Just outside of Porto is the wonderous wine country of the Douro Valley. The Douro Valley is Portugal’s most well known wine region and is home to the numerous wineries that produce much of Portugal’s wine and almost all of Portugal’s Port.
This is where the grapes are grown and fortified before traveling in oak barrels on traditional style boats to the town of Gaia (across from Porto) where they are aged in the many cellars of the city. If you have been to Porto and gone Port tasting in Gaia, you’ll have tasted grapes grown in the Douro Valley.
Thankfully, the Douro Valley is easily accessible from Porto and makes for an epic day trip or even better, an amazing addon to your northern Portugal trip. The Douro river that separates Porto and Gaia runs all the way to Spain and along the way you’ll find incredibly beautiful wineries and views. Additionally, if you’re flying into Lisbon, a drive to the Douro valley is three hours by car.
Visiting the Douro Valley was absolutely amazing and it was all part of my Portugal travel itinerary. If you’re curious about how I planned my trip to see all of Portugal’s sights, make sure to give that a read!
Planning a day trip to the Douro Valley
I spent two nights in the Douro Valley which was an absolutely bliss getaway. However, I think most people didn’t think of visiting the Douro and didn’t allocate enough time or resources to planning a trip there. I’m here to say that you can easily visit the Douro Valley on a day trip from Porto. Whether you want to rent a car or take public transportation, beautiful views and wine tasting are at your doorstep.
Taking the train from Porto to Pinhao
If you aren’t keen on renting a car, then your best option is to take the train from Porto central station. Pinhao is the main town in the Douro Valley and is located right in the middle of all the action.
This train ride is famous for its scenic views of Douro river. You have a direct IR connection (InterRegional) every two hours starting at 7h15 (then 9h15, 11h15…) until 19h30.
The cost of this train is €10 one way.
The problem you’ll have with taking the train is that you can only walk to the nearby wineries. I didn’t see much in the way of taxis during any of my visit to the Douro Valley. There are plenty of wineries nearby to Pinhao so you have many options to choose from. There are two wineries inside the town of Pinhao that is only a few minutes walking from the train station. Other wineries with more expansive views and beauty will require a slightly longer walk (30 minutes or so).
Renting a car
Renting a car is my preferred method for seeing the Douro Valley. Most of the beautiful wineries are out of reach from Pinhao by foot so you really need a car to properly explore the area.
There are car rental shops in the city center of Porto, otherwise you can take an Uber to the airport for €12-15.
Do you have to make appointments in the Douro Valley for wine tasting?
One of my favorite parts of the Douro valley wine tasting is the fact that you don’t need to make reservations beforehand. If you want to take a tour of the cellars and do the entire process, then you will need to book. However, if you just want to show up, sit back, drink some wine, and enjoy the views, you don’t need to reserve beforehand.
The wineries in Portugal have big, central estates on the middle of their properties. Similar to South Africa’s wine country and unlike wineries in France, these estates are built to showcase their wines and make it easy and comfortable to taste.
I’ve always been annoyed with places that require bookings beforehand. I’m almost never in the mood to have a full tour of the winery because I’ve already been on God knows how many before. They are all similar, and you end up just forgetting everything shortly afterwards anyhow!
Day trip from Lisbon to the Douro Valley
If you are staying in Lisbon which I absolutely love as a city, it is also possible to do a day trip to the Douro Valley. This is a very aggressive day trip and I probably wouldn’t recommend it but it is doable.
From Lisbon, it is a 4 hour drive to Pinhao in the heart of the Douro wine country. You could leave very early in the morning (6am or so) and be tasting wine by 10am. You could then follow much of the itinerary below to your desired effect. As most of the wineries close around 5pm, you could leave around 4 and be back in Lisbon by dinner time.
What’s better is probably to just do an overnight trip to the Douro Valley if you are staying in Lisbon for 5+ days.
If you are in the Algarve region of Portugal, don’t even think about it 🙂
The best Wineries in Douro Valley for views
I spent a few days in the Douro Valley and wasted no time. I went to many wineries along the way and enjoyed the breathtaking views of the Douro as well as delicious Ports and wines.
The Douro Valley is very similar to the Mosel Valley wine region in Germany. It’s a river that snakes its way around the region and surrounded by rolling mountainous landscapes full of vines. The Douro has higher hills and more dramatic scenery than the Mosel. The grape vines are also more expansive and all encompassing. It is truly breathtaking.
Here are a list of all the wineries I visited during my stay in the Douro Valley.
- Quinta de Popa
- Quinta Do Seixo (Sandeman)
- Croft Port
- Quinta Do Bomfim
- D’Origem Vinhos
- Nova Winery
How to spend one day in the Douro Valley
Now that you know my favorite spots, it’s time the day out for a day trip from Porto.
