Mon. Jul 15th, 2024


Porto is the second largest city in Portugal with a population in the city of around 250,000 people. Vila Nova de Gaia, across the Douro River, has a population nearly as large.
If you are planning a trip to Porto, there are a variety of reasons to consider staying in Vila Nova de Gaia.
Read on for why you should make Vila Nova de Gaia your home base for exploring the North of Portugal.
Ponte Luis I and Old Town Porto viewed from Vila Nova de Gaia

Where to Stay in Vila Nova de Gaia

The first question that arises if you are going to make Vila Nova de Gaia your home base on a trip to Porto is what hotel to choose. There aren’t as many hotels in Vila Nova de Gaia as there are in Porto’s historic centre, but there are still a number of choices to consider for every budget.

Five Star Luxury at The Yeatman Hotel

We were in Porto to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary so we decided to splurge on five star accommodation at The Yeatman. We don’t usually stay in luxury hotels, but this time the occasion felt like it called for something extra special.
You’ll feel pampered from the moment you walk in the door. The Yeatman offered us a glass of chilled white port upon arrival at hotel reception.
The Yeatman has 120 rooms all designed and named after regional port houses. Every room is unique.
The main thing many of the rooms have in common is a spectacular view over the Douro River (gateway to the Douro Valley) and Old Town Porto.
We stayed in Palacio da Brejoeira and enjoyed walking the halls to breakfast each day and noticing rooms with names of ports we had tried the day before.
White port poured at reception on arrival at The Yeatman Hotel
Speaking of breakfast, The Yeatman features a lavish buffet with an omelette station and sparkling wine station so that you can make yourself a mimosa.
Make sure to order a cappuccino at The Yeatman with breakfast. The hotel takes latte art to the next level with scenes of Porto printed on top. I learned that there are 10 different scenes and I had a different one each day much to my delight.
Statue and grand staircase at The Yeatman Hotel in Vila Nova de Gaia Portugal

Other benefits of staying at The Yeatman include the world-class spa on site (not to mention the fitness centre plus outdoor and indoor pool). I spent one of my days in Porto at the Caudalie Vinothérapie® Spa for a relaxing full-body massage with cranial massage add on.

View of the pool and Douro River at The Yeatman Hotel in Vila Nova de Gaia

Our package at The Yeatman included afternoon tea in Dick’s Bar. The tower of treats accompanying the tea are fresh baked and take about 25 min to arrive after you are seated.

Porto stenciled latte art at The Yeatman Hotel in Vila Nova de Gaia

Tray of Portuguese tea treats at The Yeatman Hotel in Vila Nova de Gaia

The Yeatman also features a two Michelin star rated restaurant. More on that later, but it’s useful to point out that if you stay at The Yeatman, you can avail of the amazing wine pairings with your tasting menu without worrying about having to drive back to your hotel.

We paid 285 EUR per night for a Superior Deluxe Panoramic Room (it was our anniversary after all!) in mid December. Our rate included daily breakfast, afternoon tea, and free parking.

Other Vila Nova de Gaia Hotels to Consider

If you aren’t celebrating a special occasion or simply don’t want to or can’t justify splurging on a five star hotel experience, there are other accommodation options in Vila Nova de Gaia.
The Hilton Porto Gaia and Boeira Garden Hotel Porto Gaia (a Curio Collection by Hilton that is located slightly further afield in Gaia) run about half the price of The Yeatman.
Other budget options and hostels are available in Vila Nova de Gaia too. For example, The House of Sandeman – Hostel & Suites offers economical rates.
Note that I simply did some research on Google Maps and I don’t have personal experience staying in these hotels. Other than The Yeatman, I can’t personally recommend any of these hotels, but the reviews on TripAdvisor and Google Maps should help you make a decision about where to stay in Gaia.
Bed in the Palacio da Brejoeira room at the Yeatman Hotel in Vila Nova de Gaia

