I have to say, my favourite element in Porto (besides the delicious Pastel de Natas) has to be the Dom Luis I Bridge, which connects Oporto to Vila Nova de Gaia, across the Douro river.
Often mistaken by many saying that it is designed by Gustave Eiffel, the same engineer who designed the Eiffel tower; the Dom Luis I Bridge is actually designed by Théophile Seyrig, a disciple of Eiffel (although the project proposal was first presented by Gustave himself).
Often confused with the other similar looking Maria Pia bridge, which is about 1 km east along the Douro river; Maria Pia is designed by Gustave himself 9 years before Dom Luis I. The most obvious difference between the two is that Maria Pia is single deck, while Dom Luis I is double deck.
The Dom Luis I stands up confidently, and is very much visible if you are anywhere near the river banks. It is simple, not pretentious, but still has its unique character. It stands out against the colourful and rustic backdrop of Oporto, not like an eyesore, but more like a dash of modernism mixed into a pot of old fashioned beauty.
The iron structure resembles a lot the bottom section of the Eiffel tower, minus its signature “Eiffel Tower Brown” colour. It is amazing how the beauty of these two structures can last so many generations !
I could stand in awe of the bridge from either side of the river banks. But, if you are like me who loves taking photos (and shameless selfies), read on this post as I share some of my favourite vantage points to snap your perfect Dom Luis I photo !
1. The view that sings Porto – From Vila Nova de Gaia (upper)
For me, this is the shot that sums up Dom Luis I and Porto, modern meets old fashioned. You want the Don Luis I against the backdrop of Oporto. To take this shot, you want to cross the Dom Luis I to Vila Nova de Gaia, the other side of Oporto.
Now, it is important to note that Oporto and Gaia landscapes have two tiers. The majority of Porto main city centre is on the upper tier, so from Sao Bento train station, you can walk southward to reach to Dom Luis I upper deck, and cross over to Gaia upper.
The Metro also runs on the Dom Luis I upper deck, so you can take the Metro Line D (Yellow) from Oporto upper and alight at Jardim do Morro stop.
The Ribeira (river bank, Oporto side) is on the Oporto lower tier. You get there by either walking downhill (across houses and back alleys) or taking the Funicular dos Guindais. From Ribeira, you can cross Dom Luis I lower deck, and cross over to Gaia lower (where the Port wine cellars are located). On Gaia side, you can access Gaia upper and lower using cable car, Teleférico de Gaia.
Tip : Accessibility between Gaia upper and lower is not the most convenient, i.e. cable car. You want to plan out your itinerary in advance. We did them both on different days, Gaia lower together with Port wine tasting.
2. Close up and under – On the Douro river cruise
To face Dom Luis I from the front, there’s no other way than to do it over the water of Douro river. For this, you can take the Douro river cruise.
Tip : You can get tickets for 15 EUR from the many authorised ticketing booth / kiosk. Otherwise, we got our tickets directly from the boat operators on the Ribeira for 14 EUR.
The river is 45 minutes and you get to see 6 bridges, including Gustave Eiffel’s Maria Pia. It might get a bit chilly if it is windy, so bring a jacket / windbreaker.
3. Close up and eye level – From Funicular dos Guindais
To take this shot close up and at eye level, you have to take the Funicular dos Guindas. The funicular is quite small, so if you want the best chance for this shot, you need to be slightly competitive and make sure you get the window.
The ride costs 2.50 EUR one way.
Tip : The queue for the funicular from the top is usually very long. So, what we did was we took the stairs (to the east of the Funicular dos Guindais terminal) down to the Ribeira. And on our return, we took the funicular up (and got the shot above). And we are so glad we took the stairs, for it led us to the next vantage point !
4. Off the beaten path
As we took the stairs from Oporto upper to Ribeira (instead of the funicular), we are so thrilled to have discovered this off the beaten path gem. We walked through narrow alleys, in between houses; and we got this beautiful partial view of the Dom Luis I !
I thought that it is extra magical, the partial view in between houses. It is almost as if this view belongs to the local and not the tourists. Or perhaps another way to put it, it is like how some tattoos look extra interesting when it is partially covered by clothing – maybe it is just me ?
I hope you are inspired to take your perfect shot of the beautiful Dom Luis I Bridge ! If you do walk the upper deck, be careful walking on the Metro tracks. It is not especially dangerous as the Metro slows down when it crosses the bridge. But, just be vigilant and do hold on to your kids if you are travelling with them !