Although Portugal is the physically closest European nation to the United States, it has unfairly remained in Spain’s shadow in the eyes of many American travelers. Lisbon certainly had a time of being a true “it” destination in the mid to early teens; but eventually everyone returned to Ibiza and Barcelona, ââmuch to the frustration of the latter’s permanent residents, whose city is now often overrun with tourists.
But with Europe in its cautious post-pandemic reopening mode, now is a particularly good time to consider destinations on the continent that are not Barcelona or Paris, Amsterdam or Berlin. And the one that we think deserves to be considered is Porto, generally considered the second city in Portugal, but with a similar cultural weight.
About three and a half hours from the capital by fast train, its name reveals its main epicurean appeal, with its proximity to the exalted port wine producers of the Douro Valley. British expatriate Adrian Bridge, CEO of Fladgate Partnership (producers of Taylor’s Port), has become something of a local guru, with his sleek Yeatman Hotel welcoming a constant stream of high world. Last year, in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, he also – and quite impressively – launched WOW Porto, a 105 million euro, 55,000 m2 complex, with six museums and a school of wine, as well as nine restaurants and bars.
The latest arrival is the recently opened Porto Fashion & Fabric Museum, which is housed in the 18th century Atkinson House, with a chapel designed by the late great architect Nicolau Nasoni. For this, 6,000 square feet of exhibition space has been meticulously designed by Studio Astolfi in Lisbon, in such a way as to respect the heritage of the building.
The permanent exhibitions are divided into two thematic concepts. Portugal, of course, is recognized as a main center of European textile production, and a section of the museum traces the history of the industry and its importance for the economic development of the northern region of the country. The screens even allow you to take a behind-the-scenes look at actual production processes. A second section presents Portuguese fashion from the 1980s to the present day, and from high to high street. The gallery, located directly opposite the museum, will hold temporary exhibitions, including the current one on neo-expressionist artist Francis Bacon, whose work will ultimately inspire designers like Alexander McQueen and Dries Van Noten.
“This sixth museum is another detailed presentation of an area in which the country thrives,” observes CEO Bridge. âPortugal exports textiles globally and is widely recognized for the quality of its manufacturing, raw materials and finished products. With this experience, our aim is to showcase Portuguese talents by recognizing already renowned creators while also making room for new talents.
And as is customary in these 21st century times, the museum also has its own restaurant, the elegant Mira Mira (which oddly seems to translate to ‘crosshair crosshair’), serving up fine tapas, breathtaking panoramic views. breath and, of course, a well-chosen choice. selection of port and Portuguese wines.
âWith wine as a guide,â enthuses Bridge, âthe pillars of WOW reflect on the best in Portugal. “
And a lot of things are done in Porto.