Day 2. Exploring the Gaia and Foz districts of Porto

After enjoying breakfast in the aparthotel’s cafe we went along to the nearby Trindade metro station to take a train across the Douro to the Jardim do Morro station.  Staying in the Bolhāo district appealed to us with its close proximity to Trindade as all lines can be accessed from this interchange station.  As we had already purchased Andante travel cards we just needed to add Zone 2 journeys to each of them at €1.20 each.  The metro crossed the upper tier of the Luis I bridge before reaching our stop on the south bank.

Douro River in Porto from the Luis I bridge
Douro River in Porto from the Luis I bridge

Leaving the metro, we walked along the pedestrian footpath at the top of the bridge taking in the breathtaking views of the Douro river, boats and of the many pastel coloured houses clinging to the hillside creating a charming panorama as far as the eye could see.

Along the upper tier of the Luis I bridge in Porto
Along the upper tier of the Luis I bridge

The upper level of the bridge is 45 metres (146 ft) high so I wouldn’t recommend walking across if you suffer from a fear of heights but you do enjoy a bird’s eye view of Porto from this vantage point.

Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar, Porto
Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar atop the hill.

Returning to near where we alighted the metro, we wandered into the small Jardim do Morro which is defined not by its flowers but by the stunning views from its hilltop.  We gazed in awe at the incredibly beautiful views and of the Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar atop the hill.

Views from the Jardim do Morro, Porto
Views from the garden viewpoint

Located next to the park is the Teleferico de Gaia which transports tourists between the top of the bridge and the river embankment.  Although we enjoy riding in cable cars, on this occasion we decided to walk down the steep hillside as it was still reasonably early and it wasn’t too hot.

Views of Porto from the south bank
Stunning views across to the north bank

It’s an interesting walk through this old part of town that took us along narrow passages, down flights of stone staircases and past many old warehouses.  This side of the river is noted for its port warehouses with famous names such as Taylor’s, Sandemans and Cockburn’s all having a presence here.  I’m actually not a fan of port but along with a glass of sweet sherry it was my mother’s favourite tipple mixed with orange juice.

Stone staircases leading to the waterside in Porto
Stone staircases lead down to the waterside

The numerous wine cellars organise tastings and guided tours of port wine manufacturing, which would likely be very interesting even to those of us preferring a gin and tonic.

World of Wine, Porto
The World of Wine Experience, Porto

A recent addition to the district is the newly opened cultural attraction known as WOW (World of Wine).  When completed it will include six museum experiences, nine restaurants, shops and a wine school.  In the Wine Experience, visitors can gain a greater understanding of wine production around the world; while Planet Cork tracks Portugal’s role in the cork industry right back to its oak tree roots and looks at how the material popularised by wine stoppers has also made its way into the aerospace industry and onto catwalks.  But wine is just the starting point; there’s also a museum dedicated to the history of chocolate, and another space will focus on Portuguese fabrics and fashion.  It all sounds interesting and somewhere appealing to visit when it’s fully open.

Luis I Bridge and Cable Car, Porto
The Luis I Bridge and Cable Car

We had now reached the riverside which was bustling with activity at 11.00 a.m. on a Sunday morning.  The promenade seemed a popular meeting place for groups of bikers and cyclists at some of the numerous bars and cafes that line the waterfront.  We walked along to the end of the footpath in a westerly direction and then slowly wandered back towards the huge Luis I bridge which must have been a feat of engineering at its time of construction.

The south bank promenade in Porto
Along the south bank promenade

The south bank of the Douro is extremely pleasant with a mixture of old warehouses and new buildings sitting side-by-side in an an attractive manner.  The broad promenade is tastefully adorned with a series of flagpoles representing each of the port wine houses whilst along the quay are a line of traditional Rabelo boats.

