What’s the most exciting thing to do on the River Douro? Obviously, sail up and down its length, taking in the vineyards and some of the best wine Porto has to offer. And that, is a lot – considering that the river meanders a long way and there’s plenty of wine to choose from. The name Douro comes from Rio do Ouro, meaning River of Gold, and has always been the pulsating lifeline of the city.
But there’s certainly something as interesting. The banks of the Douro are linked by six remarkable bridges. My favorite is the Maria Pia railway bridge, built by Gustave Eiffel, unmatched in elegance for its single arch that spans 350 metres. And walking across makes for a memorable experience!
Not surprisingly, each bridge is unique and has its own character. But the one purpose that they share in common is that they unite Porto and Villa Nova de Gaia into a wonderful holiday experience.
Off course, the best way to see the bridges is from the water, although they are close enough to experience by road.
You can hop on a choice of boats (usually 10Euros) near Gaia or Ribeira quay, that sail up the river and then turn back downstream. As you set sail, you will have the opportunity to observe D. Luis Bridge, Infante Bridge, D. Maria Pia Bridge, S. Joao Bridge and Freixo Bridge.
As you set sail, you pass the Ribeira with its steep narrow streets and balconied houses, the D. Luis Bridge, the Infante Bridge, the D. Maria Pia Bridge, the S. Joao Bridge and the Freixo Bridge. The boats turn back as they approach S. Joao Bridge, offering a beautiful view of the stunning city of Porto. Once past the D. Luis Bridge, the boats sail towards the Arrabida Bridge, and the mouth of the Douro and the fishing region of Afurada. Incidentally, the Arrabida Bridge crosses the river in a single concrete arch of around 270 metres.
Rumor has it that there are two more bridges on the drawing board, and if those become a reality, no one will dare challenge Porto and Gaia as the two cities with the highest number of bridges.
No wonder then that Porto is often known as Cidade das Pontes (City of Bridges). A claim shared by Villa Nova de Gaia too!
Did you know that Porto gave its name not only to port wine but also to Portugal and its language?