Porto & the Douro Holidays

Blessed with two World Heritage Sites, the birthplace of Port has charm, character and beauty in abundance.

Portugal’s second city has a quiet self-assurance - the result, perhaps, of a rich history that’s left so many fascinating traces behind. Built on a steep bank at the mouth of the Douro River, the Romans’ Portus is now crammed with architectural delights from every era: gothic churches and a Romanesque cathedral, belle époque café interiors and art nouveau shopfronts, an Eiffel-influenced metal bridge and a cutting-edge concert hall.

If you get the sense it’s very much a working place rather than a museum, though, you’d be right. The city’s must-visit Port wine lodges still operate much as they have for centuries. And further up the Douro Valley, 2000 years of viticulture have created an extraordinary landscape, with terrace upon terrace of vines - some just wide enough for one row - carved out of the vertigo-inducing mountainsides by hand. It’s that beguiling combination of dramatic scenery and the pleasures of the grape that makes the region such a delight to explore.

Whether you’re after a cultural city break, a taste of refined country living or a blend of the two, talk to our experts about creating a Porto and the Douro Valley holiday that’s just right for you.

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Porto & the Douro Hotels

Our recommendations for the best places to stay in Porto & the Douro

PortoBay Teatro Hotel

With theatrical flourishes, a fabulous restaurant and a fantastic location, PortoBay Teatro is ve...

Vidago Palace Hotel

A lavish salmon-pink palace with excellent spa and golf facilities, set in 250 acres of woodland.

The Yeatman

A luxury wine and spa retreat with twinkling views over Porto and The Duoro River.

Vila Foz Hotel & Spa

This seafront mansion-house-turned-boutique hotel is a decadent throwback to Porto’s golden days.

Vintage House Hotel

A tranquil 19th-Century wine estate with a beautiful riverside setting in the heart of the Douro...

Douro River Cruise – Porto to Pinhão

Spend a whole day on a voyage along the Douro River from pretty Porto to Pinhão, a village surrounded by verdant rolling hills. Pass by vines growing on terraces cut into the steep hillsides and characterful villages where white buildings are topped with terracotta roofs. You’ll pass through locks where the river is dammed and rises into the hills, and have plenty of time to take in the stunning valley landscapes from the open-air deck. Following your arriving in Pinhão, you’ll return to Porto by train or bus.

• Departs Monday to Friday
• Operates April to October
• Group experience

Good to know
Breakfast and lunch are included. Transfers are not included; meet at 8.30am at Douro Acima Pier in Ribeira do Douro for check-in and boarding.

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Porto Gastronomy

One of the best ways to get to know a place is by trying the local produce. Wander through the streets of Porto and get a taste of the city at five different culinary venues. Begin with coffee and a pastry from a highly rated coffee shop before trying a typical Portuguese appetizer – codfish cakes – accompanied by a chilled Vinho Verde. You’ll also sample cured cheeses and meats and a bifana (grilled pork sandwich) before concluding the trip in the best possible way: at a port wine tasting with a local producer.

• Departs Monday to Saturday
• Operates year-round
• Group experience

Good to know
Transfers are not included; the meeting point is C’alma Speciality Coffee Room, Rua de Passos Manuel 44. Please advise us of any dietary requirements at the time of booking.

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The Craft Beer of Porto

You may be surprised to find that there’s a growing craft beer movement in a city where wine is usually the tipple of choice. On this four-hour walking tour, you’ll learn about the history of the industry and the process of producing beer from the hops to the mill to the glass. Of course, the tour concludes with the obligatory tasting.

• Departs Monday to Friday from The Yeatman or Villa Foz
• Operates year-round
• Private experience

Good to know
Any entrance fees and meals are not included.

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Douro Valley Hike

Hit the trails and take in the spectacular rolling landscapes of the Douro Valley on foot on this full-day adventure. There’s a choice of three routes to choose between, from two to five miles and you’ll have the company of a knowledgeable guide. Other highlights of the day include a visit to the charming Pinhão Railway Station, where you can see some typically Portuguese tile frescos, and a riverside picnic that’s packed with locally produced specialities. No Douro tour would be complete without sampling the region’s most famous produce, so a wine tasting is also included.