Traditional Rabelo boats in Porto
Traditional flat bottomed Rabelo boats

These traditional Portuguese flat bottomed wooden boats were used for centuries to transport port wine from the Douro valley to the cellars surrounding us.  Before the arrival of the railway, the Rabelo was the fastest method of transporting the barrels to Porto from where it was traded and exported worldwide.

Sandeman port wine Rabelo boat, Porto
A Sandeman port wine boat moored on the south bank

Our morning stroll then took us back across the bridge, this time along its lower tier where the views were almost as good as from the top. Our planned activity for the afternoon was to take a ride on one of the historic trams to the Foz district.

Palacio da Bolsa Porto
Palacio da Bolsa

The tram stop wasn’t too far away, just up the hill and near to the former stock exchange, the Palacio da Bolsa.  This impressive building was constructed in the 19th century and was also the Court of the First Instance.  Nowadays its home of the Porto Commercial Association and a venue for numerous events in the city.

Heritage tram, Porto
Heritage tram, Porto

Tram Line 1 from Infante Passeio Alegre departs at 20 minute intervals and as we arrived at the stop five minutes before the tram was due to depart there was already a lengthy queue.  Consequently, we were the first to be denied entry and so had to wait patiently for a further 20 minutes until the next service arrived.  It wasn’t really much of a problem though as it meant we got first choice of seats.  Do try and sit on the left as the route hugs the river all the way along its 25 minute journey with some impressive views.  Single fares are €3.50 with contactless payments only accepted.

On board an heritage tram in Porto
On board the heritage tram

As there was even a lengthy queue for the tram during the Pandemic when very few tourists were around, it must be an extremely long wait in normal times.  If you arrive at the tram stop and the queue is lengthy then you could consider crossing the road and taking Bus 500 which follows the same route.  This wouldn’t be quite the same as riding the heritage tram complete with its wooden panelled interior and red leather seats but at least it would be an alternative to waiting ages.

The tram line terminates at Passeio Alegre in Foz do Douro, translated it means ‘at the mouth of the River Douro’.  After watching the driver move the pantograph round and flip the seats for the return journey we were ready to set off for a long walk along the seafront.

Heritage Tram Line 1 at its terminus in Foz, Porto
Heritage Tram Line 1 at its terminus in Foz

There are numerous lighthouses where the river meets the sea that guide the ocean going ships into the river.  The centre of Porto no longer functions as a port as it is much too small.  To replace it, a modern container port has been built further along the coast at Matosinhos towards which we were heading.

The old harbour lighthouse in Foz, Porto
The old harbour lighthouse near to the tram stop

We didn’t have to walk very far to find the first of these lighthouses as just across the road from the tram stop are the remains of the old harbour lighthouse and seamen’s chapel.

Continuing in a northerly direction, a few minutes later we crossed the tree lined promenade to take a walk in the shady Jardim da Foz where we found a Sunday market taking place offering a mixture of fresh produce and craft stalls.

Sunday market in the Jardim da Foz, Porto
Sunday market in the Jardim da Foz

Back on the Avenida do Brasil, the beach stretched out as far as the eye could see.  The views varied between flat sandy beaches and rocky bays where we watched large waves crashing onto the rocks and children eagerly trying to catch small crabs in the sheltered rock pools.

The rocky Atlantic coastline at Foz, Porto
The rocky Atlantic coastline at Foz

Spotting the Felgueiras lighthouse, we strolled to the end of the pier to view its granite exterior in more detail.  Even on a relatively calm day huge waves could be seen and fishermen were sitting patiently waiting to land a catch.

Felgueiras lighthouse, Foz, Porto
Felgueiras lighthouse, Foz

We were beginning to feel ready for a little rest so when we spotted an attractive beach bar on the Praia de Gondarem we grabbed a table right by the water’s edge and enjoyed glasses of lager under a fringed parasol.  It was so nice sitting there that it was difficult to drag ourselves away but eventually we raised the energy.

