If you’re lucky enough to be enjoying the city of Porto, you really must visit its ‘other half’, that is Vila Nova de Gaia, or simply ‘Gaia’ as it’s known to the locals. Here, the views from the Sierra del Pilar Monastery, sunsets at the Jardim do Morro, beaches such as Miramar, and the emblematic wineries (obligatory tasting included), will make you feel like staying in Gaia forever.
Vila Nova de Gaia is located on one of the banks of the Duero River, facing Porto on the other side. In the past, communication between the two cities was complicated, but today they’re linked by no fewer than six bridges, which means that you can get around as easily as if the two formed a single city.
If you hire your car with us at the airport in Porto, you can be in Gaia in about 20 minutes. As we’ve already mentioned, the bridges make access easy. Our recommendation is to cross by taking the Ponte de Arrábida bridge, the closest one to the sea, or the Ponte de Friexo, the furthest away, as these provide the quickest ways of getting to Gaia.
You can enjoy the rest of the bridges once you’re in Gaia and get to know some of the interesting monuments in the area at the same time.
If you enjoyed the views from the bridge on the way into Gaia, then be sure to take a walk on the Ponte Dom Luis I. The bridge has two levels, both with pedestrian access, so you can choose between them. After your stroll, you can go down to the vista point just below the bridge, and from there make your way to one of the wineries on this side of the river.
You can’t leave Portugal without seeing how they make their very famous wine. The best thing to do is to book a few days in advance, and choose a tour in your preferred language. Some of the most famous wineries are Sandeman, Ferreira, Calem, Graham's and Bodegas Ramos Pinto.
Just a few minutes’ walk from the wineries, you’ll find a work by Bordalo II. Portugal is packed with works by this artist, who combines recycling and nature to create huge animals with all sorts of discarded objects in the effort to make people aware of the mark that we as human beings are leaving on nature.
The entrance to the cable car is right next to the sculpture. One of the ways of negotiating the height differences you find throughout Portugal is by using the cable car. If you take it up to the Jardim do Morro, you’ll be able to enjoy stunning views and save yourself a very steep climb. And on the way up you’ll be treated to breathtaking vistas of the city and the river.
From the river bank in Gaia you’ll be able to enjoy the views over these gardens, as well of course as those from the Sierra del Pilar vista point, which are some of the best in the whole of the city. The monastery was built in the 17th century, and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996. If you want to fully appreciate its circular cloister, why not take a guided tour of the inside of the building.
One of the best places to visit in Gaia with the kids is this nature reserve that is charged with safeguarding the environment and raising awareness of environmental issues. A stroll in a natural setting that they’ll love.
It’s just a 15-minute drive in your hire car from Vila Nova de Gaia to Miramar beach. And it’s not difficult to find a parking space nearby.
When you get there, you’ll be able to enjoy a beach that offers marvellous views, and that is also home to one of the most famous chapels in Portugal. A great and ideal plan for a romantic weekend getaway.
One of the most beautiful images of Portugal has to be this one: a small, white chapel sitting on some rocks in the middle of the sea. You can visit, as long as the tide permits.
The chapel is steeped in legend – why was it built and what the marks left by animals found on its rocks mean? Some say that a sailor who was saved from a watery grave, and who in return made a promise to build a chapel in the place where he first set foot on dry land. Others say that a divine light appeared, indicating this exact spot. Regardless of the truth might be, one thing that is for certain is that the light at sunset is beautiful, and a sight always to be remembered.
These are the essential places that you can visit in this town of Porto, but surely if you approach it you will discover many more. Don't miss it and book your rental car now! Take advantage of the car rental deals.