Boosting the wow factor of Porto

in Travel · 10-07-2020 01:00:00 · 0 Comments
Boosting the wow factor of Porto

The new World of Wine attraction is drawing people to Porto.

If you're ever offered port in a 2,000-year-old Roman cup, the trick is to hold it firmly, advises Adrian Bridge.

The CEO of long-established family business Taylor's Port admits he's killed the mood of many dinner parties by whipping out the antique drinking vessels from his private collection.

"Everyone goes all terribly serious and they're not quite sure how to pick it up," he sighs.

Fortunately, the historic receptacles have now found a safe home behind glass in The Bridge Collection, which opens on 31 July as part of an ambitious €106 million museum, bar and restaurant development in Porto's historic Vila Nova de Gaia district.

Using chalices, jars and antique stemware to tell the story of humanity through the ages, it's the only museum of its kind in the world.

Bridge, who is also CEO of The Fladgate Partnership, the holding company who started with the port business and have since extended their interests to the tourism industry, originally came up with the idea for WOW - World Of Wine - seven years ago. Their five-star wine hotel, The Yeatman, and its Michelin-starred restaurant had already proved there was an appetite for food and wine tourism in Portugal's northern Unesco-credited city.

Housed in converted port cellars on the southern bank of the Douro river, below the Dom Luis I Bridge, six interactive museum experiences (including The Bridge Collection) will be accompanied by a wine school, temporary exhibition space and nine restaurants, bars and cafes.

Some structural changes, such as the inclusion of more automatic doors, have been made to comply with new social distancing guidelines. But the concept remains the same.

In the Wine Experience, visitors can gain a greater understanding of wine production around the world; while Planet Cork tracks Portugal's role in the cork industry right back to its oak tree roots, and looks at how the material popularised by wine stoppers has also made its way into the aerospace industry and onto catwalks.

But wine is just the starting point; there's also a museum dedicated to the history of chocolate, and another space focused on Portuguese fabrics and fashion.

Across all attractions, there's one common theme: to teach people something interesting and new.

"You can't teach the world everything, but we certainly hope that all of our experiences do give people a 'wow' moment," says Bridge. "If visitors can go away with their eyes opened a little bit, then I hope it will be beneficial to them."

The history of colour, for example, forms a fascinating section in the Porto Fashion & Fabric Museum.

From the Egyptians, who created shades of blue for their tombs by making glass and reducing it to powder, to Roman emperors, whose purple cloaks were dyed with pigment from 200,000 sea snails, there's pub quiz trivia galore.

He hopes others will see the opening of WOW as a display of confidence, putting Porto "on the map on a greater global scale".

"Travel has an important role to play; it's good for people to explore and understand other cultures.

"Maybe there'll be a slow down. But we're a 328-year-old business; we understand long term. For now, let's do our best."


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