The World of Wine in Porto, Portugal is ready for prime time, but it’s about more than just wine. This cultural district in the Gaia neighborhood on the opposite side of the Douro River from the Old Town is perfectly positioned for postcard-worthy views of Porto. From this vantage point, Porto’s iconic building facades unfurl like a Madras patchwork of colors.
World of Wine is the perfect place to begin any visit to and through Portugal. Part museum (six, in fact), part dining, part shopping and part entertainment districts, this is a microcosm of all things Portuguese when it comes to food, drinks, art and history. Opened in mid-2020, but finally getting the global attention it deserves, World of Wine is a WOW experience. It actually goes by that acronym, and it’s easy to see why.
It originally began as an effort to share knowledge about the world of Portuguese wine, beyond its signature Port wine. Since then, it has expanded thanks to the vision of its founder Adrian Bridge who has numerous other involvements in the area including the wine-themed The Yeatman Hotel, a Relais & Chateaux property next to WOW that was seen as a catalyst for the entire right bank of the river when it comes to revitalizing it.
These are five of the top reasons that WOW in Porto should be on your bucket list for international travel in 2022.
With six museums, there is a lot to learn here, but these are not your average museums. Each revolves around a Portuguese theme, and shares its information in a playful and entertaining way. It’s more entertainment than museum with interactive exhibits along the way.
A good place to start is the history of the Porto region. It provides a backdrop to everything else you will learn here. Focusing on the northern part of Portugal, it is a great way to understand the country. Those doing a Douro River cruise through the famous wine region should start here.
The Wine Experience is one of the most user-friendly ways to understand everything about the world of wine to how grapes grow and the different types of grapes, the soil and climate and the harvesting process. It’s an informative and approachable way to understand wine by removing the intimidation that sometimes surrounds wine.
You can understand the difference between table grapes and wine grapes. You can’t make wine from the former, and you won’t want to snack on the latter. Descriptions of different types of wine bottles (there are dozens of types and sizes!) and clever artwork explains the flavors and varietals of each type of wine. Are you more of a Chardonnay or more of a Sauvignon Blanc type of person? You’ll find out here.
Planet Cork is an exhibition that unpacks everything about the world of cork production. It’s a certainty that you had no idea how versatile and important cork is. You can make packaging, clothing and even serving ware from cork. Among the interactive displays is even a fun scale where you can see how much you weigh in cork stoppers. It measures into the tens of thousands, but don’t be sad, that’s normal!
The Porto Fashion and Fabric Museum will be a favorite of style mavens since local designers and artisans can display and explain their talents.
Once you know about wine, you can visit Bridge’s personal collection of drinking vessels (some as old as 7,000 BC) and learn about the history of drinking games, which dates back centuries. While you won’t be playing any in this specific museum, you can certainly learn of where they got started.
No doubt a favorite of families within the district is The Chocolate Story where visitors learn about the ancient history of cacao, the difference between cacao and cocoa, and the storied past of how some of our favorite chocolate bars came to be. You can be sure there is plenty to taste along the way, and the company’s chocolate brand Vinte Vinte has plenty of varieties to taste. The extra chile flavor is especially delicious.
There’s even an amusement park-style game where you can use a joystick to win a chocolate bar prize. You can also customize your own chocolate bar with your own flavors and design.
A real crowd pleaser is the Pink Palace, which is an homage to all things rosé wine. It starts with a fun explanation that breaks down how the wine is made, and along the way, there are five different opportunities to taste rosé wine during the tour. Instagrammable spots throughout the Pink Palace (and WOW) abound including another amusement park-style game where you can dive into a giant pool of plastic pink balls and splash about in view of the surrounding mirrors.
You can also snap photos of yourself seemingly hanging upside down while on a rosé-all-day picnic. There is something for every age, attitude, style and personality at WOW.
There are a dozen different restaurants, bars and cafes around the cultural district including T&C for authentic Portuguese fare, Root & Vine dedicated to gourmet vegetarian cuisine and the panoramic Angel’s Share wine bar. At Vinte Vinte, visitors can take part in a chocolate tasting session or order coffee, pastries, sweets and other treats at the museum’s cafe. Suspiro is WOW’s dessert cafe, which is a perfect pick-me-up after a day of touring.
Portuguese fare at T&C is another entertaining option where travelers can have dinner in a renovated port wine cellar. On the menu is Portuguese smoked sausage from Mirandela, salted cod and the famously decadent Francesinha sandwich with beef steak, cured smoked sausage, sausage, egg, Port Wine sauce and topped off with French fries.
There is so much great food to enjoy in Porto, but having everything within walking distance to The Yeatman is a boon for guests of the hotel. You won’t go hungry here, and many of the museums include tasting experiences along the way.
It’s not just food, fun and facts, either. There are hands-on experiences that will get you thinking. It’s the kind of handy information that will come up later at a cocktail party. For example, the Wine Experience is a full-on wine school. It has hour-long tastings and longer class sessions that teach you the basics of wine. The idea is to demystify and debunk myths about wine. Learning how to choose which wine is right for you like at the grocery store or a fancy restaurant is helpful knowledge.
In a clever and playful way, the experienced wine teachers show you how to enjoy wine, teach you how to understand it and make it a more approachable experience. You will learn all the different components of a grape and how they are part of the winemaking process. There are even dedicated sessions with well-known or local winemakers that pop in from time to time. Visitors can book last-minute wine and cheese or just wine tastings at any time.
At The Chocolate Story, visitors can make their own chocolate bars personalized to their own wishes. They can also participate in chocolate and port tastings. A popular part of one of the tastings is sampling what 100% cacao tastes like. You can also taste beans from different parts of the world.
A temporary exhibition space is meant to draw in outside events attractive to both locals and visitors, too. Group events are a big draw here. Team-building exercises at the wine school or chocolate making classes pair well with event space. With so many dining options around the grounds, there is plenty to see and do.
The rose exhibition is a favorite of visitors, especially meeting groups or those on bridal party events.
When you get back to this luxury hotel, arguably Europe’s finest wine-themed hotel, the sumptuous beds and pillow menus are ready and waiting. All of the rooms enjoy privileged views of the city’s famous waterfront building facades. Staying on the right bank of the river puts all of Porto on display, which is something you miss when staying in the old town.
With a lavish spa focused on vinotherapy treatments, the wine experience continues, and an indoor pool and relaxation area are ideal for a quick detox. In warmer weather, the infinity pool that seems to spill into the Douro River below is popular. It is one of the city’s most photographed and privileged spots.
The hotel itself is a museum of sorts. Its hallways feature historic artwork and exhibits about the area and its wine production. Even the guest rooms are each unique. Rooms hold the name of a local winemaker displaying interior décor inspired by their wine. Bathrooms have some of the most intense shower pressure you can imagine. Toiletries are all from the French Caudalie line using grape skin.
Guests can retreat to the gardens to relax or to Dick’s Bar for a bite to eat. Live music including authentic Fado music every Thursday. This hotel and the World of Wine are definitely WOW experiences. They are helping put northern Portugal and its stunning Douro Valley on the global bucket list.