Our Sightseeing Cruise on the Douro

Our tickets for the yellow bus sightseeing tour of Porto (see here) included an hour-long cruise on the Douro River. So the next day we rode on the Dos Guindais Funicular down to the Ribeira district where we walked around for awhile (see here) and then hopped on a boat for our river cruise.

View of Cais da Gaia and the Gaia gondola on the Douro’s south side.

Click on any photo to see a larger version of that photo.

A visitor to Porto has many choices for cruises on the Douro — half-day, whole day, three days, one week, even two weeks. Some of the cruise companies offer cruises all the way to the Spanish border where you can board a bus for a two-hour ride to Salamanca. But we opted for the shortest and most inexpensive cruise (in our case tickets were free but they are normally around 15 euros): the popular 45 minutes to an hour jaunt that is often called the Six Bridges Cruise. I’ll let you guess why.

Gazing at Cais da Ribeira with the Se Cathedral and Episcopal Palace on top of the hill.

We’re about to go under our first bridge — the Dom Luis I Bridge.

The other side of the Dom Luis I Bridge.

Ruins on the steep Gaia-side hills.

Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar, an old monastery but now an army barracks, dominates the Gaia hill east of the Dom Luis I Bridge.

The Royal College of Orphans between two bridges. The school was given to the Salesians in 1951.

The Maria Pia Bridge resembles the Dom Luis I Bridge except it doesn’t have a lower deck. It was built by Gustave Eiffel in 1877. The bridge on the far left is the Ponte Infante Dom Henrique.

The St John’s Bridge (Ponte de Sao Joao) was built to relieve all the railroad traffic on the Maria Pia Bridge. It was designed by the noted engineer Edgar Cardosa and opened in 1991.

Terminal of the CroisiEurope Line — one of many cruise ship lines that go up the Douro to the Douro Valley vineyards. The large building was built by Edgar Cardosa to be his laboratory while he was building the Sao Joao Bridge.

Bridge # 5 on our tour was the Freixo Bridge which is the furthest upstream. Sorry but I didn’t get a picture of this bridge. After we passed under this bridge we turned around and went under the first five bridges again. Then we continued further west until we reached the Arrabida Bridge. Then we turned around again and went back to where we started, at the Ribeira quay.

Our boat was packed with tourists.

Porto Customs buildings (Alfandega).

Some of our fellow tourists enjoying the scenery as we approach the Parish Church of Massarelos.

Colorful buildings of Calcada da Arrribida near the Arrabida Bridge.

Heading for our sixth and final bridge. The Arrabida Bridge is actually the first bridge to cross the Douro if you are traveling upstream from the Atlantic ocean.

A jet boat beats us to the Arrabida Bridge — our sixth bridge. It also was built by Edgar Cardosa.

My sister Marie enjoyed the cruise.

One of many sightseeing boats we passed on the cruise. We’re heading back to Ribeira now.

One of the largest ships we passed on our cruise. The Scenic Azure offers a ten day trip to Vega de Terron just across the border in Spain. Other companies that offer Douro River cruises include AMA Waterways, Viking and CroisiEurope.

The Parish Church of Massarelos (Igreja Paroquial de Massarelos).

A police boat moored under the Franciscan churches.

We has an early dinner at a nice restaurant along Cais da Ribeira after our cruise and then we took the funicular back to the top of the hill and from there we walked back to our hotel. The next day was a travel day. We flew first to Madrid and then from there back across the Atlantic to New York where we spent four nights before flying back home to California.

We had a pleasant stay on our first trip to northern Portugal and my two sisters enjoyed being able to relax a bit after two weeks of strenuous walking on the Camino.





About crowcanyonjournal

I am a family man with interests in family history, photography, history and travel.
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8 Responses to Our Sightseeing Cruise on the Douro

  1. GP Cox says:

    The monastery and church have such unique architecture, while the homes are rather plain, or is that just the camera angle?

    • The monastery and circular church were built in the 16th century. The Duke of Wellington resided in the monastery in 1809 while he prepared to lead the Portuguese in an attack on Porto across the river. Porto was then occupied by French forces. The buildings were severely damaged in the civil wars of 1832-33 and extensive restoration began in 1834. Several wealthy Porto and Gaia families maintained the church over the years. Today the Portuguese Army owns both the monastery and church and uses the monastery as barracks for an artillery regiment. The church is open to the public on Sundays for Mass. The army provides guided tours of both monastery and church, including the 100 steps to the church’s roof which provides a spectacular view of Porto. Most of Gaia’s famous port wine cellars are in long buildings to the west of the monastery but there are a few down the hill just east of the Dom Luis I Bridge. Those buildings just below the monastery are abandoned and in ruins. There’s a famous chapel further down the hill close to the river that is also in ruins. The ruins of a 19th century ceramics factory in the previous photo are not too far away from the abandoned buildings below the monastery. Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

      • GP Cox says:

        It’s always good to hear when a piece of history is being saved and preserved!! And those buildings have quite a history at that. Thank you for the added info!

  2. Peter Klopp says:

    Beautiful set of photos of your cruise on the Douro! The picture of the Maria Pia Bridge would be an excellent candidate for MM! Have a great weekend!

  3. I enjoyed this different perspective of Porto as I am interested in seeing a place from the viewpoint of its river or coastline.

  4. What a lovely cruise! So much variety in the architecture, and colorful buildings. I enjoyed the arm-chair cruise.

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