During our holiday in Porto, we had a Vila Nova de Gaia day trip (it’s known as ‘Gaia’ to locals) just over the river from Porto. Much like other ‘sister’ cities separated by a river (see: Newcastle/Gateshead, Buda/Pest, San Francisco/Oakland), it can be overshadowed by its bigger neighbour, but Gaia is well worth a visit.
The best views of Porto
It offers the most spectacular views of Porto, has a myriad of beautiful cobbled streets and is home to a vast array of old port warehouses. Their cellars stretch deep into the hillside. Most of the warehouses are open for tours and tastings.
Just be careful on those cobbles after several glasses.
3+ Arte: a cooporative
Our first port of call (pun very much intended), was 3+ Arte, an artistic and cultural cooperative, specialising in lovely local handicrafts and Niepoort port. The owner was really friendly and happy to share his knowledge of port and what to eat with it, but not in an overbearing way.
Inside a warehouse, 3+ Arte is full of quirky things, like an old bath for amusing photos and a little vintage caravan decorated with typical blue and white Porto tiles. Naturally, one of us was dressed for the occasion.
We sampled three types of port wine – white, tawny and ruby. Having only ever ‘appreciated’ port wine as part of a Cheeky Vimto before, the range of flavours was quite impressive. We’ve never even seen the white version in the UK, but that was our favourite. Obviously, we had to have something to eat with it, especially given how good the food is in Porto. We had some local breads (including a delicious corn bread), cheese and chorizo to help the port go down. The chorizo merits its own photo…
Taylor’s port lodge
Stumbling back out into the light, we needed to sample some more port, so headed up the hill to Taylor’s. This was a more traditional port lodge, and while it didn’t have the friendly, down-to-earth atmosphere of 3+ Arte, it did have a beautiful garden so we could sit in the shade and enjoy another round of port.
Graham’s port lodge
After leaving Taylor’s, we decided we hadn’t done quite enough climbing up steep cobbled streets on a warm summer’s day… So we headed up to Graham’s port lodge, via some stunning views. And a shop for water.
Like Porto, Gaia had lots of winding side streets. The houses were lower, but still featured the brightly coloured tiles. Going further up, it felt more village-like: local shops, classic Portuguese café bars, and locals going about their daily business.
Graham’s was a real oasis on a warm day. It had a stunning interior and equally stunning views from its vine-shaded terrace. We’d had to move on from neat port at this point (for everyone’s safety) so we had a glass of Douro white wine and a white port tonic.
Like the rest of Gaia, and Porto, it felt upmarket but didn’t have the price tag to match. Everything was very affordable.
To stop ourselves drinking even more port, we caught the bus back to Porto for a bite to eat. It was a scenic journey as the sun started to go down and both cities started to light up for the evening.
All in all, Gaia is the perfect place to while away an afternoon. Especially if you want an early evening hangover.
Vila Nova de Gaia day trip: useful information
How to get there
The easiest way is to walk over the Dom Luis I bridge, but you can also get the tram. It only takes a few minutes unless you spend an hour taking photos like we did.
Where to stay
We just went for the day, from Porto, which was an excellent base for this and other day trips.
How to get around
Everything is walkable.
When to go
We visited in August and the weather was beautiful – not too hot, but warm enough to walk around in summer clothes.