Porto, the second largest city of Portugal, is famous not only for its long history and for its cultural richness, but for its bridges as well. It is not for nothing that the city is known as “The City of bridges”. The people of Porto are very proud of them, and they have all reasons to be so: one bridge after another, Porto acquired more than simple functional structures, it acquired true landmarks.
Seeing the bridges is fairly simple, whether you choose a river cruise, a hop on/hop off tour, or a guided walking tour. No matter your choice of sightseeing, the bridges are fairly easy attractions to view.
If you’d like to see more of the Douro Valley, consider a day trip from Porto. As the Douro River starts here, you can easily make your way east and see more of the beautiful scenic region. The Douro River Valley is known for its wines, so oenophiles (wine lovers) will find themselves right at home.
1. The Most Famous: Dom Luis I Bridge
Don Luis I was built in 1886 by a disciple of famous Gustave Eiffel. As the other bridges, it connects the city to Vila Nova de Gaia, a city which offers its own unique touristic attractions. It has two levels which were originally destined for road traffic. However, today, the lower level is used by pedestrians and cars, while the upper level is used by the Metro do Porto. Pedestrians may also admire the beautiful sights of the Vila Nova de Gaia port, with its famous wineries. Once, it was considered the longest metallic arch bridge in the world. Although those times are long gone, the beauty and the magnificence of the Dom Luis I bridge remain untouched.
The Dom Luis bridge is also a famous UNESCO World Heritage site.
2. The Oldest: Maria Pia Bridge
The oldest bridge in Porto is Maria Pia Bridge, also known as Dona Maria. This is a railway bridge which was lifted in 1877 by the builder of the Eiffel Tower himself and was named after the queen of Portugal of the time. Today, it represents a monument, not only of Porto, but of the entire country. This is the reason why, even though Maria Pia bridge is out of service since 1991, it was not demolished, but by contrary, it stands as a popular touristic attraction and it is very treasured by the locals.
3. The Controversial: Arrabida Bridge
Considered by some the least attractive of all the bridges in Porto, Arrabida is nevertheless a tourists’ favorite. Designed by Edgar Cardoso (1913-2000), the best bridge engineer of Portugal, it was opened in 1963 as the concrete bridge with the longest arch in the world. Even though it lost the title, 270 meters long arch is still impressive enough. Arrabida is a road bridge but offers amazingly beautiful river sights, being positioned near the coast.
4. The Newest: Infante D. Henrique Bridge
The Infante Bridge is the most recent addition to Porto’s bridges, and it is amazing because of its simplicity. The purity of its forms and the beauty of its elegant, thin shape leave travelers jaw-dropped. At its 280 meters arch span, and 371 meters length, the Infante Bridge stands out in every possible way. This is even more so since it is beautifully lightened both on the parapets and under the arch.
5. The Futuristic: São João Bridge
The Maria Pia Bridge was replaced by the futuristic São João, also built by Edgar Cardoso, between 1984 and 1991. It is located close to Maria Pia and spans 250 meters of the Duoro River. Although it is beautifully looking and futuristic, this railway bridge does not represent such a popular attraction as the ones before it.
6. The Remoted: Freixo Bridge
Maybe the least known and also, the least popular of them all is Freixo. The double road bridge is located in the eastern side of the city. It was finished in 1995, thus making it the second youngest bridge in Porto. It has 8 spans and measures 705 meters in length and 30 meters in height.
It is said that two more bridges will be built in the city in the next 10 years. Until that moment, the 6 bridges of Porto compete with each other in charm and impressive engineering to the delight of the visitors.