Why Stay in Vila Nova de Gaia at a Glance

Now that we’ve talked about where you might stay in Vila Nova de Gaia, let’s talk about why you would want to stay there. Here is my reasoning at a glance.
  1. The views of Porto Old Town
  2. Vila Nova de Gaia is Home to WOW (Porto’s World of Wine Experience)
  3. Convenience for visiting local Port houses
  4. Great dining options (including a 2 Michelin Star experience)
  5. It’s easier to get in and out of Vila Nova de Gaia than Porto Old Town with a car
  6. Good transit connections (metro and river taxi)
SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Looking for more ideas about where to travel in Portugal? Why not experience Lisbon for Christmas or spend a weekend in winter in the Algarve. Lisbon is full of cool secret places (consider taking a day trip to Queluz Palace) and great places to grab a coffee. Why not take a day trip to historic Tomar from Lisbon? You might consider embarking on a Setúbal wine tour for a day or a longer road trip to taste talha wines near Alqueva Lake in Alentejo. Maybe you’ll head to Central Portugal for the Obidos Chocolate Festival, a weekend in Aveiro (the “Venice of Portugal”) or a a whirlwind one day in Coimbra, Portugal’s historic university city. Did you know that Madeira is also part of Portugal? Madeira is full of surprises including great food. You won’t regret spending a long weekend in Madeira.

Why Stay in Vila Nova de Gaia in Detail

Now let’s look at each of these reasons to stay in Vila Nova de Gaia in more detail.

The Views of Porto Old Town

One of the major advantages of staying in Vila Nova de Gaia on a trip to Porto is the absolutely stunning views. Gaia clings to a hill rising above the Douro River.
Enjoy amazing views of the historic centre of Porto, Dom Luís I Bridge, and the Douro River itself. You’ll also find historic rabelos (boats used to transport port) lined up along the waterfront in Vila Nova de Gaia.
Rabelos (port boats) on the Douro River in Vila Nova de Gaia
In particular, the twinkling lights on the River Douro after dark were very romantic. During the day, you can take the cable car in Vila Nova de Gaia along the banks of the river for a different view of the city.
It’s also an absolute delight to watch the sunrise over Porto. The views north over the River Douro feature blue, pink, and purple hues as the sun comes up. Porto sunrises and sunsets are simply magical and there is no better place to view them than Vila Nova de Gaia!
Ponte Luis I at night viewed from Vila Nova de Gaia
Vila Nova de Gaia is also home to Jardim do Morro. We made the climb from The Yeatman Hotel to Jardim do Morro.
Unfortunately, we had to go down to go up, but we were treated to some stunning street art along Escadaria da Tv. de Cândido dos Reis (stairs) on the way up. Once you arrive in Jardim do Morro, you’ll enjoy the amazing views over the Douro River.
Look down on the rabelos lined up along the river on the Gaia side. From here, you can walk across Dom Luís I Bridge for even more photogenic views.
Ponte Luis I and Old Town Porto viewed from Jardim do Morro in Vila Nova de Gaia
I think one could argue that Vila Nova de Gaia is a great place to capture Instagrammable Porto at its best.
Vila Nova de Gaia is Home to WOW (Porto’s World of Wine Experience)
Another great reason to stay in Vila Nova de Gaia when you visit Porto is WOW, the World of Wine Experience. What is the World of Wine Porto?
WOW Porto is a new tourist attraction carved out of refurbished port warehouses. The sprawling complex the runs up and down the hillside of Vila Nova de Gaia just below The Yeatman Hotel features museums, shopping, restaurants, and a series of interconnected outdoor plazas.
You can purchase tickets for between 1 and 5 WOW museums and your ticket is good for 6 months so you don’t have to squeeze everything into one day. A single museum ticket is a pricy 17-25 EUR. A 3 museum ticket cost 35 EUR per person which was decent value.
What are the museums of WOW Porto? There are seven World of Wine museums to choose from. You can visit:
  • The Wine Experience
  • Planet Cork
  • Porto Region Across the Ages
  • The Chocolate Story
  • The Bridge Collection
  • Porto Fabric and Fashion Museum
  • The Pink Palace
We decided to focus on the wine and things we wouldn’t experience elsewhere. We also tried to choose museums that were more expensive on an individual basis to get the best value for our 3 WOW Porto Museum ticket. The price seemed to correlate with the amount of wine tasted in the museum.

Pictures of wine regions at WOW Porto in Vila Nova de Gaia

We started out at the The Wine Experience which was fun and interactive. I took a quiz to figure out what wine type I am. Touriga Francesa is my varietal.