I will focus on the itinerary with having a car because if you are taking the train, you should just get off in Pinhao and go to Croft Porto, and Quinta Do Bomfim. If you can find a taxi, then a visit to QUinta Do Seixo could be nice as well.
one thing to keep in mind that there are not many bridges in the Douro River. I found myself wanting to go to various different wineries on opposite sides of the river, only to find out I’d have to travel a lot distance to go to the one bridge in the area. Two wineries can look very close on Google Maps on opposite sides of the river but that is likely not the case. You ould very easily have to drive 1 hour because the bridge is 20 km away through slow windy roads.
Leave Porto around 9 in the morning
From Porto, I would leave around 9 so you can get to the Douro Valley around 10. From the city, it is about 1 hour driving to the start of the wineries.
I would start off with driving toward a beautiful viewpoint to get an idea of what you’re getting yourself into. I’d recommend going to the St. Leonardo de Galafura viewpoint.
This will allow for you to get a lay of the land and mentally prepare yourself for the beautiful views from the day to come.
Drive on the N222 highway
For the best views, you’ll want to drive along the N222 which is on the south side of the Douro river. This is known as the scenic road and is right next to the river as it snakes its way to Spain.
You’ll be mesmerized by the giant hills on both sides of you full of vineyards and estates.
Stop at Quinta Do Bomfim in Pinhao town
Quinta Do Bomfim is one of the largest and most popular wineries in the region. They own the Dow’s and Graham’s brand and is located right in the Pinhao town. From their terrace, you have a beautiful view of the Douro Valley.
I had a Port tasting here of the white, Tawny, and Late Bottled Vintage and it was delicious.
Go next door to Croft Port
Next door to Quinta Do Bomfim is one of the oldest wineries in town, Croft Port. They have a beautiful estate with an even better view of the valley. Their grapes are right on the property and your view of the endless vines is what it’s all about.
I had another Port tasting here of their Ruby and Tawny.
Have Lunch in Town
Pinhao is the main town in the region and there are numerous restaurant sin town to choose from. It’s not a particularly cute town that you’d imagine would be in a region like this but it has all that you need.
If you want a full lunch, go to Veladouro which is located right on the water. Look no further than getting the Secretos De Porco Preto (Secrets of the BLack Pig). This is one of my favorite things to eat in Portugal and you’ll hardly find it anywhere else in the world (I’ve only seen it once again in Puglia, Italy).
Secretos is essentially a special cut of pork from a very special pig, the Iberian Pig. Yes the same pig that is used to make the God level delicious Jamon Iberico. Turns out that Spain are the masters of the Jamon (Cured meat) but Portugal actually eats the meat of the pig. The meat as you’d expect is incredibly juicy, tender, and flavorful. I had secretos on more than one occasion.
If you want a quick lunch, then go to the O’Porco wine bar. They do sandwiches and Pulvo salads that are quite delicious. All for a very cheap price.
Visit Quinta Do Seixo
Quinta Do Seixo is 10 minutes outside of Pinhao town and is the home of Sandeman’s, one of the popular brands of Port with a large cellar in Gaia City.
Quita Do Seixo is located high up on the hill overlooking all of its vines and of course a stunning view of the valley. They have a beautiful modern tasting room that has stunning views. I stopped drinking Port here and elected for wine instead.
Visit Quinta De Popa
Nearby to Quinta Do Seixo is Quinta De Popa. I think this winery had one of the best if not the best view I saw in all of the valley. They have a very inviting and spacious outdoor space where you can drink wine with the best views of the nearby vines, river, and mountains.
I can’t comment too much on the wine itself as I was already pretty tipsy by the time I got here.
Drive back to Porto at 5pm
The wineries in the Douro mostly close by 5pm or 6pm for their tastings. Therefore, it is the perfect time to head back to Porto in time to enjoy a drink from Porto Cruz’s rooftop in Gaia where you can put all your new found Port appreciation to use.
Where to stay in the Douro Valley
If you decide that one day is not enough (which it probably isn’t), then you should definitely book accommodations to stay in the beautiful Douro Valley!
There are countless Quintas and guesthouses with accommodation options in the valley. The Douro Valley is generally seen as a more expensive destination within Portugal so you will pay more here in comparison to other locations.
After starting my search, I saw many Quintas located on the hillside with beautiful pools that overlook the river and valley. I knew this was what I wanted and went to look through the numerous hotels that offered this.
Quinta De Santa Marinha
I ended up settling on the Quinta De Santa Marinha. This hotel was relatively cheap in comparison to other options, and had stunning views of the valley.
Upon arriving, I can confirm that the views were completely out of this world. It was higher up than other hotels and you could see so much of the surrounding landscape. From the pool, it was bliss and an amazing place to waste the day away.
The traditional breakfasts were also a delight to have in the morning before setting out to wine taste.
Other options to stay for the Douro Valley
I found many other options to stay during my visit and some looked absolutely incredible but were sold out or cost too much. If you like the pictures from the above but want something different but with similar amenities, here is a list of places to choose from!