Visiting Porto? Don’t miss the WOW cultural district in Vila Nova de Gaia!
We have lived in Porto for several years, but developments in the country’s food and wine scene continue to surprise and delight us. Recently, we have made several forays across the Douro to Vila Nova de Gaia to sample the food and visit the World of Wine (WOW) museums. The entire complex was built over the remnants of disused port wine lodges.
Is Porto on your travel agenda? If so, the World of Wine in Porto, Portugal, can be a brilliant enhancement to your travel experience.
From wine cellars to cultural hub
WOW opened in mid-2020, a major boost to northern Portugal’s cultural, gastronomic and retail offerings. The Fladgate Partnership, under the direction of CEO Adrian Bridge, transformed derelict lodges into a cultural district with myriad options for dining, shopping and entertainment. The views from WOW’s terraces—of the Dom Luis I bridge and across the river to Porto—are stellar.
Seven museums invite exploration of Portugal’s northern region and the industries and objects—wine, cork, glass, textiles and more—vital to the entire country’s history and heritage. Each museum was developed around a cultural theme important to Portugal.
Several offer a deep dive suitable for both connoisseurs and novices. In museums and shops, visitors can see first-hand the handiwork of artisans who are the future of Portuguese functional art and design. And all of WOW’s museum shops offer top-quality mementos and gifts.
The Wine Experience
The Wine Experience takes visitors on a journey through Portugal’s wine regions—mainland and the islands—differentiating them and providing guidance for tasting and savoring them to the fullest. Enjoy the interactive bits, such as a quiz to learn your personal wine type. Or, put your nose to the test of identifying key flavor components of wine.
Let videos take you to terraced vineyards for a look at the care required to nurture the vines for a bountiful harvest in the rugged Douro valley. Then, compare the vinification calendars of the world’s wine-growing regions. When you are done, enjoy a guided tasting of several Portuguese wines.
“We at the World of Wine want to engage with the avid wine traveler across two floors dedicated to demystifying wine and putting Portuguese wines into context in the world.”
Adrian Bridge, Founder/CEO World of Wine
The Chocolate Story
The Chocolate Story tells the history of cacao and chronicles the journey from bean to bar. Here, you’ll learn about cultural developments in our enjoyment of chocolate. And about the role chocolate once played in wartime.
After the visit, taste a variety of chocolates right in front of the machinery where cacao beans for Vinte Vinte, the house brand, are roasted. The bars are all top-notch, but Vinte Vinte’s annual Grand Cru is especially noteworthy. It’s produced from single-harvest cacao at Finca La Rioja in Soconusco, Mexico.
Planet Cork showcases the endless possibilities for cork, a sustainable product for which Portugal is famous. From the classic bottle stopper to fashion and the aerospace industry, the applications for cork are many and diverse and on show here.
The Bridge Collection
The Bridge Collection displays the personal collection of Adrian Bridge, Fladgate CEO. These artifacts would be at home in a world-class antiquities museum. They include wine glasses and goblets dating from 7000 BC to the present, beautifully illustrating the “evolution of civilization through drink.”
More specialty museums
Porto Region Across the Ages focuses on northern Portugal. History buffs and travelers who want to know more about the Douro Valley will especially enjoy these exhibits.
Porto Fashion & Fabric Museum, located in a 19th-century residential building, provides an overview of Portugal’s vibrant textile industry, Portugal-crafted footwear, and the art of filigree.
The Pink Palace celebrates all things rosé (wine). And does so with a flamboyant sensory experience highlighting rosé regions, climates, cultivation, and production techniques.
The Wine School
Tastings and classes at The Wine School cater to all levels of expertise, from novice to connoisseur. And they explore wine regions in Portugal and around the world. We found a wine class here to be an entertaining way to boost our knowledge of the grape and Portuguese wines. A program of daily walk-in tastings and periodic sessions with well-known winemakers supplement the class schedule.
These elegant premises do not supplant the steep cobbled streets of Porto. Nor will you find old men playing cards in front of their neighborhood taberna or budget-friendly luncheon specials. However, you will find accessible and impeccable dining venues and a welcome respite from winter rain or summer heat. WOW eateries cater to diverse tastes, with prices ranging from a little above the Porto norm to five-star.
T&C serves Portuguese fare on a terrace outside the Wine School and in a renovated port wine cellar. For a twist on a local favorite, T&C makes Porto’s famed francesinha sandwich with a port wine sauce. And 1828, a steakhouse specializing in cuts from prime Iberian cattle, offers fine dining with panoramic views.
Golden Catch shares terrace space—and the view—with neighbor Root & Vine, a plant-based restaurant. At the latter, diners can top veggie plates with fish and other animal proteins. And at either restaurant, diners can pick and choose from both menus.
Angel’s Share serves an impressive number of wines by the glass to enjoy with small plates and an incomparable view of Ponte Dom Luís I. V.P. offers brunch, all day, every day. Pip restaurant and Maze Café are convenient to the Pink Palace museum.
Mira Mira serves upscale tapas with a healthy twist, while Lemon Plaza offers traditional Portuguese snacks and light meals. Suspiro tempts with gourmet desserts and coffee. And Vinte Vinte, adjacent to The Chocolate Story, offers chocolate tastings, coffee and pastries.
More at World of Wine in Porto
The World of Wine in Porto is also an event and temporary exhibition space. Currently on show: “Saudade/Portugal,” a photographic exhibition by Neal Slavin. The exhibition documents the transformation of Portugal from the Estado Novo period to the present day.
The World of Wine is a day or night destination when visiting dramatic Porto, easy to reach by water taxi from the landing at Porto’s Ribeira Quay. A stunning light display delights dinnertime guests every evening. Guests at Angel’s Share and the restaurants facing WOW’s main square have a front-row seat to the show.
What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?
- Accessibility is a big plus for travelers challenged by the steep streets of Porto and Gaia.
- Everything is within a few minutes’ walk, ideal for travelers keen to experience Portugal’s north, but short on time.
- WOW is a wonderful add-on to other travel, such as Douro river cruises.
- Museum signage is in both English and Portuguese, and English is widely spoken.
- Getting the most out of the museum experiences calls for patience and a willingness to read detailed wall displays. There’s a lot of writing on these walls!
IF YOU GO
- For more information and to reserve your WOW experiences, visit the World of Wine website
Photo credits: All photos Tom Fakler and Anita Breland
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