Porto is the second largest city in Portugal and is known for its stunning architecture, popular port wine, and delicious food. Situated on the Douro River, Porto is a beautiful destination to explore. And what better way to see it than from a cruise? So here is the complete guide to the iconic 6 Bridges Cruise Porto.
In this post, we will also share if it is worth taking this excursion, along with some of the important Porto River Cruise tips to help you get started!
Is the 6 Bridges Cruise Porto worth it? Porto River Cruise Tips
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6 Bridges Cruise Porto: Options and offers
- 6 Bridges Tour – 50 minute cruise
- 6 Bridges Tour + Wine cellar visit – Combo tour, affordable option
- Hop-On Hop-Off Bus, River Cruise, & Port Cellar Tour – 3 tour combo with city sightseeing
Douro River, Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia
Porto is located in the northern part of the country. The city lies along the Douro River, making it very picturesque.
The Douro River is one of the most beautiful rivers in Europe. It runs through the city of Porto, and Vila Nova de Gaia and flows into the Atlantic Ocean.
The river is lined with stunning bridges, including the Dom Luís I Bridge, which connects Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia.
Vila Nova de Gaia is a municipality located across the Douro River from Porto. It is known for its port wine cellars, which are a major tourist attraction.
You won’t be able to view the epic Douro Valley from Porto or Gaia, without a cruise of a few hours.
The Douro Valley is known for its famous port wine.
And in the past, wine from the valley would be brought to Gaia/Porto to be matured. These wine barrels came floating on Rabelo boats.
You can see these boats today on the Douro River, from both sides of the banks.
What are the Douro River Cruises that you can do in and around Porto
River cruises of all kinds, depart from the quay of Porto and Gaia, every day. Here are the popular Douro River cruises to consider,
- 6 Bridges Tour: This cruise lasts 50 minutes to an hour and takes you around the city, showcasing the 6 iconic bridges of Porto. Click to book
- Douro River Panoramic Tour by Boat: This is a 2 hour boat trip that covers the 6 bridges and goes all the way to Foz do Douro. You can choose this as a sunset cruise as well. All cruise bookings include a glass of port wine. Book your spot here
- Douro Valley River Cruise: This 6 hour long cruise takes you to the Valley and back. It also includes round-trip transportation from the quay in Porto, plus lunch. Find more information here
There are other types of river cruises that depart from Porto – such as the Douro Valley tour which includes visiting vineyards and wine tastings.
Why a 6 Bridges Cruise is a Must-Do Activity
A 6 Bridges Cruise is the perfect way to see Porto’s spectacular bridges.
In this 50 minute river cruise in Porto, you will explore the Douro River, passing by the Dom Luís I Bridge, Ponte de São João, Arrábida Bridge, Freixo Bridge, and Maria Pia Bridge.
A river cruise provides a unique perspective of the bridges that is unavailable from the banks or the promenades in Porto or Vila Nova de Gaia, making it a must-do activity for any traveler to Portugal.
Other than that, the 6 Bridges Cruise in Porto is a relaxed way of soaking in the sights of the colorful buildings and wine cellars from the comfort of your seat.
Here are some of the popular cruise options to choose from
- 6 Bridges Tour – This is the typical 50 minute cruise, which is also one of the most affordable.
- 6 Bridges Tour + Wine cellar visit – This combo tour is a great option, if you wish to join a wine tasting tour in Gaia. Note that you have to contact the wine cellar separately to confirm the tour, and pay for any premium tastings. I paid for this tour at first but it was easier to do them separately and add cheese or chocolate pairings.
- Hop-On Hop-Off Bus, River Cruise, & Port Cellar Tour – This is a 3 tour combo that includes the 6 Bridges tour along with city sightseeing (hop on and hop off tour), and a wine tasting session. All the 3 tours can be on the same or separate days, but have to be confirmed with each provider.
What You Can Expect to See on a Douro River Cruise in Porto
So, I booked the 6 Bridges Cruise online on GetYourGuide, and received my voucher immediately.
The tour is supplied by Living Tours, a local company in Porto that runs multiple day trip excursions.
When booking the tour, I selected a day and time for the cruise, and paid using a credit card. I saved the email with the voucher (no print copy).
On the day of the cruise, it was raining all day in Porto. I was not sure if the cruises where operating, so I contacted Customer Service at GetYourGuide. Luckily they confirmed that tours were operational.
Due to the rains, I was stuck and delayed at my lunch reservation, and arrived almost an hour later than my reserved cruise time slot.
The representative at GetYourGuide mentioned that although I selected a time, I am welcomed to use the voucher anytime during that day. So it was like an open ticket for that date chosen.
Note that GetYourGuide offers a very generous cancellation policy, valid up to 24 hours before the tour takes place. So you can always get a full refund prior to that.
I was glad, and relieved that I was able to join the tour. It was still raining when I arrived at the meeting point which was located at the Ribeira.
Even with the rain, the cruise departed on time.
Upon arrival, my voucher was scanned, and a ticket was provided. I showed the ticket to the sailor/captain and entered the boat.
The boat had an open deck, and a covered area with tables and a lot of chairs and benches.
Due to the rain, a lot of the passengers were seated underneath.
I took this opportunity to experience both the cities of Porto, Gaia and the bridges with ease, and without the crowds.
The cruise moves slowly allowing you ample photo opportunities. And you can also open your umbrella and sit pretty, if it rains (like I did, as I didn’t want my camera to get wet).
The cruise was for 50 minutes, but we suggest that you plan for an hour to check in and disembark at the end of the tour.
