When researching what to do in Porto you will probably have come across boat trips on the Douro River and especially the 6 bridges cruise. The 6 Bridges Cruise is the most cost-effective boat trip and a great way to learn about the history and culture of Porto.

The tour is usually on a replica Rabelo boat, retracing the historic path once taken by wine merchants transporting barrels of Port wine from the enchanting Douro Valley to Vila Nova de Gaia.

Leave the bustling city behind and unwind in the embrace of the river’s serene waters while admiring the picturesque riverside town. Having personally experienced the 6 Bridges tour in Porto, I will provide valuable insights on its worthiness, the duration of the day cruise, and recommend the finest boat tours available in Porto.

Which six bridges cruise in Porto should I choose?

Six Bridges Boat Tour by Living Tours: The basic tour, typically lasting 50-minutes, can cost as little as £13 when booking online via GetYourGuide. They can depart from either side of the river at Ribeira Quay or Gaia Quay.

Six Bridges Douro River Cruise by Tomaz do Douro or Empreend. Tur. Lda: This tour is similar to the above, and costs slightly more at £16 when booking online via GetYourGuide.

Douro River Sailing Cruise with Port Wine by Mar Douro: This tour takes you on 31-foot classic motor sailor boat from Douro Marina to the mouth of the Douro River. Along the route you will be able to enjoy a Port wine tasting, including three types of Port wine (Ruby Port, Tawny Port, and White Port). Douro River Sailing Cruise + Port Wine

Tips for the Best Experience with Your Porto River Day Cruise

  • While on the cruise, it is not permitted to use the front of the boat as a seating area. However, you are more than welcome to capture a memorable photo with the magnificent view.
  • If you’re eager to witness Porto’s breath-taking sunset from the waterfront area, it’s advisable to plan your river cruise close to sunset. Porto is renowned for its incredible sunsets, making it a memorable experience to capture. We recommend scheduling your cruise around 5 pm, allowing ample time to enjoy the scenic views as the sun gracefully descends. After the cruise, you can continue immersing yourself in the captivating waterfront district, savouring the atmosphere until the sun has fully set.
  • Please be aware that if you choose to sit on the left outer edge of the boat, there is a possibility of getting splashed. During my own tour, some of us experienced splashes while seated in that area, while the rest of the ship remained dry. While it wasn’t a major inconvenience for us, it prompted some other passengers to relocate to different seats. It’s worth considering this when deciding where to sit during your ride.
  • To secure your spot on the river cruise, it is recommended to book your ticket in advance. However, if you’re uncertain about your schedule, you can purchase a ticket for the same day. Keep in mind that not all time options may be available, so be prepared for potential limitations. In my experience, I purchased my tickets on the same day and had to choose a slightly later time than originally intended. Fortunately, everything worked out well.
  • To avoid any inconvenience or tangling caused by the wind, it is advisable to tie up your hair during the cruise. This simple precaution will help ensure a more comfortable and enjoyable experience on the boat.
  • Don’t forget to bring both sunscreen and a light scarf, as it gets very sunny and windy at the same time.

FAQ for Six bridges cruise in Porto

How long does the cruise last?

The cruise lasts for 50 minutes. If you have purchased the ticket in advance then we recommend setting aside an hour to exchange the voucher, check in, and disembark.

How much does a six bridges cruise in Porto cost?

Prices vary depending on the company you book with but expect to pay around £13 per person for a standard (no frills) Six Bridges Tour.

What is included in the price of the six bridges cruise in Porto cost?

The price includes the cruise itself, and usually an audio guide or commentary in a chosen language. There are some cruises where a glass of port wine is offered (prices are higher).

What time of day is the best time to take the cruise?

Probably the best time to take the cruise is in the morning, at night, or during sunset. However, unlike sunset cruises in Lisbon, there are only a few companies that offer this activity and most conclude around 6:30 pm or so.

What are the 6 Bridges in Porto?

During your river cruise, you will encounter the six bridges in a specific order, each with its own unique characteristics. These bridges were constructed over several years, showcasing a diverse range of architectural styles. Below is information about each of the splendid bridges in Porto.

Dom Luís I Bridge

Dom Luís I Bridge
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Travelholic Path

The awe-inspiring bridge that never fails to impress is none other than the iconic Luis I Bridge. It has earned the reputation of being the most frequently photographed bridge over the Douro, as per a visual statistic. This remarkable structure boasts the distinction of once having the world’s largest wrought-iron arch, spanning an impressive length of 395 meters. Upon closer inspection, its intricate and intertwined decoration, reminiscent of delicate filigree, reveals its exquisite beauty.

