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There are many worthwhile day trips from Porto but my favourite was easily the Douro Valley known for its sweeping scenery and delicious Portuguese wine. During a Douro Valley day trip from Porto, there’s plenty to do, see and drink.
I went twice while living in Porto, once by car with my housemates, and once as part of an organised day tour with friends visiting from the UK. Both trips were great in their different ways and I’ll sum up the pros and cons as we go.
Is doing a Douro Valley day trip worth it?
Yes, it’s totally worth it! Even if you just have 3 days in Porto, I would recommend spending one day in the Douro Valley. It’s truly the most beautiful place I’ve visited in Portugal apart from the wonderful Madeira Island.
With its natural beauty, it provides a contrast to built-up Porto with all its city charms. For all the wonderful things to see and do in Porto, few can compete with Douro!
Although Portugal’s second city has so much charm in its own right, I honestly think it’s worth visiting Porto just for the Douro Valley alone!
A bit about the Douro Valley
Centred around the Douro River that flows all the way from central Spain to the Portuguese coast, the region spans around 110,000 acres. That’s a lot of room for wine!
The hilly landscape is peppered with small villages, vineyards, family-run wineries and scenic miradouros (viewpoints). Particularly in off-season, it has the feel of stepping back in time: instead of fast food and recognisable logos, you’ll see elderly locals visiting charming churches and roadside Catholic shrines.
Wineries in Douro are called ‘quintas’ and often offer lodging as well as wine tours and activities. The area is a microclimate associated with the growing of olives and almonds. Make sure to try locally-produced cheeses, smoked meats and olive oils. It’s a foodie’s dream!
A bit about Douro wine
This UNESCO-protected wine region has been producing table wine and sweet port wine for over 2,000 years. Whether it’s tawny, ruby, rosé or white, port earns its unique flavour from strong grape spirit, historically added to preserve it for long journeys.
Whilst living in Porto, I came to love port wine, as well as regular Douro wine. People don’t always think of Portugal in relation to wine production but they really should. It’s phenomenal!
Taylors and Sandemans are some of the big names in the wine region, but I encourage you to also visit small, family-run wineries for an authentic experience.
For more about Porto drinks and food, check out my big Porto culinary guide.
How to get from Porto to the Douro Valley
If you’re looking for a quick answer to how to take a Douro Valley day trip?, I’ll break it down:
- Organised day trips – my sister and I took a GetYourGuide tour which I’d recommend. Between being picked up and dropped off in Porto, we visited an authentic Douro winery, cruised down the Douro upon a riverboat and stopped at several scenic viewpoints. It was super convenient and our guide was very knowledgeable. These are the easiest option for those travelling alone in Portugal.
- By car – on a different occasion, my housemates and I hired a car and visited the Douro Valley from Porto. It worked out cheaper than a day tour but required us doing some research and organisation.
- By bus – public transport is limited in the valley so your best bet is catching a bus to Lamego or Vila Real (towns in the valley) and organising a taxi ride to a winery from there.
- By train – from Porto Campanhã station or the famous São Bento, you can catch a train to Peso de Régua, the ‘capital’ of the valley, or travel further to the last stop of Pocinho near the Spanish border.
- By boat – Douro river day trips operate from April to November, taking a boat ride in one direction and a car back.
The best Douro Valley day tours from Porto
The are several tours on offer. So you don’t have to scrutinise the different Douro Valley itineraries and compare prices yourself, I have done the work:
The everything tour – boat ride, lunch, winery (€85) – you’ll be picked up from your hotel and transferred to the valley by car, soaking up views as you go. After a stop in Peso de Régua, you’ll arrive at a winery for a tour and wine tasting. Next, you’ll have a tasty local lunch and hop on a boat in Pinhão to soak up more heavenly views from the river. Following a photo stop at a beautiful viewpoint, you’ll be transferred back to Porto.
The tour takes 6.5 hours enabling you to see a lot in a short space of time – 4.7 stars based on 4,000+ reviews. See more details and book here.
Longer tour inc 2 wineries (€95) – this tour is similar to the one above but visits two wineries rather than one, ideal for real wine lovers. It’s 10 hours meaning a longer day but a smaller percentage spent on the bus… and more time drinking wine in the valley! 4.6 stars based on 2,000+ reviews. See more details and book here.
