A cruise on the Douro, Porto by the river

You've arrived in Porto and discovered the magnificent river that runs through the city. The Douro is more than just a river in Portugal, and in Porto it is part of the country's history. You can see the "Barcos Rabelos", typical flat-bottomed boats that used to carry goods and tourists curious to visit Porto in a different way.

There are many different types of cruise to be enjoyed on the Douro, all of which are great ways to find out more about the city while sailing with a guide. For example, you can embark on a mini-cruise to admire Porto's six bridges, the most popular cruise in Porto, which you can take by boat or sailboat. You can also take a cruise from Régua, the capital of Porto, and head for Pinha to visit the wineries in the valley. The hardest part will be choosing.

© Alvov / Shutterstock

The history of the Douro

In the 13th century, the Douro was the main means of transporting fruit and Port wine, thanks to the "Barcos Rabelos", flat-bottomed boats with no keel, a single mast and a square sail. They were the fastest and most efficient way of transporting barrels of wine from the Douro Valley to the city of Porto. From there, the wine was marketed and exported all over the world. Then, at the end of the 19th century, a railway line was built along the Douro, followed by carriage roads during the 20th century.

The activity began to decline and almost disappeared from 1961 onwards with the new hydroelectric programme, with several dams set up throughout Portugal to produce electricity and create water reserves to irrigate the land. At that time, there were only 6 barges left in operation, and today they have all been transformed into tourist activities with mini-cruises or just on display in front of the Porto wine cellars. On 24 June, St John's Day, if you are in Porto, you can relive this era with a regatta of barcos rabelos, to be seen in the afternoon on the Douro river.

3 ideas for cruises on the Douro

Which Douro river cruise should I choose? There are short cruises lasting less than an hour and longer cruises, up to a day's excursions with a typical lunch and visits.

The six bridges of Porto mini-cruise

Taking a mini-cruise to admire the view over Porto's six bridges is the must-do tourist attraction if you're visiting the city, even for a weekend. This activity lasts between 50 minutes and 2 hours, depending on the service provider, and will allow you to admire the city from a different angle. Don't forget to bring your camera or smartphone, as you'll be able to take some great photos of the old town as well as many other views of Porto.

Typical boat for the 6-deck cruise

- © Kiev.Victor / Shutterstock

Who is the Six Bridges mini-cruise for?

It's for people who are in town for a short time and don't have a whole day for a Douro Valley cruise, and for people who don't have a big budget but want to sail on a picturesque boat. This cruise is also aimed at families, as children may find the other cruises a little long.

How does the cruise work?

You can embark every day from 11am on La Ribeira quay and enjoy a guided tour in French.

👛 Fares:

Adults: €15

Children: €7.5

Children under 3: free

With Tomaz do Douro

A cruise around Porto on a sailing boat

You'll enjoy the same views as the six-bridge mini-cruise, with the added bonus of a visit to the nature reserve and birdwatching. The cruise lasts around 2 hours.

Who is this sailing cruise for?

For families or groups of friends who don't want to be crowded or have a boat all to themselves. The boats can accommodate up to 13 people. This cruise also gives you time to relax or enjoy a swim in summer. This cruise is suitable for people with reduced mobility.

How does the cruise work?

You will leave the Douro marina to discover the mouth of the river and the riverside areas of Gaia and Porto.

👛 Prices:

Adults: €40

Children aged 5 and over: €40

With BB Douro

A cruise through the Douro Valley with visits to wineries

More than just a cruise, this day combines visits, tastings and a traditional boat trip on the Douro.

Visit the vineyards on a cruise

- © hermitis / Shutterstock

Who is this excursion for?

For those who want to spend an unforgettable day in the Douro Valley, departing from Porto. It's a day out for adults, but it's also open to families.

How does the day run?

A driver will pick you up from your accommodation and you'll enjoy some beautiful scenery on the way, as well as stops to admire the beautiful viewpoints of Régua. You will then visit two vineyards, taste wine and enjoy a typical Portuguese meal. In the afternoon, you'll enjoy a short one-hour cruise around Pinhao and a photo stop in Sabrosa. You will then return to Porto with your driver.

👛 Prices:

From €85.50 per person

⭐ Where to sleep near Cais de la Ribeira?

Carris Porto Ribeira Hotel Porto

Carris Porto Ribeira Hotel

Hotel located in the Ribeira district
8.4 Very good
£168 / night
by Editorial Team
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