Updated: Sep 14, 2021
The Douro River and its imposing bridges are the main characteristics of the city of Porto. In this way, a pleasant trip was created in the typical rabelo boat, used to transport the barrels of wine from the Douro valley to the wineries in Vila Nova de Gaia. This tour lasts 1 hour and you can enjoy the two banks, as well as the 6 bridges you find during the trip.
Now we will make a circuit of crossing the Douro River to admire the 6 bridges. The banks of the Douro River are connected by the 6 bridges of Porto and Gaia. Each with different styles and stories.
1. Arrábida Bridge
The westernmost bridge is the Arrábida Bridge. Its construction was important, as there was still no road bridge, which was necessary due to the growing movement of the city. The engineer responsible for this masterpiece was Edgar Cardoso, the work was inaugurated in 1963. After being erected, it was considered as the largest concrete bridge in the world. To underline, the initial project had two lanes and side sidewalks for passengers, but four elevators installed on the side pillars were also built.
The four large pillars that complete the central area of the bridge feature bronze sculptures, integrated with the innovative spirit and modernist aesthetics of the Bridge. This bridge is crossed by Highway No. 1 (A1) that connects the Campo Alegre area, on the Porto side, with the Arrábida area, on the Vila Nova de Gaia side. In 2013, this work was classified as a national monument. As a curiosity, since 2016 it is possible to visit this wonderful arch and enjoy its amazing view over the Douro River and the city of Porto, which includes a small port wine tasting.
The Arrábida Bridge is 500 meters long, has 70 meters high at river level and an arch with 270 meters.
2. D. Luís I Bridge
The D. Luís I Bridge was designed by engineer Théophile Seyrig, Eiffel's disciple. This ex-libris of the city came to replace the suspension bridge Rainha Maria II, the work of the engineers of Bigot and Mellet, inaugurated in 1842 and demolished in 1887 to give way to the bridge that honors the then King D. Luís I. The construction of the King Louis I Bridge then began in 1881 when it was awarded to Société Willbreck, but only 5 years later it was inaugurated, having a budget of only 369 contos. Effectively, at 395 meters in length, the D. Luís Bridge was considered the bridge with the largest iron arch in the world, however today the title belongs to China.
Currently, the upper platform of the D. Luís bridge is reserved for the passage of the metro and pedestrians, while the lower deck is for road circulation and pedestrians. In 1996, this monument was classified and included as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Finally, in 2019, European Best Destination elected the D. Luís I bridge on December 21st as one of the 15 most beautiful bridges in Europe.
D. Luís I Bridge has an upper plateau with 395 meters long, a bottom box with 174 meters long and an arch with 172 meters.
3. Infante D. Henrique Bridge
The Infante D. Henrique Bridge, named in honor of Infante D. Henrique, O Navegador, started in 1999 and was inaugurated on March 30, 2003, by the responsible engineer José António Ordóñez of the Spanish company IDEAM. Built to connect the Fontainhas area to Serra do Pilar, in Vila Nova de Gaia.
This bridge was built 371 meters long and 20 meters wide and an arch of 280 meters. The main intention of the bridge was to take advantage of the imposing rock masses on both banks, following the typology used by engineer Robert Maillart, in which he defended that the arch structurally works together with the rigidity of the board.
4. Maria Pia Bridge
The Rainha Maria Pia Bridge was the first railway link in the city that carried the North Line, designed as the first major work by the French engineer Gustave Eiffel in Porto, carried out with a large arch that supports the 354 meter and 61 meter high railway track. This emblematic bridge began its construction in January 1876 and was opened the following year.
However, it has been closed since 1991, as it was replaced by the São João bridge. In 1982 it was classified as a "National Monument" by IGESPAR and in 1990 it was considered an "International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark" by the American Society of Engineering.
5. São João Bridge
The São João bridge was designed by engineer Edgar Cardoso and its inauguration was on June 24, 1991, a day dedicated to Santo - São João. This bridge was designed to accompany the growth of road and rail traffic, so the initial idea of the Companhia dos Caminhos de Ferro Portugueses was to build another bridge, however it was even necessary to completely replace the century-old Maria
Pia bridge. This infrastructure stands out because, unlike the previously built bridges that had a prominent arch, in the São João Bridge, we can see a continuous multiple portico of vertical pillars, 1140 meters long.
6. Freixo Bridge
The last bridge, which is in the most eastern and peripheral part of the city, is the imposing Freixo bridge. This bridge was inaugurated in 1995, by Professor António Reis. The main objective of its construction was to meet the growing needs of the population and minimize the constraints to traffic.
A curiosity about the Freixo bridge is that there are two bridges built on two porches and 10 cm apart. This bridge is characterized by four lanes in both directions and has eight spans, the main one being 150 meters long and two 115 meters long.