Shorter tour inc 2 wineries (€90) – this tour takes just 6.5 hours but manages to include all the above and 2 winery visits. Pick this if you’re into wine and don’t mind a fast-paced itinerary in order to see a lot in a short time. 4.7 stars based on 1200+ reviews. See more details and book here.
Three winery tour (€95) – for those who are visiting for wine rather than exploring the region, this is your tour. 4.9 stars based on 300+ reviews. See more details and book here.
Rather take a private tour?
Book a private tour inc. lunch & 2 wineries (€390 per group)
or a private tour inc. a river cruise (€200 per person)
Pros of taking a tour to the Douro Valley:
- Ease & convenience – you don’t need to lift a finger!
- Learn from a local guide – you’ll pick up facts about the valley and Douro wine, plus you’re supporting local guides.
Cons of taking tours to the Douro Valley from Porto:
- Sticking to someone else’s schedule – tours can sometimes feel rushed; you can’t stay longer in a place you like or choose to skip somewhere you don’t
- Price – tours are often more expensive than doing things independently.
Day trip to Douro Valley by car
If you’re wondering ‘can you do Douro Valley on your own?’, the answer is a resounding yes!
During my first weeks living in Portugal, my friends and I hired a car in Porto and spent a weekend in the Douro Valley. I’d highly recommend staying overnight but you can do it as a day trip if short on time.
Towns to add to our Douro Valley itinerary are Peso de Régua, Vila Real and Lamego. We also visited many viewpoints (more on these to come), wineries and local restaurants where we enjoyed all our favourite Porto foods and lots of local wine and cheese!
- Cheap! Car hire for a day costs as little as €15!
- Total control to you – choose when you set off and return, which wineries you visit, what time you eat etc.
- Designated driver – at least one person has to drive and therefore can’t drink
- It’s not an especially easy region to drive around – there are so many hills. I watched my housemate struggle with many hill starts!
- Airport pick up – most car rentals require you to pick up & drop off at the airport which means paying for taxis to get there (or catching the Metro) and adds extra time to your day trip.
The highway will bring you to the valley within an hour but it’s worth taking the longer, more scenic N222 along the south of the river in at least one direction. We took the quicker A4 Expressway to the Douro Valley then, on the way home, took our time along the N222 stopping to snap sunset photos at scenic viewpoints.
It’s worth thinking about the time of year you visit and when the sunset will be. In the winter months, the scenic drive needs to be taken earlier in order to see anything!
Douro Valley day trip by bus
Rede Expresso buses and a few other companies connect Porto with two Douro Valley towns. These are:
- Lamego – this gorgeous town would be my preferred destination if visiting by bus. However, journeys take from 1 hour 55 minutes and depart from 10am, meaning you can’t get there before midday. The last service home is 5.15pm so it may be best to stay overnight if you have time. They cost €12 each way on Busbud.
- Vila Real – this is also a pleasant town and easier to reach by bus, taking as little as 1 hour 5 minutes (departing from 7am and returning ’til 9pm). They cost €10 each way on Busbud.
Keep reading as I’ll summarise what to do in Lamego and Vila Real later…
Pros of visiting by bus:
- Cheap! Journies cost €10 each way (but factor in a taxi to a winery when you arrive).
- Sustainable – I try to take public transport wherever I can for environmental reasons.
Cons of visiting by bus:
- It’s hard to get around the valley once you’re there – it’s best to stick to the town you arrive into and organise a taxi ride to a nearby winery. If you want to see various places in the valley, bus isn’t the best option.
- Some research & organisation needed – since you won’t have a guide, I’d recommend researching what to do in advance and which wineries you can get to without a car.
Douro Valley by train
You can also take a Douro Valley day trip from Porto by train. In Portugal, trains are clean, efficient and affordable. Linho do Douro trains depart Porto Campanhã station (on the outskirts of the city near my favourite neighbourhood, Bonfim) or the central São Bento station, eternally busy and clad in blue azulejos artwork.