We perused a room of fun artwork depicting different wines. The quizzes continued as we progressed through the WOW Porto Wine Experience.

My personality is a medium bodied red apparently. We got to identify different wine regions around the world just by looking at photos and walked through an exhibit of wine regions in Portugal.

We sniffed aromas that you might find in fine wines and sampled a Portuguese red wine to finish out the Wine Experience. I also learned at the WOW Porto Wine Experience that a 20L bottle of wine is a Nebuchadnezzar!

Find out your wine personality at WOW Porto in Vila Nova de Gaia

The second WOW Porto museum that we visited was the Bridge Collection. Adrian Bridge, founder and CEO of World of Wine enjoys collecting drinking vessels from antiquity to the present day.

The Bridge Collection features 1500+ drinking vessels from 9000 years ago through modern times and is organized by civilization. Bridge’s collection existed long before WOW.

A docent at the museum told us that many pieces were once on display at The Yeatman Hotel. The Bridge Collection museum gave Mr. Bridge the perfect opportunity to share his pieces with the world.

In fact, there is a video playing near the entrance to The Bridge Collection. The video changes each month and features Adrian Bridge discussing the history and significance of one of his pieces.

The Bridge Collection Museum at WOW Porto in Vila Nova de Gaia

It’s impossible to see and read everything at The Bridge Collection exhibit unless you want to spend all day at WOW Porto. I recommend wandering around for an hour or two and honing in on the drinking vessels that catch your eye to learn more.

For example, we noticed a pair of engraved crystal chalices. One was from the aborted coronation of Edward VIII and a matching chalice engraved with the initials of Queen Elizabeth II. Fascinating!

Pink ball pit at The Pink Palace Experience at WOW Porto in Vila Nova de Gaia

We used the last pass from our 3 museum ticket to visit The Pink Palace. OMG, The Pink Palace experience is so much fun!

The Pink Palace at WOW Porto is dedicated to lovers of rosé wine. Sample 5 rosés while accompanied by what feels like a personal sommelier and photo taker.

Make sure to primp before you go since there are lots of photo ops. Also, make sure you don’t need to drive after your visit to the Pink Palace. The pours were quite generous.

Photo Ops include a Pink Cadillac, popping out of a champagne bottle, an upside down picnic, a pink ball pit, and a teeter-totter.

The Pink Palace made me feel like a kid again (or at least like a drunk college student!)

Pink cadillac at The Pink Palace Experience at WOW Porto in Vila Nova de Gaia

Vila Nova de Gaia is More Convenient for Visiting Porto’s Port Wine Cellars

WOW Porto may be new, but there is also a much older and more historic reason to stay in Vila Nova de Gaia. Gaia is home to Porto’s historic port houses.
Did you know that port dates back to the 17th century when British merchants began adding brandy to ‘regular’ wine to help it survive long sea journeys?
You’ll also find a number of port tasting rooms on the Gaia side of the Douro River. If you enjoy port, Vila Nova de Gaia is the place to be!
Bottles of port at Vasques de Carvalho in Vila Nova de Gaia
We enjoyed a port tasting at Vasques de Carvalho and tried The Movers tasting flight. Our port tasting experience included 2 white ports with different levels of sweetness, a vintage port from 2013, and a 20 year old tawny for 24 EUR.
Sandra was a wealth of information and treated us to a taste of 30 year tawny since it was our anniversary. We bought a bottle of the 30 year old tawny port to take home with us.
When we asked Sandra how long a bottle of port lasts once you open it, she taught us a useful trick: look at the cork. If the port bottle is corked like a regular wine bottle, you should drink it up in a few days, max.
If the bottle is corked with a reusable stopper like whiskey, it will last for months. The aged tawnys tend to last while vintage rubies should be drunk more quickly or they’ll go bad.
Niepoort port wine tasting at 3 Mais Arte

Another advantage of staying in Vila Nova de Gaia is that you can sneak in a cheeky port tasting at the end of the day after a day trip. We made it back from our Porto day trip to Guimarães by about 5:30.

Many of the port houses are open to 7 pm. We dashed over to Taylor’s hoping to catch a tour before they closed.

We were too late for a tour (last entry was 6 pm) but the tasting room was still open. We sampled vintage port from 2005 and 2009.

