In Vila Nova de Gaia, in the middle of the old warehouses of the port wine merchants, the WOW Porto has been created. A cultural center that with museums and restaurants is a popular destination in the city.
If you arrive in Gaia by metro and look down to the Douro, the lettering WOW immediately catches your eye. Looking at the increasingly decaying port wine cellars, Adrian Bridge had the vision of creating an entire district with tourist attractions for Porto. In 2021, after seven years of construction, his project was completed and WOW Porto opened its doors.
The main building of the World of Wine is huge and extends over several floors. In addition, there are other offers in adjacent buildings, which can be reached after a few steps.
The WOW Porto offers the visitor 7 different museums and 9 restaurants and cafes, various museum stores, small stores with selected products and a wine school. One day is not enough here to use the offer. So we took several sightseeing tours at once.
Visit to the Bridge Collection
The “Bridge Collection” is named after the collector and WOW boss Adrian Bridge. You can admire the collection in one of the seven museums you can visit at the World of Wine in Porto.
We could not really imagine what we would see in this museum. The name alone reveals nothing about the contents of the collection. Through the museum store you enter the exhibition and since just few visitors were on site, we received a personal and really enthusiastic sounding introduction to the topic.
A tour of the 9000-year history of drinking vessels and the drinking of alcohol awaited us. The collection consists of more than 2000 different vessels, which could not be more different.
Right at the beginning of the tour we were able to watch a short film in which Adrian Bridge presented us the “exhibit of the month”. With a noticeable enthusiasm he told and described a glass that one could look at in a showcase. I found it exciting what details he went into. I would never have noticed them if I had looked at them myself.
Then we strolled through the excellently presented collection. We discovered the oldest piece that dates back to 7000 BC, but also goblets, glasses and cups from all over the world. Whether from the Roman Empire, the Mughal Empire or from ancient Chinese dynasties, there are unique pieces to look at from every era. For example, we also discovered glasses from which Napoleon is said to have drunk.
In the museum that extends over 2 floors, but not only the different drinking vessels are presented. It is also on the importance of alcohol and here, of course, appropriate to the region on the wine, for the people. This begins with the description of religious ceremonies and festive rituals in which alcohol plays a role and ends with the presentation of various fun drinking games.
Of course, the topic of glass production throughout history must not be missing in the museum. Here I have then rediscovered some information that I learned in the Czech Karlovy Vary during a visit to the glass museum Moser.
We enjoyed the visit to the museum very much. The exhibition is varied and presented in multimedia form. If you are looking for more information about the individual objects, you can get it at easy-to-use touchscreens. At the end of the tour we arrived back at the museum store, which offers really beautiful products made of glass.
“Porto Region Across The Ages”
Another museum in the large complex of the WOW-Porto deals with the region of Porto and its history.
Admittedly, museums with this theme don’t really excite us, as they usually always show pictures and documents from the first settlement through all wars and destructions until almost the present. What a positive surprise when we entered the museum – finally a modern design with well used multimedia effects that makes history exciting.
Of course, the exhibition “Porto Region Across The Ages” also shows the history of the region starting with the first settlement, but somehow it is designed differently, more modern, more exciting. You walk through rooms, each of which is dedicated to a specific theme. Thereby I had the feeling to discover always new effects and ideas of representation – be it a big book in which projected pages represent something, up to beautiful fitting music. Other eras are shown, for example, with the help of the city’s famous tile art.
For example, you enter a room and find yourself on the deck of a ship. You can discover the routes of famous seafarers, learn about the importance of the design of the sails and are surrounded by the typical sounds on a ship. Actually, the only thing missing is the swaying of the floor to make the impression perfect.
In another room you find yourself in a historically furnished living room, pleasant music plays and you can learn about the “Golden Years” in Porto.
Of course, there are also eras that have had a heavy impact on the region. In small films, for example, you learn something about the time of the French occupation. I especially liked that the films are shown in English. English subtitles were available for interviews with Portuguese.
At the end of the tour you will enter a room where the skyline of the city is displayed. Here you will find information boards about the most important sights of Porto. So right away the ideal preparation for the next sightseeing tour.
A tramway takes the visitor historically further into the time from the Industrial Revolution in Portugal. One strolls past house fronts, reading about typical Portuguese cuisine and life in the city.
I have rarely experienced such an entertaining and varied museum visit.
Porto Fashion & Fabric Museum at WOW Porto
Porto is associated more with port wine and not with fashion. A mistake, as I learned at the Porto Fashion & Fabric Museum.
In the metropolitan region of Porto, the region around Braga and also in Aveiro is the Portuguese textile center. Fabrics are manufactured here and large companies produce their goods here. But shoes and jewelry are also part of the fashion theme. The museum in the WOW is dedicated to this topic in its own special way.
The beginning of the exhibition is characterized by the theme “commodity knowledge”. One learns everything about the various raw materials from which textiles can be produced. The theme of fabric production, fashion design and production is illustrated by a mix of old and new exhibits.
Of course, ready-made products of different fashion styles can not be missing. Whether you like them or not quite meet the taste, so it is always with clothes and that makes them so interesting.
The exhibition area extends over two floors, which are connected by an imposing staircase. There is the possibility at one point of the tour to go to a small viewing platform. There you can see the Douro River and have a look at Porto.
If it hadn’t been for the fact that a museum employee happened to walk past us and point it out, we certainly would have overlooked the building’s hidden highlight.
Around 1760, the Atkinson Chapel in Vila Nova de Gaia was built in the private home of José de Azevedo, a port wine merchant. After his death, the residence was transformed into Atkinson House, the company’s headquarters.
The beautiful murals, rediscovered during the renovation of the building, are probably by Nicolaus Nasoni, whose works can also be seen in Porto Cathedral.
Dinner at the restaurant PIP
If you feel like a good dinner after visiting the museum, you should go to PIP, which is also part of the WOW complex and located in the same building area as the Porto Fashion & Fabric Museum.
The family restaurant serves excellent pizza at a fair price.
Opening hours of the restaurant:
12 – 15 h abd 19 – 23 h
Weekends 12 -23 h
WOW – World of Wine
Rua do Choupelo, 39
Gaia – Porto, Portugal
Opening hours of the museums:
daily 10-20 h
Porto Region Across The Ages
Porto Fashion & Fabric Museum
There is a possibility to purchase a discounted museum pass.
Buy tickets online in advance
The visit to WOW took place as part of research in collaboration with Lieb Management and WOW.