Designed by the Belgian company Société de Willebroeck and executed under the guidance of engineer Théophile Seyrig, a disciple of Gustave Eiffel, the bridge was inaugurated in 1886. Initially, only the lower deck was accessible, with vehicle traffic utilizing the upper deck two years later. However, in 2003, as part of maintenance work, the bridge underwent a transformation, transitioning from vehicular use to accommodating the light rail network.

Before its incorporation into the city’s infrastructure, another bridge once spanned the river — the Suspension Bridge, also known as the Maria II Bridge. It held the distinction of being Portugal’s first metal bridge and was opened in 1842. However, in 1887, it was dismantled to make way for the current captivating structure that never fails to enchant spectators upon their first encounter. Illuminated by night, the Luis I Bridge emanates a warm yellow glow, lending it a dramatic, cinematic, and undeniably romantic ambiance. While it may not be the Brooklyn Bridge, it often serves as the backdrop for unforgettable proposals and moments of love.

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Ponte do Infante

Ponte Do Infante Porto
Public Domain / Joseolgon

In 2003, an upstream bridge was constructed and named after the renowned Henry the Navigator, a native of Porto who played a pivotal role in opening up new worlds during the Age of Discovery. This bridge, characterized by its sleek and contemporary design, achieved a remarkable feat in construction with its 280-meter arch span, setting a new record and serving as a source of inspiration for numerous bridges worldwide.

With a width of twenty meters and four lanes, two in each direction, the bridge effectively absorbed the traffic redirected from the upper deck of the nearby Luis I Bridge following the establishment of the light rail network.

The bridge serves as a vital connection for vehicles traveling between Fontainhas and Serra do Pilar, where the magnificent Monastery of Serra do Pilar is situated. This 16th-century architectural gem is a prime example of European design, renowned for its impressive church and circular cloister. Originally housing an exclusively male order of Saint Augustine, the monastery later assumed a military role due to its strategic positioning during critical moments in Portugal’s history, including the French Invasions, the Siege of Porto, and the Maria da Fonte revolt. Recognized as a National Monument and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the monastery offers breath-taking panoramic views of Gaia, Porto, and the magnificent bridges spanning the river.

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Maria Pia Bridge

Porto Ponte Maria Pia
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Turismo En Portugal

In Porto, just as Paris has the iconic Eiffel Tower, the city boasts its own engineering marvel known as the Maria Pia Bridge. Designed by the renowned French engineer Gustave Eiffel (1832-1923), this bridge pushed the boundaries of classic metal construction during its time. Its construction involved ingenious techniques that revolutionized engineering practices.

The primary objective of the Maria Pia Bridge was to establish a railway connection between Gaia and Porto, which it successfully served for an impressive span of 114 years. Although it was officially inaugurated on November 4, 1877, by King Luis I and Queen Maria Pia, who bestowed upon it its name, an interesting footnote in its history involves the wife of the Portuguese engineer responsible for the project, Pedro Inácio Lopes. Prior to the official opening, Adelaide Lopes courageously crossed the bridge on foot right after the metallic arms had been installed to complete the deck. While this daring act earned her a place in history according to “Caminhos de Ferro Portugueses – Esboço da História” (1956), it remains a somewhat comical episode often overlooked elsewhere.

Although railway traffic ceased in 1991 and was redirected to the nearby São João Bridge, the Maria Pia Bridge’s towering structure, reaching a height of 61 meters, was rightfully declared a National Monument. Its historical significance and architectural grandeur continue to be appreciated by visitors, serving as a testament to Porto’s engineering heritage and the visionary work of Gustave Eiffel.

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São João Bridge

São João Bridge
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Sergei Gussev

On June 24, 1991, the Maria Pia Bridge was succeeded by the contemporary São João Bridge, named after the patron saint of Porto’s summer celebrations. The São João Bridge represents a modern replacement, accommodating greater loads and faster speeds compared to its predecessor. It stands as a significant development in the city’s infrastructure.

In contrast to its predecessors, the São João Bridge showcases a minimalist design, constructed with reinforced concrete and adorned with a clean white paint finish. Rather than featuring an arched structure, it boasts a continuous multi-lane span, elegantly supported by two majestic pillars embedded into the riverbed. This design choice allows for seamless passage across the bridge.

