Located right in the heart of Porto, in Boavista, and near the Synagogue Kadoorie Mekor Haim is the four-star Hotel da Musica. A beautiful modern hotel with a strong musical theme, it is much more than a designer hotel, it is like plunging into a symphony of experiences. Hotel da Musica is part of, and directly connected to, the iconic Mercado Bom Sucesso Market, a public marketplace with food stalls and cultural activities. It is also very close to one of the popular squares of Oporto, Rotunda da Boavista, where you can find the Casa da Música.
For travelers who keep kosher, Hotel da Musica is really a no-brainer and an excellent choice for accommodations. The hotel offers kosher meals, consisting of Portuguese cuisine and vegetarian meals, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and there is a kosher store connected to the hotel. The staff is kind and helpful in opening room doors for observant guests, for example, on Shabbat. This project is coordinated by the Oporto Rabbi, Daniel Litvak, whose supervision is recognized by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. The hotel also has a new kitchen and rigorous training of its employees to welcome Jewish tourists.
Hotel da Musica is a quaint hotel attracting Jewish tourists from all over the world, including Israel, France, and America. Joao Duarte, Groups & Events Manager of the hotel added : “Our guests are very observant, I would say about 90% of our guests are from Israel, 6% or 7% comes from France and the others… are from all over the world. About 2 or 3% of guests come from the United States, Belgium and South America.”
The concept for the hotel, which is not owned by Jews, came about in response to the current interest in the history of Portugal and its Sephardic Jewish heritage. It is a very charming hotel, whose musical and Jewish themes are discernible by walking through the lobby, which has Israeli flags and colorful musical instruments It is quite a gem of a hotel catering to the kosher crowd in a city of only 300 Jews.
The meals are tasty and plentiful. In the kosher section of the restaurant, you can see the musical theme on the wall and an inscription on the wall in Hebrew: “”And you shall eat, be satisfied and bless Hashem your Lord.” Duarte told NYJTG, “We are not a kosher restaurant and we are not officially a kosher hotel, we don’t have kosher breakfast every day. We do have clients who want a kosher breakfast and so we cook it; however, it has to be booked 24 hours in advance.” For Shabbat, everything is pre-cooked and under the guidance of a kosher supervisor (mashgiach).
The Kosher Corner, a project of the Hotel da Musica, is located in the Mercado Bom Sucesso. The store is the first with kosher products in the country, both for guests and the general public. Created in partnership with the Jewish Community of Porto, the store aims to familiarize the general population with kosher products but mainly to assist kosher visitors. The Porto Kosher Store is under the supervision of Rabbi Daniel Litvak, Rav of the Mekor Chaim Synagogue of Porto, and is closed on Shabbat.
When I visited the store, I was a surprised, however, by the lack of variety in products; apparently, a slew of visitors and tourists had depleted most of their stock a few days earlier. Duarte acknowledged that the selection is “not huge,” but stocked with practical items that tourists can use during their stay, such as cookies, pita bread, matzah, noodles, peanuts and olives, tahini, tuna, kosher wine, chocolate, and cereal bars. He added, though, that “many new items are on order,” and that the store plans to expand its product line “in the near future.” Noting the difficulty of importing high-cost kosher products from other cities, he added that on the positive side, “we are working on a ‘grab and go’ concept where…tourists can take their lunch with them while they are touring so they don’t have to come back to the hotel to eat. Porto is still growing in terms of tourism.”
The hotel rooms are clean, spacious and has everything travelers need, including tea or coffee, a fridge, hair dryer, toiletries and plenty of fresh towels. The staff is extremely helpful and the location is excellent, a half-hour walk from most attractions. There is a bus terminal across the street, and the Metro station is a five-minute walk. I simply loved this hotel as I had a wonderful experience. I would definitely recommend it and stay here again on my next visit.
Two recent guests also shared their positive experiences with NYJTG: Ofer and Iris, an Israeli couple, visited Porto for the first time for a 10-day vacation. Said Ofer, “This hotel is amazing, clean, and the staff always greets you with a smile and are always ready to help.” Iris added: “We are pleased to have a tour guide in Hebrew to explore this beautiful city and especially Portugal’s Jewish heritage.”
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Story & photography by Meyer Harroch – New York Jewish Travel Guide & New York Jewish Guide.com
The author took part in a press trip sponsored by Visit Portugal.