The Douro River is one of the symbols of the City of Porto and many defend that the best view of the city is the view from the river. There are 6 bridges that now connect the banks of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia: 2 in iron and 4 in concrete. One of the bridges is inactive, one is a railway, the other is split between the metro and other vehicles, and the rest are used for road transit between the two cities.
The crossing between the banks of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia was initially done on boats and barges. Later, the need to build a permanent crossing arose so in the year 1806, the Ponte Das Barcas was born. This bridge consisted of 20 boats connected by steel cables, allowing passage from one shore to the other whilst, at the same time, allowing the passage of river traffic as it was easily “opened”. The Ponte Das Barcas was destroyed during the flight of the Porto population during the invasion of the French army. After this disaster, which caused many hundreds of deaths, the Ponte Pênsil was built and later deactivated with the inauguration of the Ponte D. Luís in 1866. This bridge, with 2 layers, has the largest wrought iron arch in the world.
Even before the Ponte D. Luís was built, the Ponte Maria Pia was inaugurated serving as a rail link between Porto and Gaia and, consequently, Porto and Lisbon. Today, it is inactive having been replaced by the Ponte São João in 1991.
In 1963 the Ponte da Arrábidawas inaugurated, beating another world record with the largest arch in reinforced concrete. This is the main connection between the two banks of the Douro River.
The most upstream bridge is the Pont do Freixo inaugurated in 1995. In fact, this bridge is actually two bridges separated by only 10 cm. It was built to minimize congestion on the Arrábida and D. Luis bridges.
The 6th bridge built is Ponte do Infante and was born to replace the upper board of the Ponte D. Luís, which has since become exclusively used by the Metro. It connects the Historic Center to the Serra do Pilar.
The six bridges can be enjoyed in one of the many boat trips that cross the Douro from the Ponte do Freixo to the Ponte da Arrábida. This tour takes about 1 hour.