The São João Bridge serves as a vital link between the Porto-Campanhã train station and destinations in the south, with its first stop being Vila Nova de Gaia. It facilitates efficient transportation for both commuters and travellers, enabling seamless connections to various southern locations.

Visually, the São João Bridge exhibits a modern and streamlined appearance, aligning with contemporary architectural sensibilities. Its efficient design and functionality contribute to the smooth flow of traffic and the overall development of Porto’s transportation network.

Whether admired from a distance or experienced first-hand while crossing, the São João Bridge represents a symbol of progress and connectivity, embodying Porto’s commitment to modern infrastructure and improved transportation systems.

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Arrábida Bridge

6 Bridges Cruise In Porto Ponte Da Arrábida, Douro River, Porto
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Matt Kieffer

The Arrábida Bridge serves as a critical connection for the A1 motorway, linking Porto in the north with Lisbon. It spans the Douro River, connecting Campo Alegre in Porto with Arrábida in Gaia. The bridge was designed as an alternative downstream crossing to alleviate traffic congestion on the Luís I Bridge. Notably, it was the first major bridge over the Douro River built by Portuguese companies under the supervision of engineer Edgar Cardoso (1913-2000), who was also responsible for the São João Bridge and the expansion of the runway at Madeira Airport.

The bridge features four modern bronze sculptures by artists Barata Feyo and Gustavo Bastos, situated on the pillars in the central deck area. These pillars once served as lifts, adding a unique element to the bridge’s design.

Constructed in 1963, the Arrábida Bridge boasted the world’s largest reinforced concrete arch at the time. Its impressive stature stands as a testament to engineering prowess. Since 2016, adventurous individuals have had the opportunity to climb the bridge’s 262 steps, reaching its pinnacle 65 meters above the riverbed. This National Monument offers breathtaking views of the surrounding area.

From the top of the Arrábida Bridge, observers can marvel at various notable landmarks. These include the nineteenth-century Customs House on the north bank, which was previously Miragaia beach and now serves as an important congress center. The Port Wine Museum, housed in an 18th-century building formerly used as a wine warehouse, also comes into view. The Church of Massarelos, adorned with a blue tile panel depicting figures such as Henry the Navigator and St. Elmer, the patron saint of sailors, stands nearby. Additionally, the STCP-Tram Museum, dedicated to preserving the history of the city’s iconic urban transport, can be seen from the bridge.

As the Douro River flows into the sea at ​​Foz, picturesque São Pedro da Afurada on the south side represents a typical fishing village in the region. The village’s inhabitants maintain a livelihood centred around boat building and repair, showcasing the traditional maritime heritage of the area.

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Freixo Bridge

Freixo Bridge
CC BY-SA 2.0 / José Moutinho

The Freixo Bridge, the most modern of the six bridges, is situated on the outskirts of Porto and was inaugurated in 1995 to address the pressing issue of traffic congestion. Serving as the final segment of the inner ring road, it significantly improved access to the southbound direction. As the main entry and exit point of the city, the bridge accommodates four lanes in each direction, witnessing the passage of approximately 100,000 vehicles daily. Interestingly, the bridge consists of two separate structures, with a mere ten-centimetre gap between them, spanning a length of 750 meters.

Crossing the Freixo Bridge can be accomplished in various ways, including by car, on foot, by train, by metro, by bicycle, or even by navigating between the pillars. However, one of the most enjoyable methods is by boat, departing from the Ribeira riverfront or the Gaia quayside. This leisurely boat trip allows travellers to fully appreciate the bridges’ uniqueness while contemplating other ways to explore and become better acquainted with the cities on either bank.

From the Porto side, the wine houses stand out with their distinctive rooftop lettering, proudly displaying names such as Calem, Kopke, Quinta do Noval, Sandeman, Gran Cruz, Taylor’s, Dow’s, Offley, and more. On the Gaia side, visitors can enjoy the captivating view of colourful old houses, church towers, and the historic centre, which has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Along the Douro River, the rabelos, traditional boats that once transported wine barrels downstream to the Port houses, add to the enchantment as they gracefully navigate alongside other tourist vessels. Porto continues to shine as one of Europe’s premier travel destinations, offering a delightful blend of cultural heritage, scenic beauty, and renowned hospitality.

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