World of Wine (WOW), one of the largest tourism attractions to launch in Europe this year, debuted last month in Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal. True to its name, the project is a wine lover’s dream, and its location is already in an area that brings in oenophiles from across the globe each year. Vila Nova de Gaia, which is in the Porto district, is historically a port wine town and home to wineries famous for producing the fortified wine.
After five years of development and a $117 million investment, WOW, which overlooks Porto and the Douro River, opened on July 31. The creation of the new project was led by founder and CEO Adrian Bridge, head of the Fladgate Partnership, a holding company that owns well-known port wine brands such as Krohn and Fonseca and luxury hotels such as the Yeatman in Porto and the Vintage House in the Douro Valley.
Spanning over 420,000 square feet of converted and restored wine cellars, WOW was established to “help define Porto as a cultural destination through engaging educational experiences,” Bridge said in a press release.
The wine-focused complex offers tourists several museum experiences that tell the “story not only of wine” but also of “the city, its people and their adventures across the ages,” Bridge said.
The five that are currently available are:
- The Wine Experience, which explains how wine is made and how certain factors such as climate and grape variety affect production, and gives an overview of Portugal’s wine-producing regions
- Porto Region Across The Ages (PRATA), which looks at the history, culture and people of Porto
- Planet Cork, which allows visitors to explore the cork industry (according to the WOW website, Portugal is the world’s largest cork-producing country with over 50% of global production.)
- The Chocolate Story, a journey through the world of chocolate
- The Bridge Collection – 9,000 Years of Drinking, a display of the passage of humanity’s history through the evolution of drinking vessels from Bridge’s personal collection
Each experience takes approximately two hours and is priced at €15 (about $18) per adult except for the Bridge Collection, which costs €10 (about $12) per adult. There is discounted admission for children, students and groups as well as package deals for multiple experiences.
Later this year, WOW will launch its sixth experience, the Fashion & Fabric Museum (an exhibition of the textiles, fashion and jewelry industry in Portugal), as well as the WOW Wine School, which will host a variety of daily and multiple-day workshops on Portuguese wine and gastronomy in partnership with the Wine & Spirit Education Trust.
The cultural destination also serves up a bevy of dining options for visitors. In the central square, guests can go to 1828 for fine dining; Angel’s Share for wine, other beverages and bites; Root & Vine for vegetarian fare; and Golden Catch for seafood.
Patrons looking for a casual meal can stop by Suspiro, a dessert café; Lemon Plaza, a grab-and-go spot; and V.P., a bistro for traditional Portuguese cuisine. WOW also houses event spaces, a temporary exhibition space and retail outlets as additional attractions.
The Fladgate Partnership expects WOW to bring in hundreds of thousands of visitors to Porto each year. The complex is currently open to the public, but access to it is only available to tourists from a select number of countries, given Portugal’s travel restrictions.
As of August 24, Portugal is open to visitors from countries in the EU and the Schengen Area and Australia, Canada, China, South Korea, Georgia, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay. Flights between Portugal and other countries are only permitted for essential travel and passengers must present a test negative for Covid-19 within 72 hours before departure.