• Daily departures
• Operates year-round
• Private experience

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Douro River Cruise

Step aboard a traditional rabelo boat and sail along a particularly peaceful part of the Douro River, drifting past terracotta-roofed towns and satisfyingly neat rows of vines carved into steep hillside terraces. Your two-hour river cruise will show you the ancient vineyards and farms of this UNESCO World-Heritage landscape, and a free audio guide will be available for those who’d like to find out more about the locations and buildings. There will be time for a picnic and Port wine tasting, as well as sunbathing and swimming if conditions allow.

• Daily departures from Pinhão
• Operates year round
• Group experience

Good to know
Transfers are not included. Guests must arrive at Magnífico Douro Pier at least 10 minutes before departure for check-in procedures and briefing.

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Private Douro River Cruise

Set sail along a particularly peaceful part of the Douro River on a private cruise aboard a traditional rabelo boat. This is a charming way to explore this UNESCO World-Heritage landscape, with plenty of space and seclusion as you glide past small towns and vineyards carved into the steep-sided valley. Your private river cruise will introduce you to the ancient vineyards and farms that line the river, and a free audio guide will be available so you can discover more about what you’re seeing. There will be time for a picnic and Port wine tasting, as well as sunbathing and swimming if conditions allow, to round off a tranquil couple of hours.

• Daily departures from Pinhão
• Operates year round
• Private experience

Good to know
Transfers are not included. Guests must arrive at Magnífico Douro Pier at least 10 minutes before departure for check-in procedures and briefing.

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Hidden Porto

Porto has a different pace to most European cities and is best explored on foot. On this four-hour walking tour, you’ll have plenty of time to discover the city’s lesser-known spots and learn about local stories. It’s an ideal experience for those who’d like to learn more about the local lifestyle, history and architecture, giving you an insight into the people and traditions of the region.

• Daily departures from Porto
• Operates year round
• Private experience

Good to know
Transfers, entrance fees and meals are not included.

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Porto Cooking Class

This immersive cooking class will introduce you to some of Portugal’s staple dishes, including the likes of seafood cataplana and the mouth-watering pastel de nata. First, we’ll visit the Municipal Market de Matosinhos to buy our fresh ingredients for the cooking class. Then, under the guidance of a chef, you’ll learn about the importance of the quality of the ingredients and whip up a starter, main course and dessert. Finally, you’ll get to tuck into your dishes, accompanied by Portuguese wine.

• Departing Tuesday to Saturday from Porto
• Operates year round
• Private experience

Good to know
Transfers are not included.

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Highlights of Douro

The best way to get to know a region is to immerse yourself in it, and this full-day private sightseeing tour packs in the Douro Valley’s top attractions. Hop into a minivan for a guided tour exclusively for you and your travel companions. Highlights include learning how Douro wine was transported in wooden barrels by boat or train to the cellars of Porto or Vila Nova de Gaia, as well as a one-hour river cruise aboard a traditional rabelo boat and a visit to a vineyard with delicious wine and olive oil tastings.

• Daily departures from Douro Valley
• Operates year round
• Private experience

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Hike the Paiva Walkways

The Passadiços do Paiva (Paiva Walkways) is a beautiful wooden walkway that zigzags up and down the hilly banks of the Paiva River in the Arouca Geopark UNESCO Geological site. We’ll head to Arouca by private minibus to reach the walkway start point. Then it’s time to venture through a region of breathtaking natural beauty to see the incredible biodiversity, geology and archaeology. After your hike, you can enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.

• Daily departures from Porto
• Operates year round
• Private experience

Good to know
This walking tour is around 8km long and takes roughly 2.5 hours. Guests will need a good level of fitness.

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Porto Street Art by E-Bike

Porto is full of surprises – it’s one of Europe’s top street art locations. On this fun excursion, you’ll take an e-Bike tour through the hilly streets of the city to see the likes of ‘Look at Porto’ by Vhils, ‘Mural da Trindade’ by Mr. Dheo and ‘An.fi.tri.ão’ by Frederico Draw, as well as ‘Half Rabbit’ by Bordalo II – a remarkable street art installation made of out recycled materials.