Beachside cafe in Foz, Porto
The beachside cafe where we enjoyed drinks

Rather than our wooden beach huts we noticed rows of red and white tent like structures sponsored by the ice cream company Ola.  The pavement then changed into a wooden boardwalk with a cream coloured 1930’s style stone colonnade to one side.  Another fort came into view, this one being the Forte de Sao Francisco Xavier.  It looked interesting and we planned to take a look inside but just as we approached the large wooden doorway a member of staff appeared with a large closed sign so we were out of luck.

Forte de Sao Francisco Xavier, Foz, Porto
Forte de Sao Francisco Xavier

Ahead of us was a large sweeping bay and we realised that we had reached the Praia de Matosinhos, the most popular of Porto’s beaches.  I was surprised to see so many people taking a dip in the sea as the Atlantic Ocean is much colder than the Mediterranean even on a warm summer’s day.  The panoramic views of this beach are somewhat marred by the appearance of the container port at the northern end but if you ignore this, then it’s a pleasant wide sandy beach.

Praia de Matosinhos, Foz, Porto
Praia de Matosinhos, Foz

Finally we turned inland to the above ground metro station at Matosinhos Sul from where we bought Zone 3 tickets at €1.60 each which took us back to Trindade just five minutes walk from our hotel.  On checking my phone I noted that we had walked 11 km so it was nice to rest our weary feet for awhile and enjoy a cup of tea.

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43 thoughts on “Day 2. Exploring the Gaia and Foz districts of Porto

    1. Thank you Ian. Guimaraes was such a picturesque town that I was spoilt for choice over my masthead photos on this occasion. It’s so nice to receive your positive feedback on my photos. My aim is to illustrate what I am writing about without overdoing it and putting in too many pictures to make it boring, Also, as you might have noticed, I don’t enhance /alter the photos using Photoshop etc. as I like them to appear natural even if the weather wasn’t very good.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Porto looks like a lovely city. Almost like it was invented by JK Rowling in one of her Potter books. I have enjoyed taking a stroll with you through Porto. Glad you could snatch a little trip before the new lockdown. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s so sad for everyone not being able to travel where and when we want but let’s hope that the situation improves shortly. We were fortunate to be able to fit in the trip to Porto before restrictions prevented us from doing so again. Thanks so much for commenting, it’s much appreciated.

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  2. I didn’t make it to the other side of Porto when I visited over four years ago, but it would’ve been nice to head over to see the gorgeous views of the more-touristy side! Also would’ve been great to check out at least one of the port wine tastings, but alas, that’ll have to be some other time…whenever I visit Portugal next!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment Tom. Porto is gorgeous and I’m so glad that we managed to get there at our second attempt. We re-booked straightaway when the U.K. government added Portugal as a travel corridor (which it has since removed) making it possible for us to fit in a lovely, much needed break.

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  3. You are so missing out if you don’t like port, because there is such a variety of types and styles. On the other hand it was probably the port house visits that meant we didn’t get out to Foz, so thanks for sharing that. If you are at all interested in port, I heartily recommend a visit to Grahams, and an investment in one of their more interesting tastings rather than the bog-standard one that is included in the visit.

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        1. I enjoyed reading about your own visit to Porto and the port wine tastings. The cathedral looks very impressive too and was nice to read about in your blog as it was closed at the time of our visit. Hope your weekend is going reasonably well.

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  4. Wonderful walk through memories….I walked almost all those steps and remember the feeling of the hot sun on my skin and the sound of the waves. I loved Porto and enjoyed 3 wonderful days there before setting off on my Camino. A log shot, but did you by any chance see the little caravan on the beach at Foz selling pancakes? Best ever pancakes 😀😀

    Liked by 2 people

      1. It truly was. I felt so free and miss the lovely Portuguese people. I’ve seriously considered moving there… Well if ever you’re out that way again, its a tiny little caravan and her pancakes are heavenly. I went back twice 😉

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