Portugal’s northern city of Porto is well-known for the scenic Douro River that traverses the city, its proximity to the country’s Douro Valley, and the production of port. Just minutes away from the city’s centre, though, is a district delivering multilayered experience that encompasses the best of Porto’s history, and of course, wine. WOW, The New Cultural District, formerly known as the World of Wine, is located in the historic Vila Nova de Gaia neighbourhood. First opened in the summer of 2020, the whopping 5,00,000-square-foot space includes seven interactive museum experiences, and 12 restaurants, bars, and cafes housed within restored port wine cellars. There’s also a variety of retail spaces and a school that offers workshops on wine and gastronomy. By Kristin Braswell
Beyond the wine, you’ll also be able to enjoy chocolate tastings, exhibitions of Portuguese fashion through the years, or simply people watch in a central square that offers magnetic views of the old city, Dom Luís I Bridge, and glowing Douro River below. WOW’s debut made it one of Europe’s biggest tourism developments, at the time, and now that international travel has picked up again, there’s no better time for a visit.
The best things to do at WOW
Party in the Pink Palace
Get a hands-on experience with the ubiquitous summer wine: rosé. At Pink Palace, 11 colourful rooms offer education on how rosé grapes are grown around the world along with Instagrammable props. You’ll also be able to try five different rosés along the way: Quinta do Vale do Bragão Rosé, AIX Gran Vin de Provence Rosé, Mateus Rosé, Vértice Rosé Bruto, and Croft Pink Rosé Port.
Get ready for Class
There are 250 grapes indigenous to Portugal, and at WOW’s Wine School, you’ll learn about many of them, from alvarinho to touriga nacional. The premises feature three training rooms, two with a tasting room and another with a kitchen, and classes focus on wine selection and food-and-wine pairing, among other customisable courses.
Come for the wine, stay for the fashion
Housed in a historic building from the 18th century, the Porto Fashion & Fabric Museum includes two collections showcasing different sections of the fashion and textile industry in Portugal. The first level explains the integral role that the textile industry has played in Portugal’s economy, as well as all the steps of production, from creating the material to weaving the final piece. On the second level, gain a true appreciation of Portuguese fashion with a look at styles from more than 46 national designers.
Taste a range of varietals
Portugal is a small but mighty country in many ways, including its microcosm of different landscapes that produce some truly excellent wines. At The Wine Experience, the art of demystifying wine is presented to visitors through education on the soil, climate, and grapes that produce the region’s sparkling, red, and white wines. This is also a sensory experience, where tastings, vision, and smell are employed to deepen your relationship with the glass.
Get to know chocolate in a different way
WOW’s Chocolate Story takes visitors through an in-depth, 12-step journey, from cocoa plantations to chocolate-manufacturing processes. You’ll learn about the origins of chocolate, how to differentiate its varying flavour notes, and of course, have an opportunity to taste the chocolate.
Save room for a meal (or two)
After exploring WOW, you’ll likely work up an appetite, and there is no shortage of options among the 12 restaurants, bars, and cafes. For an elevated dining experience, head to 1828, which offers numerous cuts of steak, seafood, and seasonal dishes. For brunch, V.P. serves classics like eggs Benedict and pancakes with fruit compote. Golden Catch offers a number of local seafood dishes, and a catch of the day that’s served with mussels, prawns, and coriander. For vegetarians, Root & Vine offers dishes like a shiitake mushroom and white truffle oil soup, and tofu with caramelized pineapple and quinoa.
Where to stay during a visit to WOW
After a full day of exploration, there’s no better place to retreat than The Yeatman Hotel, just steps from WOW. The 109-room luxury boutique hotel offers the most enviable views in the city from its multileveled terraces, and serves as a great retreat from the bustling streets across the river. Three-and-a-half acres of lush garden drape the property, and a collection of art and antiques highlight the hotel’s commitment to showcasing the region’s history. Each accommodation is named after one of the hotel’s 109 Portuguese wine producers and comes equipped with a furnished terrace or balcony. Three on-site dining experiences include The Yeatman Gastronomic Restaurant, which has garnered two Michelin stars under the direction of chef Ricardo Costa. For wine lovers, there are a number of opportunities, including the popular Thursday summer wine dinners, tastings from the hotel’s roster of 2,50,000 Portuguese wine bottles, and WOW just below.
How to visit WOW
The entrance to WOW’s outdoor areas is free of charge, including access to restaurants, cafes, and shops. For more information on entrance fees to exhibitions and the wine school at WOW, visit the main ticketing website here.
This story first appeared on www.travelandleisure.com
(Main and Feature Image Credit: BrasilNut1/Getty Images)