Porto tours and excursions
Porto's bus network operator STCP runs an open-top 'hop-on, hop-off' sightseeing bus service tour called Porto Vintage. The tour lasts for 90 minutes, departs every hour, has commentary in many languages and covers most of Porto's sights, monuments and historic spots.Tel: 0808 200 166.
Many companies offer cruises on the Douro River. Barcadouro, Douro Acima and Douro Azul all offer 50-minute guided cruises focusing on the bridges between Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia (as well as one- and two-day cruises into the Douro Valley).Tel: (22) 372 2415 ; (22) 200 6418 ; (22) 340 2500.
The Electric Tramcar Museum has a fleet of fully restored electric tramcars from the 1920s and 1930s that are available for rent for rides along the Marginal and Restauração lines.Tel: (22) 615 8185.
Porto Tours have a useful summary of all the various kinds of tours currently on offer in Porto.. Various guided walking tours in Porto are available from the tourist offices. Professional guides are in charge of these walks, and booking is required. Printable detailed descriptions of various walks that can be made throughout Porto are available on the Porto Turismo website, along with multilingual (free) downloadable Mp3 soundtrack guides for the iPod and other devices.Tel: (22) 200 0073 ; (22) 339 3472.
If the weather's appropriate and you fancy sunning yourself, it's only about 5km (3 miles) to the mouth of the Douro via an easy walk along the river. But there are good public transport links from the city centre to the excellent beaches of the Atlantic coastline as well. The river mouth is guarded by the imposing 16th century Castelo de São João da Foz fort, whose grounds include a ruined former mental hospital. A lengthy stretch of coastal sands runs towards the north.
About 120km (75 miles) south from Porto by train or road, the inland city of Coimbra, a UNESCO World Heritage site, boasts one of Europe's oldest universities (founded in 1290), together with some fabulous architecture dating from Roman, Moorish and medieval times. Indeed, in the 13th century, the city briefly served as Portuguese capital. Highlights include the university complex, the 17th century 'new' cathedral, the Romanesque 'old' cathedral, the Santa Cruz monastery and a well-preserved Roman aqueduct – and the large student population makes for a lively nightlife. It is also a hotspot for the northern variation of fado, a highly stylised Portuguese form of folk music.
The most exciting destinations for excursions from Porto are the Douro Valley and the various towns and estates situated in that area. A UNESCO World Heritage site since 2001, the Douro Valley was the first wine-producing area in the world to be demarcated. This happened in 1756, and ever since it has been the only region in the world with the right to produce port wine. The valley covers some 250,000 hectares (617,763 acres), and 40-50,000 of them are cultivated for wine production. Many of the quintas (estates) in the area offer wine tasting. The valley is remarkably beautiful and can be reached either by river cruise, by train (sometimes steam train) or by car.