Most passengers taking a day trip to Douro Valley by train arrive in Peso da Régua, the informal capital of the region. It’s a well-known destination in the history of port production because it’s where barrels began their journey to Gaia, Porto’s wine hub. It’s not the most charming town but it’s a good launching point to the wineries. The Douro Museum is also worth a visit.
However, there are 5 daily departures with a final stop further than Régua: the town of Pocinho near the Spanish border. This scenic journey takes 3.5 hours from Porto so it’s best for travellers staying overnight. You can also disembark before at Pinhão, a cute town where boat trips depart. Get back on after because the Pinhão to Pocinho leg is the most beautiful!
The pros and cons of taking the train are largely the same as the bus with the added advantage that the train is super scenic!
Tips for train travel:
- Buy your tickets at the counter; they rarely sell out. The exception would be summer weekends when you may wish to reserve tickets online.
- Tickets should cost around €20, the same as the bus.
- Sit on the right side of the train for scenic river views!
Douro by public transport – is the train or the bus better? Given the scenic journey the train takes, I would recommend this over the bus. However, buses travel direct to Lamego which in my opinion is a more scenic arrival point. But the times are awkward so it’s best to stay overnight.
Boat trip from Porto to Douro valley
Ready for one final idyllic option? From April to November, you can take a Porto to Douro Valley day trip by river boat. Since it’s a long ride, most tours will include a bus ride in one direction and a river cruise with port wine and a meal in the other direction.
There’s no option more scenic than this! You’ll board from Ribeira waterfront in Porto and spend the day on the boat soaking up amazing scenery and enjoying a local lunch. You’ll arrive on land for wine tasting at 5pm before travelling back to Porto by bus. Book a tour for €106.
Things to do & places to visit in the Douro Valley
Unless you’re taking an organised tour with pre-decided stops, you’ll probably be wondering how to fill a day trip from Porto to the Douro Valley.
Add the following places to your itinerary for the Douro Valley…
Wine tasting at vineyards
Let’s just start with the obvious, shall we? Wine tasting is what puts the region on the map. But knowing which are the best Douro Valley wineries requires some research as there are SO many from huge businesses to modest local homes making their own wine.
A few wineries I can vouch for include:
Quinta Seara d’Ordens – dating back to the 18th century and still run by a local family, this is a fantastic place to visit with beautiful scenery. We managed to book a wine tasting and tour for a group of eight people (€15pp) by phoning two hours before but I imagine you’d want to book in advance on their website during peak season.
Quinta do Vallado – this 18th century manor house converted into a contemporary winery is conveniently located near Peso de Régua. It was voted amongst the world’s top 100 wineries by Wine and Spirit World which has to count for something! English tours take place at 11am and 2.30pm.
Quinta do Tedo – known for its wines and olive oils, this winery is located on the banks of the river down from Peso de Régua. Book a tour or tasting.
Quinta do Pôpa – the stunning river alone make this quinta worth a visit! It’s not just the wines that are sublime but the cheeses and cured meats. Book wine tasting or a picnic in the grounds.
Quinta do Bomfim – from Pinhão station, this lovely winery is easily reached on foot. With friendly guides and gorgeous views, it’s a great one to visit if you’re taking a Porto to the Douro Valley day trip by train.
São Leonardo de Galafura Viewpoint
There are countless impressive miradouros but São Leonardo de Galafura has to be the best! We arrived by car, parked for free and wandered to the viewing area. We sat for ages and almost missed our winery tour because the views were hard to drag ourselves away from.
Pinhão boat cruises
This is one of the furthest points you’ll likely visit from Porto, so it’s advisable to visit in the middle of the day to break up the long drive back. Alternatively, catch the train to Pinhão and start your day here.
Pinhão is the best place to board short boat trips in the valley. It’s on the itinerary of many organised Douro Valley day tours (including the one we took which was fab) so expect to see lots of other tourists around unless you visit early or late.
One or two-hour boat cruises start from €10. Wine sold on the boats is more expensive than other places FYI. Yes, we bought it anyway 😉
There are some wonderful natural trails of varying difficulty offering mesmerising views of the vine-speckled hillsides. Providing you have comfortable footwear, enough water and sun protection, some of the best hikes in the Douro Valley are:
- Ervedosa do Douro Walk – traverse through this vineyard amphitheatre departing Ervedosa do Douro village. The circular 18km walk takes just under 6 hours.
