If youre looking to get away for a short break but dont fancy the likes of Amsterdam or Paris, Portugal is the place to go – specifically the Douro Valley and Porto.
The two destinations offer so much history and culture, coupled with beautiful views, but its their unique connection to port wines that keep visitors coming back.
And what better way to explore the region than hopping from wine hotel to wine hotel?
My journey started with an authentic vineyard experience at Quinta da Roêda, in Pinhão, on the bank of the Douro river.
It was first acquired by Croft port in 1889, and is one of the Douro Valleys most highly respected vineyards.
The property is often referred to as the jewel of the Douro Valley vineyards, and is the main source of grapes for the firms vintage ports.
As visitors tour the vineyard, they learn about the history of the business and get to stop at points of interest along the way to take in the stunning views.
Alongside finding out about how port is made, and tasting various styles of the tipple, the property also offers the possibility of a picnic in the heart of the vineyard.
Hidden on a hill beneath some trees, I found our picnic table covered in a gingham cloth.
The hosts supplied house wines and large baskets of food containing sandwiches, cheese and meats and other tapas-style foods.
Sure, it may just be a picnic, but theres something amazing about sipping wine at a picnic table within a gorgeous vineyard.
After getting a little tipsy from all the tastings, I checked into The Vintage House Hotel.
Its located in the valleys demarcated wine region in Pinhão, on the banks of the River Douro.
Originally built in the 19th century as the home and storage warehouse for the family who owned Taylors port, The Vintage House Hotel was purchased by the Fladgate Partnership in October 2015.
It was the first luxury property to open in the Douro Valley in 1998 and has retained many of its historical features, offering guests a chic country house style retreat.
The hotel re-opened its doors in March this year, following a 10-week refurbishment.
There are 50 rooms, including four new private suites with balconies and views of the river and surrounding terraces.
The room I stayed in featured a king size bed, two armchairs, a huge TV and a dressing table.
There was a balcony looking out on to the river but the outdoor swimming pool is just as good for the views.
I went for dinner at the Rabelo Restaurant within the hotel, which offers a choice of regional specialties and creative cuisine based on local ingredients.
Alongside, there are Douros famous table wines and ports selected by the hotels expert wine team.
The hotel has a historic bar, which has retained many of the rustic features in tune with its port heritage, where guests can enjoy an aperitif before dinner.
Wine lovers can book tastings at the Wine Academy on site and be introduced to a selection of Portuguese wines from the cellar.
Daily riverboat trips depart from the hotels doorstep as well, which offer guests the opportunity to explore the region by river, as the port merchants would have done centuries before.
The next morning, I was up early to travel down river to Porto to learn about the history of port at Taylors Port Wine Cellar in Vila Nova de Gaia.
There, I was given a tour around the cellar where I was surrounded by barrel upon barrels of port.
Visitors can watch a short feature film on the making of the wine, and learn about how the workers would traditionally dance and tread the grapes.
The harvest of the grapes start in mid-September and the grapes are generally picked by hand.
About 30 traditional grape varieties can be used to make port, most of them are red. The best known include Touriga Francesa, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Branca, Tinta Amarela and Tinta Cao.
Historically, the grapes were carried to the winery in small baskets and then placed in wide granite tanks, known as lagres, to be tread by foot.
Today, machines can also be used to mimic the treading of the grapes.
After learning about the making of port, I enjoyed some wine tastings before having lunch at the Barao Fladgate Restaurant on site.
The restaurant was incredibly classy and the food was also gorgeous.
To start, I had fresh prawns and scallops, followed by lobster on a bed of veal and fried potatoes.
After lunch, I checked into The Yeatman Hotel next door.
It was absolutely stunning – youre greeted by shiny marble floors, chandeliers and a red carpeted staircase as soon as you walk in.
There are three acres of private gardens set within a seven acre estate that includes indoor and outdoor infinity pools, a 24-hour wine bar, and a Michelin-starred restaurant.
Well known for its wine credentials, The Yeatman houses one of the most comprehensive collections of Portuguese wines in their cellars.
There are 13 suites and 70 rooms altogether, each with a private terrace offering panoramic views of the city across the river.
My room was gorgeous and featured a large bed, a huge TV, an absolutely stunning bathroom with a giant tub, and plenty of storage for clothes and bags.
Once settled in, I headed downstairs to the spa, where I was given a full body massage, before jumping into the heated pool.
Below the pool area there is also a softly-lit roman bath, steam rooms and saunas.
The Yeatmans gastronomic restaurant currently holds two Michelin stars. And the food, as you can expect, is incredible.
Following breakfast the next morning, I took a river taxi into Porto for a walking tour, where I visited Se Cathedral, Clerigos Church and Tower, Lello Bookshop, Sao Francisco Church, and Majestic Cafe.
The views were gorgeous, and the historic centre was filled with old buildings covered in art work.
Fladgate Partnerships five star Infante Sagres, which reopened its doors to the public following a £7.3million revamp, can also be found in the centre of Porto.
Founded in 1951, and owned by Fladgate since 2016, the hotels charming interiors carry a legacy of more than six decades.
The makeover gives a nod to the buildings original architect, Rogério de Azevedo, who created one of the pioneering examples of modernism in the city of Porto.
The hotel boasts 85 rooms and 10 suites, as well as an exciting new addition – the cosmopolitan Vogue Café.
The cafe, which has its own entrance in Rua de Avis, offers a cocktail session for anyone who needs a break from port – which trust me, you will.
My short jaunt has shown me so many sides to this part of Portugal – especially in terms of history, location and architecture – but they all have one thing in common: their beauty. And of course, the wine.
And if youre planning a short, luxury stay and want somewhere with lots of culture and gorgeous scenery to offer alongside great food and wine, Porto and the Douro Valley should be at the top of your list.
Where to stay in Porto and the Douro Valley and how to get there:
I stayed at three different hotels owned by the Fladgate Partnership, who also own a number of port houses in the region.
There are flights from London Gatwick to Porto starting from £70 with British Airways.
(Top picture: Getty)