Porto & the Douro Valley Self-guided Walking Tour

The valley of the Rio Douro (‘river of gold’) is striking in its tranquillity – and its rich colours. Fertile hills neatly striped with green vines and silver olive trees are reflected in the mirror-like waters, as are the painted long boats which ply the river, and the region’s tiny, untouched villages of white houses with red roofs. It is here, at the quintas (wineries) dotted across the slopes, that port wine is produced, the late-September harvest bringing a pleasant bustle to the valley, when the workers sing late into the night as they pick the grapes and tread them by foot.

To set the scene, you begin with two nights in Porto, friendly capital of the port-wine trade, before discovering the timeless landscapes where the wine originates, thus showing the great contrast between the bustle of the historic sea port and the slow, traditional ways of life upriver.

Hotel Pestana Vintage Porto in Porto for two nights. We also offer the Hotel Ribeira do Porto, or the Hotel Infante de Sagres, in the heart of the city.

DAY 1 – Travel to Porto
Rest of day at leisure

DAY 2 – Explore Porto

With a day and a half in the city, you have plenty of time to explore. Porto’s intriguing Old Town – designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site – clings to the steep north bank of the great River Douro, its jumbled streets seemingly all leading down to the quayside. Five bridges, including one by Eiffel and a spectacular two-tiered construction, link to Vila Nova de Gaia, the heart of the port wine trade, where you can visit one or two of the wine lodges. (We can pre-book a visit of Graham’s Port Wine Lodge, where you can learn about port production and then sample the wines at a private tasting in the lodge’s exclusive tasting room – €15pp, payable locally. It is open daily between May and September, and on weekdays outside these dates.) The Old Town’s two main landmarks are the cathedral (Sé) and the panoramic Clérigos Tower. Visit the Stock Exchange (Bolsa) and the church of São Francisco to admire their ornate interiors. Art lovers will like the contemporary art museum, and don’t miss the wonderful shops, either – traditional emporiums and designer boutiques stand side by side with old-fashioned shops selling port wine and dried, salted codfish.

DAY 3 – The Douro Valley

Today you have more time to explore Porto before catching the afternoon train eastwards through a colourful patchwork of olive groves, immaculate vineyards and cork-oak woods. The second part of the journey is a real highlight of the break, as the train makes its way along the impressively engineered railway which clings to the sliver of land between the River Douro and the steep slopes above. By the time you alight, you are in the heart of port-wine producing country, where you spend your final two nights at the Casa do Visconde de Chanceleiros in Chanceleiros.

DAY 4 – Linear walk to the River Douro and Quinta de la Rosa: 5km, 1.5hrs (each way)

Stroll down to the River Douro to contemplate its calm waters. Here, we include a guided visit of Quinta de la Rosa, where the grapes for their wines and ports are still trodden by foot. You can then either walk on to Pinhão to have lunch in one of our favourite restaurants in the area or enjoy a boat trip along the river (pay locally in both cases). After walking to Pinhão via the Quinta, you can either retrace your steps back to Chanceleiros or, if you have bought wine at the Quinta, travel back by taxi (pay locally).


Meal arrangements: breakfast only

Behind the handsome yellow façade of this 16th-century building lies a stylish hotel, the friendly staff of which pride themselves on the high levels of comfort and service. The location, within the UNESCO-protected part of the city and a stone’s throw from the Douro, is hard to beat. We include superior rooms which are equipped with air-conditioning, a hairdryer, minibar, satellite television, safe and wifi. For uninterrupted views over the River Douro, upgrade to a Vintage room.

Meal arrangements: breakfast only

This high-quality, palatial hotel, located in the heart of Porto’s historical district, is just a short stroll away from the city’s UNESCO World Heritage area, and close to the São Bento railway station. All rooms and suites are tastefully and individually decorated with original artwork, stylish furniture and antiques. The hotel also boasts an elegant restaurant and bar.

Meal arrangements: breakfast only

This comfortable hotel stands in a prime location on the waterfront Praça de Ribeira square, with views across to the port houses on the other side of the Douro. All 18 rooms have views onto the square and the river beyond and we include the superior rooms, which are slightly larger and have two or three windows so are lighter and mean you can enjoy the view better. The walls are adorned with large old black-and-white photographs of Porto and the Douro; while the ‘Tasca Bar’, where breakfast is served, is styled on a traditional Portuguese tavern of the 1930s.

Meal arrangements: dinner & breakfast

This beautifully restored nobleman’s house is a delightful and relaxing base, managed by Ursula and her irrepressible assistant Adelaide, who pride themselves on their hospitality. The bedrooms are in separate buildings throughout the grounds and cluster around charming terraces and the swimming pool. The food here is excellent, and our dinner arrangements include white port, wine and liqueurs. A wonderful choice for extra nights to relax and enjoy the views.