- Trilho do Vinho do Porto – this 8km route is rewarding with spectacular views. It should take 3 hours and you’ll see lots of other hikers so there’s no chance of getting lost.
Towns to visit…
Lamego is easily the prettiest place in the Douro region. It’s quaint and traditional with little evidence of the modern day. The highlight is Santuário de Nossa Senhora dos Remédios, a popular pilgrimage point in September (but open to visitors year-round) with 686 steps decorated with typical blue and white tiles.
The art exhibition at Museu de Lamego is also worth a visit. Nearby, take walks in Serra das Meadas park. Lamego is known for the production of local cheeses, meats and other delicacies; stock up before you go home.
We parked for free in the backstreets. There are also direct buses connecting Lamego with Porto.
This is another popular town in the region that makes a good pitstop for food, coffee or staying overnight. For those taking a Douro Valley day trip by bus, it’s the easiest place to arrive and depart.
The most famous attraction is Palacio do Mateus, a Baroque royal holiday home in the 16th and 17th centuries that appears on famous Mateus rosé wine bottles.
If you visit on the 28th-29th of June, you’ll catch the annual Festa e Sao Pedro when a huge market takes over the town.
Peso da Régua
As the gateway to the region, it’s likely you’ll pass through Peso de Régua at some stage. Set alongside the river, the town is relatively scenic if not as nice as Lamego (in my opinion). At Museu do Douro, you can learn about the area’s history of wine production and shipping.
On arrival, swing by the Tourist Office for advice about which wineries to visit and to grab a map. English is widely spoken.
For viewpoints near the town, San António do Loureiro is just a 15-minute drive or an hour’s walk from Peso da Régua.
Best season to visit Douro Valley
If you noticed my outfit changes in this post, you can guess I’ve visited in different seasons. I would describe shoulder season as the best time to visit: March-May (Spring) and late September-November (autumn).
You can even visit in winter (December and January) providing you dress warmly, although fewer tours will be available and many of the vineyards will be shut for visitors. The benefit of taking a guided tour in this season is that they’ll take you to places that ARE open so you won’t have to worry.
Summer (June-mid September) is course the most popular time to visit, however expect it to be hot and very crowded.
How long to spend in the Douro Valley?
Having visited once as a day trip and another time as a weekend trip, I have to be honest and say 2 to 3 days in the Douro Valley is the best amount of time to spend because we weren’t rushed and we got to see and do more.
However, it simply depends how much time you have. We also had a wonderful day trip to the Douro Valley with GetYourGuide so, if you just have one day, I’d advise taking a tour so you can relax and enjoy it!
There’s no bad amount of time to spend because any trip to Douro is better than not visiting at all!
Where to stay overnight
If you do decide to stay overnight, I would recommend staying at one of the following hotels in the Douro Valley:
The Vintage House Douro (€180pn) – near Pinhão station, this is a luxurious property with a pool overlooking the river and many rooms with river views.
The Houseboat Pinhao – stay on a fully-equipped houseboat with kitchen for just €70!
Casa Seixas Batista – stay in a cute 2 bedroom house in Pinhão from just €70.
Quinta Da Estrada Winery – stay inside a fantastic family-run winery with a pool from €100 a night!
Quinta de CasalMato – this local farm and vineyard has a pool and tennis court from just €70!
What else to do in Porto?
I can’t tell you how much I love Porto! After living there from 2021 into 2022, I created this giant 80 things to do in Porto guide so go check that out!
To continue drinking Douro wines, head to Nova de Gaia by crossing the lower level of Luís I Bridge bridge. You can even take a port and Douro wine walking tour with a local guide if you’re missing the Douro Valley!
Here are ALL my Porto guides:
- The ultimate 3 day Porto itinerary
- What to eat in Porto
- Is Porto worth visiting? My honest thoughts
- The best cocktail bars in Porto
- Where to find street art in Porto
- The best places for sunset in Porto
- Finding the best pastel de nata in Porto
- The best cafes & coffee shops in Porto
- Where to eat vegan in Porto
- Area guide to Bonfim, Porto
- ‘Taste Porto’ food tour review