Douro and Porto

Group Leisure delves into Porto in Portugal to find out why it's such a great destination for a group trip.

Essential sights

Ribeira Quarter: It is easy to see why the historic Ribeira Quarter has been recognised on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. The centuries peel back on the old stone streets, which dreamily wind down towards the Douro River, where views of the port houses await across the water. Sit in a café and just enjoy the laidback, old world vibe as you take the pulse of this special city.

Bridges: Porto is famous for its bridges, both the ultra modern and the historic. The Dom Luís I Bridge is perhaps the most dramatic, a double-decked metal arch bridge that spans the Douro, connecting Porto proper and Vila Nova de Gaia.

Douro river

Pictured: Porto and the Douro river.

Casa da Musica: Porto may be a deeply historic city, but it also boasts a sweep of striking modern architecture. An impressive newer attraction that shows off Porto’s cutting edge is the Casa da Musica. This is no mere concert hall. It is a cultural institution that is home to three orchestras – the Orquestra Nacional do Porto, Orquestra Barroca and Remix Ensemble. Tickets are often available for the domestic and international acts, which run from reggae through to classical recitals.

Where to stay

The Hotel Infante Sagres: A palatial five star hotel just uphill from the historic Ribeira quarter. Rooms are old school classical with public areas awash with marble.

Pestana Vintage Porto: This quietly luxurious hotel is superbly located in the action in the heart of the Ribeira on the waterfront; make sure to book a room with a river view.

Hotel Boavista: This place is just back from the ocean in increasingly trendy Foz. It may only have three stars, but it boasts a rooftop swimming pool and bar.

Pictured: Porto and one of its many bridges.

Best for groups

Graham’s: Visiting a port house is a quintessential Porto experience and one of the most welcoming is Graham’s. Tours are free with tastings at the end and a shop on hand to stock up on all the port and table wines they produce.

Douro Acima: A river cruise is a must in Porto and this local company is well versed in entertaining groups. They can organise a buffet seafood lunch or an evening candlelit cruise. Err on the side of a longer cruise than you think your group will need as there is so much to see.

Take to the skies: Swoop a group off for a spectacular helicopter ride with Living Tours that showcases Porto from the skies. For a really stylish experience there is the option to venture further afield for a tour of the Douro Valley. The latter excursion allows time for lunch upriver before sweeping back to Porto.

Live like a local

Most tourists take a boat cruise up the Douro River. The locals choose instead to make their weekend ramblings by train. The regular and efficient CP trains are great value and it’s a scenic route too, as the line cuts along the river with views of the vineyards. Make sure to check locally for any special events such as open days or festivals before deciding where to get off.


Pictured: Train ride up the Douro.

Food & drink

Lying by the Atlantic coast it is no surprise that seafood is a major drawcard in Porto. Down in Ribeira overlooking the river are a flurry of atmospheric restaurants that serve up a swathe of boat fresh seafood.

Not for nothing are the locals known as the Tripeiros. Hearty regional dishes they serve include tripe, often served with smoked sausage and beans.

The most obvious alcoholic tipple is, of course, port. The Douro Valley also produces some excellent red and white wines, which are often great value especially if you make a trip to the vineyards. 


Currency: Euro
Flight time from London to Porto: Two hours
Best time to go: Spring and autumn are the best times to go without the searing heat of summer.