Douro river cruise in Porto: tickets, fares, timetables

Visit Portugal: here’s our mini-guide to cruising on the Douro in Porto!

The Douro is a river that rises in Spain, at an altitude of 2,160 meters, in the Sierra de Cebollera Natural Park in Castilla y León, a few kilometers from Logroño. It meanders through the high mountains of the Sierra de Urbión in the Iberian Cordillera, flows in a narrow furrow for 612 kilometers through the Meseta, before skirting the Spanish-Portuguese border in a rugged region of high granite walls, in the Arribes del Duero Natural Park.

Completely Portuguese for 206 kilometers from east to west, it becomes navigable between Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia, where it empties into the Atlantic Ocean at the prow of Europe. The Douro Valley, bordered by world-renowned vineyards and included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List since December 14, 2001, has played a major role in the region’s economic development since the 18th century.

Before the advent of railroads and carriage roads, the river was used by barcos rabelos – typical flat-bottomed boats with high sails designed to pass rapids – to transport goods, including fruit and Port wine. Would you like to cruise the Douro in Porto? It would be a pity not to visit Porto by water and wine, without passing through the Douro Valley.

Would you like to cruise the Douro? Here’s all the information you need to cruise the Douro in Porto!

History of the Douro in Porto

Douro

Before the arrival of the steam locomotive and cars, the Douro was the main route for merchants in the Porto region. The city of Porto, with 214,349 inhabitants in 2014, is built around the river and lives around the trade of the succulent Porto aperitif. A cruise on the Douro in Porto allows you to explore the city by river – its bridges, the Port wine cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia – and the world-famous vineyards. The Douro in Porto is inextricably linked with the history of wine in Portugal. Port wine, already consumed without moderation in Roman times, has one of the oldest appellations in the world (1756).

In fact, the elixir was already being used as a standard of measurement in the development of the first economic theories on international trade, the theory of comparative advantage between England and Portugal, by the British economist of the Classical school, David Ricardo (1772-1823). Port wine first came to prominence in 1667, when Colbert decided to tax English imports. England boycotted Bordeaux wine in return, and found its little replacement in Portugal: red wine, to which brandy was added to withstand the journey to London: port wine was born.

The Douro region cultivates almost a hundred different grape varieties, with 80% of estates less than one hectare in size. The Douro Valley winds through terraced vineyards, meticulously carved out of sun-drenched schist cliffs, known as patamares .A cruise on the Douro in Porto will allow you to explore the local flora and fauna – eucalyptus and willow trees drenched by the river’s green waters – and the sumptuous landscapes between Pinhão and Porto: a unique escapade, spawning in the calm waters that carried the Portuguese colonists returning home after exploring the Brazilian New World, between history, architecture, the tradition of winemaking and the sparkle of taste buds.

What to see and do on the Douro in Porto?

Douro

It wasn’t long before phylloxera in the 19th century wiped this European tourist treasure off the map. There are two ways to cruise the Douro in Porto: a mini-cruise lasting less than an hour, or a full-day cruise.

It goes without saying that we recommend a day cruise if you have the time and the budget. From the pier, you’ll have your first magnificent view of the Ribeira district and the famous Dom-Luís Bridge, built by a pupil of Gustave Eiffel between 1881 and 1886. Enjoy a beautiful view of the first wine vineyards as you have breakfast on board.

The river trip continues to Porto Antigo, the town of Régua, Ferradosa or Pinhão, depending on the options chosen, time and budget. As you sail inland, you’ll come across these magnificent terraced vineyards – patamares – fashioned by the hands of winegrowers to replenish vines damaged by phylloxera. These are terraces without retaining walls, separated by high earthen embankments, similar to high-altitude isopleths.

A cruise on the Douro in Porto allows you to follow the historic route of the « Rabelo », the traditional Portuguese boats used by the wine merchants of yesteryear, to see the river’s many dams and to see Porto’s six bridges. Alongside the river, enjoy the typical Portuguese villages of Lamego, Ferradosa, Pinhão and Régua. And don’t forget to visit the cellars where port wine is aged and Vila Nova de Gaia, on your way in or out.

How to get to the Douro in Porto

Douro

Porto Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport is Porto’s international airport, where you’ll land to visit Porto, 11 kilometers north of the city center. Porto city center can be reached in half an hour or 45 minutes by metro, bus or express shuttle. You can also rent a car at the airport for greater freedom of movement. Then, if you’re looking for parking, don’t hesitate to read our article  » Cheap parking in Porto: where to park in Porto « !

From downtown Porto, look south for the Ribeira quayCais da Ribeira – to find access to the Douro and the landing stages for a Douro cruise. In particular, this is where the boats depart for the six-bridge cruise. Departures can also be made on the other side, at the Quai de Vila Nova de Gaia.

Note that the return journey to Porto is by train, departing from Régua station.

Timetable and prices for a Douro river cruise in Porto

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RATES

To take a 50-minute cruise on the Douro in Porto, most private operators charge €15.

There are other ways to sail the Douro:

  • Cruise Pinhão – Tua – Pinhão: €20
  • Day cruise: between €65 and €88 depending on day and period
  • 3-day circuit cruise: over €400
  • 6-day circuit cruise: over €1,000
  • Children under 3: free
  • Children aged 4 to 12: 50% discount

SCHEDULES

There is one departure per hour, but meeting and train times vary according to the offers, days and packages chosen.

Here’s an example of a day cruise program: meet at 8am at the Ribeira quay, arriving in Régua at 2:45pm.

Return by train from Régua at 4:48 pm. Arrival at Sao Bento de Porto station at 6:50 pm.

Good to know

  • The cruise is not always commented
  • Remember to reserve your place in advance, as boats can fill up quickly.