touches

Our room was stocked with a large spring water bottle, chocolates, and fresh fruit. This hotel seriously thought of everything. And was so committed to making sure their guests have the best possible stay.


LOCATION

I can’t say enough about the location of this hotel. Located just north of the busy city centre, Hotel White Lisboa is located in the business district of Lisbon and right on the metro line. And I truly mean RIGHT on it – the ‘Saldana’ stop is located outside its front door.

During our time in Lisbon, which purchased 24 hour unlimited metro passes each day for only 6.40 euros, which meant getting virtually anywhere in the city was a breeze.

What I loved most about the location of this hotel was that even though it was on a main street near the city centre, the neighbourhood was away from the heart of the most touristy locations, and as a result was very quiet at night. It was the perfect escape from the busyness of Lisbon.


PRICES & BOOKING

Prices for a basic room begin at 102 euros a night, which is quite the bargain in a large city like Lisbon. I would recommend adding the ‘Bed and Breakfast’ option for grab and go convenience.

For the best rates, you can book on the Hotel White Lisboa website here.

And in case I haven’t convinced you to stay here yet (which I find incredibly hard to believe)…

Fodor’s Travel named Hotel White Lisboa the #4 hotel on their ‘9 Best Value Hotels in Lisbon’ list.

It’s no secret like Lisbon is a trendy travel destination. And for good reason – the city is so cool. But with trendiness comes rising hotel prices, and Hotel White Lisboa provides the perfectly affordable little home away from home oasis you’re looking for in Lisbon. I’m so thrilled that I was able to spend three nights here, and would urge you to book this hotel in Lisbon if you’re planning a trip to the city.

If you’re heading to Porto: check out the trendiest hotel in Porto.


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