Thursday, October 27, 2022

Spectacular Porto bridge climb yields uphill climb, stunning views

Christene "Cookie" Meyers, Bruce Keller, and new friends from Paris, at the top of Arrabida Bridge.


The weather was windy but the spirits were
sunny on yet another bridge climb.

WE CAN'T CLIMB every mountain, but we can and will climb every bridge that allows us!

Only five bridges in the world allow climbers to legally ascend them. A dozen other beautiful bridges allow walkers to stroll, walk or run across them -- some on designated days only.  But that's quite different than climbing.

Bruce Keller suits up with help from
one of our two lovely guides.
Joana and Mariana were cheerful
and helpful during the climb.  

The few bridges that sanction climbers have strict guidelines and pay high insurance.  One (Sydney's Harbour Bridge Climb) even insists on a breath test to make certain you've not any alcohol in your system.

OUR MOST recent bridge climbing adventure was on a windy, rainy day in Porto, Portugal. We ventured to the Arrabida Bridge, for a user-friendly, rewarding climb with stunning views of Porto, and a nip at the summit of Portugal's famous port to send us back down. The rain even stopped as we climbed, assisted by our limber and helpful guides Joana and Mariana!

Suiting up Cookie for the climb.
Completed in 1963, Arrábida Bridge spans Portugal’s Douro River to connect Porto and the smaller Vila Nova de Gaia. Measuring 890 feet (270 meters), it was the largest concrete-arch bridge at the time of its completion. Journalists came to record its predicted collapse, but it held fast and is a big draw today for tourists like the two of us who climbed the arch.
Cookie slides her
lanyard attachment
up the cable.

AFTER BEING "harnessed in" to secure us should we stumble, we began our climb.  We really couldn't have fallen in the river but there are precautions and we're grateful for them. So slowly, we climbed the bridge's impressive arch by walking up its steep granite staircase.
The bridge's architectural excellence makes it worth a visit in its own right, but the climb adds another layer of excitement. It's 213 feet (65 meters) to the top of the bridge, where we caught our breath while studying an exhibit on Portuguese bridges. The main attraction, though, were the gorgeous city views. We gazed below, where the day before we'd taken one of the many boat trips and cruises offered.

Climbers at midway, on their way to the top, where the views
are spectacular, and the sun is most often shining.
WE ARRIVED in a drizzle, common for this time of year in Portugal. We'd connected easily from our central Porto hotel on the "Hop on and Hop Off" bus feature, part of the city pass. My husband predicted a "fairly easy climb and great view" and indeed both were true, although I had a bit of trouble with my lanyard. I couldn't get it at first to slide easily past the regularly spaced cable supports.  The stanchion brackets allow for the individual to slip his lanyard around, so one can continue up the bridge. It took some practice, but I mastered it and the cheerful guide and other climbers were patient with me. 

At the summit:  a taste of port wine to salute the endeavor.
WITH JUST under 250,000 inhabitants, Porto is the second largest city in Portugal. Only Lisbon, the country’s capital city, has more inhabitants. Porto is located in the northwest of the country and is, naturally, a significant port.
 Tourists visit Porto for its abundant sights and attractions but for port wine tasting parties: a must-do activity during any trip to Porto. Port wine is made of the grapes from the Duoro Valley close to Porto. This strong, sweet, fortified wine is intrinsically connected with the city of Porto and famous all over the world. U.S. presidents, including Thomas Jefferson, favored port as an apertif.

Cookie makes a mostly graceful descent down the beautiful bridge.
The Arrábida Bridge is well known in Porto and anyone can guide you there.
WE FOUND the bridge climbing tour on the northern side of the bridge, from which it generally departs.
We used our useful and very handy Porto city cards and hopped off the bus right near the Ponte Arrábida light rail station.
If you take the tram, it's line 1. The Casa da Música metro station is a 10-minute drive away.
That beautiful building -- the Casa da Música -- is one of Europe's newest and most striking concert halls. It was designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and opened in 2005. Worth a look; there are daily guided tours. Concerts range from classical to urban, with groups in residence: Porto Symphony Orchestra, Remix Ensemble, Baroque Orchestra and Choir.


Fado -- Latin for fate -- in Portugal it's an artform. Always sung with
emotion and two guitars. Here,  a veteran fado singer with the traditional
pair of guitars entrances a full house at a Porto club with emotional songs.

: Two art forms in southern Europe have stood the test of time.  One is in Portugal and the other in Spain, and this moving pair of traditions has become intrinsically linked to the cultures in these two fascinating countries.  Fado is Portugal's famous emotional song style, while flamenco is Spain's showy, emotional dance form.  We explored a dozen fado and flamenco clubs on a recent visit and share photos and commentary.  Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on travel, nature, family, the arts and more:



  1. St. Louis Couch PotatoOctober 30, 2022 at 11:26 AM

    Amazed that you climb bridges, Cookie. I barely climb out of bed.

  2. We climb modestly -- mountains vs. bridges, but this looks fun.