Vila Nova de Gaia is a city the Douro Litoral region of Northern Portugal, immediately facing Porto across the Duoro river, with both cities forming the core of a contigious metropolitan area together. Vila Nova was created out of the need to house the workers of Porto, and is thus much more residential in character - and, in fact, statistically more populous than Porto itself. Sometimes called "Gaia" in common parlance, the city is home of cellars of port wine, several shopping centers and some of the best beaches.
Gaia is actually where the history of Porto began, having been founded as a Roman settlement called Cale on the southern side of the river Duoro. The town had a its port on the other side of the river, referred to as Portus Cale, which originated the name not only of Porto, but also the whole country. What followed the Roman Empire were the Moorish invasions of the Iberian peninsula, with the Moors stopping right at the river and most inhabitants escaping the invasion by moving to what is now Porto on its northern bank. After the Moors were driven out, many moved back to the southern back, founding what is now known as Vila Nova de Gaia (vila nova as the town was reestablished, with Gaia being a transliteration of Cale).
Porto Francisco Sa Caneiro airport is the closest, within 20 minutes by car or slightly more by public transit.
Vila Nova de Gaia is located on a railway backbone linking the North to the other regions of Portugal, so it is easy to reach from almost all major cities. In particular, high-speed Alfa Pendular trains call in the city, linking it not only to Porto, but also in. al. Lisbon, Braga, Coimbra and Faro.
- 1 Vila Nova de Gaia-Devesas railway station, Largo 5 de Outubro.
Perhaps the most famous tourist attraction in Gaia are the Port Wine Cellars, warehouses where the famous Port wine is stored. The Cellars are placed in Ribeira de Gaia, an area of the city located in the bank of River Douro opposite Porto. Ribeira de Gaia has also some typical and international restaurants, particularly in Cais de Gaia. Even if you are not in visiting the cellars, you should visit Ribeira the Gaia in order to get some amazing views of Porto.
- Small Nature Reserve for the Protection of Birds (Begin at the base of the Dom Luis I bridge and head down river about 5.3 km. The journey is easy but not particularly interesting.).
- 1 Jardim do Morro. Beautiful garden with great views to Porto.
- Take a port wine tour and visit the various wine caves! This is a must as this is where port wine actually comes from. Tours vary in price but generally cost €3-6 and include a tasting. Most all have English speaking tours along with Spanish, Portuguese, and French. There are also quite a number of cellars offering free tastings. See the drink section of the main Portugal page for more information about port wine in general.
- 1 Cálem, Avenida Diogo Leite 344. Their tour lasts around 20min and is quite informative for beginners. It is followed by a tasting of two Port wines. They sell their old empty oak casks to Glenfiddich. Calem is owned by Sogevinus, which also owns other well known brands such as Kopke, Burmester, and Barros. Tour and tasting €6.
- 2 Taylor, Fladgate & Yeatman, Rua do Choupelo 250, ☏ , . They are further uphill and have a terrace with great views over Porto. You can also enjoy their Port wine in the adjacent garden. You can buy samples by the glass which are cheap (starting at €1) and you get generous portions. Tours are also available and start every 30-40min. The tour price of €5 includes tastings of three Port wines. Founded in and family owned since 1692.
- 3 Cockburn's, Rua Serpa Pinto 346 (Further uphill), ☏ . The basic tasting consists of two Port wines. Other types of tastings are available including rarer and more fancy Port wines. Tour and basic tasting €4.
- Bike (or walk) to the Atlantic coast (Begin at the base of the Dom Luis I bridge). Head down river 3.7 km to the marina. The journey is easy, but not particularly interesting. When you reach the marina there may be some photo opportunities with local fishing men and laundry women. Continue about 1.6 km to the nature reserve for bird watching at the estuary. Continue on from there to begin access to the path that runs south along the Atlantic Coast another 15 km to Espinho.
- El Corte Ingles. The outlet of the Spanish department store chain serving the Porto region is spread over an impressive total of 10 stories (half underground) and stocks everything from designer clothing to live puppies (sic!), has ample parking and a metro stop next door, as well as gastronomic options including a top-floor restaurant with decently-priced menus, a car rental agency and numerous other services.
- ibis Budget Porto Gaia
- Hotel Ibis Porto Gaia, Avenida Rua Martires de São Sebastião 247, ☏ .
- Park Hotel Porto Gaia
- Golden Tulip Porto Gaia Hotel & SPA
- Holiday Inn Porto Gaia
- Hotel Mercure Porto Gaia ****, Rua Manuel Moreira de Barros 618D, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com.
- Hotel Novotel Porto Gaia, Lugar das Chãs Afurada, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Yeatman Hotel, R. do Choupelo, nº 250 4400-088 Vila Nova de Gaia, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. Luxury hotel in the heart of the historic port Wine Cellars´ District, part of the Relais & Chateaux
- Porto lies across the Douro River from Vila Nova de Gaia.