Vila Nova de Gaia, across the Douro River from Porto, Portugal, houses dozens of historic port wine lodges and warehouses. Since moving to Portugal a few years ago, my husband and I have visited many of them. In early 2020, as our traveling and tasting adventures screeched to a halt, an enormous construction project neared completion there. The Fladgate Partnership’s World of Wine (WOW) opened a few months later, transforming derelict lodges into a new cultural district.
Three years on, WOW offers stellar views of Porto and the Dom Luis I Bridge. The complex features multiple dining, shopping, and entertainment options. Special exhibitions and activities mark Porto’s biggest days, such as June’s São João celebration.
Museums for wine, chocolate, cork!
WOW’s 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. The museums and shops feature the handiwork of Portuguese artisans, the future of Portuguese functional art and design. All of the shops offer top-quality mementos and gifts.
Each museum was developed around a cultural theme important to Portugal. Museum signage is in English and Portuguese, and English is widely spoken. In particular, four WOW museums offer a deep dive aimed at both connoisseurs and novices.
The Wine Experience
This museum takes visitors on a journey through Portugal’s wine regions—mainland and the islands—differentiating them and providing guidance for savoring each region to the fullest. At the Wine Experience, explore Portugal’s diverse vineyards and grape varieties. Learn about the country’s weather patterns and winemaking techniques.
Videos take you to the terraced vineyards of the rugged Douro Valley. They highlight the care required to nurture the vines to a bountiful harvest. 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. 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 bean-to-bar brand, are roasted. They 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 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, myriad cork applications are 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. The wine glasses and goblets dating from 7000 BC to the present, beautifully illustrate the “evolution of civilization through drink.”
More specialty museums
Porto Region Across the Ages focuses on northern Portugal. Porto Fashion & Fabric Museum is located in a 19th-century residential building. It 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 Atkinson Museum mounts temporary art exhibitions in collaboration with leading museums and collections. Currently showing: “The Dynamic Eye: Beyond Optical and Kinetic Art.” The exhibition from the Tate, the UK’s National Museum of Art, will run until September.
The Wine School
Tastings and classes at The Wine School cater to all levels of expertise, from novice to connoisseur. Participants explore wine regions in Portugal and worldwide. A program of walk-in tastings and sessions with well-known winemakers supplement the class schedule. Wine school workshops are conducted in Portuguese and English.
The Wine School offers WSET Certification through its WSET levels I and II courses. Complementing WSET, the Wine School also provides training as a Portuguese Wine Specialist.
Dining at the World of Wine, Porto
WOW’s elegant hallways do not mirror the steep cobbled streets of Porto. Nor will you find old men playing cards in front of their neighborhood taberna or budget-friendly lunch menus. However, you will find easily accessible, impeccable dining venues and a welcome respite from winter rain or summer heat. WOW restaurants and cafes cater to diverse tastes, with prices starting a little above the Porto norm.
Mira Mira by Ricardo Costa offers a relaxed fine-dining experience from the hands of the Michelin-starred Executive Chef of The Yeatman Hotel’s Gastronomic Restaurant. 1828 is a steakhouse that specializes in cuts from prime Iberian cattle.
On the ground floor of the Wine School, in a repurposed port wine cellar, T&C serves Portuguese fare. For a twist on a local favorite, T&C makes Porto’s famed francesinha sandwich with a port wine sauce.
Golden Catch shares terrace space and shares a menu with neighbor Root & Vine, a plant-based restaurant. At the latter, diners can top veggie plates with fish and other animal proteins. At either restaurant, diners can pick and choose from both menus.
number of wines by the glass to enjoy with small plates and an incomparable view of Ponte Dom Luís I; V.P., for lunch with a view, open all afternoon from Wednesday to Sunday; and Pip, a family-oriented restaurant offering pizzas, hamburgers, and pasta. Vinte Vinte, adjacent to The Chocolate Story, offers a range of chocolate products, hot chocolate and pastries, and tastings that pair port wine and chocolate.
If you go
The World of Wine is a day or night destination when visiting Porto, and a stunning light display delights dinnertime guests every evening.
- Accessibility is a plus for travelers challenged by the steep streets of Porto and Gaia.
- For travelers keen to know more about Portugal’s north but short on time, everything at WOW is within a few minutes walk.
- The WOW card—an annual membership card available for individuals, families, and seniors—offers discounts that can take the sting out of museum and restaurant prices that are higher than the norm for Porto.
- Take note: Getting the most out of the WOW museum experience requires patience and a willingness to read detailed wall displays. There’s a lot of writing on these walls!