Last updated on September 20th, 2022
The 6 Bridges Cruise in Porto down the Douro River is one of the best things to do in Porto, and for a good reason. Hop onboard replica Rabelo boats to experience part of the path that former wine merchants would take when bringing barrels of Port wine from Douro Valley to Vila Nova da Gaia.
Escape the city and relax while enjoying the river’s calm waters and seeing this adorable riverside town from the water. This guide to the Porto six bridges cruise will help you plan your visit, including if the 6 Bridges cruise is worth it, how long the day river cruise is, and visiting tips.
What River Passes through Porto?
The Douro River passes through Porto, Portugal, flowing from Central Spain until it passes Porto and reaches the Atlantic Ocean. It is the second longest river in Portugal, after the Tagus River, which flows through Lisbon.
What are the 6 Bridges in Porto?
There are a total of six bridges in Porto:
- Ponte Dom Luis I
- Ponte do Infante
- Ponte de Dona Maria Pia
- Ponte de São João Bridge
- Ponte de Freixo
- Ponte da Arrábida
This list is the order in which you will see them during your river cruise. Each bridge is distinct from the next, having been built over multiple years, using a variety of architectural styles. Below is information about each of the six bridges in Porto.
Ponte Dom Luis I
Ponte Dom Luis I connects Porto with Vila Nova de Gaia and is the most famous bridge in Porto. When you see a picture of Porto with a bridge, it is almost always Ponte Dom Luis I. A double-decker iron arch bridge, the bridge takes its influence from Paris’s Eiffel Tower. The bridge opened in 1886, designed for automobile and pedestrian usage.
Today, the upper level of the bridge is for the metro and pedestrians, and the lower level is for pedestrians and cars. During my visit to Ponte Dom Luis I, I walked across the upper and lower parts of the bridge. I recommend experiencing the bridge from both the upper and lower decks.
Ponte do Infante
Ponte do Infante is the newest bridge in Porto, built in 2003. This upper-deck road bridge, Ponte do Infante, was built to replace the upper deck of Ponte Dom Luis and is used for automobile traffic.
Ponte de Dona Maria Pia
Ponte de Dona Maria Pia is the oldest bridge that connects Porto with Vila Nova de Gaia, built in 1877. Its identity is often confused with Ponte Dom Luis I due to their similar shape, but they are each different. Ponte de Dona Maria Pia is a wrought-iron single-deck arch bridge built for railway traffic. Today, the bridge is no longer used and is a landmark.
Ponte de São João Bridge
Ponte de São João Bridge is the furturistic looking bridge of Porto. This concrete bridge was built in 1991 for railway traffic to replace Ponte de Dona Maria Pia. Rail could travel faster on this bridge, so that was appealing. Its futuristic design allows for faster rail travel over the bridge than Maria Pia could provide.
Ponte de Freixo
Ponte de Freixo is the most remote and interior bridge in Porto. Built in 1995, the bridge is another road bridge for automobiles to get between Porto and Vila Nova da Gaia. Ponte de Freixo is double-wide, allowing for road traffic to cross from both directions simultaneously.
Ponte da Arrábida
Ponte da Arrábida is the widest of the six bridges in Porto, being 87 ft wide. Opening in 1963, Ponte da Arrábida contains six lanes of traffic plus two pedestrian lanes. Upon its completion, it had the largest span of any concrete arch bridge in the world. In 2011, Ponte da Arrábida was noted as a National Monument.
Is the 6 Bridges Douro River Cruise Worth it?
If you enjoy river cruises and a quick getaway from the city, a 1 hour Douro River cruise is worth it. Is the Douro a little touristy? Absolutely. But I would counter that a river cruise is one of the best ways to experience the riverfront and see the city of Porto from a different perspective.
Porto is known as the city of bridges, so you won’t want to miss this activity on your Porto itinerary. I recommend everyone take the short Porto river cruise at least once, especially if it’s your first time visiting Porto.
How Long is the Douro River Cruise?
A Porto bridges river cruise lasts 50 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the tour operator. The tour starts near Ponte Dom Luis I and proceeds towards interior Portugal before turning around and heading to the mouth where the river meets the Atlantic Ocean, then returning to Porto.
Where do River Cruises Depart from in Porto?
From the Porto side of the river, cruises depart from Cais da Ribeira. To reach this scenic waterfront street, be prepared to climb down plenty of stairs, ride in a tuk-tuk then walk the rest, or take the gondola on the other side of the river and walk across Ponte Dom Luis I.
Which Companies Offer a Douro River Day Cruise?
There is no shortage of options for companies offering day cruises down the Douro River. Multiple companies on both sides of the river offer them. I’ve compiled a list of some of the tour operators who operate Douro River day cruises:
Bridges Cruise Porto Tickets
Ticket pricing is similar or the same across multiple tour operators of the bridges cruise in Porto. An adult ticket for the 6 Bridges cruise starts at €15. You can purchase tickets individually or combine them with a wine cellar tour. Tickets can be purchased online or same day at the waterfront from the tour operator.
Bridges Cruise Porto – Hours of Operation:
Daily 10 am – 6 pm
Tours are available at the top and bottom of the hour.
Note: Booking in advance is recommended but not required. You can arrive anytime between 11 am and 4 pm to book a tour for the same day.
The 6 Bridges Douro River Day Cruise in Porto: What It’s Like
While planning my Porto itinerary, I knew a Porto river cruise was a must-do activity. Arrive early to check in for your river cruise before its departure time. After checking in, you will line up to board the boat, prepared to board when the ship is ready. Choose an open seat and get ready to sail.
Depending on the tour you choose, there may be an audio part of the tour explaining the history of the six bridges. My river cruise did not include an audio tour.
Once the boat sails, relax and feel the wind in your hair. Both sides of the boat offer a great view, as whatever you can’t see well on one side, you will see again on the return trip. I loved seeing each of Porto’s six bridges and enjoying sitting down after a long day of sightseeing. Seeing Porto from the water is charming and well worth the ticket price. If I didn’t take the river cruise, I wouldn’t have seen half of the bridges in this adorable town.
Tips for the Best Experience with Your Porto River Day Cruise
- Plan your river cruise close to sunset if you plan to watch the sunset from Porto’s waterfront area. Porto is known for their incredible sunsets, so you will want to plan where you will be to watch it. We took our cruise around 5 pm, then stayed in the waterfront district until the sun had set.
- During the cruise, you cannot sit at the front of the boat as your seat, but you can take a photo with the view.
- If you sit on the left outer edge of the boat, be prepared to be splashed. During my tour, we got splashed, but the rest of the ship stayed dry. It wasn’t a big deal for us, but other people moved after that. Something to note when choosing where to sit during your ride.
- Book a ticket in advance to ensure your spot. If you don’t know your schedule, buy your ticket for the same day, but be prepared that not all time options may be available. I bought my tickets on the same day and had to pick a time slightly later than I intended but it worked well.
- Tie up your hair unless you are okay with it tangling in the wind.
I hope this information helps you plan your 6 Bridges Douro River Day Cruise in Porto, Portugal.
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