Why river cruise through Portugal

8 Reasons why you should river cruise through Portugal

Imagine a trip where you cruise through the Douro Valley, sip on wine from sprawling vineyards, spot clusters of villages and architectural gems and visit historic cities packed with culture. These things, and more, are just some of what there is to do in Portugal. 
The Douro river snakes its way from Spain through Northern Portugal and hits all of these highlights along the way. So, what better place to experience the country from than onboard a river cruise? 

Why visit Portugal? We’ve rounded up eight reasons why the country should be on everyone’s bucket list.

1. Natural beauty

The green rolling hills of the Douro Valley were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for a reason. Beyond the history, it’s the scenery that stuns travellers. A few small villages perch on the valleys—including sleepy Pinhão, Régua and Pocinho—but mostly, the area is made up of uninterrupted terraced vineyards either side of the river. 

Cruising through these parts means you can take it in from an ideal vantage point during your time in Portugal. 
Douro River Cruise

2. Experience life in Lisbon

When in Portugal, you’ve got to visit the coastal capital of Lisbon. As one of the oldest cities in Europe, it’s packed with historical and cultural sights including Roman ruins, Jerónimos Monastery and Bélem Tower. 

Hop on a vintage tram to explore local neighbourhoods and spot brightly coloured buildings and intricately painted tiles along the way. Finally, take a seat in one of the café-lined squares to try Portugal’s favourite pastry, pastéis de nata.
Lisbon trams, Portugal

3. Museums and history

There are plenty of things to do in Portugal but exploring the region’s museums should be top of your list. See first-hand the immense history of the Douro Valley area with a visit to the Côa Valley Museum where you can see Palaeolithic cave drawings estimated to be up to 12,000 years old. 

Elsewhere in the country, there’s Lisbon’s National Azulejo Museum, displaying patterned tiles popular around the city, and Porto’s Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis, with its sculpture and ceramic displays. 
Pinhao train station, Portugal

4. Discover Architecture

There’s plenty for architecture buffs, too. Explore the village of Lamego with its baroque buildings, winding narrow alleyways and stone churches. Built on a hill overlooking the town is the Our Lady of Remedies Sanctuary where you can climb the decorated steps for a closer look at this ornate structure. 

Porto has the historic quarter of Ribeira, with its colourful mismatched houses, and Lisbon has plenty of Roman and Moorish buildings to explore.
Lamego, Portugal

5. Visit Salamanca in Spain

Though mainly flowing through Portugal, the Douro river actually starts in Spain, meaning when cruising through this part of the world, you can take in two countries in one trip and visit Salamanca to see a splice of Spanish life. 

Founded in Roman times, Salamanca is home to a varied mix of architectural styles including Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance. Relax in the grand squares, sample tapas dishes and explore some of the oldest universities in Europe. 
Salamanca, Spain

6. Wine and Port tasting

Portugal should be on every wine lover’s bucket list. Not only are the sprawling vineyards that line the Douro Valley lovely to look at, but the wine they produce is award winning as well. The area has been producing wine for more than 2,000 years and is the oldest demarcated wine region in the world. 

The Douro region is famous for Port, a fortified wine. While here, tour the working vineyards in the area and sip on some of their creations. Though famed for port, the region also produces top tasting red and white wines. 
Sample the Port wine in Porto, Portugal

7. Feast on Portuguese food

Of course, there’s plenty of wine and port to be drunk during your time in Portugal, but let’s not forget the food. The country is famed for its seafood and restaurants serve up everything from tuna to sea bream, octopus to oysters, all fresh from the Atlantic Ocean. 

Beyond fresh fish, tuck into a warming bowl of feijoada—a bean stew—or take on Porto’s signature meat and cheese sandwich, the francesinha. For dessert, it has to be Portugal’s famed custard tarts, pastéis de nata. 
Portuguese tarts

8. Visit Porto

Beyond port, Portugal’s second city has plenty to offer. Perched on the coast, at the mouth of the Douro River, Porto is a blend of medieval cobblestone streets, baroque churches and multi-coloured houses. Take in grand structures like the gothic Porto Cathedral, the 75-metre tall Clérigos Tower and the arching Ponte Luiz I bridge, which offers sweeping views of the city.

Don’t miss a visit to Livaria Lello, the bookstore that’s said to have inspired Hogwarts in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Finally, savour the food scene in Porto by dining on fresh seafood and port in one of the rooftop restaurants overlooking the ocean.
Porto, Portugal
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