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10 reasons to travel Portugal on a river cruise

One of the best ways to experience the charm of Portugal is to meander along the Douro River on a small ship.

One of the best ways to experience the charm of Portugal is to meander along the Douro River on a small ship. Photo: Viking

Portugal boasts bustling riverside ports, vibrant coastal cities, medieval castles, picturesque mountainous landscapes and rolling vineyards.

The sights, sounds and tastes make a trip to this historically rich country a feast for the senses – there’s the freshly-caught seafood, the romantic Fado music, sweet Port wine and so much more.

One of the best ways to experience the charm and diversity of this unique country is to meander along the Douro River on a small ship.

Here, we list 10 reasons why:   

1. Sail the scenic Douro River

Make your way down the Douro River, lined with terraced vineyards, charming villages and spectacular scenery, and visit remarkable sights along the way.

See the iconic Mateus Palace, one of the best examples of baroque civil architecture in Portugal, the expansive olive oil groves of Alto Douro and the tiny hilltop medieval fortress of Castelo Rodrigo as you journey down the river.

2. Step back in time

It’s easy to feel like you’ve been transported back in time as you explore Portugal. Around the 16th century, Lisbon was a hub for trade and the city prospered.

Visit impressive buildings such as the Jerónimos Monastery and Belém Tower. In Porto there are historic landmarks such as the double decker Luis I Bridge and the Clérigos Tower to explore.

Enjoy wine on-board Viking river cruise

Soak up the ever-changing scenery as your Viking ship gently carries you along the Douro River. Photo: Viking

3. Discover the oldest wine region in the world

You might be surprised to discover that the Douro Valley is the world’s oldest demarcated wine region (declared way back in 1756, due to its production of port). Explore the area and learn all about the production of Portugal’s famous port and other local wines – you’ll also have the chance to taste them paired with traditional cuisine.

4. Switch into holiday mode

Viking’s Portugal river journeys navigate at a slower pace than traditional European river tours or ocean voyages. Get ready to slow things down and really soak up the ever-changing scenery and enjoy your cruising experience.

All sailing occurs during the day allowing you to relax on deck as your Viking ship gently carries you along the winding Douro River. Travelling on a small ship enables you the agility to explore easily – and with a maximum of 106 guests, you’ll have the opportunity to get to know like-minded travellers.

5. Delight in engineering marvels

Gather on the deck of your ship as you sail through five different locks along the Douro River. Experience first-hand how a shipping lock helps ships move up or down the different water levels of the river. Delight in the spectacle of the Carrapatelo Lock, which is Europe’s largest lock, measuring 85m long and 12m wide.

Cooking with Karine: Bread in Portugal

Take a look at a traditional bakery for yourself and see how bread is made the traditional way. Photo: Viking

6. Unearth local culture

Viking’s immersive experiences enable you to gain a deeper understanding of each destination. Choose from a range of optional excursions along the way, such as Local Life and the Working World. These give you a rare taste of what life is like as a local.

7. Perpetual sunshine

Don’t forget to pack your sunnies because Portugal boasts an average of more than 300 days of sunshine a year, making it one of Europe’s sunniest countries. The pleasant days and mild winters provide visitors with ideal conditions to explore the landscapes and go on excursions.

Plaza Mayor, Salamanca

Plaza Mayor, Salamanca. Photo: Viking

8. Bonus visit to Spain

Your journey takes you to the university town of Salamanca, Spain – best known for its sandstone structures, baroque buildings and medieval charm.

Founded by a Celtic tribe before the rise of the Roman Empire, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988 due to its beautifully preserved buildings. As you wander around you get the incredible sense you’re in a living museum that takes you back to the Middle Ages.

9. Visit the last remaining fish cannery

Travel to the fishing town of Matosinhos and tour the last remaining factory that cans sardines using traditional methods. By the early 20th century there were around 400 canneries in operation. See how the fish are processed and packed by hand and then finish off the experience with a tasting of sardines and a glass of wine.

Pastel de nata, otherwise known as Portuguese custard tarts. Photo: Viking

10. Delicious Portuguese cuisine

With fresh seafood, hearty stews, the famous pasteis de nata (flaky caramelised custard tarts), the iconic salted cod, Bacalhau, and much more, you’ll be talking about the simple, yet delicious, food for years to come.

In Lisbon you can get to know its cultural history via its food on the Flavours of Lisbon walking tour, where you get the chance to sample local favourites.

Enjoy extraordinary value, enriching experiences, and pure comfort on Viking’s award-winning ships. Return economy flights to Europe are included when you book any 2025 or 2026 Europe River Journey.*

Topics: Viking
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