• Daily departures from Porto
• Operates year round
• Private experience

Good to know
Transfers are not included.

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Get to know Porto & the Douro and those important practicalities when planning your perfect holiday.

Capital
TIME DIFFERENCE

GMT -/+ 0 hours

CURRENCY

Euro

FLYING TIME TO DESTINATION

2 hours

RELIGION

Christianity (majority Roman Catholic)

LANGUAGE

Portuguese

Where is Porto & the Douro Valley?
The River Douro runs for almost 560 miles from its source in central Spain more or less directly west across northern Portugal to the Atlantic, with the city of Porto at its mouth. The wine-growing region is divided into three sections: Baixo Corgo, centred on Peso da Régua; Cima Corgo, the UNESCO-listed area where the best port houses have their estates; and the less-visited Douro Superior, which runs to the border with Spain.

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Ribeira
The city’s oldest district is Ribeira, whose cobbled alleyways lined with colourfully painted houses slope down to the edge of the River Douro. You’ll discover some of the city’s most impressive buildings here, such as the gothic church of São Francisco with its ornate interior, as well as lots of cafés, bars and restaurants. Sightseeing boat trips leave throughout the day from its quayside.

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Vila de Gaia
Across the river in Vila Nova de Gaia, every large building seems to have the name of a famous port label written across it. Many of these long-established cellars offer guided tours where you’ll learn all about the history and making of port and, best of all, taste several different types and vintages. It’s an easy walk across the striking metal Dom Luís I Bridge from Ribeira to get there.

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Baixa/Se
Just above Ribeira is Baixa/Sé, the heart of the city and home to the fabulous cathedral and the Clérigos Tower. You’ll find lots of one-off shops of all kinds - many with historic facades, interiors or both, as at the famous neo-gothic Lello bookshop - as well as excellent places to eat and drink. One of the quirkier sights is São Bento railway station, whose lobby is decorated with huge panels of blue-and-white tiles showing scenes from Portugal’s history.

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Foz
A short tram or bus ride away at the mouth of the Douro is the charming seaside district of Foz (pronounced ‘Fosh’). On fine evenings, it’s a popular spot to stroll along the promenade or sit outside one of the many beach cafés watching the sun sink into the sea. Further north along the coast in Matosinhos, the streets around its well-regarded fish market turn into a giant seafood barbecue in the evening, with vast grills outside each of its many restaurants.

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Peso da Régua
The gateway to the Douro Valley wine region, Peso da Régua is around an hour upstream from Porto by car. In the past, this was where the estates brought their wines to be loaded on to traditional boats for the journey to Porto. These days the barcos rabelos carry people instead of barrels, as it’s a popular stopping-off point on longer river cruises. Don’t miss the Douro Museum, whose displays offer the perfect potted guide to the history of the area, or the spectacular vineyard-and-mountain vistas from the viewpoint at São Leonardo de Galafura, high above the town.

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Pinhão
Around 15 miles east of Régua in Cima Corgo is Pinhão, the hub of the UNESCO-listed port-producing part of the valley. Surrounded by terraced vine-clad hills, it’s a charming base for a few days, with quintas from names such as Dow’s and Sandeman on the doorstep. From here, look out in particular for the vintage boats that take visitors on memorable trips to the less-explored Douro Superior. In the hills above Pinhão, there are some not-to-be-missed viewpoints: the panorama from one in the hamlet of Casal de Loivos is considered one of the best along the Douro.

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Getting around
Porto’s compact centre is eminently walkable in spite of the steep slopes in places. That said, some of its public transport options are experiences in their own right, including quaint 100-year-old trams, a funicular railway and Vila Nova de Gaia's cable car. There are various ways to travel to and around the Douro Valley, from private transfers directly to your hotel to a scenic railway complete with blue-and-white tiled stations. Those who enjoy negotiating narrow mountain roads will be happy to hire a car to explore further; others may prefer heading out with a local driver at the wheel.

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May - Oct

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