The port was expensive and atmosphere is just ok. I don’t recommend visiting Taylor’s unless you are able to take the tour which includes a port tasting at the end.

3 Mais Arte in Vila Nova de Gaia in Porto

After leaving Taylor’s we wandered by 3 Mais Arte in Porto and decided to poke our heads in. We are so glad that we did!

We found lots of cool art for sale and port tasting too. We had a nice chat with the owner as we sipped 6 different Niepoort port wines.

The tasting was great value too. We paid 6.50 EUR and 9.50 EUR for the 2 different tasting flights.

Vila Nova de Gaia has great dining options

If you stay in Vila Nova de Gaia on a trip to Porto, you’ll find plenty of food options on this side of the Douro River including places serving traditional Portuguese dishes. I’ll start by talking about the most extravagant Gaia restaurants and work my way through to more economical options.

The Yeatman Gastronomic Restaurant (2 Michelin Stars)

There is a 2 Michelin star-rated restaurant at The Yeatman Hotel. We splurged on a tasting menu with wine pairings at the Gastronomic Restaurant since it was our anniversary.

Our dining experience started with a glass of Portuguese sparkling wine in Dick’s Bar to toast our 25th anniversary. The first moments of our 2 Michelin star meal at the Gastronomic Restaurant at The Yeatman Hotel in Porto took place seated comfortably on a couch near an atmospheric fireplace.

Collage of dishes from the tasting menu at The Yeatman restaurant in Vila Nova de Gaia

We were offered some small snacks to start our meal including amberjack with nori and ginger, a soft-shell crab and bbq chicken.

We were then ushered to the chef’s table where we tried cuttlefish and Hollandaise sauce served by Chef Ricardo Costa. It was nice to get a peek being the scenes and meet the chef himself.

Cuttlefish dumpling with hollandaise sauce at the Chef's table at The Yeatman Restaurant

For the next moments of our dining experience at The Yeatman Gastronomic Restaurant, we were seated at a comfortable table next to the window overlooking the lights of Old Town Porto.

Oyster and caviar; eel, yogurt, and fois gras; codfish with chili and spring leaves; and Xerem, a type of soup made with corn meal were served in leisurely succession.

The next dish, a cardinal prawn, was a little tricky to tackle. I missed the instruction that I was supposed to squeeze the head to release the juices and then dip the tail into the juice. The cardinal prawn was tasty though once I figured it out.

We were then served bread with butter and olive oil as an interlude before our meat courses. Suckling pig and hare with red cabbage and beetroot rounded out the savory courses of our Michelin-starred tasting menu.

Collage of dishes from the tasting menu at The Yeatman restaurant in Vila Nova de Gaia

On to dessert! Desserts included ovos moles, “chocolate tripe”, and a persimmon with pistachio and saffron served with dry ice for dramatic effect.

Our digestion was aided by the chef’s infusion. When we saw it on the menu, we thought it might be liquor, but it was actually a tea.

Ricardo Costa’s chef’s infusion was served with mignardises (bite-sized desserts). We didn’t have any room for the small sweets so they packed some up for us to take back to our room.

SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: We love celebrating special occasions with Michelin-starred meals. Looking for restaurants to add to your bucket? Here are my top picks based on our personal experience:
  • Take a detour on a trip to Dungarvan and enjoy a Michelin-starred experience with sea views at The Cliff House in Ardmore, Ireland.
  • There are so many fun things to do in Kilkenny, Ireland including Michelin Star dining in the historic dining room at Mount Juliet Estate.
  • Make time to stop at Le Gambetta for a sumptous meal in Saumur on a Loire Valley road trip in France.
  • Bilbao in Northern Spain is loaded with Michelin-starred places which is why I rate Bilbao’s food scene as one of the best in Europe.
  • Try Fritz’s Frau Franzi if you find yourself with 24 hours to explore Dusseldorf in Germany.

Our gastronomic experience at The Yeatman cost 180 EUR per person. We opted for the more economical wine pairings (4 dry wines: 2 red and 2 white and 2 ports) for 90 EUR.

The Yeatman Selection would have cost twice that. The most memorable wine of the evening was a 1977 colheita, a tawny port made from a single vintage.

