Why to Stay in Vila Nova de Gaia and Not in Porto?

Polina
Polina

A sommelier and a wine tour guide. I travel all around Portugal collecting the best wineries to visit, best places to stay and eat.

I organize wine tours in the Douro Valley.

When visiting Porto, you can choose to stay in the city center of Porto or in Vila Nova de Gaia, a city across the Douro river from Porto.  

These are my thoughts on why you would stay in Vila Nova de Gaia (or simply, Gaia) when visiting Porto.

 

Why Would You Stay in Gaia?

Much less crowded

The center of Porto is very popular and gets quite busy from March to October.  The areas of Ribeira, Cedofeita and Baixa are crowded on any day during the tourist season.  

On the other hand, Gaia, although it is a large city, is still a less popular place to stay and gives a feeling of being much less touristy.  You can walk some streets in Gaia and not feel like you are in the middle of the tourist centre.  

Very close to central Porto

Douro river from the bridge
View from the Dom Luis I bridge

Just cross the Dom Luis I bridge from Gaia and you reach the Ribeira area of Porto and all of its attractions.  

The lower section of the Dom Luis I bridge is open to pedestrians, buses and official taxis.  It takes 10 minutes on foot from Gaia to Porto with fantastic views opening in all directions.  

Once you get to the Porto side by the lower bridge, you can stay in the popular Ribeira area or walk up the hill to visit other areas of old Porto.  If you do not feel like climbing up the streets of Porto from the waterfront area, take a cheap Bolt or Uber for 2-3 euros to any place in central Porto.  

The upper part of the bridge connecting Porto and Gaia can be crossed on foot or by Metro line D.

Great views

Views on the city of Porto
Views from Vila Nova de Gaia

You may have heard that the best views on Porto are from Gaia.  I agree with that completely.  Gaia opens magnificent views to the old town of Porto, the Porto Cathedral, and the Clerigos Tower.

In Gaia, there are several restaurants, bars, terraces where you can sip wine with the best views on Porto.  For example, Vinum or the Angel’s Share bar at WOW.  See more suggestions in my article 6 Porto Wine Bars with a View.

The best sunset views in Porto are from the park Jardim do Morro on the Gaia side.

Way more quiet

Streets of city vila nova de gaia in Portugal
Streets of Vila Nova de Gaia

Gaia may look busy at its river promenade, but it is nothing compared with Baixa or Cais de Ribeira on the Porto side during the night.  

Walk 100 meters from the river and you will find yourself in an authentic environment without crowds.

Great new hotels

Hotel the Lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia
At the Logde Hotel

Recently, several excellent new hotels have opened doors on the Gaia side.  Among them, are the Lodge Hotel, the Hilton, and the Rebello Hotel & Spa.

Many rooms have views on the Douro river and Porto.  The hotels host good restaurants and both Hilton and Rebello have wonderful spa centers.

The Yeatman hotel is considered to be the best in town, at least it guarantees the best views.  

All the Port wine houses in proximity

Old vintages at Graham's port cellars

If you stay in Gaia, you will be close to all Porto wine houses located along the river or just a few hundred meters away.  I recommend visiting at least one of the famous Port wine cellars:  Graham’s, Cockburn’sFonseca, Burmester, or Calém.

View more in my article Best Port Wine Houses to Visit in Porto.

 

Museums and restaurants of WOW

If you are staying in our city for several days, spending half a day at WOW might be a good idea.  There are several museums including my favourite  Wine museum and Cork museum, several restaurants and bars with fantastic views, boutiques and souvenir shops.

I find the restaurants at WOW to be a very good value for money given their central location.  Check out T&C and Angel’s Share at WOW.

If you are looking for a good wine tasting and some extra wine knowledge consider booking a wine tasting at the WOW Wine School.

Find various tickets to visit WOW here.

Access to beaches

As you may know, Gaia has some of the best long rocky and sandy beaches in the Porto area.  

I find the beaches of Gaia to be less crowded and a bit cleaner than those in Foz and Matosinhos.

There is a long walkway along the beach which will take you as far south as the town of Espinho.

You can go to the Gaia beaches by taxi, by bike or even by walking.

You may find my article on Getting to Beaches from Porto useful.

Fishermen village of Afurada

colorful houses
Colorful houses of Afurada

The village of Afurada is the place which can be easily reached from historic center of Vila Nova de Gaia on a 30-40 minute stroll.

Visit the authentic little colourful village, seat in a local restaurants and taste fresh grilled sardines, sea bass, dorada, calamaris (lulas grelhadas) or prawns.  My favourite place in the village is Casa do FC Porto, but I also see many locals lining up for Restaurante Vapor yet to be tried.

Afurada still keeps many local traditions and holiday rituals.  Walk by the old wash house to see ladies doing laundry the way it was done for centuries, or join locals for one of local street festivals and fairs.

Historic Wash House in the village of Afurada near Porto
Old washhouse at Afurada

Gastronomic restaurants

These days, there is no shortage of gastronomic restaurants on the Douro banks in Vila Nova de Gaia.  

I can recommend  checking out these restaurants in Gaia:

Enoteca 1756 by Real Companha Velha

Vinum at Graham’s

Barão Fladgate at Taylor’s

The Yeatman Gastronomic Restaurants

 

And this is an excellent coffee house in Gaia for those who appreciate a perfect cup of flat white 7 G Coffee Roasters.

Walkway to the Atlantic coast

Walkway by the Douro River in Vila Nova de Gaia Portugal

Along the Douro river in Gaia you will find a walkway that leads all the way to the Atlantic coast. I find this and excellent getaway from crowds of central Porto. You will only meet some local fishermen on your way.

There are reasons to stay in both Porto and Gaia.  I think Gaia is the best place for those who are looking for a calmer stay in authentic environment and away from crowds.

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