Introducing Holidays to Vila Nova De Gaia
Just to the south of Porto lies Vila Nova de Gaia, a beautiful river and sea-front town that rates very highly for history, elegance and culture. The town grew rich on one thing, and it won’t be long before you spot its signs in the dozens of adverts, tours, warehouses and lodges devoted to port wine.
The Rio Douro river separates Nova de Gaia from Porto, and the riverfront is a wonderful place to wonder, explore and experience a very Portuguese city. It’s packed with bars, cafes, restaurants, and is a jumping off point for numerous river cruises. But if you want to just sit and look at the fantastic views over the beautiful ribeira of Porto you’ll still have a lovely time.
You’ll want to dig into the port trade while you’re on holiday in Vila Nova De Gaia, and many companies offer tours and tastings. Look for smaller producers for a more personal experience.
All the attractions of Porto, the country’s second city, are just a step away, including beautiful cityscapes, good museums, beautiful parks, lots of culture, shopping and attractions.
Top Attractions in Vila Nova De Gaia
The Serra do Pilar monastery dates back to the 16th century, and the views along the river and over Porto are as good now as they were then. The building itself is one of the best pieces of religious architecture in a country that does monasteries supremely well and the famous Arrabida Bridge frames the historic city beyond beautifully.
The port wine trade came to Vila Nova de Gaia to escape high taxes on the other side of the river. The town is now full of historic caves (as port warehouses are called), many with familiar British names like Taylor’s and Croft’s. Many offer tours explaining how grapes from up river benefit from ageing in their tanks to become one of the world’s favourite fortified wines.
You can reverse the journey of the port wine grapes on one of the many river cruises that leave the Vila Nova de Gaia riverfront. The Douro is a beautiful river and an important historic highway, made possible in difficult terrain with famously high bridges, dams, and locks.
You might need a car to make a day trip to Peso de Regua, where many of those grapes are grown. There’s a good museum dedicated to the river and the port trade, and the surrounding countryside is stunning, with steeply sloping vineyards running down to the river.
How does a city break with a beach grab you? Vila Nova de Gaia has the most Blue Flag beaches in Portugal along its 17km seafront. Try the Miramar, Granja, Aguda, or Valadares beaches, all of which are popular with locals, and come with beautiful seafront promenades and wonderful dining and drinking facilities.
At Miramar beach you’ll see the extraordinary site of the beautiful Capela do Senhor da Pedra, a chapel built right on the seashore that looks stunning at sunset, and even more stunning when being lashed by Atlantic waves.
If you have kids with you they might want more than a round of cathedrals, port wine lodges and beautiful gardens. Grab a family ticket for the World of Discoveries museum, a wonderfully interactive celebration of the great Portuguese Age of Discovery that includes a ride on a very good mock-up of a ship from the period. The Sea Life aquarium in Porto is a good collection of undersea wildlife, and Vila Nova de Gaia also has a zoo of its own.