DeCastro Gaia

If you are looking for fine cuisine that is a bit more economical than The Yeatman Gastronomic Restaurant, I recommend dinner at DeCastro Gaia. DeCastro Gaia is located just below the rooftop bar in Espaço Porto Cruz, a restored 18th century building facing the Douro River.

We ordered black pudding and tempura beans to start. Octopus with beans plus pork and rice were delicious and filling. An 18 EUR bottle of local wine sweetened the deal along with spectacular views.

Our meal cost 65 EUR for the entire 2 course experience with wine and was a great value. We were even served a complimentary glass of chilled white port as we perused the menu.

Collage of dishes from dinner at DeCastro Gaia in Vila Nova de Gaia

Casa Portuguesa do Pastel de Bacalhau

If you are interested in trying a local specialty in a more touristy environment, check out Casa Portuguesa do Pastel de Bacalhau. We were drawn in by walls lined with old books and cod and cheese pies for sale.

We arrived just in time for an organ concert which added to the delightful experience. It cost 15 EUR for a salt cod and cheese snack and a glass of white port.

You can keep the glass and the paddle as a souvenir. Of course, our snack tasted even better since it was accompanied by fabulous organ music.

Casa Portuguesa do Pastel de Bacalhau in Vila Nova de Gaia

A Copo

There are plenty of places to stop for a coffee and pastel de nata in Vila Nova de Gaia. We stopped at A Copo in Vila Nova de Gaia.

Prices tend to be cheaper when the restaurant is not located on the waterfront. A Copo is located down a small side street in Gaia and has a few outdoor tables.

Despite lacking a Douro River view, I found the surroundings to be very atmospheric with old tiled buildings lining both sides of the street.

It’s easier to get in and out of Vila Nova de Gaia than Porto Old Town with a car

Another great reason to stay in Vila Nova de Gaia on a trip to Porto is the ease of getting in and out by car. We stayed at The Yeatman which is arguably in a great location because it is situated near the top of the hill in Gaia.
We drove in on the motorway and then exited onto a wide and fast road. At the very end, we ducked into The Yeatman entrance directly from a traffic circle and popped right into the indoor parking garage.
For our day trips, we had to do a max of 5-10 minutes of driving through Vila Nova de Gaia to get to the motorway. Some streets were a little busy (typical urban experience), but overall we found that driving in and out of Gaia is low stress.
You should be aware (and beware!) that you should be very careful not to miss the turn into The Yeatman’s garage. Once you pass the hotel and descend toward the Douro River, you will encounter a series of very steep and very narrow cobbled roads.
These roads looked particularly harrowing, but we managed to avoid driving here thanks to our hotel choice.

Vila Nova de Gaia has good transit connections

Once you’ve parked the car, you can largely forget about it and get around on foot and by public transportation when you stay in Vila Nova de Gaia.
From Jardim do Morro, you can walk across Dom Luís I Bridge but we decided to take the Metro for a few stops (1.20 EUR for a single ride, 4.15 EUR for a day ticket).
The Porto Metro is a fast, cheap, and easy way to get from Vila Nova de Gaia into Old Town Porto.
Riding the metro across Ponte Luis I Bridge from Vila Nova de Gaia to Old Town Porto

You could also avail of the Douro River Taxi which is a fast and convenient way to get from Vila Nova de Gaia to Porto Old Town (and back again!) The Douro River Taxi costs 3 EUR per person for a one way trip.

The boat ride across the Douro takes less than 10 min. Don’t miss the great views from the Douro River Taxi! The boat is mostly covered, but there are small doorways at both ends where you can stand to take pictures.

We were the only ones on board so had the run of the boat. Disembark near the historic and picturesque rabelos in Vila Nova de Gaia.

View from the Douro River Taxi in Porto Portugal

Summing Up: Is Vila Nova de Gaia Worth Visiting?

As you can see, Vila Nova de Gaia is a great home base on a trip to Porto. You’ll find luxurious hotel and dining options and plenty of wine-focused things to do.
Gaia also offers low stress transportation options; whether it is driving out of Porto for a day trip or hopping on the Metro to visit all of Porto’s tourist attractions.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post about Vila Nova de Gaia as a great place to stay on a trip to Porto. Sharing is caring…



By Lala