Gallery Hostel – Book a few nights, you will want to stay a week!
Over the past two summers, I found myself loving life in Portugal. In 2012, I booked a roundtrip ticket to Lisbon to see Radiohead headline Optimus Alive (3 day music festival – 3 stages and 55,000 spectators). I figured since I was flying out to Portugal for a concert, might as well turn it into a three-week adventure. After my first week in Lisbon, I ventured north to Porto. Relying on Hostelworld for suggestions, I had a choice between Yes! Porto and Gallery Hostel. Since I spent my first week going out until sunrise, I figured I needed to recharge my batteries; therefore, Gallery Hostel was a clear winner.
When choosing a hostel online, it is always a good idea to read the reviews available. Some websites will indicate how many reviews a member has done. I try to filter out the novice travellers, as I find their advice unreliable. Look for the ‘avid traveller’ and the ‘globetrotter’ reviews. Asking others for recommendations is also very helpful.
Porto is a breathtaking city filled with rich history displayed on blue dye tiles, iconic statues erected in public squares, cafes and bistros crammed with university students discussing life and politics, museums that caters to most crowds, 5 star restaurants (surprisingly plenty of vegan and vegetarian restaurants) at 3 star prices, and who could forget the numerous wine cellars showcasing the best Port wine in world (fresh from the Douro Valley). When I first arrived in Porto, I took a coach bus from Coimbra to Porto, not realizing how efficient the city’s public transit was, I spent a few more Euros on a taxi.
Gallery Hostel is fairly new, and it is conveniently located in the Art District, which neighbours the nightlife district (just a few minutes by foot).
When you first arrive, you are taken back when you step into the entry hallway. The cool breeze welcomes you in from the hot summer heat, depending on the time of day you can smell the feast being prepared for dinner, your eyes are drawn to the art displayed on the walls as music fills the gallery, and the friendly face to your right welcoming you into the office to check in.
The hostel is a family run business. Gonçalo Nuno alongside his girlfriend Jasmin, and his parents can be seen almost daily at the hostel. Clearly, they are a hard working family that values quality and strive for perfection. The staff at Gallery Hostel is like one big family, if you are traveling alone, you won’t have a problem striking up a conversation with staff or any of the other travellers.
With daily activities, including free walking tours, you may find yourself making lifetime friends with those around you. The quintessential key to their success is the nightly dinners they host for 10 Euros.
For the budget traveller, 10 Euros may be rich; however, most realize they won’t get a better meal anywhere else for that price (for many it will be the best meal on their entire trip). With the group dinner, guests sit down at the dinning table (seats approx. 15) where most will share their travel stories as well as introduce themselves to the other guests.
The dinner starts with various appetizers spread across the table as diners enjoy wine (included in the price), then the main course is presented which always gets a loud reception, and finally dessert. Often guests will make their way to the bar and discuss evening plans; some may decide to stay in and the rest often go out to the extravagant night scene. Guests staying in could take advantage of the media room, which is filled with games, musical instruments, and a home theatre setup to play any of the movies provided in their library.
The rooms are clean and spacious. Fortunately located far enough away from the pubs and nightclubs, guests can expect peace and quiet when they want to sleep (there is hardly any noise from street). During the day, the cleaning staff makes up the beds and cleans the floors (lockers are provided per guest to keep the floors cleared) and washrooms. Coming back to a clean room every night was always appreciated. There is nothing worse than returning to your room reeking of BO and other guests’ dirty clothes.
The attention to detail from the staff mitigates the potential smelliness of other travellers. If you are traveling in pairs, you may appreciate booking one of their private rooms, which has art displayed in the rooms and also very spacious.
The hostel is perfect for most travellers. On days when you just want to relax they have a rooftop patio for guests to read and/or suntan. The art district has many galleries you can just walk in and view local talent; as well there are lovely shops for those looking for gifts or for themselves. Just down the street from Gallery Hostel is a wonderful teahouse called Rota do Chá and a kick ass burger joint called Bugo Art Burgers.
Last summer, I spent two months in Europe. I made my way from Amsterdam to Paris, then down south to St. Jean Pied du Port where I started the Camino de Santiago.
When I arrived in Santiago, I was tired, dirty, injured, and I was in desperate need of being pampering. Fortunately, Porto was a short bus trip away from Santiago. I initially booked three nights and decided within the first few hours of returning that I needed to book an extra six nights. I was welcomed by staff, many who remembered me from the previous summer.
I have plans to visit other parts of the world; the challenge is that I want to return to Portugal again very soon. For accommodations and hospitality, Portugal is a world leader. There is a Portuguese word that does not have an equal in the English dictionary called Saudades. Saudades is an emotion that inspired the creation of the music genre called Fado dating back to the exploration days, where the wives of the sailors would stare out to the ocean longing to be with their husbands knowing they may never see them again. Saudades is not only limited to feelings of a person, an individual could have saudades for a place, an object, or a memory. To learn more about saudades, I have created an article the year prior when I returned from Portugal in 2012:
I have become a huge supporter of Gallery Hostel. Even on other parts of my last trip, I would let travellers know if they are heading to Portugal, to visit Porto and stay at the Gallery Hostel. In my humble opinion Gallery Hostels is probably one of the best hostels in the world, this coming from an avid traveller. To check out their photo gallery, visit their website:
PICTURES PROVIDED BY MARTA SOFIA GUIMARAES and LUIS FARIA