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€106 million project to boost tourism to Porto

WOW is a new attraction in Porto
WOW is a new attraction in Porto

A new project in the port and wine hub of Portugal will bring six museum and attraction experiences to life.  

Porto, the riverside city known as the capital of Portuguese wine, is to benefit from an ambitious new development project aimed at attracting as many as 650,000 visitors a year.


World of Wine, or WOW, is the brainchild of founder and chief executive Adrian Bridge, who also runs The Fladgate Partnership, owners of Port wine brands such as Taylor, Croft, Fonseca, and Krohn, and hotels The Yeatman and Infante Sagres in Porto, and The Vintage House Hotel in the Douro Valley.


The new WOW cultural district will include six major interactive museum experiences, a new town square, and nine restaurants, bars, and cafes.


WOW is being created on the footprint of former port storage houses in the district, but aims to tell the story of not just how Portuguese wine has developed, but several other key facets of the country’s history as well.


“These were the historic port lodges, where for hundreds of years, port was traditionally aged, but that process moved to the Douro Valley – closer to the actual wineries – quite a few years now, so the area was quite dormant,” said Bridge. “This is a huge repurposing of that land and a set of attractions and experiences which will really bring the city – and the country’s – story alive.”


The first launch phase from 31 July will include The Wine Experience; Porto Region Across The Ages (PRATA) explaining Porto’s history; The Bridge Collection – 9,000 Years of Drinking, with its huge collection of drinking vessels; and The Chocolate Story, explaining the world of cacao and chocolate in which Portugal played a huge part historically. Also opening at the end of July will be Planet Cork, telling the story of an underplayed sustainable and innovative industry.


Portugal is the largest producer of cork on the planet, accounting for more than 50% of global production and grown on more than 1,800 acres of forest land, and is three times the size of the port industry itself, all of which visitors will be able to learn more about.


The Chocolate Story will follow the 5,000-year journey of chocolate to its current status as both a cheap snack the world over and how in parallel, it is also coming into its own as an artisanal speciality. The museum covers the origins of chocolate from Central America, through to a “chocolate factory” to see how it’s made, and a shop and café.


Later in 2020, WOW will open the sixth experience, the Porto Fashion & Fabric Museum which will highlight Portugal’s textiles, fashion and jewellery industry; along with the WOW Wine School, which will offer daily and multi-day workshops on Portuguese wine and gastronomy.


“I’m a strong believer in the difference between a traveller and a tourist, and I think people do want these deeper cultural experiences – even more so now, so the timing for WOW is right,” Bridge told TTG. “If visitors do nothing else, we want them to come and enjoy PRATA, as once they have experienced this, they will go on to explore the rest of the city with a firmer understanding of its story and how it all relates as they walk around.”


Given the wide, open spaces of the central square and dining options, and with it being set on the river, Bridge added that WOW’s design and location was coincidentally appropriate for a post-Covid world.


He said work on the project had only been slightly disrupted during the pandemic and had ended up just a month behind schedule. He conceded though that, for now, visitors would be mainly locals who have been “cooped up”, or Portuguese people travelling into town for a staycation.


Seeing Portugal not make it onto the UK government’s list of countries people can arrive from without quarantine will be something of a setback. But Bridge sought to reassure people that Portugal was actually one of the safest places to visit in Europe.


“We have an exceptional health service and the government dealt with the crisis very well; we had one of the highest testing regimes in the world and 41,000 infections, which is comparatively low,” Bridge said.


“People here must wear masks in shops, hotels and restaurants, and hand sanitising is everywhere, plus the tourist board ensured Portugal was quick to put in place the system to verify tourism establishments, Clean & Safe.”


This means establishments can gain the stamp that shows they have earned official validation regarding their safety and hygiene measures in light of the pandemic.


Meanwhile, The Yeatman is also set to celebrate its 10-year anniversary this September, with Bridge releasing a coffee table book of the hotel’s story; a World of Wine book will also be released soon.


Bridge added that the hotel had “never looked better” having benefitted from the completion of several projects during its recent closure.


He also posed that lesser visited cities such as Porto could be more appealing for those who were now wary of heading to typically busier ones such as Barcelona and Venice.


“We could benefit from that; Porto is a much lower density city,” he said.

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