The best independent guide to Porto
The best independent guide to Porto
The delightful Foz do Douro district of Porto sits at the mouth of the Douro River.
Foz is one of the most affluent districts of Porto, and encompasses the northwestern banks of the Douro River and the Atlantic coastline of Porto.
This picturesque coastline comprises of small sandy beaches nestled between granite outcrops, onto which huge Atlantic waves break. The beachside avenue (Avenida do Brasil) is one of the most fashionable addresses in Porto, being lined with stylish restaurants and trendy bars.
Guarding the mouth of Douro River is the Fortaleza de São João da Foz, a squat and solid 16th-century fort that overlooks the massive sea wall (the Barra do Douro) and Farol de Felgueiras lighthouse.
The southern side of the Foz district spans the Douro River and offers a more peaceful atmosphere. This area is a favourite with Porto residents, who come to stroll along the Promenade Foz do Douro or relax within the Jardim do Passeio Alegre park.
The Foz do Douro district is the perfect location to escape the heat or hecticness of central Porto, but it is sadly often overlooked by most tourists. This article will provide a guide to the Foz district and help you get the most from your visit here.
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The Pérgola da Foz – A 1930s neo-classical-inspired pergola that extends along the Praia do Molhe beach – and is the most romantic location in Porto from which to watch the sunset.
The beaches of Foz – The picturesque sandy beaches that line the coastline of Foz, perfect for a hot summer’s day. The best beaches are the Praia do Carneiro, the Praia dos Ingleses and Praia de Gondarém.
Promenade Foz do Douro – The scenic foot and cycle path that extends along the banks of the Douro River. The route passes parks, gardens and small fishing harbours, ending at the Barra do Douro seawall. This is one of the best walks in Porto.
Linha 1 tram – The historic tram that connects central Porto with Foz do Douro. The delightful tram slowly trundles along the banks of the Douro and terminates at the Passeio Alegre garden in Foz.
Insight: The district is known as Foz do Douro, but its residents simply refer to it as Foz.
Foz do Douro is an ideal choice for your second or third day of sightseeing in Porto. The district doesn’t have any major stand-out tourist attractions, it is more of an area to explore slowly and embrace the peaceful and authentic Portuguese atmosphere.
The real attractions of Foz are the two pleasant promenades; the Promenade Foz do Douro along the riverside and the beachside promenade to the Castelo do Queijo.
A visit to Foz could range from a couple of hours to a full day, with a full day including the beach town of Matosinhos, 3km north of Foz. A Matosinhos can be found here.
There are many excellent restaurants along the Avenida do Brasil, with the Restaurante Praia da Luz - overlooking Luz beach - being highly recommended.
It is very easy to travel to Foz, as the district is served by the regular 500 bus route and the historic tram (details of both later on).
Below is an interactive map for a suggested tour of Foz do Douro. The 5km tour begins at the ‘Fluvial’ tram/bus stop next to the Jardim do Cálem and ends at the Homem do Leme beach, where there is a bus stop. The map also includes the main tourist attractions of Foz (green markers) and beaches (yellow markers) - Note: zoom out to see all of the points
Sights of Foz: 1) Jardim do Cálem 2) Jardim de Sobreiras
3) Farol de São Miguel-o-Anjo (lighthouse) 4) Marégrafo da Foz do Douro (tide marker) 5) Jardim do Passeio Alegre 6) Clube Minigolfe do Porto 7) Chalé Suisso (historic kiosk) 8) Foz Velha (historic area) 9) Fortaleza de São João da Foz (fort) 10) Pontão da Barra do Douro (sea wall) 11) Farol de Felgueiras (lighthouse) 12) Pérgola da Foz
Beaches: 13) Praia do Carneiro 14) Praia dos Ingleses 15) Praia da Luz 16) Praia de Gondarém 17) Praia do Molhe 18) Praia do Homem do Leme 19) Praia de Matosinhos
The Foz district as seen from the air, with the Douro River to the left of the image
The western side of the Foz district faces the mighty Atlantic Ocean, with this coastline containing a series of small, sandy beaches protected from erosion by granite outcrops.
These beaches have coarse golden sands and are exposed to any sea breezes, but are great for a quick summertime trip when based in Porto. The sea waters are always chilly, only reaching around 19C in the height of summer.
There are better beaches at Matosinhos, with softer sands and waves that are suitable for surfing. However, these are slightly further away, being connected by the Metro (and the 500 bus route).
The Praia do Carneiro
The largest beach of Foz district is the Praia do Carneiro, which sits at the mouth of the Douro River and is surrounded by concrete sea walls and sea defences. To the north are the Praia dos Ingleses, the Praia do Homem do Leme and the Praia de Gondarém, with these beaches having a much more scenic setting.
The beachside promenade connects all of the beaches of the Foz district, and it is often better to just wander along the coastline and find a section of beach that takes your fancy.
Warning: Due to the proximity of the Douro River, always check the water quality before swimming.
The Praia do Homem do Leme
The Fortaleza de São João da Foz fort protected the entrance to the Douro Estuary since its construction in 1647. The fort was built around a gothic church, the São João da Foz do Douro, and the ruins of the church can be seen at the centre of the fort.
The Fortaleza de São João da Foz is free to enter and there are good views from the top of the battlements.
The Jardim do Passeio Alegre is a delightful park that sits on the banks of the Douro River. Found within the park is a mini-golf course (Clube Minigolfe do Porto), a great activity for children, and the Chalé Suisso, one of the oldest café-kiosks in Porto that is also a national monument.
The Pontão da Barra do Douro, is the 400m long sea wall that shelters the entrance to the Douro estuary. The shorter and older sea wall ends at the Farol de Felgueiras lighthouse. During stormy or winter weather, huge waves can break against the two sea walls and can be very dangerous.
The Farol de Felgueiras, with the Pontão da Barra do Douro to the rear
The Farol de São Miguel-o-Anjo is the oldest lighthouse in Portugal that is still standing. The granite tower dates from 1527, but there has been a firelight on the rocky outcrop directing shipping since the Roman era. On the edge of the dock, next to the lighthouse, is the Marégrafo da Foz do Douro - a historic tidal gauge.
The ancient Farol de São Miguel-o-Anjo (left) next to the 19th-century customs tower
Inland from the river and sea is Foz Velha, an area of pretty cobbled streets and grand 19th-century villas constructed by wealthy merchants and upper-class families. The best of Foz Velha is seen to the north of the Jardim do Passeio Alegre and around the Rua do Padre Luís Cabral.
The Foz district is 5km from central Porto and is connected by the 500 bus route and the historic tram (Linha 1 route).
The bus provides cheaper and more frequent services, but the tram is a much more enjoyable tourist activity. Both the tram and bus follow the same route along the banks of the Douro River and are equally scenic.
The 500 bus service uses distinctive double-decker buses and departs from the São Bento bus stop, close to the São Bento train station. A single ticket purchased from the driver costs €2.00, or €1.25 if the Andante public transport ticket is used.
The Linha 1 tram departs from the São Francisco church, on the western side of the Ribeira district. A single tram ride costs €3.50, with a return costing €6.00.
The appeal of the tram means it is always more popular with tourists than the bus, and there can be very long queues. If it is busy, cross over the road to the 500 bus stop and ride the tram back.