During the cruise, there was commentary in English that takes you through the history of the 6 Bridges of Porto (more on the bridges below). The audio guide was very informative.
You can expect to see some of the most beautiful views of the city on this epic cruise, and this is a great way to see Portugal’s second largest city from a different perspective.
History and Culture Learned on the Douro River Cruise
The 6 Bridges Cruise is a great way to learn about the history and culture of Portugal. You’ll cruise past some of the most important landmarks in the city, including the Dom Luís I Bridge, which was inaugrated in 1886.
You’ll also learn about the iconic landmarks that make up Porto’s cityscape from the Clérigos Tower, and other churches in the city.
Because the focus on this cruise is the 6 Bridges of Porto, here is what you need to know,
- D Luis I Bridge (1886): This is the most recognizable symbols of Porto. Ponte Luis I is best captured from Gaia when you are not on the cruise. The bridge has two levels, where the upper deck is used by the metro line, and the lower deck is open to vehicle and foot traffic. It is classified as a National Monument. The bridge was built by a Belgian company, based on the designs of Téophile Seyrig, who was a disciple of Gustave Eiffel.
- D. Maria Pia Bridge (1877): This bridge was one of the longest in the world when it was opened. It was designed and built by Eiffel et Cie. Today, it is decommissioned, and is replaced by São João Bridge. It is also classified as a National Monument.
- Arrábida Bridge (1963): Arrábida Bridge is credited to be the first ever engineering creation of the Portuguese when it comes to building bridges. It has a world record as the longest reinforced concrete arched bridge.
- São João Bridge (1991): This bridge is one of the new bridges designed by engineer Edgar Cardoso. It replaced the Maria Pia Bridge in 1991.
- Freixo Bridge (1995): The purpose of its construction was to create an alternative to Arrábida and D. Luis I bridges.
- Infante Bridge (2003): This is the newest of the Six Bridges.
Ready to Book Your Trip? Check Out These Top-Rated Companies
If you’re ready to book your trip, check out these top-rated companies that offer 6 Bridges Cruises in Porto:
- Six Bridges Tour by Living Tours: This is the typical 50 minute cruise, which is also one of the most affordable options. Book a 6 Bridges Tour here
- Six Bridges Tour and wine tasting by Douro Azul and Burmester: This combo tour is a great option, if you wish to join a wine tasting tour in Gaia. Note that you have to contact the wine cellar (Burmester) separately to confirm the tour, and pay for any premium tastings. Book the 6 Bridges Tour + Wine tastings here
- Yellow Bus Tours – Porto: You can have all your sightseeing needs covered with this 3 tour combo that includes the 6 Bridges tour along with city sightseeing (hop on and hop off tour), and the wine tasting session. All the 3 tours can be on the same or separate days, but have to be confirmed with each provider. Wine tastings is done at the Calem Caves in Gaia. Book your Hop-On Hop-Off Bus, River Cruise, & Port Cellar Tour here
FAQs About 6 Bridges Cruises
The cruise lasts for 50 minutes. We recommend setting aside an hour to exchange the voucher, check in, and disembark.
Prices vary depending on the company you book with but expect to pay around $16 USD per person for a standard (no frills) Six Bridges Tour.
The price includes the cruise itself, and an audio guide or commentary in a chosen language. There are some cruises where a glass of port wine is offered (prices are higher).
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.
Most of the 6 Bridges tour will conclude around 6:30 pm or so. And the last cruise leaves an hour prior to that.
Tips for Capturing Great Photos of the Bridges in Porto
When you are on the cruise, you have the opportunity to capture the beauty of both Porto and Gaia, and all of the six bridges – and without crowds or photo bombers!
Here are some tips to help plan your cruise photos in Porto,
- First off, you won’t be able to use a full length tripod to capture yourself in the shots. Due to safety reasons, installing a tripod won’t be possible. You can always carry a mini tripod like this one, and secure it to a seat nearby (as long as it doesn’t bother other cruise passengers)
- Sit at the open air deck area for a clear view of the bridges. Carry a jacket or cardigan as it could be chilly outside
- Pick your seat by the edge ‘window’ of the boat (avoid seats in the middle). That way you can capture a nice selfie with the colorful houses at the background, without obstructing or causing an inconvenience to others around you
- Set your camera to a low ISO, ideally around a 100 when capturing photos during the day
- Carry both wide angle and zoom lens to capture the bridges and the colorful houses up close and in depth
- Try to frame your shots with interesting foreground objects, like the edge of the boat, or another cruise boat coming from the opposite direction
- Take a shot of the restaurants and people by the banks – the cruise moves slowly so you can surely capture a neat image of that. I like to shoot the underpass or architectural bits as the cruise goes underneath the bridge – as this is something you cannot capture from the river banks or a funicular ride
- Be patient and keep experimenting to get the perfect shot!
Why You’ll Love a 6 Bridges Cruise in Porto Portugal
A 6 Bridges Cruise is the perfect way to see Portugal’s second largest city from a different perspective.
You’ll cruise down the Douro River, passing by the iconic bridges and learn about its history! This cruise is one of the coolest things to do for any traveler to Porto Portugal.
You’ll love the views of the city, the history and culture learned on the cruise, and the opportunity to capture some beautiful photos of the bridges.
So what are you waiting for? Book your trip today!
More Portugal travel guides:
- Porto: Livraria Lello Harry Potter Bookshop Guide | Guide to Bolsa Palace Porto
- Lisbon: One day in Lisbon | 2 days in Lisbon | LX Factory Lisbon