The history of Vila Nova de Gaia is very rich. With our eyes set on the Douro River, we suggest a brief return to the origins of this region blessed with natural beauty.
Located in the southern bank of the Douro River, Vila Nova de Gaia covers about 165 km2 (40772 acres) and has 290.000 inhabitants, who people its 24 parishes.
The district?s remotest origins go back to the Neolithic and stretch into the Roman civilisation.
The 1255 Charter granted by King Afonso III to the then village of Gaia narrates the first of many episodes which were to define the way of life in Gaia ? the organisation of lands, the settlement, the main economic activities.
In 1288, King Dom Dinis granted another Charter to the same village ? the Burgo Velho do Porto ?, which from then on was to be called Vila Nova de Rei.
Thanks to a huge anchorage and to the easy crossing to the city of Oporto, the riverside village of Gaia soon became an important shipyard and centre of commerce.
There were two neighbouring populations: Gaia (on the west) and Vila Nova (on the east). They were separated by the stream of Saint Antão and each had its own administration and its rulers. Despite these conditions, the two populations united and fought side by side whenever their common interests were at stake.
The above-mentioned interests were severely endangered in 1383, as the villages of Gaia and Vila Nova were partially integrated into the administration of Oporto city, therefore losing (even if temporarily) their political autonomy.
In 1518, King Manuel I granted a Charter to Gaia and Vila Nova, which emphasized the vigour of agriculture and the peopling of parishes with vast properties and considerable output.
During the second half of the 18th century, Vila Nova de Gaia became a town of fishermen, craftsmen, merchants and businessmen. In that time of prosperity, a significant number of foreigners settled in Gaia and bought houses and warehouses, which were used to back up the shipment of wines from the Douro region.