A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Travel+Leisure India|October 2021
Look out, Porto! With the opening of a compelling new museum complex, neighbouring Vila Nova de Gaia is luring travellers to the other side of the Douro.
CHADNER NAVARRO

THE PEOPLE OF PORTO, Portugal, like to joke that the best thing about Vila Nova de Gaia—their lesser-known neighbor on the opposite bank of the Douro River—is its view of Porto. Naturally, Gaia residents don’t take too kindly to that. (As someone who proudly lives across the Hudson River from New York City, I can empathize.)

But after last year’s high-profile opening of World of Wine (wow. pt) , an entertainment district that champions Portugal’s cultural and wine-making legacy, this unassuming city of 3,00,000 is no longer known merely as Porto’s sleepy little sister. It’s the most buzz Gaia has seen since the great port producers set up shop centuries ago, lured away from Porto by milder temperatures and fewer taxes.

The first time I visited northern Portugal, in 2012, I stayed at The Yeatman, a luxury hotel set on one of Gaia’s riverside hills. The property’s grand reputation preceded it. Everyone I knew in Portugal raved about the Michelin-starred restaurant, the pools, the views. Meandering from one pastel-hued room to another, I was charmed by the Yeatman’s genteel romance. And when I craved a bit of whimsy, I plunged into the pool, a voluptuous, decanter-shaped refuge from the heat of high summer.

But everything about the property is oriented toward the imperial city across the river: every table at the restaurant, every bathtub, every treatment table at the spa. My days were spent in Porto: searching for the best francesinha, the cheese-smothered Portuguese answer to the croque-monsieur; exploring the contemporary-art-focussed Serralves Museum (serralves.pt); perusing the aisles of the legendary bookstore Livraria Lello (livrarialello.pt). Yes, I was sleeping in Gaia; my stay, however, revolved entirely around Porto. So maybe the joke was true.

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