Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Dom Luís I Bridge (Luís I Bridge) spans the Douro River between Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia! Follow the guide!
💡 The Captain’s tip 💡
Want to know more about the history of Porto? Captain Ulysses warmly recommends this free guided tour of the city. It’s up to you to choose how much you wish to tip the tour guide!
Brief history of the Dom Luís I Bridge
The “Bridge of the Boats”
Before the Dom Luís I Bridge was built, another bridge spanned the Douro between the historic district of Ribeira, in Porto, and the municipality of Vila Nova de Gaia.
Built in 1806, this first version of the bridge, nicknamed “Bridge of the Boats”, consisted of 20 boats linked together, and which could be separated to make way for boats sailing on the Douro River (just like one of the earlier versions of the Rialto Bridge in Venice).
The Bridge of Boats was unfortunately the scene of a tragedy in 1809 that would be forever remembered in Porto: over 4000 people indeed lost their lives trying to escape the French troops led by Marshal Soult during the second Napoleonic invasion of Portugal.
Rebuilt after the tragedy, the bridge was later replaced by the Dona Maria II Bridge, a suspension bridge built in 1843, and then again by the Dom Luís I Bridge, which still stands today.
Construction of the Dom Luís I Bridge
Built between 1881 and 1886, the Dom Luís I Bridge was designed by a Belgian engineer, Théophile Seyrig.
A disciple of Gustave Eiffel, Théophile Seyrig had also participated in the design of the Maria Pia Bridge (a railway bridge located upstream from the Dom Luis Bridge) in 1876-1877 alongside his mentor.
The Dom Luís I Bridge was inaugurated in 1886 by King Luís I. of Portugal, after whom the bridge was named.
Visiting the Dom Luís I Bridge
The architecture of the Dom Luís I Bridge
How not to be impressed by the metallic silhouette of the Dom Luís I Bridge? It is indisputably the most impressive bridge in Porto. 395 meters long and 8 meters wide, it is over 45 meters high and weighs nearly 3045 tons!
Its arch, characteristic of Gustave Eiffel’s style, is one of the largest steel arches in the world.
The Dom Luis I Bridge comprises two levels:
- the upper level is open to metro line D and pedestrians
- the lower level is accessible to cars and pedestrians
Crossing the Luis I Bridge on foot
Both levels of the Dom Luís I Bridge are accessible to pedestrians. Captain Ulysses therefore recommends walking on one on the way to Vila Nova de Gaia and the other on the way back.
The upper level , perched some forty meters above the Douro, offers an absolutely breathtaking view of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia (it might not be for you if you’re afraid of heights). The panorama is particularly enchanting at sunset. On the side of Vila Nova de Gaia, the Bridge is dominated by the immaculate silhouette of the Monastery of Serra do Pilar. At the foot of the monastery, you will come out on an esplanade where Portuguese and visitors alike enjoy sipping a beer while admiring the view of Porto.
The lower level is accessible from the Ribeira district, from where the view of the bridge is also quite stunning. On sunny days,you might see teenagers diving into the Douro from the Dom Luís I Bridge (but Captain Ulysses strongly advises you not to do the same, accidents are frequent!)
If you enjoy historical anecdotes and want to learn more about the bridge, you can opt for a guided tour of the center of Porto:
Douro river cruises
Porto is synonymous with Douro, and it’d be a shame to leave the “City of Bridges” without embarking on a Douro river cruise.
To enjoy the view o the Luis I Bridge from the Douro, Captain Ulysses suggests the “6 Bridges Cruise”. While you can buy tickets on the banks of the Douro, the Captain recommends booking your cruise online, especially during high season and school holidays.
The Luis I Bridge spans the Douro between the historic district of Ribeira in Porto, and the municipality of Vila Nova de Gaia, where you’ll find the vast majority of Port wine cellars.
The nearest public transports are:
- Metro: Sao Bento station (line D) in Porto and Jardim do Morro station (line D) in Vila Nova de Gaia
- Bus: Elevador Guindais stop (lines 10M, 900, 901, 906 and ZR) in Porto and Ponte Luis I stop (lines 10M, 900, 901 and 906) in Vila Nova de Gaia
- Funicular: Ribeira in Porto
- Cable car: Teleférico de Gaia in Vila Nova de Gaia
Looking for tips to plan your vacation in Porto? You might find these articles of interest:
👉 A Guide to Porto: the best things to do
👉 Day-tours around Porto
👉 Visiting Porto with children
👉 Where to eat in Porto? The Captain’s restaurant recommendations
You can also find all of the Captain’s articles on Porto’s must-see sites and monuments here.
👉 Skip the lines: book your tickets and visits in advance!
Looking for tips and recommendations? Here are all the Captain’s suggestions!
🛏️ Accommodation: to book your accommodation in Porto, Captain Ulysses warmly recommends Booking.com. From youth hostels to luxury boutique hotels, there’s plenty to choose from. The Captain particularly recommends:
– youth hostels: The Passenger Hostel and Urban Garden Porto Central Hostel
– budget and mid-range hotels: Decanting Porto House and Porto Charming Hotel
– luxurious hotels: NH Porto Jardim and Yeatman .
🎟️ Activities: museums, monuments, guided tours, boat tours, excursions… there’s plenty to do in Porto! To avoid wasting time in endless queues, especially during high season, the Captain strongly recommends that you opt for skip-the-line tickets and book your activities in advance. You can book all your tickets and tourist activities on GetYourGuide and Civitatis.
⛵ Cruises: Porto is undoubtedly synymous with Douro! It’d be a shame to leave the “Capital of the North” without embarking on a Douro river cruise. If you’re only staying in Porto for a long weekend, the Captain recommends the six bridges cruise. If you have more time, then he highly recommends the Douro Valley cruise with wine tasting & lunch.
🎫 Citypass: valid from 1 to 4 days, the Porto Card includes unlimited access to city transport (including to get to/from the airport), free entry to 6 museums and a selection of discounts in museums, attractions, Port wine cellars and shops.
🚐 Transfers: you can take the metro at the airport to get to the city center (1/2 hour). But if you’d rather avoid public transport, you can also book a shared or private transfer at very reasonable prices.
🚌 Local transport: you’ll propably quickly tire of Porto’s steeply sloping streets and might be tempted to take local transport instead of walking. The public transport network is convenient and easy to navigate. You can buy your tickets directly at metro stations and bus stops (be careful, you will need to take 1 Andante card per person).
You should also know that access to public transport is included in the Porto Card. Otherwise, the hop-on hop-off bus tours are great options to explore the city. You can also opt for a pass including access to hop-on hop-off buses, the funicular as well as tramways.
Among other means of transport, you can also try the bicycle, the electric bicycle, the segway, the tuk-tuk, the small train …
✈️ Flights: to book your flights to Porto, Captain Ulysses warmly recommends Skyscanner. You’ll be able to compare countless offers to find the best deal. If your dates are flexible, you can also compare prices over several months to find the cheapest flights possible.
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