The Douro stretches all the way from the Atlantic Ocean and Porto, a port city in Portugal, to the largely docking city of Vega de Terron in Spain. When you visit Porto via your Douro River cruise, you may feel like you’re in San Francisco. Filled with hills and energetic city life, along with fog that rolls in off of the Atlantic, Porto is just as beautiful as the City by the Bay but at the same time its own unique gem.
Also on the banks of the Douro, the small town of Pinhau resembles Northern California and its wine country, or perhaps Tuscany in Italy without the crowds. Pinhau features simply incredible countryside comprised of lush vineyard after lush vineyard, as well as picture-perfect pastoral scenes that reveal themselves as you head east toward Spain’s border.
Vila Nova de Gaia is a city along the Douro that sits across from Porto and its landscape rises sharply off the river. Mountainside port houses in Vila Nova de Gaia look down onto the river as well as the cruise ships stopping to tour Grahams winery.
Porto, the second largest city in Portugal, is the point of embarkation and debarkation for most Douro cruises. This ancient city is one of the most historic urban centers in Europe, dating back to the days of the Roman Empire. Nestled within the city walls that feature heavy Roman influences, you’ll find hints of Gothic and Baroque architecture. Porto’s old town, Ribeira, is a registered UNESCO World Heritage Site and it’s there that you’ll find the Sao Francisco Church, an elaborate, gold-laden structure that draws many tourists to the areas. Also in Ribeira, the 12th Century Se Cathedral lures visitors, but this historic church-fortress seems almost secondary in comparison to Sao Francisco.
Harry Potter fans can look to Porto for deeper understanding of J.K. Rowling’s inspiration for her popular series. Rowling taught English in Porto and spent quite a bit of time in the city’s Gothic-like Livraria Lello.
Without doubt, a cruise along the Douro can provide you with a picture-perfect, and very gratifying, cruise experience!