Porto agglomeration has several municipalities: the two main ones are Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia (usually called Gaia). The historic centre of Porto and Gaia are very close and only separated by the Douro; very few tourists differentiate the two banks. Porto is very extensive and some locations can be very far from the historic centre but if you stay at Porto Moments the main attractions of the city are within easy reach.
There is much to do in Porto , but Gaia is not left out and offers many unique activities. With its quays lined with restaurants Gaia is a must for a trip to Porto, there are the best views of Porto, the most beautiful beaches, the must-see cellars of Porto and many other things! Here are the best things to see and do in Vila Nova de Gaia.
If Porto gave its name to the famous drink initially created for the English ,the cellars of the port wine produced in the Douro valley are in Vila Nova de Gaia. Gaia enjoys ideal climate and an ideal place to age wine, that is why merchants decided to settle and have the cellars built there around 1710 .
As the English did not want to import French wine in their country they ordered their wines in Portugal. But the wine had to bear boat trips to Great Britain; therefore sweetening elements (fruits, herbs, flowers, leaves ...) and brandy were added to it before it aged in the cellars of Gaia.
The wineries of Port wine were built above ground in warehouses on the rock of the hills of Gaia. Famous Port wine brands are numerous in the historical centre of Gaia around the house of Porto Moments: Sandeman, Calem, Porto Cruz, Taylor's, Graham's, Ferreira ...
All wineries offer tours in English, Portuguese and French; our preference is Graham's winery which also offers an excellent restaurant with a unique view of Porto and its famous bridge. Taylor's is also a nice place to taste wine. Generally visits are free but tasting wines is not free of charge ( the price varies (from € 12 / person depending on the wine you want to taste).
It is advisable to book your visit on the websites of the Port wines companies.
Book a guided tour of Cálem Cellars including wine tasting and a Fado performance ! (book here)
You cannot miss them, "Rabelos" boats run the Douro all day long to offer visitors a different point of view on the city. From the River all is different: you can admire both shores of the city: Vila Nova de Gaia and Porto. In addition to the 6 beautiful bridges you will discover the mouth of the Douro, the marina and the fishing village of Afurada.
The boats were once used to transport barrels of wine between the Douro Valley and Vila Nova de Gaia where the cellars are located.
You can embark on the docks of Gaia, down Candido dos Reis street if you are staying in one of our apartments in Porto.
Book your tickets online to avoid the queues! (book here)
The Douro Academy proposes an alternative to a boat tour on the Douro. With this option you discover the Douro near the water and take a little more time to admire the shores of Porto and Gaia.
The company is based at the Marina de Gaia near the mouth of the Douro. Douro academy also proposes Stand Up Paddling lessons or even surfing lessons. To find out more visit their website.
The historic centre of Gaia is less extensive than Porto’s but it offers a very peaceful atmosphere when you walk in the alleys between the cellars. We recommend you wear comfortable shoes to make your visit as comfortable as possible.
The small church of Santa Marinha, close to Porto Moments, is a good starting point to walk in Gaia. Take the stairs (Escadas do Campanário) at the end of the small square where the church is and go up to the Croft cellar (on the right at the top of the stairs) you are then on a very small nice path between the cellars. Once you get to the end of the path we advise you to turn left (rua de Serpa Pinto) walk up for a few metres and take first right: Quinta Devesas and its abandoned palace in a small charming park is just in front of you.
If you want to see more of Gaia, we also recommend the district of Castelo, near Graham's; there are less tourists and beautiful views of the Douro. Once at the top of the Castelo hill, move towards the Escadas da Boa stairs which are lined with old houses similar to those in downtown Porto.
Want to discover another facet of Gaia? We advise you to rent bikes and go on a bike ride along the Douro.
The course is totally flat (except for a slight slope before reaching the beaches) and dotted with little treasures. From Gaia's docks, follow the River towards the sea. Your first stop will be the fishing village of Afurada: it is the ideal place to enjoy fresh fish at low price.
The new marina next door is also a nice place to discover. Ride your bike again to Gaia Nature Reserve: the place is perfect for birdl watching, this will be your last stop before you get to the mouth of the Douro that flows into the Atlantic Ocean.
There is a bike path along the beach: ride to the beach of Senhor da Pedra in Miramar: the most beautiful beach in the region and its chapel on the rocks are awaiting you!
A tip: the ride will take about 1h15, maybe longer depending on the number of stops. There is a bicycle rental in our street at number 55
Praia de Miramar is undoubtedly the most beautiful beach in the region. It stands out thanks to the Capela do Senhor da Pedra, a chapel nestled on a rock in the middle of the beach. It is one of the symbolic places of Gaia and the perfect place to tan or watch the sunset. You can get there by car, by urban train (Linha Aveiro from General Torres railway station in Gaia) or by bike ( the path runs along the seafront and is flat).
Go up along the Douro to Porto and enjoy Madalena Beach and its trendy Daikiri bar; the place is great for a bowl of Acai, a Brazilian fruit highly appreciated for its energetic properties! Then reach the mouth of the Douro on the Atlantic Ocean, but just before you get to it we invite you to enjoy the Praia de Lavadores : the beach is beautiful with rocky chaos similar to the beaches of Britanny. In case of strong wind it can protect you from the northwest winds.
If you are looking for the best views of Porto, Gaia is the place to be!
Our favourite points of view to admire Porto from Gaia are Serra do Pilar, Graham's restaurant, Yeatman's bar, Porto Cruz's terrace, Calçada da Serra street and car park.
In case of a rainy day (very unlikely!), we recommend the Gaia shopping centres. The gigantic El Corte Ingles on Avenida da Republica is the most famous one. El Corte Ingles is a Spanish department store like Printemps in France or Galeria Inno in Belgium. It is within easy reach by metro ( stop at João de Deus) There are free shuttles too from Jardim de Morro (a person hands out brochures near the bridge).
The biggest shopping centre in Gaia is the Arrabida Shopping Mall with the big fashion chains; it does not have much to envy Norte Shopping in Porto and has a beautiful terrace with a view. By contrast it is quite difficult to access by public transport, prefer a trip by taxi, ubber or car if you rent one.
If you like watching animals, Gaia has a nature reserve on the banks of the Douro with a bird watching place. This reserve is located between the village of Afurada and the mouth of the Douro River. If you travel with children you can visit the Parque Biológico de Gaia or Santo Inácio zoo.