Located on one of the beautiful banks of the Douro River, Vila Nova de Gaia is the perfect place to start your adventure in the North of Portugal. Six bridges connect Gaia to Porto, and this proximity to the second largest city in the country is one of the reasons that make Gaia a must-visit destination. With a rich historical, cultural and natural heritage, Gaia is a city to add to your bucket list!
How To Get Here
Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport is about 20 minutes by car from Vila Nova de Gaia, so if you get here by plane, you will quickly get to the city center. An alternative will be to catch the train from Lisbon or any other city of the country since the railway line is well developed, making it super easy to get to Gaia.
What To Do
Because it is the most emblematic bridge connecting Gaia and Porto, you will find Dom Luís I Bridge in pretty much every postcard from one of these cities. Built in 1886, this metal structure has two levels: the lower level allows cars and people to cross from one side to the other while the higher level is reserved for trains and people. Make sure to go up for a spectacular view over the Douro River. Once you cross the bridge and reach Porto, take some time to explore some of its most important landmarks such as Clérigos Tower (5€). Don't miss the chance to go up for a view over Porto, with Gaia in the background. You won't regret it! Back in Gaia, embark on one of the Moliceiros boats and take a tour of the six bridges connecting the two cities while appreciating the beauty of the Douro banks. After jumping out of the boat, it's time for a cable car ride (return 9€). From the Gaia Pier to the Monastery of Serra do Pilar (2€), the cable car journey only takes 5 minutes but offers another perspective of the city and allows you to take some fantastic photos while you're up there. Finally, make sure you visit the famous cellars, where you can get to know the various types of Port wine, as well as savor it to prove its excellence. With so much to offer, the hardest part will be to chose which cellar to visit but here are some recommendations: Sandeman, Calem and Taylor's.
What To See
In Gaia, you can find the incredible Monastery of Serra do Pilar, a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Located on a terrace with a wonderful view over Gaia and Porto, this 16th-century monastery is a must-visit. Nearby you will also find the Jardim do Morro, a beautiful garden where you can relax and have a wonderful view of the two cities. Another site that deserves a visit is the Santo Inácio Zoo (starting at € 9.90), located in Avintes, especially if you are traveling with family. In this Zoo, you can find over 300 species of animals such as giraffes, penguins, and monkeys. It is a great alternative if you are not interested in getting to know the cellars.
Where To Eat
At Cais de Gaia you will find a great selection of restaurants where you can sit and enjoy delicious dishes while watching the tourists stroll along the Douro River. However, Port wine is the ex-libris of the region so do not leave Gaia without tasting a goblet of one of the most famous wines in the world.
If you can, take a day trip to Régua. There are a lot of companies and routes to choose from but we recommend going up to Régua by boat and then taking the train back to Gaia (from 60 €). This is a great opportunity to get to know another side of the North of Portugal, notorious for the beauty of its natural landscapes.