The Best Way to See Porto
Take The Blue Bus!
There’s only one way, we’re convinced, to get to know a cosmopolitan center in a thorough manner in the shortest amount of time. If you’re not wealthy enough to hire or to pilot your own helicopter, then taking a city sightseeing bus is the next best option. In Porto, “the City of Bridges,” the steeply built town on the right bank of the Douro River is simply too big to walk its entirety. We found that taking The Blue Bus was our best option to get a grasp on this world-class city.
The Blue Bus is the only operator to offer its narrated tour in sixteen languages. That means tourists from just about anywhere can learn about this famous city and enjoy a comprehensive tour in just a couple hours. The Blue Bus offers three ticket options, starting at just €10, a savings of at least €3 from one of their differently-colored competitors. (Check out the competitors, then board the Blue Bus and Save!) You may take the bus tour only or, for a couple extra euros add a cruise of the Douro, and even add an optional Port Wine Cellars tour. All three tours are only €19, a tremendous savings from the other competing tour bus lines.
On the day we arrived in Porto, we drove from Coimbra in the morning, planning to stay in the city just one night. This meant that, after we checked into our hotel, we only had the remainder of the afternoon to see this lovely, historic port city. But we faced a big question: How do we maximize our visit of Porto in the shortest amount of time? How do we try to see “all the important stuff” in just a couple hours? The Blue Bus was our answer!
The Blue Bus allows you to “hop on and hop off” at any of their 36 stops. In our case, we made the entire circuit, a ride that takes under two hours. In the winter schedule (October to June) the frequency of bus departures is every 30 minutes. The first bus leaves at 9:30 am and the last one of the day leaves at 5:30 pm. This worked out perfectly for us. The tour on the Blue Bus allows you to explore Porto within a carefully chosen circuit that takes you through the city center, exploring all the buildings and monuments that are part of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We boarded the bus near our hotel at the The Praça da Liberdade (plaza) shopping area where there is a MacDonald’s restaurant (an easy landmark for tourists!). We were given a set of blue earpieces and plugged into the free audio port in the seat in front of us. This plaza is presided over by the equestrian statue of King Pedro IV and is considered the nerve-center of the city. We circled the City’s Municipal Building and began to head west, driving past churches and monuments. We passed the Crystal Palace and the modern Casa da Musica, then headed toward the Atlantic Ocean on the broad Boavista Boulevard. Reaching a roundabout on the coast, we saw the Forte de Sao Francisco Xavier, also known as the Castelo do Queijo. Then our bus began to head south, along the Atlantic coastline, going toward the mouth of the Douro River. At the southwestern corner of the estuary, we passed the Castelo de Sao Joao da Foz and began our eastward journey along the right bank of the Douro, headed for the oldest parts of the city. Once in the historic center of town, we crossed the Ponte de D. Luis I bridge and crossed over to the area called Gaia, where all the Port Wine Cellars are located.
At this stop—Number Three on the Blue Bus Tour—we hopped off the bus and boarded our Blue cruise ship for a one hour cruise of the River. Truly, this was a magnificent experience. We passed under five of the six bridges that span the Douro, listening again to the recorded narration provided on board our ship. We learned the history of the construction of the bridges, including the Maria Pia bridge, designed by Gustave Eiffel (architect of the famous Eiffel Tower in Paris) completed in 1877. The railroad bridge has a single span elevating the structure to some 60 meters over the Douro. Passing under all the bridges was a thrilling experience.
The hour-long cruise was the highlight of our day in Porto. After debarking, we boarded the next Blue Bus coming on the route which completed the tour of Porto for us. Arriving back at the plaza, we hopped off the bus where we had boarded just a few hours earlier and headed back to our hotel where we could get ready for our evening meal reservation. It was a great day for us in Porto, made all the better, thanks to Blue Bus!
Tickets can be purchased on board the Blue Bus. Special discounts are available for groups. Check out their website for timetables. Maps of Porto, with numbered stops, are freely provided on the bus. Bon Voyage!
Tel. +351 223 402 500