The River of Gold
Visiting Porto is a journey of discovery through the medieval streets, stunning architecture and historical churches and buildings. The city is an exciting blend of experiencing old and new: from restaurants offering simple traditional fare to modern eateries with contemporary fine dining, from historic churches to modern art galleries, craft shops to the latest brands. Your journey around Porto will be complete with interesting places to visit, all of which give an insight into the history of Porto.
More than 890km long, the Douro River is the third longest river in the Iberia.
However, there is one beautiful attraction that is missing from this list that has helped forge the history of Porto. The River Douro reaches Porto having reached its final destination and flowing majestically into the sea at Foz do Douro, having travelled 890km from its source in distant fresh water springs in the mountainous region of Picos de Urbión in Spain.
The Douro has not only changed the history of Porto, but also the countless other cities and towns through which it flows along its winding journey. The river passes through most of the regions of Northern Portugal, crossing the border with Spain in Bragança before flowing through Guarda, Viseu, Vila Real and Aveiro before finally arriving in Porto.
Today, Porto has five road or train bridges which traverse the River Douro and connect Porto with its twin sister city of Vila Nova de Gaia. The most famous and iconic of these is without doubt the instantly recognisable Dom Luís I bridge, construction of which was completed in 1887 by Théophile Seyring, a disciple of Gustav Eiffel.Its span across the River Douro of 172 metres represented, at the time, the largest bridge of its kind anywhere in the world. Many people mistakenly believe the Dom Luís I bridge was built by Eiffel, but indeed he was responsible for the Maria Pia railway bridge, built 9 years earlier, which is slightly upstream and in a similar arch style.
In days gone by, the River Douro was the principle mode of transport for Port wine, which would be transported from the mountainous Douro Valley to Porto in flat-bottomed Rabelo boats. Copies of these boats can still be seen to day in Porto and are in use for short cruises beneath the 5 bridges of Porto and down to the river mouth towards the Atlantic. Transporting Port on the Douro River was a dangerous job. In those times, the Douro River had yet to be dammed and was a raging torrent at different stages of the journey. Many men would have lost their lives bringing their valuable cargo to Porto.