I have always wanted to visit Porto! Even before it was named one of the most popular destinations in Europe, it had a fascination and allure. I have cruised on the Rhine and Danube Rivers but the Douro River held a special enchantment.

I finally found an affordable flight and booked 3 nights in a lovely hostel in Porto Old Town. It was called The Poet’s Inn and even though the old town of Porto is a little rough around the edges, it was just perfect! I arrived in the evening as the city was bathed in golden light and the sun went down over Gaia . I soon realised why the Douro River that ends its 500 mile journey in Porto might have got its name as River of Gold.

Porto, Portugal old town on the Douro River.

Why Porto is Such a Magical City

The city of Porto is vibrant and a wonderful mix of cosmopolitan energy and old quaint medieval town. It seems to not have realised just how beautiful it is. I stayed in the Old Town which is minutes from the fantastic Sao Bento Train Station with its incredible tiled walls. Most importantly the Douro river is a 5 minute walk from the Old Town and the vistas are quite remarkable.

The Poet’s Inn is also minutes from the world famous Lello Bookstore and the 60 churches in the central part of town. The stained glass ceiling and magical designs were the inspiration for JK Rowling who was married to a Portuguese man and lived in Porto before creating her now world famous Harry Potter books! I spend hours in this bookstore – it was truly amazing!

The weather during my short 3 day visit was absolutely spectacular! After one day of  hopping on and off of the big Red Tourist Bus and navigating trams in the dusty city I was ready to explore the calm serenity of the Douro River. I must admit though one of my favorite 2 hour adventures was riding in a tiny tuk tuk that climbed up steep cobblestone streets to reach hidden lookouts that cars and buses could not reach!

Cruising the Douro

Now many cruise lines do 8-10 cruises along the entire length of 500 kilometres. Viking does an excellent 10 day Douro river cruise that I hope to enjoy one day. Starting in Spain in the Urbion Mountains it winds for over 500 miles, ending at the roaring Atlantic in Porto. The rugged mountains in Spain lead into a lush valley in Portugal. The landscapes on the river bank range from beach to what feels like tropical jungle. The desire to cruise Europe’s oldest and most renowned wine regions is compelling and seductive!

Some other cruise lines like Uniworld combine a cruise from Lisbon to Portugal with a cruise along the Douro and Vantage which does longer cruises along the Douro from Madrid to Porto.

One Day on the Douro

I chose a one day cruise that started in Porto and meandered gently (with breaks for breakfast and lunch) for 6 hours to Regua. There are many on offer and cost around 100 Euros. There are so many options, the Gaia Quay was like Grand Central Station as we boarded bright and early at 8am. The river was calm and shimmering in the morning light!

I was as amazed by the reflections in the sparkling water as the river banks went by, dotted with port wineries and charming towns perched on hillsides. The cruise ended at Regua where we had 2 hours to explore the town before heading back to Porto by train!

It was a lovely day that I hope I capture in my video above.

Have you ever been to Portugal or Spain and taken a cruise on the Douro River? Please share your story! Do you prefer a river cruise or ocean cruise? Join the conversation here, or visit our website at www.shecruises.com or YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/shecruises 

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